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Friday, April 30, 2010

On standing for Parliament

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/30/2010 09:33:00 pm

Martin Cullip has a rather good post over at The Free Society, explaining why he is undertaking the seemingly futile act of standing as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Libertarian Party.

All of it is interesting—and true—but it is his conclusion that best sums up what we are doing.
My father wasn’t under any illusion that he would have much impact on the 1974 general election, but he felt he had to do ‘his bit’. Likewise, as a candidate for the nascent Libertarian Party, I’m not kidding myself that my standing will do much more than raise a few eyebrows.

I can’t contemplate not voting, though, and if there is no party to vote for when none of them show any interest in restoring the liberties that they have all contrived to take from us, what else is there for a guy to do but stand up for his beliefs and for those who have been similarly disenfranchised?

And, if nothing else, at least I can now vote for someone I know I can trust.

So many people have asked why we have undertaken to start this party: "what is the point," they cry, "when you haven't got a chance of being in government?" I think that Martin's article answers that question perfectly.

Although, I would also add the riposte, "because no one else will."

Ha! Apart from Old Holborn who, you have to admit, has balls. Your humble Devil had a long conversation with the man—unmasked—before the Adam Smith Institute's Blogger's Bash last night, and he detailed, with relish, the colossal amount of fun that he's having standing for Parliament in Cambridge.

When faced with having to put down his address, he simply said that he was "homeless". When challenged, by the Electoral Commission, to give his name for the count, he changed his name by deed poll. I particularly liked his assertion that, should he actually get elected, he would change his name, for the first day, to David Cameron. And, since he's a man in a mask, we could all have our day in Parliament.

I really hope that he does get elected—it would be so much fun...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/30/2010 09:33:00 pm


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Your vote at the general election

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/25/2010 04:03:00 pm

Various people have asked me what I think will happen at the general election—I reply that I think that people will vote. Tee hee.

In all seriousness, I think that not many people will vote—I anticipate a very low turnout. I also anticipate a hung Parliament, with the Tories as the largest party. I think it likely that they will form a coalition with the Lib Dems—a coalition that may even be beneficial to the country. After all, I like the Lib Dems proposal for raising the personal tax allowance to £10,000 (although I would like to see it up at £12,500, personally) but I think that the Tories' education policy has a good deal of merit too.

Ultimately, however, your humble Devil will still be donning the nose-pegs when wandering out to vote in this general election—once more, I shall be voting for the party that I dislike the least. Some of you, however, have the chance to vote for liberty; some of you have the chance to vote for a Libertarian candidate.

Westminster PPCs


Nic Coome
Candidate for the Devizes constituency.
nic.coome@lpuk.org
Visit his website: NicCoomeLibertarian.com

Martin Cullip
Candidate for the Sutton and Cheam constituency.
martin.cullip@lpuk.org
Visit his website: MartinCullipLibertarian.com
Or find him on FaceBook.

David Kirwan
Independent Candidate endorsed by the Libertarian Party for the Wirral West constituency.
Visit his website: www.davidkirwan.co.uk

As Anna Raccoon has reported, Martin has already been having a little trouble with his oh-so-diligent local press—being comprehensively stitched up by a reporter who is, apparently, a supporter of one of the other minor parties in that constituency. It is, it seems, par for the course but has the added bonus of giving bloggers the opportunity to mock the MSM for their pathetic standards of journalism.

The Libertarian Party is also standing a couple of local candidates.

Local Election Candidates


Tim Carpenter
Candidate for Walpole Ward, London Borough of Ealing.
tim.carpenter@lpuk.org

Stuart Heal
Candidate for the Miles Platting and Newton Heath Ward, Manchester City Council.
stuart.heal@lpuk.org

Do go out and vote for your local Libertarian candidate. Wouldn't it be nice, when people asked you how you voted, to be able to avoid all of the excuses and hedging with which one often finds oneself justifying one's vote?

Wouldn't it be nice to be able say, quite simply, "I voted for freedom—mine and yours."

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/25/2010 04:03:00 pm


1 minute of Labour

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/25/2010 03:51:00 pm

Via Tom Paine, this is actually a rather good advert from the Tories.



As Tom asks, why didn't they do this from the start...?

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/25/2010 03:51:00 pm


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Five myths about alcohol

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/24/2010 08:12:00 pm

(nb. I am not the Devil's Kitchen—I am, in fact, The Filthy Smoker)
[Some links need to be fixed—on-going. DK]

No. 1—We are drinking more than ever and 1 in 4 people are drinking at hazardous levels


This claim has been made regularly since May of this year, based on data from the Office of National Statistics. The Telegraph's report was entirely typical:
One in four drink too much, official figures show.
Ten million people in England—one in four adults—are putting their health at risk by drinking too much, official figures have shown.

'Too much' is more than 21 units a week for men and 14 units for women. The highly questionable nature of these 'daily limits' has been discussed by my gracious host before; he has also recently touched on the changing way in which these units are counted, all of which reinforce the myth that there is a mounting epidemic of binge-drinking.

Since 2007, the Office of National Statistics has assumed larger glasses are being used and stronger alcohol is being consumed. They now assume that a glass of wine contains 2 units, rather than 1, as it did before. With beer, what used be counted as 1 unit is now counted as 1.5, what used to be 1.5 units is now assumed to be 2 units and what used to be 2.3 units (a large can) is now counted as 3 units.

As you might expect, this has made a dramatic difference to the statistics. The graph below shows the percentage of men and women drinking more than their 21/14 unit weekly 'limit' under the old system*:


Nothing to see here, is there? A downward trend since 2000 is evident for both sexes.

But this is how the same statistics look using the new system:


Wa-hay! Booze Britain! Exactly the same data but very different results.

So which is the correct estimate? The ONS is, in my view, a basically honest institution and it seems fair to estimate 2 units are in the average glass of wine. It is less fair to assume stronger beer at a time when two of the biggest selling lagers—Stella and Becks—have introduced weaker brands. But wherever the truth may lie, the fact remains that even if the ONS had changed its system 10 years ago, the overall trend would remain downwards.

That consumption has actually been falling recently—albeit slightly—is confirmed by figures for pure alcohol consumption. These show that per capita consumption peaked in 2004 and has since dropped off:
Litres of alcohol per person aged over 14 (PDF)

2002: 11.13

2003: 11.34

2004: 11.59

2005: 11.4

2006: 11.0

2007: 11.2

This data is significant because per capita consumption effectively measures the amount of ethanol consumed by a person, which is what the system of units is supposed to do. But while units have to be clumsily estimated, the per capita system measures what has actually been bought and therefore, one has to assume, been drunk.

According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies—no friends of the booze—total alcohol sales have fallen by 13% since 2001/02**. According to the ONS, the number of teetotallers has risen from 9.5% to 14% since 1992. And pubs are closing at the rate of 53 a week. And per capita consumption of pure alcohol currently stands at 11.2 litres, much less than Luxembourg (15.6 litres) and, indeed, less than 14 other European countries. That's your ‘Booze Britain’ for you.

* These figures are shown in table 2.5 of Statistics on Alcohol, England 2009

** Page 8 of Drinking in Great Britain (PDF)


No.2—Alcohol is cheaper than it was 20 years ago


This forms the cornerstone of efforts to introduce a minimum price for alcoholic drinks by, amongst others, Fatboy Donaldson:
In his report, Sir Liam noted that over the preceding 20 years, the country’s disposable income had risen faster than alcohol taxation, and alcohol had become ever more affordable.

It is true that alcohol has become more affordable. Everything has become more affordable as a result of rising prosperity. Most people would consider this to be a good thing. But relative to other products alcohol has become less affordable.

When inflation is factored in, British households' disposable income increased from 100 to 208.8 between 1980 and 2008. In other words, people can afford to buy more than twice as much as they could in 1980.

In the same period the affordability of alcohol—thanks to above-inflation tax rises—has only risen from 100 to 175. To imply that alcohol is actually "cheaper" is disingenuous in the extreme.

In fact, as the Office of National Statistics concludes, it is plain wrong:
Between 1980 and 2008, the price of alcohol increased by 283.3%. After considering inflation (at 21.3%), alcohol prices increased by 19.3% over the period.

In real terms, as well as in monetary terms, alcohol is more expensive that it was 20 years ago.

No. 3—There is a worsening epidemic of underage drinking


Here's The Telegraph again:
Teenage drinking epidemic 'causing misery'

Britain needs to wake up to the epidemic of binge-drinking among teenagers and the misery it is causing thousands of families, one of the country's most senior policemen has warned.

He criticised the drinks industry for targeting the young and exporting its "negative costs on to the streets, hospitals and into the criminal justice system".

But only last week the Trading Standards Institute reported:
A survey of 13,000 young people by the Trading Standards Institute found the number of teenagers who drank weekly fell from 50% in 2005 to 38% this year.

Which backs up what they said in 2007:
Fewer teenagers are drinking regularly—partly because it is becoming harder for youngsters to get hold of alcohol, a Trading Standards survey suggests.

And this is supported by figures from the Office of National Statistics (May 2009):
One in five pupils (20%) [11-15 years] had drunk alcohol in the last seven days, a proportion which has declined from 26% in 2001.

Furthermore:
The proportion of pupils who have never drunk alcohol has risen since 2003, from 39% to 46% in 2007.

Underage drinking—at whatever level—is clearly an issue for parents and the police, and yet, Trading Standards exhibited the same attitude of buck-passing as the copper above:
Trading Standards North West, which carried out the poll, said it intended to write to the firms behind these drinks to "seek clarification of the plans for action to reduce their appeal to young people".

That's right. It's "the firms". Not the police, not the parents, not the shopkeepers and not—heaven forfend—Trading Standards. It's down to the manufacturers to stop people buying their products illegally.

No. 4—Alcohol-related hospital admissions have risen by 69%


Responsible journalists usually follow this little nugget of information with an important proviso:
The number of people admitted to hospital in England with alcohol-related problems has risen by 69 per cent in five years, to 863,000 in 2007-08, although changes to data collection—which now include secondary diagnoses, such as alcohol-related injuries—have contributed to the surge in cases.

These "changes to data collection" do more than merely "contribute" to the "surge in cases"—they are the overwhelming explanation. The redefinition is sweeping and appears to include anybody who turns up in hospital with a trace of alcohol in their blood, as the ONS explains:
“These figures use a new methodology reflecting a substantial change in the way the impact of alcohol on hospital admissions is calculated. The new calculation includes a proportion of the admissions for reasons that are not always related to alcohol, but can be in some instances (such as accidental injury).”

This covers a multitude of sins. As a helpful commentator recently pointed out, alcohol can be linked to virtually any disease, usually very tenuously. Sure enough, the largest proportion of "alcohol-related" admissions involve people with geriatric diseases:
Overall, the number of alcohol-related admissions increased with age in 2007/08, rising from 49,300 admissions among 16 to 24 year olds to 195,300 admissions of people aged 75 and over.

Only a quarter of the 863,000 admissions are directly attributable to alcohol. Not that any of this was deemed worthy of mention by, for example, The Daily Mail:
Alcohol-related admissions to hospitals in England have soared by more than 50 per cent over the last five years, latest figures revealed last night.

Startling data from the Department of Health showed there were 863,257 drink-related admissions in 2007-08, up sharply from 569,418 in 2003-04—the year Labour's reforms ushered in round-the-clock drinking.


No. 5—Lager is cheaper than water


This doozy is a favourite of pretend charity Alcohol Concern and has been repeated many times, particularly by the The Daily Mail:
Drunk for £1: Anger as leading supermarkets sell lager for 22p a can

Supermarkets are selling beer at a cheaper price than water, fuelling concern over their role in Britain's binge-drinking crisis.

Despite repeated public health warnings, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda now offer lager at just 22p a can—less per litre than their own brand-mineral water and cola, and cheap enough to allow someone to get drunk for just £1.

Let's ignore for a moment the obvious point that someone wanting to buy water is hardly likely to buy lager on an impulse instead. Let's even ignore the fact that water comes out of the tap for 0.02p per glass.
Instead, let's look at Tesco's own brand lager. Here it is.

It costs 91p for a 4-pack, or 5.2p per 100ml.

And here's Tesco's own brand mineral water.

It costs 13p, or 0.7p per 100ml.

So please can we put this one to bed now?

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted something about the own-brand lager—it is piss-weak (2% ABV). Frankly, you might as well drink the water. 4 cans of this stuff equates to about a can and a half of Stella. Hardly enough to get "drunk for £1", although that didn't stop the Mail from printing a hilarious account of someone pretending to do just that.

Away from media hysteria and the medical lobby's hyperbole, the facts are plain: we are drinking less than we did 100 years ago, more than we did 50 years ago and less than we did 5 years ago. We are middle-weights in the European drinking league and the fact that we have a lot of knob-heads causing problems in our towns and cities at the weekend is because there a lot of knob-heads in the UK. The reasons for that is a whole other story, but it has nothing to do with advertising, happy hours or the price of lager.

It is doubtful that even the British Medical Association really believes that charging 50p a unit or banning Guiness adverts will make the slightest difference to rates of consumption, but that is not really the objective. The objective is to officially identify drinking as 'bad' in the same way that smoking is 'bad'. From that starting point, all else follows.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/24/2010 08:12:00 pm


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quote of the day...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/22/2010 10:41:00 pm

... comes from a somewhat disillusioned Blue Eyes.
As much as I hate the left in general and the Labour party in particular, at least they have the confidence to stand up and defend the disastrous policies they have implemented. When Brown says “same old Tories” why does Cameron not reply “what, you mean the ones who took a basket-case of a country and turned it back into a dynamic thriving country”?

And he asks all of the questions that I would have, personally. Although I think that I know the answer to why Cameron doesn't call Brown out on the "£6 billion out of the economy" bollocks—Dave is planning to use that line when he spanks us all for more tax.

I don't know—here I am, trying to clean up my act and yet the politicians insist on existing. It's like being a smack addict living in an opium den...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/22/2010 10:41:00 pm


Immigrants and the "social contract"

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/22/2010 09:23:00 pm

Having railed against the repulsive attitude that this country has to immigrants, it is time to propose a solution—and it is a solution that could solve other problems too.

NuLabour has cracked down hard on non-EU immigrants because this is the only way of responding to the perceived problem of immigration. The main problem with immigration—provided you are not simply a BNP moron who hates the sight of "darkies"—is that they take up resources, such as benefits.

The trouble is that non-EU immigrants cannot claim benefits and so they tend to be the ones that work. Many EU citizens work too, but they are allowed to bring in families that are eligible for benefits and do not work at all.

Our benefits bill is reaching ever closer to the £200 billion mark—it is becoming utterly unsustainable.

So, here is my proposed solution, and it is a solution designed to be implemented tomorrow—that is, it assumes that we are still in the EU, etc. So, here it is: no immigrant may claim benefits until they have been working—and contributing tax (i.e. cash in hand work will not count)—for four years.

But wait! The EU will not let us treat EU citizens any differently to British citizens. Great! The same thing applies across the board, for British citizens too.

When National Insurance was first implemented, you had to have been paying in for a certain amount of time—and earned your "stamps"—before you could start getting payouts. To an extent, this is still the case, but other benefits are not, theoretically, part of the National Insurance system, so they are paid out without any requirement to have paid in.

This should stop, right now.

So, everyone—regardless of where they are from originally—gets treated in exactly the same way: no one shall receive any benefits until they have paid tax into the system for four years (an arbitrary number—we could make it higher, if you like, or lower—four years seems a reasonable time to me).

In this way:
  • we can stop paying for people's lifestyle choices (including encouraging the feckless to have children)

  • we can diffuse the resentment based on the "bloody immigrants, coming here and stealing our benefits" argument

  • we give people an incentive to pay tax rather than do cash-in-hand work; we stop people coming here with massive families in order to soak our ridiculously generous benefits system (and thus reduce immigration)

  • we can remove these spiteful bars to non-EU immigrants working (and thus allow private companies to hire who the fuck they want)

  • it will provide us with an incentive to ensure that our schooling is up to scratch (since natives will be competing with immigrants on an equal footing)

  • it allows us to open our borders to those who want to come and work here (and neutralises Hayek's problems with doing so whilst a Welfare State exists); and, of course, we will substantially reduce our social security bill.

A lot of people on the Left tend to witter on about the "social contract". Now, your humble Devil cannot remember voluntarily signing such a thing—however, if one is being generous, one could assume that paying tax is when you start contributing your part to the "social contract".

If you don't pay in, then you shouldn't get the benefits. It's that simple.

This is a easy-to-understand, reasonable and rational response to a good number of the problems that we have in this country.

Any questions?

UPDATE: as regards slinging those who have worked to the current benefits system into the street, I suggest that the new regime would be widely publicised—and brought in eight and a half months after its announcement. W ecould make it nine months, but that might well result in a rash of people quickly conceiving and, as such, a massive glut of largely unwanted children to support.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/22/2010 09:23:00 pm


Libertarian Roundup #12

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/22/2010 07:26:00 pm


Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/22/2010 07:26:00 pm


House of Comments #22

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/22/2010 11:19:00 am

Your humble Devil was on the House of Comments podcast on Tuesday—with Mark, Stuart and Conor Pope.
  • Following Nick Clegg’s performance at the Leaders Debates, the Liberal Democrats have broken past Labour in the polls, and some polls are even putting them ahead of the Tories. Is this ’surge’ a flash-in-the-pan that will be gone by next week, or could it be sustained all the way up to election day?

  • Electoral mathematics make it unlikely the Lib Dems could win an election outright, but the political system is being given a shake up. With predictions that Labour could end up the party with the most seats but the smallest number of votes, will we soon be seeing electoral reforms come to pass?

  • The other parties seem unable to figure out a good line of attack against this third party uprising. We discussed some of the tactics they appear to be trying, and whether any of these have worked at all.

  • Chris was interviewed by Andrew Neil for The Daily Politics recently in his capacity as leader of the UK Libertarian Party, but by most accounts did not come off very well from the interview. We asked for his side of the story, and whether writing a blog under such an aggressive persona as Devil’s Kitchen is compatible with holding ambitions in the ‘respectable’ world of politics?

You can listen to it here, or subscribe to the iTunes podcast feed (will open in iTunes).

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/22/2010 11:19:00 am


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Make your mind up

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/20/2010 09:35:00 pm

Here's a little video, from Total Politics that aims to enourage people to vote.



I think it's a wonderful comment on our democratic process: a bunch of over-the-hill wannabees prancing around to a hackneyed, out-dated tune whose appeal is utterly superficial.

Like it...

I can't help thinking that The Cure's Freakshow might have been more appropriate...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/20/2010 09:35:00 pm


Computer models just don't work

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/20/2010 12:34:00 am

Via The Englishman, it seems that the no-fly policy caused by the volcano erupting in Iceland may be something of an over-reaction—as several test flights have shown.

So why the blanket shut-down of air services? [Emphasis mine.]
The Dutch airline KLM had earlier carried out a test flight through the ash cloud over Dutch airspace. A spokesman for the airline said: “We have not found anything unusual and no irregularities, which indicates the atmosphere is clean and safe to fly.”

Lufthansa also flew 10 aircraft from Munich to Frankfurt on Saturday with the blessing of the safety authorities.

A spokesman said: “We found no damage to the engines, fuselage or cockpit windows. This is why we are urging the aviation authorities to run more test flights rather than relying on computer models.”

Good to see that catastrophic anthropogenic climate change (CACC) is not the only area in which computer modelling is proving itself to be worth absolutely stuff-all...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/20/2010 12:34:00 am


Monday, April 19, 2010

Absolute non-surprise of the week

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/19/2010 09:34:00 am

Well, isn't this a massive fucking* surprise...?
Clubbers continue to use mephedrone despite ban

The only thing that surprises me is that people would go for mephdrone when there's some excellent MDMA doing the rounds in London at the moment. Apparently.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s not as strong as MDMA, and it’s not like mushrooms. They used to be legal and they really f*** you up.”

Fair enough. When I lived in Edinburgh, there was a "head shop" around the corner that used to sell fresh mushrooms. I can't say that they ever did anything much other than make me laugh and laugh for hours**.

But wow! Who'da thunk it?—banning stuff doesn't stop people taking it. In fact...
Two other clubbers who had not taken the drug said that they would be willing to try. One, 34, a graphic designer, said that criminalising the drug had encouraged him to give it a go.

“It’s just going to make people want it more. If you start to legalise it, people will realise it actually works.

“Legal drugs, you think they’re just herbal stuff,” said his companion. “This just shows everybody that it actually does something.”

... banning things just encourages people to take it.

As many of you will know, Portugal decriminalised all dugs in 2001, and actually saw a reduction in the number of people taking what had previously been illegal drugs.
Notably, decriminalization has become increasingly popular in Portugal since 2001. Except for some far-right politicians, very few domestic political factions are agitating for a repeal of the 2001 law. And while there is a widespread perception that bureaucratic changes need to be made to Portugal's decriminalization framework to make it more efficient and effective, there is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. More significantly, none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents—from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for "drug tourists"—has occurred.

The political consensus in favor of decriminalization is unsurprising in light of the relevant empirical data. Those data indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies—such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage—have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens—enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.
...

The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.

As readers will know, your humble Devil supports the full legalisation—not just decriminalisation—of all drugs. This has numerous advantages:
  • Under decriminalisation, the supply of drugs is still illegal. This fails to address the harm done by impurities in the drugs; it also fails to address the problem of criminal gangs fighting over turf.

  • A large amount of money must still be expended in attempting to deal with these criminals—both in catching them and pursuing them through the criminal courts.

  • Legalisation would allow for the regulation of drug purity; it would also allow the state to impose a Pigou tax on the drugs to pay for any societal costs, e.g. rehabilitation of addicts.

But Portugal has taken a large step in the right direction, whilst our government—ruled, as it is, by the baying mob of the media—continues to move in the diametrically opposite one.

The "war on drugs" is completely wrong—from philosophical, moral, health and economic viewpoint. It is absolute insanity and should be stopped immediately.

* I know, I know—but nothing else has quite the impact, eh?

** Although I would say that I don't recommend watching Cube whilst high on mushrooms.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/19/2010 09:34:00 am


A fewtril or two

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/19/2010 04:01:00 am

First, there are a number of people who, in justifying their glee at the downfall of The Kitchen, point out that I was often very unpleasant about people—what amuses your humble Devil is that most of them then go on to be extremely unpleasant about me. Keyboard warriors are, it seems, filled with much bravado...

I am also thrilled to see that the fact that I am "also a Tim-nice-but-dim posh boy" has brought so many people such pleasure—although it's a bit strange because I always thought that The Left were opposed to bigotry. Alas, it seems that they are opposed to "bad" bigotry but are still fully on board with the "good" bigotry.

Still, it just goes to show that one really can learn from one's mistakes, eh?

On a completely different note, it is useful to understand that the correct parsing of a verb carries much meaning. As we all know, the past participle of "hang" is "hung", unless it is referring to the method of execution. You may think that this is mere hair-splitting, but consider the following sentence.
Many people are hoping for a hung Parliament. I, of course, am hoping for a hanged Parliament.

These small things make such a difference—don't you agree?

(By the way, I am currently ploughing through the archives and hope to pull through many of the past posts—especially, as requested, those on ClimateGate.)

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/19/2010 04:01:00 am


Sunday, April 18, 2010

On minarchism and anarcho-capitalism

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/18/2010 11:32:00 pm

First, and once again, thanks for the (mainly) encouraging comments left on the first post of this new blog. I shall endeavour not to disappoint.

Second, I might try to write a quick post on why I capitulated on The Daily Politics (clue: it has something to do with not fucking over other people in preference to your own personal foibles). However, out of deference, I will probably wait until Sunny Hundal has stopped creaming his panties...

Third, my real life work is getting even more busy so articles will not be flying fast and furious from my keyboard.

Fourth, and most importantly, there is an excellent article over at Counting Cats concerning the problems with anarcho-capitalism.
But it’s at this point that, if we stand back, we realise that the anarcho-capitalists have played a sly trick on us (and, perhaps, on themselves too). We started off asking what society would provide the least coercion. We then noted that the power to coerce is a monopoly of the State. So, by confining the State, we confine coercion. The more we confine the State, the less coercion there is; it is as if coercive power is some violent beast, and we put it in a cage of constitutional limitations. But the anarcho-capitalist isn’t asking that question any more. They are now asking the question-

How can the private sector provide what the State previously provided?

And the product that the State was providing was coercion itself! We started off asking how to rid ourselves, as much as possible, of the whole panoply of arbitrary laws, and courts and police to enforce those arbitrary laws and so on, and the answer the anarcho-capitalist has come back with is, “don’t worry, under my system there will be arbitrary laws and courts and police in abundance!” Our quest for liberty has entirely disappeared, replaced with the search for how to restrict liberty in the absence of a state!

I have, as a minarchist, been berated for believing that any kind of state is necessary: I don't think that a state is necessary—merely that it is the best system in any society that requires coercion.

From a philosophical point of view, I am a pure libertarian—in other words, I believe that, were humans "perfect", no coercion would be necessary. However, I recognise that humans are not "perfect" and—given our biological drivers—never will be. As such, any human society is going to require some coercion.

To my mind, therefore, we should always try to find the best possible outcome—that is, a societal construct that protects property rights but employs the minimal possible coercion. As far as I am concerned, that is a minarchist state.

Anyway, this is a theme that I shall return to but—in the meantime—do take the time to read Ian B's article...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/18/2010 11:32:00 pm


Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Leaders' Debate

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/15/2010 09:59:00 pm

Oh wow! It's only taken about ten minutes for the three Big Party leaders to attempt to outdo themselves in how unpleasant and draconian they are going to be to immigrants.

Any minute now, the camera will pan up and we'll see Nick Griffin holding the strings on three puppets. That must be the case.

Because surely Brown, Cameron and Clegg cannot possibly be this authoritarian and unpleasant, can they?

UPDATE 08.51pm: ah, yes, we haven't addressed the problems of crime committed by drug addicts. We aren't tackling the underlying problems, says Cameron. No, Dave, you haven't—legalise drugs.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/15/2010 09:59:00 pm


New From Old: A Friendly Society

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/15/2010 08:53:00 pm

A couple of weeks ago, your humble Devil gave a brief talk to the Adam Smith Institute's Next Generation about ideas for libertarian welfare in general, concentrating on Friendly Societies in particular.

Most speeches that I give are based either on posts that I write at The Kitchen or am planning to write, and a post about Friendly Societies has been brewing for a while—it's just that with my limited time, easier things, such as abusing MPs for being swindling swine, have got in the way.

However, urgings by the folk at the ASI to expand my speech has provided the spur of obligation, and so I have finally sat down to expand on my ten minute waffle. The speech was broadly based in two parts: the first explained what was wrong with the current Welfare State, the second outlined how we might better address the problem.

ON LIBERTARIANISM IN GENERAL

The first thing to be pointed out is that libertarianism is not about leaving people in the street to die. Libertarianism is, first and foremost, a philosophy based on personal liberty—the central crux of which is the non-aggression axiom.

This axiom is very simple—you shall not initiate force or fraud against another person's life, liberty or property.

As such, a libertarian government would not, for instance, stop people setting up a socialist enclave if they so desired—as long as every member of the socialist group was there voluntarily and not co-opted against their will.

(This, incidentally, is a fundamental difference between a libertarian and a socialist polity: you can live as a socialist under a libertarian government; you cannot live as a libertarian under a socialist government.)

Generally speaking, libertarians recognise collectivism, when voluntary, as being A Good Thing; libertarians welcome people working together, as they can often achieve things that individuals cannot. However—and this is worth repeating ad nauseam—the stress must be on the voluntary aspect of this collectivism.

THE PROBLEMS WITH STATE WELFARE

This is the first hurdle at which the state's welfare provision falls down—it is compulsory, not voluntary. Sure, you can make voluntary, private provision for your own welfare—you can take out insurance (or assurance) to provide for the same things as NICs does: indeed, I have private health and unemployment insurance as well as a private pension—but you cannot opt out of paying for the state's provision. Even if you do not wish to rely on the state's provision, you must still pay your NICs.

The second problem is that there is no National Insurance Fund: it is a colossal Ponzi Scheme—that is, older investors are paid out from the income stream provided by newer investors. Bernie Madoff was imprisoned for running a Ponzi scheme worth some £40 billion over 40 years—the government is projected to take £110 billion in this one year.

The third problem is that welfare is not based purely on those things that NICs is supposed to cover—health, pensions and unemployment insurance. With NICs, there is at least some idea that what you pay in is, in some way, related to what you get out. No, the real problem is with the raft of Benefits—Child Benefit, Housing Benefit, etc.—which are not based on any insurance or assurance principle.

As such, these benefits create a sense of entitlement—that these things come to people as "their rights". Few people on benefits consider that these benefits are stolen from people who have to work hard and then have their pockets picked; instead, benefits-claimants seem to think—much as MPs appear to—that this is "magic money" that just falls from the sky. It is not.

Not only does this state of affairs enable people to see it as "their right" to live on benefits if they so desire, it also (perhaps unwittingly) leads them to look upon the state as their protector—their father-figure. For those of us who would implore people to realise that the state is not inherently a benign and superior being, this attitude is a severe problem.

But it has lead to a fourth and very disturbing trend—that the agents of the state now see themselves as a paternalistic figure, with a duty (and the right) to force people into a way of living that state agents deem to be the correct one.

There are over sixty million people in this country, all with their own priorities and desires. There means that there are over sixty million ways to live and it is immoral, and impractical, for the state to demand that everyone live in one way.

But the fact that people might have different ideas on how to live their lives does not concern our politicians; men have always sought dominion over others and only those who actively seek that power go into Parliament in the first place.

The difference between the present day and the situation 150 years ago is that now the politicians have our money—and they fully intend to blackmail and bully us into living as they dictate.

You shall not smoke!—it cost the NHS money.

You shall not drink!—it costs the state money.

You shall not become fat!—it costs the state money.

As I said, the agents of the state seem—or at least pretend—to believe that all money belongs to the state, and the state's position of father in many people's eyes lead others to assume the same.

For those of us who value our liberty, it is this tendency which is the most dangerous aspect of the Welfare State—and its tentacles can, and do, invade every aspect of our lives. And what the money aspect does not justify, the wars—on drugs, on Benefit Fraud, on "terror"—take care of.

As such, the abolition of the Welfare State is not an incidental consideration to any libertarian government—it is absolutely crucial.

WHY PRIVATE CHARITY IS NOT THE ANSWER

But what do you replace it with? Far too many libertarians tend to wave their hand and invoke "private charity", but would this really be enough? Sure, 150 years ago, private charity was central to society—the seven great hospitals of London, for instance, were all built and maintained with private charity and we are infinitely richer now than people were then.

But my contention is that people have got out of the habit of giving voluntarily: bankers (the industrialists of our age) blow colossal sums of money on houses, swimming pools and dolly-birds without a thought to their fellow man—philanthropists concerned with the day-today living of ordinary people are somewhat rare today.

This is because of the corrosive effect of the Welfare State. As I have said before, when we see a homeless person in the street, we do not think "there is a fellow human in pain: how can I help?"; instead, we think "why hasn't the government sorted that out yet?"

And it is this attitude—not the "individualism" that many blame—that has led to our "broken society".

Given this, it is obvious that private charity simply will not cater for the welfare of millions of people. No, private charity simply will not cut it—not, at least, as anything more than a backstop.

And, given that we live in the culture that we live in, I have always maintained that any libertarian government would need to allow for a transition period—a period that could last for decades.

Given this—and the humanitarian and PR problems (if nothing else) of having people starving on the street—any libertarian government would have to put in place a welfare system of some sort.

This welfare system should not rely on private charity, needs to encourage voluntary collectivism (for assurance purposes) but also to help to bring communities together; it needs to have anti-fraud measures built in and should, ideally, encourage self-reliance.

Further, although there is likely to be some reliance on established insurance companies, anyone who has dealt with these unpleasant collections of shysters will blanche at the thought of leaving all provision to them.

A POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO WELFARE PROVISION

And this is where we turn to the concept of Friendly Societies.

On the day that I gave the talk to the ASI, Charles Moore mentioned Friendly Societies in his generally sensible list of what is missing from our modern Britain.
As well as gaining much, we have also lost. Honour, manufacturing, oratory, worship, friendly societies, organised temperance, provincial pride, fair play, low taxes, reading and writing, public order, good trains and public clocks which kept the time—just a few of the things which our own age could improve if it bothered to admire the past rather more and itself rather less.

Friendly Societies were voluntary co-operatives, usually based locally, which at one point covered about half of the country—but they were growing swiftly. Their potential was, alas, effectively killed by the National Insurance Act of 1911 and the onset of state welfare provision—for the compulsory contributions, obviously, crowded out the voluntary contributions to the Friendly Societies.

As insurance-assurance co-operatives, Friendly Societies fulfill our desire for voluntary collectivism. As local societies, they also help to provide some cohesion to communities; many Friendly Societies provided a social function as well as an economic one.

Most societies allowed their members to choose their level of pay-in; how much was paid out was determined by numerous factors, but criteria usually included how much you had paid in, how long you had been a member and your actual need.

This last is important, for our current Welfare State is not based on need—it is based on an inhuman, box-ticking system. Learn how to play the system and you can get more than a living wage; but this system is not based on need. (The one time that I have been starving, I was unable to get any help because I was employed as a company director—the fact that the company had almost no money to pay me was irrelevant.)

As such, Friendly Societies address the issue of self-reliance too; you are responsible for ensuring that you pay in and, should you fall on hard times, your pay-out is related to what you paid in.

Friendly Societies also address the issue of fraud. People are far less likely to steal from those whom they know personally; further, knowing you personally, those people will also be able to check whether you are, in fact, stealing from them. And this applies, of course, not only to benefit claimants but also to those running the Society.

Being based on social ideals might also shape the nature of Friendly Societies. In 2008, for instance, the FSA authorised Principle Insurance—the first shari'a-compliant insurance firm.

Friendly Societies would, of course, also provide competition for the big insurance companies, thus helping to guard against a leap from state dependence to corporatism. Or, of course, Friendly Societies might choose to re-insure their deposits with the said companies.

As such, Friendly Societies would provide an assurance-insurance framework that the vast majority of people could access; where they did not currently exist, commercial insurance companies would fill in the gaps.

Obviously, Friendly Societies would not pay out to those who have not paid in—thus destroying the culture of a lifetime spent on benefits. The pay-outs would be on strict terms, thus ensuring—unless all members voted so—that there would not be a culture of subsidising lifestyles, e.g. paying people who unable to support children to have babies left, right and centre. (The benefit that this aspect alone would have in society in general is huge.)

As such, private charity* would be the welfare option solely for those who have no other option at all—a welfare scope that I believe private charities could easily deal with.

And, crucially, the state is removed from the welfare system entirely.

HOW MIGHT A LIBERTARIAN STATE ENCOURAGE FRIENDLY SOCIETIES?

As is the case with so many solutions, the framework for Friendly Societies has been largely destroyed. As such, a libertarian state might look at ways in which Friendly Societies might be encouraged.

Removing much of the red tape—and other barriers to entry—involved in setting up such financial institutions would be an excellent start. A low barrier to entry would also ensure, if a Friendly Society became too big and corporate (and more like commercial insurance companies), that others could spring up to provide an alternative, to provide competition.

Other initial measures might include tax breaks (although a libertarian government would cut taxes hugely in any case) and, perhaps, fund matching for swift set-ups. That is, if Friendly Societies formed during the first term of a libertarian government, the state would match whatever monies they managed to secure in, say, the first six months.

Obviously, if anyone with more legal, insurance or economic knowledge than this humble amateur has any good ideas, then do feel free to contribute your ideas.

This has been something of a broad-brush presentation, but I do believe that Friendly Societies do show us the way to a welfare provision that is not state-controlled and, thus, does not allow the state to control us.

* A CLARIFICATION (inspired by Rumbold's comment): by private charity, I do not only mean actual charitable organisations—I mean friends and family too. This must be the first port of call for those who are disabled and unable to work, for instance. The number of disabled people who are truly unable to work at all is very small—I know a bloke who lost both arms below the elbow and both legs above the knee from frostbite, and yet he has a job (he can use the stumps to type on a computer, and he uses prosthetics to walk to work. Oh, and climb mountains).

I took part in a debate on Accessibility and Entrepreneurship at the Information Technologists Livery Company a few weeks ago, and there were a number of profoundly disabled people there who, being unable to find jobs, had started their own companies. In all but a tiny number of cases, being disabled does not mean being unable to work.

(This is an expansion of a talk that I gave to the Adam Smith Institute on Tuesday, 3rd November 2009.)

UPDATE: linked from the ASI Blog and reproduced in the Events Archive.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/15/2010 08:53:00 pm


Libertarian Roundup #11

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/15/2010 04:35:00 pm

Obviously, I haven't had time to pull the other round-ups over to this new place yet, but I shall. However, in the meantime, here's the latest collection of libertarian blogging...

The UK Libertarian shows the fallacy of "job losses" if taxes are cut. And says there will be no recovery. And asks: "What is a libertarian?"

Leg-Iron says it's just not funny any more.

The Adam Smith Institute shows why the markets are rejecting investment in China. As, unintentionally, does Constantly Furious.

Constantly Furious comments on Labour's database campaigning. And points out some Tory hypocrisy.

Timmy does the economist's review of a Tory policy.

Christoper Booker says the big three are trying to hide the elephant in the room.

Dungeekin discusses "fairness".

And finally, Tory Rascal (!) has the best spoof of the Labour Election Manifesto cover.

Toodle-pip!

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/15/2010 04:35:00 pm


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Devil is dead...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/14/2010 10:44:00 pm

Yes, it's true.

Finally, Wiggy has claimed a scalp.

And it isn't that of some thieving politician or some overpaid, jack-booted jobsworth. It's mine. Or, rather, it is that of my ruder sibling, for I am his twin—identical in every respect except that I swear a little less and indulge in fewer violent fantasies.

As many of you will know, I think that it is fair to say that The Daily Politics today was not an unqualified success, with Andrew "Wiggy" Neil concentrating not on the Libertarian Party or its policies (as I had been briefed) but on one single post out of the 5,500 or so on The Kitchen.

But, let's face it, he could have picked any one of about half of those thousands of posts and come up with some pretty damning stuff.

Don't get me wrong—I meant every word of the sentiments expressed. But the way in which I put it was, sometimes, just not... er... politic. In fact, as in real life, I enjoyed conjuring up repulsive and offensive images: anyone who has heard me in the right mood and in full flow that I can be every bit as perverse as on The Kitchen.

But, additionally, my blogging was driven—at least in the early days—by a burning anger and righteous hatred of just about anyone in authority, and this ire was fuelled as much by the real life circumstances that I found myself in at the time as by the unpleasantness of those who rule us.

And so The Devil's Kitchen grew as a cathartic outlet for my anger—and the language and imagery were equally violent.

As long-term readers might have noticed, my language has become, in general, far less vicious and less sweary. This was not, as some implied, because I sold out—it was because I was generally calmer and happier. Don't get me wrong: I am still disgusted by those who rule us, and even more repulsed by the idea that anyone can rule me—but these days it is more of a low, simmering rage. As such, The Devil's Kitchen had already become more mild (bar the occasional outburst) than in earlier years.

In the early days of blogging, most of us guarded our anonymity very carefully and I have always been twitchy about people using my real name. I remember when Shot By Both Sides was removed because its author, John, made some comments that annoyed a particularly powerful lobby—a lobby that found his name and then threatened to damage the business for which he worked.

Whilst not quite the same, something similar happened tonight. My boss was phoned by a very unimpressed friend who had recognised me on The Daily Politics. My boss—who, whilst knowing that I blogged, has never let it concern him—phoned me and expressed some disquiet. I should point out that he did not tell me to do anything and nor has he tried, in any way, to force me to do anything about this situation other than talk it over tomorrow.

However, it took me only a few minutes to make this decision...

The simple fact is that I love my job and I am now in quite a high-profile position: as the company grows, I am going to become yet more exposed. And the fact is, I want to be exposed.

But I want to be exposed because I am part of a company that has created great products and made people's lives better—not because I let my nasty imagination run riot when writing about how a union hypocrite didn't have the courage of her professed convictions. And neither that nasty piece of work nor Wiggy are worth risking my job for.

It is very difficult to delete anything on the internet and I am not going to pretend that I can do so. However, gradually the caches will fade away, and those parts of The Devil's Kitchen that are most damaging—the incredibly violent (though fantastical) demises of various politicos and their grubby little hangers-on—will fade away eventually.

And so, here we are—with The Devil starting with a clean slate. The tone of the blog will not change much—I am still a passionate libertarian and loather of our illegitimate masters—but the language will be much like my latter, less vitriolic posts rather than my more unpleasant death wishes. In time, I may transfer some of my better, more relevant, writing over here too. I hope that some of the authors—especially those, like The Filthy Smoker, who quickly became as much part of the fabric of The Kitchen as myself—will also carry on contributing.

As you will have noticed, the URL is the same and, I hope, the RSS feed will still work. The template is, at present, pretty minimal but I have been meaning to revise the look and feel—as well as making the blog as Accessible as possible—for a little while now.

I hope that all of you—readers, commenters, and contributors—will continue to partake of The Devil. I, for one, am quite sanguine about archiving my old material; nor am I totally surprised—this day has been coming for a little while (it was one of the reasons that I switched to a custom URL some time ago).

The Kitchen is dead: long live The Devil!

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/14/2010 10:44:00 pm


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pollbomb

Posted by julymorning at 4/13/2010 01:09:00 am

nicked from bella gerens

All right, all you readers out there. Time for a pollbomb.

At publicservice.co.uk (Public Sector & Government News), they're running a weekly poll in which the question is:

Should public sector workers have to pay more to maintain the value of their pensions?


You won't be surprised to hear that the 'No' votes are winning.

Can we round up enough 'Yes' votes to make them think pubic sector workers are all in favour of paying higher pension contributions? It would save the rest of us money, after all. And they deserve our spiteful little tricks.

Join me! Vote for higher pension pay-ins for pubic sector workers. The poll is on the home page, in the right-hand sidebar.

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Posted by julymorning at 4/13/2010 01:09:00 am


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Debt Clock starts ticking

Posted by Mark Wallace at 4/12/2010 02:46:00 pm




NB I am not the Devil

The vast figure above, ticking ever upwards, is the national debt - right now, at this very minute. It's been borrowed by politicians to fund their blunders and foolishness, but it is you and I as taxpayers who will have to pay it off. If, like me, you're furious that we are being saddled with the vast burden, you're going to enjoy the TPA's latest campaign - the UK Debt Clock Tour.

We've built a gigantic digital clock mounted on a lorry that counts up the national debt in real time at a breakneck pace - over £5,000 a second.

Over the next two weeks it's going to be touring the country, travelling over 1,300 miles to take the message about the vast scale of the national debt, and exactly why it is such a problem, to the people.

If you'd like to get your own Debt Clock widget, as shown above, click this link to get the code for your blog or website.

For more information on the Debt Clock, the dates and locations of the tour and the national debt itself, visit www.debt-clock.org

Posted by Mark Wallace at 4/12/2010 02:46:00 pm


UN persecutes sceptics

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/12/2010 03:20:00 am

A number of commenters have berated me for not focusing on the coming General Election—to which my reply is "what's the fucking point?"

It's an argument that I'm sure EUReferendum would agree with, but even were we not in the EU, Britain would, no doubt, still be affected by the attempts at forming a burgeoning world government.

As a taster of what's to come—whichever bunch of statist wankers are running the British government on May 7th—Climate Skeptic has helpfully highlighted this piece of delight from the UN.
A campaign to declare the mass destruction of ecosystems an international crime against peace—alongside genocide and crimes against humanity—is being launched in the UK.

The proposal for the United Nations to accept "ecocide" as a fifth "crime against peace", which could be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC), is the brainchild of British lawyer-turned-campaigner Polly Higgins.

The radical idea would have a profound effect on industries blamed for widespread damage to the environment like fossil fuels, mining, agriculture, chemicals and forestry.

Supporters of a new ecocide law also believe it could be used to prosecute "climate deniers" who distort science and facts to discourage voters and politicians from taking action to tackle global warming and climate change.

"Ecocide"? Why not just go the whole hog and refer to it as the fucking Gaiacaust?

It's typical though: here they are, losing the battle on the facts, on the science—and simply because we sceptics keep inconveniently telling the truth and now, after fuck knows how long, we are finally being heard. So, what's their solution?

Is it to re-examine the facts, to carry out more studies and to do more, you know, actual science? Nope. Regardless of whether or not their position is based in any kind of reality, these people hold their cause as an article of faith.

And what do these morons do when you faith in under attack? That's right... Pretty much the same as the Catholic Church did with the Spanish Inquisition—prosecute and destroy those people pointing out that the evidence shows that the Earth goes around the sun.

This is yet another indicator of the totalitarian nature of these disgusting Green cunts, and just goes to prove that the only thing worse than a fanatic Gaia-worshipper is a fanatical Gaia-worshipper who is also a bastard lawyer.

And if this comes to pass, will any of our political parties protect our freedoms?

Will they fuck.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/12/2010 03:20:00 am


Sunday, April 11, 2010

The shorter Christopher Booker...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 10:51:00 pm

"We're fucked."

But, do go and read the whole, barn-storming column—though I suggest that you have some high-quality happy pills next to you whilst you do so. But as a taster, here are Booker's definitions of the four salient points—the "shadows"—that hang over this election.
Four huge shadows hang over this claustrophobic election, about which the three main parties will be trying to say as little as possible. The first, obviously, as part of the catastrophic legacy of 13 years of Labour misrule, is the barely imaginable scale of the deficit in public spending.

This is now growing so fast that it is difficult to find ways of bringing home how stupendous it has become. The Taxpayers' Alliance has tried to do it by pointing out that public debt is rising by £447,575,342— virtually half a billion pounds—every day. With the Government's own projections showing that within four years the National Debt will have doubled to £1.4 trillion, I recently used figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies to show that by 2014, in only four years' time, it will be costing us the equivalent of £60 a week for every household in the land just to pay the interest on the debt—let alone paying off the debt itself.
...


The second shadow over this election is the unprecedented damage done to our politics by the expenses scandal, which has degraded the standing of Parliament to its lowest point in history. More than anything, these revelations have reinforced the realisation that we are ruled by a political class in which the three main parties are blurred indistinguishably together, almost wholly divorced from the concerns of the rest of us. Never have MPs or peers been so diminished in stature, at the very time when the bloated apparatus of the state has been intruding on our lives more obviously than at any time before.

A third, closely related shadow which the political class has been only too keen to hide away has been the still barely understood extent to which it has handed over the running of our country and the making of our laws to that vast and mysterious new system of government centred on Brussels and Strasbourg. Nothing better exemplified how our politicians are caught by this system, like flies in a spider's web, than the shifty means whereby each of the three main parties weaselled its way out of keeping the manifesto promises of the last election that it would give us a referendum on the EU constitution, otherwise known as the Lisbon "reform treaty". Here was another great surrender of Parliament's power to decide how our country is run, and the MPs of all parties were not only happy to agree to it, but treated us all with contempt as they lied about it.
...


A final huge shadow which will barely be discussed at this election, because the main parties are all but unanimous on it, is the way our politics has become permeated by everything which can be related to global warming, from soaring taxes to the propaganda dished out in our schools, from the wishful thinking that we can spend £100 billion on building thousands more useless wind turbines, to the disastrous distortion of our national energy policy by the "green" obsessions of both the EU and our own political class, which threaten within a few years to turn Britain's lights out. (Although next week I hope to reveal an unexpected way in which this might be averted.)

This flight from reality was never better exemplified than by the 2008 Climate Change Act, committing Britain, uniquely in the world, to reducing its carbon emissions by more than four fifths. Even the Government admits that this will cost us up to £18 billion every year for four decades, making it by far the most costly law in our history. Though its target could only be met by virtually closing down our economy, such is the bubble of unreality in which our political class lives that our MPs voted for this insane law almost unanimously, without having any idea of its practical implications.

It seems to me that, very soon, we will not be worrying about immigration—but emigration, as vast numbers of people flee the wreckage of what was, not so very long ago, a vast economic power, a liberal beacon and a great country.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 10:51:00 pm


The Big Questions #1

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 09:10:00 pm

As some may know, I was on The Big Questions this morning, a sort of populist Sunday morning talkshow. In essence, I was asked to debate the question "should we lower the drink-driving limit from 80mgs to 50mgs"—and to defend the status quo. I'm going to cover the experience in a few posts, for clarity, but there are a few general comments that I'd make...

First, I was incredibly nervous when it came to it. I am not usually so on-edge when doing speaking gigs; but usually I have a reasonable billing (and thus reasonable time to get a nuanced point across). Another factor was that I knew that I was being asked to defend a position that was potentially very emotive—and, sure enough, they wheeled on some couple whose son had been killed in a drink-driving accident (of which more later).

Second, although I had made extensive notes and had, I believed, a well-structured argument, this was thrown out slightly by that fact that, when the section finally came up, they had changed the question to "should we ban any drinking before driving"? Although I had anticipated this as a counter-argument to some of the points that I might raise, I had not expected to have to kick off defending that position.

Third—and this is what this post will deal with—I was ambushed by figures that I had, quite simply, never heard before. These came, most specifically, from Dr Valerie [someone or other] from the British Medical Association.

The first claim that she made was that, with 80mgs in the blood, reaction time was impaired by 12%. Sensibly, I should have asked "so what is the average reaction time, in milliseconds?" because, when I asked her afterwards, she had absolutely no idea. She waffled about lots of extenuating circumstances, blah, blah, which would probably have satisfied the audience—but her not having the figures would have put her on the back foot—as would the audience understanding that 12% of, say, 10 milliseconds is utterly insignificant.

However, the most important claim that she made was that the risk of being involved in an accident with 80mgs of alcohol in your blood (the current limit) was ten times that of someone with none.

I have found out since that this was, quite simply, a lie.

Again, talking to her afterwards, I challenged her assertion and asked her where she had got her data. Valerie had not, in fact, got the data herself (her researcher had) but the graph that she showed me was this one—and seen exactly as below.



On production of this artifact, the conversation went something like this...

"This came from the World Health Organisation. And... Well, I don't have another graph but I know that this has been replicated all over the place." She stabbed at the graph's y-axis saying, "see, there's 20.00."

"Yes," said I. "But that point at 0.8 is nowhere near ten times the likelihood of crashing."

Having noted some of the details, I have tracked down the WHO paper that it came from—the WHO Drinking And Driving, A Road Safety Manual For Decision-makers And Practitioners. Oh yes? Those discredited IPCC synthesis reports are always described as "for decision-makers"—it usually means that they are rather more political documents than nuanced science.

Anyway, you can find the graph that she was referring to in the section entitled Chapter 1: Why is a drinking and driving programme necessary [PDF, 397kb] which is not a title that fills me with the confidence that this is going to be, in any way, unbiased. For those who cannot be bothered to download the damn thing, here's how the graph appears in situ.



The first thing to understand is that this is a relative crash risk: if you drink no alcohol at all, the risk of crashing is, quite obviously, not zero—otherwise alcohol would be a factor in 100% of road crashes, rather than the 6% (2008) that it actually is.

The second point is that this is the outcome of a number of studies, starting with one in Michigan, US, in 1964, but is the one featured in the most recent of those, from 2002.
In 196 a case-control study was carried out in Michigan in the United States known as the Grand Rapids study (15). It showed that drivers who had consumed alcohol had a much higher risk of involvement in crashes than those with a zero BAC, and that this risk increased rapidly with increasing blood alcohol levels. These results were corroborated and improved upon by studies in the 1980s, 1990s and in 2002 (16–18). These studies provided the basis for setting legal blood alcohol limits and breath content limits in many countries around the world.

The real point to note is the second paragraph of the accompanying explanation... [Emphasis mine.]
The studies found that the relative risk of crash involvement starts to increase significantly at a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.0 g/dl and that at 0.10 g/100 ml the crash risk relative to a zero BAC is approximately 5, while at a BAC of 0.2 g/100 ml the crash risk is more than 1 0 times the risk relative to a zero BAC (see Figure 1.2).

In other words, at 100mgs, the risk of crashing is five times higher than at baseline. Valerie from the BMA was claiming an increase of ten times at 80mgs—which is, to say the least, a little creative.

Or, as I like to call it, a lie.

One of the things that we would obviously like to know is, roughly, what is the baseline? Presumably it is not zero, because five, or even ten, times zero is zero. So, in actual percentages, what is your average chance of crashing when you are sober? If you get in your car and drive somewhere, what is the chance that you will have an accident?

I have had an inordinate amount of trouble trying to quantify this: if I could even find an estimate for the number of road journeys made every year, that would help. If anyone knows where to find such figures, please, let me know.

Otherwise, I shall proceed to try to piece the bits together in my next post...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 09:10:00 pm


Telling it like it is

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 07:51:00 am

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) spells out quite clearly the problem facing the next government.
New research by the IEA shows that if the Conservatives or other parties do not want to raise taxes they must cut spending plans by £167bn. Today’s report Cutting public spending by £167bn: A modest but necessary aim sets out clearly the scale of the problem the UK is facing.

Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“In the lead up to the political parties launching their manifestos this finding should be a massive wake up call.”

“So far we have heard precious little from any party about the need to make substantial cuts. However, if they aren’t intending to cut public spending dramatically they must be planning on raising taxes. Perhaps unsurprisingly we are yet to hear this acknowledgement from any politicians.”

“The current arguments about whether or not to raise National Insurance by a fraction are grossly inadequate. Cuts must be made far in excess of ‘efficiency savings’ or the British public may be sure their taxes will rise substantially to plug the gap..."

£167 billion is, roughly speaking, the amount of money that the government has had to borrow in the last year. That's £167,000,000,000 or one hundred and sixty seven thousand million pounds.

This simply cannot go on and, as Guido so neatly illustrated, the Tories have so far committed to concrete cuts of a derisory £6 billion.

The people of this country are going to have to realise that the molly-coddling and pampering that they have become used to, in this great social democracy that they've embraced, is going to have to end. It. Is. Not. Sustainable.

And there's no point is trying to delay the pain: it is going to have to end and, if not now, then very soon.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 07:51:00 am


Quote of the day...

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 07:46:00 am

... comes from the now inappropriately-named White Sun Of The Desert (he was once based in the Middle East and is now in Sakhalin).
Socialism wasn’t some poor, helpless unborn infant cruelly aborted by evil capitalists, it was a fucking huge great alpha male abomination which during the prime of its life ran rampage with a bottle of vodka mixed with amphetamines in one hand and a heavy machine gun in the other.

It's worth reading the whole succinct post...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 07:46:00 am


Annual ASI Bloggers' Bash: a plague on all their houses (no question mark necessary)

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 02:10:00 am

I am glad to see that The Englishman, amongst others, will be popping along to this little event...
Dear blogger,

On Thursday, 29th April, we will be holding our annual Bloggers’ Bash.
Details are as follows:

Bloggers’ Bash 2010
A plague on all their houses?


Speakers:
Paul Staines—Guido Fawkes' blog
Tim Worstall—It is all obvious or trivial except…
Perry de Havilland—Samizdata.net

29th April 2010, 6.30pm to 8.30pm
Plentiful beers & lagers will be served
23 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BL
RSVP: events@adamsmith.org

Whilst it's entirely possible that my attempts to drag the Briff down there for a piss-up might not be sucessful, both the wife and I (and maybe a few of your other favourite Kitchen contributors) shall be wandering along to the Adam Smith Institute for this little shindig.

Maybe we'll see you there...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/11/2010 02:10:00 am


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Adobe is hiring! (Mac users need not apply)

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/10/2010 05:48:00 pm

As some will know, Adobe is the software development company that makes such applications as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign—all those applications that professional graphic designers rely on. One such application is Flash and the next release of that application was going to allow programmers to compile Flash applications for the iPhone—only Apple has just scuppered that in their new iPhone OS 4 SDK (which delivers, amongst other things, multi-tasking—eliminating one of my gripes about the iPad).

Incensed, Adobe developer Jim Dowdell tweeted thusly...
I know that a number of good people work at Apple. If you're seeking a more ethical company, Adobe is hiring: adobe.com/aboutadobe/careeropp

Really? Gosh—let's go and have a look at the recruitment page that Jim is pointing those Apple developers to, shall we? Hang on, what's this...? [Emphasis mine.]
Adobe has a new talent acquisition system. This system is optimized for performance on IE 6 or IE 7, running on Windows XP. Unfortunately it is not supported on Firefox, nor is it supported on a Mac at this time.

Way to go, Adobe! Here's a software development company whose "talent acquisition system" software, apparently, doesn't even work on standards-based browsers.

Further, a developer at Adobe—a company which was started by ex-Apple employees and became a big company through, initially, selling Mac-only software—is urging Apple employees to apply for jobs through a system that doesn't support Macs.

Nice one, Jim, you moron.

DISCLAIMER: I own an insignificant number of Apple shares—currently sitting at $241.79...

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/10/2010 05:48:00 pm


Jesus's voting intentions

Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/10/2010 05:08:00 pm

In the last couple of days, two remarkably silly articles have been posted by two remarkably silly Christians—each claiming that Jesus would vote for their respective parties. The first, by Andy Flannagan (who is something called a Christian Socialist), claims that Jesus might vote Labour in this General Election; the second, a fisking of the first by the sanctimonious Tim Montgomerie, claims that Jesus might, in fact, support the Tories.

Articles like this have always struck me as being utterly ridiculous. Although I am not a believer, like most middle-class children I suffered my fair share of religious teachings and it always seemed to me that Jesus was outside of Earthly politics: whenever presented with a political question, Jesus always tried to emphasise that such things were not important—he was concerned only with the soul of the individual.

Indeed, it is this point that my wife—who happens to be a Christian—has pointed out in her comprehensive post on the matter.
But Jesus was not a social worker. Jesus was, according to Christians, the Son of God, and according to most Christians, true God from true God, of one being with the Father. I would expect the Director of the Christian Socialist Movement to be at least as well versed in the theological tenets of Christianity as any Catholic child who goes to Mass regularly enough to have learned the Nicene Creed. Why is this relevant? Because Jesus’s teachings, whatever they may suggest to us about the proper ordering of human interaction, were ultimately eschatological: that is, concerned with the final outcomes of death, judgment, and the destiny of the human soul. His advice is to individuals: how to purify the soul in anticipation of meeting God. Actions, such as caring for the poor, working for one’s sustenance, and treating others as equals, are merely the outward manifestation of a genuinely held personal belief that the most sinless soul is the one that wishes only good, wishes no harm, and accepts God’s love as a gift given in spite of our imperfections, not because of our good works.

Good actions that are driven by the desire to perfect an earthly society, rather than the individual soul, are the hallmark of the non-Christian. I am not saying this is a bad thing; far from it, actually. But advocating good works for the sake of perfecting society is not a religious attitude, and Christianity is a religion, not a charity club. And the desire to perfect the soul before God is what differentiates a Christian from a nice person – and we all know the world is full of nice people who are not Christians.

So this characterisation of Jesus and Christianity as being focused on improving society actually strips both of their essentially religious nature. Doing good works is wonderful, because it makes life on earth liveable; but the distinguishing feature of Christianity is that of the perfection of the soul in preparation for death on earth; and each of us dies alone, and will face judgment alone in front of God, with Christ co-substantial and co-eternal at His right hand.

All of this would imply (to me, at least) that Jesus was, in fact, far closer to being a libertarian than either Tory or Socialist: in fact, more than this, Jesus was pretty much an Objectivist.

As Bella has said, the true Christian way is the perfection of one's own soul: one should do good works—helping those less fortunate than oneself or fulfilling the potential of one's God-given talents (or both)—because these are objectively good. And being objectively good, these action will contribute to the purification of your soul.

At the same time, those things that are objectively bad—theft, murder, sloth, etc.—will stain your soul and any Christian should avoid doing them. But since it is your own, personal soul that is in the balance, failing to realise your own potential is also bad—especially if that is achieved through bad means.

In other words, failing to be the very best that you can be—especially through cowardice or sloth—will count against your soul when it comes to judgement; Ayn Rand's Objectivist outlook praises those who make the most of their talents when those talents are used to create—a philosophy that Jesus would, I am sure, also approve of.

Similarly, Rand opined that one should only give to charity if this action had value to you, not simply because you had been asked for charity for such charity might actively harm the recipient (for a crude analysis of how this might happen, simply look at the marginal deduction rates on benefits—rates that incentivise people not to work and, thus, not to fulfill their potential).

This, too, chimes with the Christian route: you should give to charity because you wish to purify your own soul, because it has value to you, not simply because others are doing so. And to give charity when that action will harm the recipient will have no value at all, for it is the good outcomes that are measured in heaven, not your intention in the giving.

And, of course, to force people to "give" to charity under threat of violence is no virtue at all.

So, your humble Devil would submit that Jesus would vote for neither Labour nor Tories; indeed, he would not vote at all. Jesus might, however, be a fan of Ayn Rand.

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Posted by Devil's Kitchen at 4/10/2010 05:08:00 pm


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