Sunday, February 28, 2010

Those Tory policies

Iain Dale has a speculative post up on the challenges facing David Cameron—although the challenge that he doesn't mention is that Spam needs to convince the country that he's not Labour-lite (slightly better for you, as far as we know, but tastes disgusting).

Anyway, that is all very lovely but what I wanted to focus on is the policies that Iain lists, because they highlight extremely well why the Tories are in the shit (even if it's only as far as political anoraks are concerned).
It is untrue to say that the Conservatives are 'policy light'. There are plenty of individual, eye catching policies which resonate with the electorate. It's just that we seem to have lost sight of what they are. Here's a quick reminder of some of them...
  • Introduction of border police and a cap on immigration

We have a fucking border police, Iain—have you not noticed the jack-booted UK Border Agency guards wandering every airport? And a cap on immigration...? Don't make me fucking laugh.

Look, putting aside my personal beliefs on immigration, none of the above is new, radical or even achievable. A few months ago, we were subject to the unedifying spectacle of Tory, Labour and LibDim representatives all vying to outdo the BNP in the nastiness and draconian nature of their immigration policies—it made me ashamed to be British, frankly. And at least Griffin's policies are based on honest bigotry, rather than mealy-mouthed spite based on political advantage.

And not one of the Big Three's representatives dared to mention that we can do absolutely fuck all about immigration from the EU countries.

For fuck's sake, we don't want minimum wage slaves from Bulgaria—we want highly skilled migrants from the Anglosphere.

Instead, the Warsi, Huhne and Straw regaled us all with how they were going to punish, threaten, lock up and deport those same highly skilled, English-speaking migrants that we actually want in this country.

This is not just the politics of spite: it is the politics of total bloody stupidity.
  • A two year freeze on council tax

I'm sorry... You what?

The Tories keep telling us that they want to devolve power downwards and outwards from Westminster: they believe in "localism" we are told. So just exactly how the fuck can a policy of "localism" be reconciled with dictating to councils how they should raise their money?

The Tories have got a real problem here, you see. Right now, Council Tax only raises about 25% (some £25 billion) of council spending—and yet, according to endless TPA reports, Council Tax is possibly the most loathed way of raising money.

Now, localism isn't going to work whilst central government controls 75% of the funding. But if the government left councils to raise their own cash, the Council Tax would go through the roof. This would be massively unpopular, even if Westminster dropped other taxes substantially to compensate.

The only other realistic option would be to allow councils to collect money through a Local Sales Tax (or some other surcharge)—something that I know Douglas Carswell supports—but any measure like this would be seized upon by Labour and the lefty media alike as "Tories introducing a new tax on hard-working families! Shock, horror!"
  • Abolish ID cards and roll back the big brother state

Well, yes: this is good. But remember how long it took to drag from the Tories a commitment to abolishing the National Identity Register as well as the cards? And, as for other civil liberties issues, we have heard not a peep from Cameron about some of the other disgustingly illiberal laws that NuLabour have passed, which leads me to ask—does David Cameron define civil liberties in the same way that I do?

I'm pretty fucking certain that he does not.
  • Reduce the number of MPs by 10% and cut the cost of politics

Yes, yes: this is all very well—and we could certainly reduce the number of MPs by half, as far as I am concerned—but not only is this posturing (how are you going to reduce the cost of politics?), it's also pretty pointless.

I mean, seriously, the entirety of Westminster costs us something like £0.5 billion a year: yes, that's a fairly big wodge of cash but, in the context of nearly £680 billion of government spending, it's fucking peanuts. And I am more interested in how Cameron is going to reduce that big fucking number, not the tiny number—and the Tories seem to be somewhat vague on this much bigger issue.
  • Allow parents to create their own schools

I have written thousands of words about the Tory Education policy, so I shall summarise. Letting parents run schools is all very well, but it does appear that the Conservatives do not intend to let anyone make a profit from doing so. This is bolstered by the fact that a profit-making company is currently not allowed to run and own a school—and the Tories have shown no desire to change this.

But, worse, the Tories just don't seem to understand why schools should be privatised. The whole point is that schools should compete against one another but this is going to be difficult when a Conservative government will keep tight control not only of the subjects on the curriculum but also how that curriculum is taught, c.f. their ludicrous insistence that everyone must be taught to read using phonics.

Again and again, the Tories demonstrate that they just don't understand the fundamental principles underpinning their policies: they seem to be casting around for examples that work (which is a good thing) but then implementing them in such a way that one is lead to believe that they don't understand why they work (which is a fucking awful thing).
  • Restore the link between pensions and earnings

What? How? Are the Tories going to interfere in private pensions? Even if this is applied only to the state pension, how the living fuck are they going to pay for this? Have they even thought about it? Because there is no National Insurance fund: pensions are paid out of current earnings (once again, yes, it's a massive £110 billion per annum Ponzi scheme).
  • Repatriate powers from Europe

For fuck's sake...

Yes, this would be lovely. But we have yet to hear what powers Spam is going to repatriate; we also have no idea as to how he intends to repatriate said powers. The other powers in the EU have made it quite clear that they are not amenable to renegotiating any treaties, so how exactly does Spam think that he's going to "repatriate" powers?

I would like to think that he would announce that he is taking back all the powers he wants, stick two fingers up at the fuckers and shout "so fucking sue me, cunts!" but I can't see the Buttered New Potato doing that—can you?
  • Stop Labour's NI rise which is a tax on jobs

Yes, this is a good idea. But what if it's already in place by the time that the Tories get in—will they reduce it when they get in? Or will they just wibble on about how it's a time of crisis in the public finances but, hey, we'll reduce it just as soon as we're running a surplus again...?
  • Cut business taxes to encourage new small business start-ups

Yes, good. By how much? And when? And will it only be reduced on "new small business start-ups"? How new? How small? I vaguely seem to remember slapping this idea at the time that it was released but I can't recall the details right now.
  • Gove [sic] householders more rights to defend themselves against burglars

Yes, I approve of this in theory—but I guarantee that it will be so woven about with caveats that the nett effect will be minimal. And any benefits will probably be challenged under the Human Rights Act, or some such bullshit.
  • Abolition of Inheritance tax for everyone except millionaires

Yeah, fine, whatever. This is just another example of the Tories utterly lacking backbone: Inheritance Tax raises about £4 billion a year which is, in the wider context, less than fuck-all—why not just abolish the tax completely? You'd probably save £4 billion in sacking the thousands of probate officers, for fuck's sake.

So, if these are the Tories "individual, eye catching policies which resonate with the electorate" then, frankly, I can see why the stupid, spineless bastards are only 2% ahead in the polls. This is a lead almost as pathetic as Cameron himself.

We're all fucked.

UPDATE: Obnoxio the Clown analyses—not kindly—the latest Tory announcements on the NHS.
No. No. No. Just fucking NO!

National fucking campaigns are what we fucking have right now with Labour. How the cunting fuck can you be claiming to promote localism with national campaigns, devolution with orders from central government and radicalism when your spurting out the same old tired shit policies that we've seen from Labour for the last fucking decade?
A Conservative Government will work with business to draw up new ‘responsibility deals’ designed to prevent irresponsible activities and extend restrictions on unsuitable marketing to children throughout the media. We will introduce a clearer system of alcohol labelling which allows people to compare the amount they drink with other people, mandate the display of ‘guideline daily amounts’ on food packaging, and encourage restaurants and bars to publish more dietary information for their customers.

Aahhhh ... that will be the new focus on libertarianism from the Cuntservatives: nudging combined with hectoring, nannying and fucking outright bullying, which is completely fucking different from what Labour have been doing for the last 13 years, oh yes.

Let me briefly sum up the policy: more rule by technocrats, more interference in your private life justified by the same old make-up statistics, and more fucking over of anyone or anything who happens to think that all of this shit is none of the government's fucking business.

For a detailed fucking slap of the six latest initiatives from the Conservatives, you could do a lot worse than reading this spirited take-down of the Tory bullshit from UK Libertarian.

Oh, do just fuck off

I like Iain Dale.

There, I've admitted it.

But I know that the man fought for me when he was at 18DoughtyStreet, and I know that he is, generally, a decent type. However, I also know that he can be, incredibly, remarkably ignorant about the facts of politics and, as such, lacks a remarkable amount of the politician's native cunning.

I believe that it is this, rather than anything else, that keeps him from a nice, safe Tory seat. Oh, and the blogging.

But I still find it extraordinary when he reports approvingly a speech from William Hague—a man who should know better—that says absolutely fuck all about anything.

Iain says that this Hague speech is "taking the fight to Labour". Fuck taking the fight to Labour—Labour has bankrupted the country, screwed civil liberties, buggered the law-abiding and fucked the ordinary man. But the Tories show no signs of doing anything different—and this speech of Hague's says nothing new.

Why the fuck haven't the Tories—and Hague in particular—realised that just slagging off Labour isn't fucking working? Why the living crap is an intelligent man like Iain Dale reporting this rubbish as though it weren't the most lame speech ever?

Yes, Billy-boy, we know Labour are crap. But what are you going to do different?

From the weak vacillating speeches delivered by your so-called leader, we can only conclude that what you are going to do is...

... precisely the same as Labour have done. And we should vote for you... why?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reading City AM this morning...

... and I was wondering—is Nick Clegg the stupidest man on the face of the planet?

In announcing a whole raft of "ideas" that are designed to punish bankers—but will, in actualité, punish anyone vaguely successful—this parasitical non-entity has spelled out just what a pathetic, vicious little cunt he is.

Your humble Devil has concentrated most of his fire on Labour and the Tories because they are the two largest collections of shits in the country.

This may have been unfair to the LibDims who might be, after all, kingmakers in hung Parliament.

I used to think that these cints were a harmless but mildly amusing irritant. But no more—it is ever more obvious that Clegg's LibDims are vicious, stupid, economically illiterate morons whose intentions and actions are just as evil and crap as those of NuLabour.

It's time to fuck the LibDims into the irrelevance that they so richly deserve.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Solving the pensions Ponzi scheme

For those who are not familiar with your humble Devil's view of National Insurance Contributions (NICs), I'll just let the Scary Clown outline what a Ponzi scheme is.
Just in case you don't know what a Ponzi scheme is, it works like this: I get N people to pay money into my "fund" and promise them that the fund will pay out some crazy benefit. They all like the idea and get their friends to put money in. As new people add more money in, I use the money coming in to pay out to the original investors and skim off a chunk for myself. The more people chucking money into the pot, the more I can skim off and the more I can dish out to investors. But since I'm not doing any kind of investing, the problem comes in when people stop chucking money into the pot, or even worse, when people want to withdraw their money.

Then all hell breaks loose, as it did with the Bernie Madoff case.

But what far too few people realise is that the government's "National Insurance" is nothing but a Ponzi scheme. While the economic population is growing there is no problem meeting pension requirements (and all the other things that National Insurance ostensibly pays for) but when the population starts ageing and you have more claimants than contributors, it all gets a bit messy.

Obviously, this whole shit-heap is going to have to end at some point—probably in tears. As loyal readers will know, I am always interested in the way in which we might manage transitions towards a more libertarian society. Thus it is with great pleasure that I point you to a solution over at the Adam Smith Institute.
An obvious choice, denied to voters

Imagine you were forced to pick between two options: Option one – you give me £10 today for me to safeguard for you, but there is a very high likelihood that tomorrow, when you wish to claim, I will default. Option two – you give me £5 today, and can invest your remaining £5 on your own, again with the assumption being that I will likely default tomorrow.

Whilst it's hardly a wonderful choice you would surely choose option two, to minimise your losses. However, when it comes to National Insurance Contributions (NICs), the government only gives you option one, and then pretends that you're safe.

"But wait!" I hear you cry. "The government wouldn't default on the state pension!"

"In which case," say I. "You are incredibly naive." I'm afraid that the signs are all there in various stories over the last few years—most pertinently, in this case, in the story about how the government were planning to force people to contribute a percentage of their wages towards a private pension over and above their NICs.

So, given that there is every reason to believe that the government—if not about to default anytime in the very near future—is attempting to shore up the ever more crippled finances, there might be a better way.
What about if the government offered people both options?

Every employee pays 11%, to be paired with a contribution of 12.8% from their employer. When the employee retires, provided there is enough cash in the National Insurance Fund, they receive a state pension, just as they would have under the existing system.

Every employee keeps their 11% share as income to be invested into a private pension arrangement, and the employer continues to pay a 12.8% stake towards national insurance. The employee waives their right to a state pension, but receives a 'recognition bond' that entitles them to slightly less than the value of their employee contribution to the National Insurance Fund to date.

The choice is thus open for every individual to make, and logic dictates that the choices will be made rationally, relative to each individual's age and circumstances. Most young people, and in particular those who have just started working will certainly be better off taking the private route, even if this means they will not get any personal benefit from the contribution of their employers. Older people, and in particular those close to retirement, who have been contributing to the fund over a lifetime's work will be much more likely to stay with the national insurance scheme.

Of course, the need for this choice is largely depending on my initial analogy – it assumes that the government is likely to default at some point in the future.

As I have pointed out, it is reasonable, I think, to assume that the government will, indeed, default. It may not be in the next ten or twenty years but it is safe to assume that, by the time that I reach retirement age, it will have done so.

NuLabour's solution was to keep your 11% and your employer's 13% and make you pay even more on top (and remember that both portions of NICs are going up by 0.5% in April): in the ASI's solution, the government keeps the 13% to pay out to current pensioners, and you get to invest your 11% as you see fit.

But this must be some kind of crazy talk! It'll never work, surely? Er, yes it will...
Greater Returns for the people

The benefits of pension privatisation are undeniable. The Chileans are certainly richer as a result of their privatisation scheme. This is despite heavy regulation that accompanied the scheme in the early years, which forbade, for example investment in foreign equities. As Chile's economy has developed, more opportunities have arisen, and even greater returns can be realised with less regulation being necessary. The plans from America have highlighted this trend too. The projections are much more favourable when regulation is looser, for example allowing a greater percentage of peoples' money to be invested in stocks, as opposed to bonds. Nonetheless, even with a 50/50 split between bonds and stocks, the SSA scoring looked favourably on the financial returns of the Cato plan.

Those who invested in private pensions have comfortably produced returns more than three times greater than state pensions, because of the efficiency with which they are invested. It is because of this that most people will be better off, even if they have to sacrifice the share of NICs paid by their employers. Furthermore, Michael Tanner of Cato noted that notwithstanding the fall in the value of the stock market over the last year or two, an employee who started investing 40 years ago would still have done much better had they invested privately than had they relied on Social Security – had they been given a choice. This plan is a sustainable way to give them that choice.

Yup: it worked in Chile and it looks as though it will work in the United States. Not only does it work, but everyone is better off. This can only be a good thing. So, which party is going to implement such an eminently sensible plan?

Anyone? Bueller...?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Could the Barbary Ape win?

Pater Devil has been maintaining that he will vote Tory on the grounds that "these fuckers have to go" (and the pater does not use sweary language with anything like the frequency of his eldest off-spring) or that he "would vote for a Barbary Ape to get these bastards out of government".

You would have thought that these would be uncontentious statements—after all, Labour (and especially Brown) has, without question, been a complete fucking disaster. The Labour Party has failed in all of the objectives that it claimed for itself—the government has not been "whiter than white"; despite vast increases in funding its policies on "education, education, education" have left us with a deeply uneducated workforce; Patsy Hewitt admitted that billions poured into the NHS had been wasted; thre has most definitely not been "an end to boom and bust"; the country has been pulled into three disastrous and illegal wars (the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq); social mobility has decreased; and the government is now spending about £150 billion more per year than taxes bring in.

And yet somehow—fuck knows how!—the Tories don't seem to be able to take a decisive lead.
The “people’s bonus” plan comes as a Sunday Times/YouGov survey today reveals that the Tories’ lead over Labour has slipped to the narrowest gap in more than a year.

The poll, the first in a series of weekly surveys which will be conducted between now and the general election, puts the Conservatives on 39%, down one point on January’s figure, and Labour on 33%, up two. The Liberal Democrats drop one point to 17%.

6%? That's fucking pathetic. How the hell have the Tories managed it and, more importantly for those who believe that they are the only ones who can save us from that Barbary Ape in Number 10, how the hell can they pull ahead?

In the Times, Dr Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute reckons that the Tories should focus on growing the economy.
Focus on growth. Don’t argue about cuts

The battle of the economists is a sideshow. We must urgently put money into entrepreneurs’ hands

Public spending does not stimulate growth. It merely takes cash from where investors think it will create mid and long-term returns and puts it where politicians think they will get the best short-term political return.

Indeed, maybe the right time to cut government spending is actually when things are bad, because government spending is inherently wasteful. In 2007, economists at the European Central Bank calculated that with a bit of tweaking, the Government could deliver exactly the same level of public services but with 16 per cent less spending. When the Government already takes nearly half the nation’s income, that saving would be a huge boost to struggling businesses all over the country.

This is a point of view, and it is one that Burning Our Money shares—although Wat Tyler feels that people are not going to realise just how bad things are until the storm actually breaks.
How can the Tory poll lead be collapsing? Or to put it another way, how can Dave be so ineffective at capitalising on Bean's disasters and offering a clear alternative?

There is a school of thought - to which Tyler has subscribed - that says we need to see the actual invasion before we'll be convinced. We need to see that much-trailed collapse in market confidence, complete with sterling plunge, huge hike in bond yields, and Darling frozen in the TV lights outside HMT.

But Tyler's now beginning to wonder. Would that actually do it? What if Comrade Bean held an immediate morale boosting parade in Red Square (as Stalin did in November 1941)? Comrade Mandelsonski nodding gravely by his side, he reminds us that such a moment of national destiny is no time for a lightweight novice from the PR industry flip-flopping all over the place.

He, the Great Helmsman, has learned from previous mistakes, he will now always listen to his generals, and he stands ready to form a government of national unity with Comrade Cleggomov and St Vincenzo. It is time for all True Patriots to set aside past differences, to rally to the flag, and to defend the Motherland!

It is this kind of approach that the Labour Party seems to be taking, as this interview with Douglas Alexander seems to suggest.
He said: "We must not allow the Tories to frame the election as a choice between status quo and change. What we want is a choice between two competing visions of the future."

Yes, Comrades: ignore the past and look forward to our Glorious Future!

And, in the meantime, everyone wonders what the fuck the Buttered New Potato is playing at. Part of the problem is that Cameron has had a charisma by-pass and this is allied with the fact that we have no real idea of what the Tories are planning to do. Where we do have an idea, e.g. school vouchers, the Conservative policy is seriously undermined by the fact that the Tories don't seem to understand why said policy works and, as a consequence, make it look shit, e.g. still controlling what and how schools teach.

The wife feels that the Tories should not, in fact, be concentrating on the money at all.
First, begin immediately to practise what you preach re: accountability, openness, responsiveness by operating the Conservative party according to these standards. The party is a large organisation very like a government; its own record on these matters will be viewed as an accurate predictor of how the Conservatives will run the government itself. So stop the stupid infighting about selection. Stop providing local associations with shortlists chosen by non-local party leadership. Sure, you might end up with a load of straight, white male PPCs as a result, but that won’t matter because you’ll have shown that you encourage localism and democracy within your own organisation, thus giving voters more confidence that you’ll encourage it across the nation when you’re in charge.

Second, announce everything you intend to do to protect or, if necessary, restore civil liberties. Without mentioning Labour, enumerate every piece of legislation you will repeal or amend to this end. Commit to destroying the NIR and ID cards, repealing the Coroners and Justice Bill, the Digital Economy Bill (if these things have passed), the Civil Contingencies Act, RIPA, etc. If you think a Bill of Rights is desired by the populace, produce a draft and circulate it. Invite suggestions, consultations, the contributions of legal experts, constitutional experts, and so on. Actually tell the country how you intend to ensure the restoration and protection of ancient and long-held liberties.

Then leave the money stuff for later. You’re the opposition party; you don’t have access to the information you need in order to make credible promises about finance. You don’t have access to the civil service brains in the Treasury who could explain the ins and outs of the budget and recommend cuts that wouldn’t affect ‘frontline services.’ You don’t even really know where the money comes from. So quit throwing around silly figures like £7 billion. Instead, reassure people that you are committed to responsible financial management and eliminating waste, and promise that one of your first, if not your actual first, undertakings in Government will be a thorough and completely open auditing of the country’s books, after which you will commit to responsible financial practices and put the budget back into the hands of Parliament as a whole – in which every expenditure, saving, tax cut, or tax rise will have to be approved by the legislature before you can implement it.

I tend to think that this would be a good approach—one of the worst failings of the Tories is that they have failed to bother building a coherent vision of what the country might look like under their stewardship.

One of Cameron's most terrible omissions has been his utter silence on civil liberties—apart from the ID Cards. For fuck's sake, one of his own front bench resigned from his job and called a by-election on this issue!

The civil liberties issue is bound in tightly with the financial issue too, as Milton Friedman acknowledged.
I am in favor of cutting taxes under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it's possible. The reason I am is because I believe the big problem is not taxes, the big problem is spending. The question is, "How do you hold down government spending?" Government spending now amounts to close to 40% of national income not counting indirect spending through regulation and the like. If you include that, you get up to roughly half. The real danger we face is that number will creep up and up and up. The only effective way I think to hold it down, is to hold down the amount of income the government has. The way to do that is to cut taxes.

Which is why I am so gutted that I was unable to attend a recent Adam Smith Institute event at which the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, talked about his country's proposed Liberty Act. [Emphasis mine.]
However, the main function of the evening was for the President to outline plans for one of the most sensible pieces of legislation enacted since the United States' Constitution: The Liberty Act. This seeks to constitutionally enshrine the economic reforms pursued since the Rose revolution, by imposing a strict cap on the remit and size of any future government. Under the Act, government spending is not permitted to exceed 30% of GDP, while the budget deficit is capped at 3% and public debt at 60%. Price controls and state ownership of financial institutions are banned, and no new taxes or increase in tax rates can be imposed without a referendum.

One question in particular elicited a marvellous response. When asked why he was seeking to bind his successors, the President promptly replied, "I don't trust any government, including my own".

Which is an entirely excellent attitude to take: I don't trust any government either—it's just unusual to hear that any politician say so. Mind you, we British didn't spend fifty years living under the Communist jackboot—so we are merrily creating a British jackboot government all of our own.

But, to return to the issue at hand, I believe that there is one single issue outlined in that section above that would win the Tories the next election. Did you spot it? Yup, it's this bit...
... no new taxes or increase in tax rates can be imposed without a referendum.

There's your election-winning strategy right there, Cameron. But you won't deploy it, will you? No, that would severely limit your control over us all—as Uncle Milt pointed out.

As the wife pointed out in a later post (she's really much better at analysing and articulating these things than your humble Devil), the point is that the Tories and Labour really aren't that far apart.
The function of the Republican party in the United States and the Conservative Party in Britain is to disguise the fact that the country is ruled by what is essentially a one-party statist blob. Superficially, R/Cs may differ from Democrats/Labour on such issues as abortion, gay marriage, the role of family, etc – but the keen observer will notice that regarding all of these superficial issues, the solution on both sides is statist intervention of one form or another. Abortion – legal or illegal? Gay marriage – legal or illegal? Whatever the outcome, it will always be determined by some fiat legislation or judicial decree. Rarely does either side say, ‘Hey, these things are not for the government to decide.’

That, of course, is the function of the Libertarian Party—although we are constantly trying to juggle pragmatism and principle.

The trouble is that people do not seem to want to hear these arguments. The vast majority of comments concerning my party that I get are derogatory—they are all along the lines of "yeah? And how many votes will you get?" or "you aren't libertarian enough: I'm considerably more libertarian than yeeeeooow".

Rarely does anyone pop up to say "thank fuck that at least one political party is even thinking in this way" or "you might be wrong on this but I'd like to help you to form a practical policy on it".

It seems that even the libertarians floating around the blogosphere don't want a Libertarian Party (or not this or that particular one)—so why the hell should the Tories (let alone Labour) edge that way for the vast majority of the population who don't even claim to be libertarian?

So, the Tories will carry on tinkering at the edges and the political pendulum will keep swinging between Tories and Labour—sometimes one will win sometimes the other.

The only thing that is absolutely certain, no matter which one of those statist parties wins, is that the British people will lose—lose their money, lose their freedom, lose their pride.

It's a depressing thought.

More on copyright

There's a rather super comment from the wife on the subject of copyright which I have decided to pinch in full—with permission, of course.
The non-existence of intellectual property demands the existence of copyright. Observe:

Let’s begin from the assumption that there is no such thing as intellectual property – only physical property.

Pretend I have written some music, played it, and recorded it onto a CD at a material cost to myself of some £3000 and 40 hours of labour time. My CD is physical property only, and my estimation of its worth is £3000, plus let’s say £120 for labour (at £3 an hour, that’s a bargain), plus an ideal, though small, profit margin of 8% – a grand total of £3370.

I could make 337 copies of this CD, which would also be my property, and sell them for £10 apiece – fine. But it’s not in my interest to do so unless I sell all 337 copies at once. Because once I’ve sold the first copy, which is after all only physical property, the new owner of that CD and duplicate it and give it away for free, thus making my £10 copies less attractive in the marketplace and therefore less likely to find willing buyers.

Possibly my solution here is to invite pre-orders. Once 337 people have pre-ordered and pre-paid – and the £3370 is comfortably in my bank account – I can send out all of the CDs at once. Fine.

But suppose more than 337 people order a copy of my CD. Very well; I shall make more copies and make those available for pre-order and pre-payment too. In fact, I will make as many copies and sell as many pre-orders as the market demands; but nobody will receive their CD until that demand is exhausted and the profit guaranteed (by its presence in my bank account), because the minute I actually hand over the first disk, everything on it ceases to be my property and can be made available for free.

My other option is to make no additional copies of the CD, and to sell my single existing copy for £3370. (This is, for example, what happens with unique pieces of art.)

Essentially, therefore, if the CD and everything encoded on it is purely physical property, I have absolutely no incentive to make it someone else’s property until I have received the compensation I desire. This is not so much a problem if I sell it as a single entity to one buyer for £3370 (although I think few people would pay that amount for a music CD).

But if I want to sell copies of it at reduced cost to multiple buyers, it makes sense for me to hold onto all copies until I have as many confirmed buyers as possible. This could end up being ridiculous; there could be a time lag of literally years between when the first buyer pays me and when I send him his copy.

Buyer #1 obviously does not want to wait years; in fact, since he has already paid me for his copy of the CD, it is now his property, and I have no right to withhold it from him. But if I send it to him immediately, the CD and everything on it becomes his property, and he can duplicate it and give it away for free, meaning people will be less likely to buy copies from me, meaning I am likely to make a massive loss. In fact, if I sell him his copy for £10, he makes his property available for free, and nobody buys copies from me, I have made a loss of £3360.

But wait! There may be another way. Let us say that I agree to sell a copy of my CD to Buyer #1 as long as he agrees not to make the material on it freely available for x number of years, x being the time during which I reasonably predict demand for my music CD to exist. This will naturally involve a reduction in price to compensate him for voluntarily restricting his use of his property, but fine. If I can get all of my buyers to agree to the same terms of sale, they will get their property, and I will get my money, and all will be happy.

And lo and behold, we have just invented ‘copyright’: the agreement by which the buyer gets his purchase of property at a discounted price in return for not making that property freely available for x number of years. This enables the seller to compensate for that discounted price by making up the difference in volume of sales.

Since we have copyright, as a good way to satisfy both buyer and seller with respect to their property and money, I therefore conclude that intellectual property does not exist.

Given, of course, that I estimated the cost of producing an album professionally at some £257,000 (not including promotional costs) rather than £3,370, one can see that the required length of time to wait might be rather longer than the wife's illustration might warrant.

UPDATE: over at Kore Studios (owned by a friend of my brother's), you can get an album package—which includes 30 day exlusive studio time, an engineer and assistant and mastering—for £16,000 (inc VAT) [no direct link: go to Rates].

Also, Unity has a long and detailed article on the shenanigans indulged in by the music industry, including the financial breakdown for music tracks.

UPDATE 2: the wife replies to her detractors in the comments.
For all these people accusing me of various naive assumptions, I respond as follows.

First, I deliberately excluded record companies, gigs, merchandise, etc. in my thought experiment. I began with the premise that I wrote, performed, and paid for my home-made album myself, and this was the extent of my investment. Gigs, merchandise, etc. are not relevant.

Second, I worked on the cynical, but absolutely not naive, belief that if it is possible for people to distribute my product for free, some will do so. Naturally, as a businessperson, I wish to minimise the incidence of this, preferably to zero. This is not naivety. What is naive is for me to believe that there will be people who, although they could get my album for free, will choose to pay for it instead. I'm sure many people are indeed like this, but to rely on everyone's being like this is unsound business practice.

So what I end up with is the perfectly reasonable prediction that, if able, some people will distribute my stuff for free, and some people will acquire it for free. Because I am a greedy bastard, I don't want to quibble about potential lost earnings or potential gains from free publicity. I want to reduce some to zero.

Third, for a home-made album with no marketing or publicity (you'll notice these are nowhere mentioned in the thought experiment), 337 copies sold is a bit optimistic, even if it is the greatest music on earth, because word of mouth between friends and the friends of friends, etc. can only get one so far. If my completely non-marketed, non-publicised album can sell 337 copies, I'll be happy.

Fourth, I'm aware that whatever contract I and my customers agree about not reproducing my work for x time is not binding on third parties. If my customer's CD of my music is stolen, well, that's too bad for me. Hopefully the thief can be caught and made to compensate us both.

If my customer breaks the contract, however, this is actionable. It can be determined in court how many free copies my customer made or distributed, and I can present to the jury my estimate of how much potential earnings I have lost as a result. Obviously it won't be 100%, because not all of the people who got free copies off my customer would have bought it in an alternate reality. If the jury thinks my estimate is, on balance of probability, fair, they can award me those damages. If the jury thinks my estimate is unfair, they can choose not to. In fact, the jury can return a 'guilty' verdict without awarding me any damages at all except my court costs. This is all just as it should be. So quibbling about the amount of potential earnings lost, which is a completely subjective estimate, is irrelevant. It is not pertinent to the law whether this amount can be determined exactly; the law comes into force if I can convince a jury that this amount is greater than zero. If I can't convince the jury of that, too bad for me.

This is what court is for: to judge whether the contract has been broken, and at what cost. If the law required me to prove all of that before taking it to court, I wouldn't need the court at all.

Has that cleared up some of the objections?

Oh, and as someone who is involved in flogging my brother's albums, I can tell you that 337 is pretty darn optimistic—even when you have a loyal following after more than a decade playing gigs (which usually end up costing the musician money).

To expand, at the level at which most (part-time) bands play, they will make to money on playing gigs—in fact, gigs will probably cost them money. This is especially true in London, where promoters and venues have the upper hand because of the number of bands around.

Once you make the leap to being a full-time band—and are thus able to tour the country rather than your immediate environs—the amount of money that you have to make increases by thousands of percent. Whereas once you might have been happy if your earnings covered a couple of rehearsal sessions and the transport of your instruments to the venue, now you have to actually make enough to pay you to live—and to hire the venues and promote the gig.

In order to do that, you have to get lots of people in to see you—in every venue. In order to try to mitigate these costs, small bands will often support larger bands—and they will pay a fee to the larger band for the privilege.

So, without the record sales and without much (if any) money coming in from the gigs, you are left with merchandise. That is going to need to be paid for up-front—with all of the inventory problems that brings. This merchandise will also need to be carried around with you, meaning that your transport becomes more expensive.

In truth, it is those who claim that any but the biggest bands can make money out of merchandise and touring that are naive—not me.

Bully for you!

So, Andrew Rawnsley's new book has detailed allegations about the bullying endured by Gordon Brown's staff, as the Prime Minister lost it time and time again.
Gordon Brown's abusive behaviour and volcanic eruptions of foul temper left Downing Street staff so frightened that he received an unprecedented reprimand from the head of the civil service, an explosive new book by the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley reveals today.

Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, became so alarmed by the prime minister's behaviour that he launched his own investigations when he received reports of Brown's bullying of staff. O'Donnell then gave the prime minister a stern "pep talk" and ordered him to change his behaviour. "This is no way to get things done," he told Brown.

The revelation that the prime minister's behaviour was so extreme that it triggered a warning from Whitehall's most powerful official will shock the political world and is bound to lead to claims from his opponents that he is not fit for another five years in office as a general election draws near.

Rawnsley's book also reveals that after the debacle of the cancelled election in 2007 an increasingly unpopular Brown became more and more paranoid. When briefed that November about the loss of confidential data discs, containing the personal details of more than 20 million people, he leapt across the room and grabbed Gavin Kelly, his deputy chief of staff, by the lapels of his jacket. Brown snarled into Kelly's face: "They're out to get me!"

These incidents, and others, are revealed in the vivid and extraordinary account by Rawnsley of how Brown treated employees at all levels – from top aides to duty clerks and secretaries.

So, the man is a useless, abusive, corrupt, bullying shit. Tell us something that we didn't know.

Oh, wait! I didn't know that members of Brown's staff had called the National Bullying Helpline.
Several people in Gordon Brown's office have contacted an anti-bullying charity, its boss has told the BBC.

Christine Pratt said "three or four" calls had been made to the National Bullying Helpline in recent years.

And until I read Dizzy, I didn't know that Brown's abysmal treatment of his staff had also been asked about in Parliament and recorded in Hansard.
So... that's "three or four" calls, in the last "three or four" years, which is rather handily less than "five" which happens to be the number that Brown's own departments have confirmed have made complaints.

The thing is, I have been describing this screaming turd in highly unflattering terms for many years; now, I think, would be an opportune moment to remind newer readers of some of the classics.
  • Gobblin' King Your Money (Feb 2006)
    Gordo the Gobblin' King must die now, not later. Die, die, die, you incompetent piece of dried-out, white dogshit, like what you don't see around 'ere anymore, eeeeh. I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire, unless I thought that, by peeing in strategic places, it might be possible for me to prolong your agony, you triple-cursed, knob-rotting, savings-fucking, wealth-destroying weeping sore on the hairy, sweaty scrotum of humanity.

    Fuck you, Gobblin' King: fuck you right in the ear.

  • The Gobblin' King Is Still A Power-Crazed Fuckwit (May 2006)
    Many people who loathe Blair still think that The Gobblin' King is the saviour of the world, a financial wizard and architect of the greatest economic Golden Age that Britain has ever known. After I've viciously beaten these fuckers around the head—screaming "no, he's not! He is an incompetent cunt with one eye and a ludicrous oral twitch that makes me want to slice his lips off!"—I calm down slightly and, sitting serenely beside the deluded, bloody fool, I like to explain that their faith is misplaced.

    Brown is a fuckwit of grand stature; he is a manipulative, lying, piece of crap who—notwithstanding his low profile when scandal breaks—is, nonetheless, a terrible cunt.

  • The Gobblin' King: Pre-Budget Report (Nov 2006)
    What do you want to bet that the fucker is angling for PM and Chancellor simultaneously? Anyway, you can bet that, if the devious cunt becomes PM, his Chancellor will be little more than a Brownite mouthpiece, the Gobblin' King's glyph burned onto the back of the greedy fucker's neck.

    For fuck's sake, Brown, you fucking moron: when will you realise that just lobbing money at things does not make them any better? Have you learned nothing from the NHS? Huge amounts of money will be thrown at these schools, massive amounts will be skimmed off by LEAs and, once again, the vast majority of whatever remains will be flushed down the shitter.

  • Gordon Brown: See The Cunt Suffer (May 2008)
    I'd always hoped that maybe I would be the one to bring him down: instead, the Gobblin' King has utterly fucked up his career all by himself. I consider myself cheated, frankly.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, I could be the one—to steal TNO's coma analogy—who delivers the swift kick to the throat that knocks out the ventilator tube and who leaps for joy as—in the grey, dank, dirty hospital room—the machine that has recorded the last moments of this great, fat, joyless tosser's life emits its final beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep before lapsing into a final, remorseless silence.

  • Gordon Brown Has Lost His Tiny Fucking Mind (Nov 2008)
    Gordon Brown: mad Mad McMad, the Mad Prime Madman of Madland. In short, the cunt is fucking barking.

    This intellectual Titan does not, of course, have a fucking clue: the man is a dangerous fucking lunatic, and a cunt to boot. The Bobblin' King should be sectioned now, for the good of all of us: section the fucker before he does himself some harm—or, of course, before the British people wake up and save Gordon the trouble of harming himself...

    According to the film tag, "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist": of course, the greatest trick that this one-eyed devil ever pulled was convincing anyone at all that he had the first fucking clue about economics.

Personally, I would love to be the person who writes the epitaph upon Gordon Brown's tombstone—preferably within the next few months. I could rant away, but I think that I would prefer someone pithy—something like this...
Here Lies

"Professionally useless:
personally unpleasant.

"We will not see his like again—
thank fuck."

The more that we see and hear about this fucking little shit, the more and more attractive the Tories appear.

Except, apparently, they don't (more on that later).

Pirate Party follow-up—and a question for discussion

My post criticising the Pirate Party caused one of the most lively debates on The Kitchen for a long time—if not ever. It's clearly a subject that people feel strongly about—myself included—so I thought that it was worth a follow-up.

The Retort

One of the main reactions to my post came from cabalamat—the Campaigns Officer of the Pirate Party UK—in which he rather dishonestly decided to equate my personal view with the Libertarian Party policy on this matter.
Pirate Party UK is more libertarian than the Libertarian Party UK, at least on some policy issues, if this post by the Libertarian Party’s leader Chris Mounsey is to be believed.

This is, of course, nonsense: as leader of the Libertarian Party, I do not make policy. Our policies are formulated by the membership of the party—not announced by me as diktats.

This is, of course, something that cabalamat should have known or guessed at—before I pointed it out to him—since he admits that his party works in a similar way.
It’s my personal view; I’m not the leader of PPUK, so I’m not entitled to make _ex cathedra_ announcements on party policy. Nor for that matter is our leader Andrew Robinson; PPUK policies are decided democratically by the membership.

Quite. As it happens, Libertarian Party policy on IP, copyrights and patents has not yet been properly formulated—although it has been the subject of heated discussion on the members' forum. But more of that later.

Another argument that cabalamat put forward was that..
recognising that preventing non-commercial file sharing is in practice unenforceable (except at excessive cost to liberty and wealth), and it is therefore de facto legal

This is an argument that I reject absolutely. Let us put it another way: let us use the conviction rate for reported rapes...
The government estimates that as many as 95% of rapes are never reported to the police at all. Of the rapes that were reported from 2007 to 2008, only 6.5% resulted in a conviction, compared with 34% of criminal cases in general.

Now, we all know that there are certain problems with these statistics but, nonetheless, rape convictions are low.

I think that, from the evidence presented above, we can recognise that preventing rapes is in practice unenforceable (except at excessive cost to liberty and wealth), and it is therefore de facto legal.

Anyone on board with that argument? Anyone?


If something is wrong in principle, then it should not be made de facto legal simply because it is difficult to enforce. Yes, we as a society can decide to what extent we are willing to curtail personal freedom in order to enforce said laws—in the case of personal file-sharing, I would say "not much"—but that does not mean that we should just give up and legalise that activity.

I'd also like to highlight a comment by Graeme Lambert, a supporter of and desirous of being a PPC for the Pirate Party, which is, I think, spectacularly disingenuous.
The Pirate Party do not want to abolish copyright as we want creative artists to receive their fair share.

Well, who could argue with that? We all want that—what we are arguing about is how best to deliver it.
If I buy a CD/DVD, rip it to my computer, create a torrent, upload it to The Pirate Bay, send the link to a few friends and let them download it; that is non-commercial file-sharing.

I am aware of what non-commercial file-sharing is. And we have all made cassettes and CDs for friends. This is, of course, technically illegal, but it has never been worth the expense of pursuing—which is one reason why I maintain that copyright infringement should be a civil crime. With such small scale sharing, it isn't worth the music companies pursuing—if, however, they pass the costs onto the state (the taxpayer) through criminal enforcement, then it becomes possible to clamp down even on this kind of activity.

But this is not, in any case, relevant to what we are discussing—or even what Graeme is discussing. Pirate Bay was not the equivalent of making a mix tape for a couple of your mates—it was a vast commercial operation based on the widespread distribution of music, films and other copyrighted material to anyone who wanted to join the site.

And the point was that Pirate Bay made money out of this: the uploaders didn't, and nor did the downloaders (although they saved money by not having to pay for the material); Pirate Bay did. They provided a facility through which people could obtain copyrighted material, and funded both site and salary costs through membership fees and adverts.

Which is why they were prosecuted. Although they held no files, they provided the means to distribute material illegally—a bit like a criminal "fence".
If I buy a CD/DVD, rip it to my computer, burn it onto another disc and then sell that disc to other people, obviously without giving a percentage of it to the copyright holders, that is commercial file-sharing which should by punished to the full extent of the law as that DOES take money away from the rights holders.

If people can get material for free, then most of the time they will (apart from people like me, who have principles). As such, providing material that should be paid for for free does deprive the artists of revenue.

Yes, I know that not everyone would have bought said material, so not every download is depriving the artist of money. But a good proportion will be.

And let's look at the system of Pirate Bay: were people making money out of it? Yes, the people who ran Pirate Bay were. Would so many thousands of people have signed up to Pirate Bay had the site not hosted such commercially desirable material? I severely doubt it. So, I think that one can argue that Pirate Bay were making money directly out of providing access to copyrighted material—it could be argued, therefore, that Pirate Bay was commercial file-sharing.
Me sharing the media with a couple of friends does not deprive the creative artists of their money, it in fact boosts the chances of them receiving more money through completely free advertising.

Which is why thousands of successful writers, musicians and creative artists have come out in enthusiastic support of the Pirate Party, eh? Oh, wait: they haven't.

Besides, can you prove any of this? Sure, sometimes, artist might get a boost from your "free advertising". On the other hand, your friends might have heard the songs on the radio, and bought them because of that. You cannot prove that your sharing of that music was the only way in which your friends would have heard it.

In any case, if you are only distributing the music to your friends, then why not make a CD and give it to them physically? Or even zip up the MP3s and put it on a private server for their own personal download?

Putting that material on a public forum for anyone to download is not the same, is it now?

Quiet apart from anything else, even if you give the artist free advertising, it's going to mean fuck all if your friends just download all the music for free from the fucking Pirate Bay, eh?
I know some bands who have relatively small fan bases compared to big name bands who will give away a few songs to be shared – this is what I would personally encourage amongst all creative artists.

Yes, fine. Plenty of artists give away some of their music—my brother is one such—but that is their choice.

It is their music and it is for them to choose whether they give it away for free: if you, Graeme, upload it to Pirate Bay, then you are taking that choice away from the artist.

In other words, you are imposing your morals on someone else—and depriving them of a living into the bargain.
The current plan amongst the Pirate Party for copyright reform is not to abolish it but simply to shorten it. The lengths discussed are 5 years or 10 years plus the option to extend for a further 5 years.

Yes, yes: all of these things can be discussed. But if the Pirate Party recognises the need for copyright, then it should also recognise that it should be up to the rights-holder—and not the Pirate Party—what the terms of the rights are.
I personally like the idea put forward by a member in that in order for the copyright to be extended for that 5 years, the copyright holder would have to pay a percentage, say 5%, of the profit made during that first 5/10 years.

To whom? The government? Or Noddy and Big Ears? The Pirate Party? Who the hell reaps this largesse for doing precisely fuck all?
If the media is selling well, that wouldn’t be a problem for the holders, but if it’s not selling, then it would simply be made freely available to the public domain as the copyright would be expired.

Well, fair enough: and this is what currently happens. Only—and I think that most people would agree—the copyright periods are way too long.

Question for discussion

The question is simply this: does Intellectual Property exist?

Put aside any notion of current copyright or patent law: just ignore it for the moment. Most of us agree that these things—which are only constructs of law—need some kind of reform; but if there is no such thing as Intellectual Property, then there is no justification for copyright or patents anyway.

If Intellectual Property does exist, then we need to discuss how the state might protect it. This is not a dastardly libertarian arguing for more state interference: as a minarchist libertarian, I believe that the state has a role to play in protecting property rights through law and, if they exist, naturally the state should thus protect Intellectual Property rights through law.

Can one assert ownership of the product of one's mind? For an example that is close to home for any blogger, I have come across several sites who were scraping the feeds from The Kitchen; they were posting my writing in full and without attribution or permission; those sites existed, through adverts, to make money from my writing.

If you don't believe in Intellectual Property, then you will say that I should have no recourse or justification to stop this; if you do believe in Intellectual Property, then you will approve my actions of asking them to cease and desist.

So, please, give your opinion in the comments; as I said, do not discuss copyright or patent law (discussion of these may follow depending on the outcome of The Question)—please concentrate only on the issue of whether or not Intellectual Property, as a concept, actually exists or not.

UPDATE: a couple of points of clarification, as raised by comments so far.
  1. This is not about supporting eeevil corporations; this is about an individual's right to their property.

  2. I gave, as an example, whether or not I "own" the writing on this blog (other than my other contributors efforts, of course).

  3. If I own the writing, then it should be—as with my other property—protected in law.

Having talked this through with the wife, there is another aspect to this, which you might care to consider. If I make a wooden rocking horse, for sale, I will calculate the time and material that I put into it, and a profit, and that is what I will sell it for. I cannot sell that rocking horse again so, when you buy it, you will bear the full cost of my making of that horse, and the profit that I expect to gain.

Now, let us look at some (reasonable) costs of producing, professionally, just one copy of an album:
  1. Studio time: £10,000

  2. Producer's fee: £5,000

  3. Mastering: £3,000

  4. CD printing: £10

  5. Design: £5,000

  6. Sleeve printing: £500

  7. Wages for four piece band (median wage): £100,000

  8. Sundries: £5,000

  9. Total Cost: £128,510

  10. Reasonable profit (100%): 128,510

  11. Total Return needed: £257,020

So, the rocking horse model obviously does not happen with a CD—otherwise, that CD would cost you over £250,000. The business models are completely different. In effect, the vendor is taking the total cost, looking at what the market will bear, and slicing that cost into a certain number of units—only one of which you possess.

If you want to own the whole object, then you should be paying the whole £257,020, not a tenner. No?

UPDATE 2: the wife has concluded that intellectual property does not exist and that is why we have copyright (reproduced, with permission, here).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

You might as well set fire to the cash

The main problem that your humble Devil has with the "localism" agenda is that giving the kind of cunts who run our councils more money and power might actually tip these sacks of shit over the edge into some kind of screaming, jack-booted insanity, whereby they waste taxpayers' money on piss-poor, pointless and illiberal investigations of this sort.
A town mayor is at the centre of a potentially costly investigation over whether he smoked too close to council officials.

Fenland District Council in Cambridgeshire is investigating four allegations against John West, the Mayor of March, including that he "brandished a cigarette 30 centimetres from the face of two officers on two separate occasions".

Oh, for fuck's sake...
Mr West said he was the victim of a "witch hunt" and criticised the investigation as a waste of council tax payers' money.
He said the only incident to which he could imagine that the allegations referred was one Saturday morning last autumn when he helped council officers clear weeds from outside March station, during which he smoked.
He commented: "I do realise that as a smoker I'm the biggest pariah out there, but I don't think it's illegal to smoke outside – yet.

To put my fears more succinctly, what I fear is that the people who run councils are even more illiberal and cuntish than the thieving bastards at Westminster. Just look at the enthusiasm with which these local authorities embrace every new government diktat, enforcing them way beyond what's required.

For example, whilst it may have been central government that gave councils the power to pass certain by-laws, it was the councils themselves that enthusiastically started banning the drinking of alcohol in parks and streets. They didn't have to use these powers, but they did. (And let's not even mention RIPA, eh?)

There really is only one option: take every, single elected official and hang them from the nearest taxpayer-funded lamp-post. As for the employees... well...

Another good rule, which should most definitely be applied in this case, would be that any council or government employee deemed to have wasted taxpayers' money should be billed for the full cost.

That would make these shit-stains think twice about pissing our hard-earned cash up the fucking wall.


Thursday, February 18, 2010


A number of people seem to have been punting this Power2010 idea and, since I have been asked, I urge you all to go and vote for the English votes on English laws option.

Unlocky Democracy and the Campaign for the English Regions are engaged in a campaign to relegate EVoEL out of the top five reforms, and they've suceeded by a small margin. We have three days to try and get English Votes back into the top five (it is presently only 100 votes outside the top five reforms).

And if that happens then it will form part of the Power2010 pledge, and that will mean that Power2010 will lobby every prospective MP to pledge to introduce English Votes on English Laws in the next parliament.

This will, of course, be of less-than-fuck-all use, frankly, but for one crucial deciding factor...

It will be hugely entertaining to watch the Joseph Rowntree Trust, Charter88, Helena Kennedy and the Guardian lobby every prospective candidate on this. Power2010 is essentially an evolution of Charter88 and the Power Inquiry, and their partners are the usual Guardian lobbyists for constitutional reform. Well meaning people, but people with a particular agenda. They are the people who supported balkanising England and provided the funding for the various campaigns for English regions.

So, basically, go and vote for English votes on English laws because it'll annoy the living shit out of a bunch of left-wing cunts and, since we aren't allowed to hang the bastards, this will have to do.

Oh, and there's one more reason: if anyone seriously thinks that Fixed Term Parliaments should be in the top five Parliamentary reforms (it's currently at number 5), then they are a pusillanimous fucktard with all of the imagination of a sack of cement.

And given that the right to recall the bastard MPs is more than a thousand votes below English votes on English laws, then I suggest that you go for the latter—if only to keep the deeply fucking puerile Fixed Term crap out.

I looked at Power2010 some time ago and, to be honest, I thought that almost all the proposals were so fucking piss-poor and pathetic that I simply couldn't be arsed to bestir myself. They are still all absolute fucking crap—apparently they wouldn't accept my suggestion of Hang every single cunt in the House of Commons, smother the top 1,000 civil servants and stab all Life Peers—but pissing off lefties is usually worthwhile.

Go vote. People probably died for your right to do so, or something.

The monarchy

Strange though it might seem, many of my views have become less trenchant as time wears on*. Personally, I blame you fuckers: no sooner do I think that I know what the hell I think than some commenter pops up with a reasonable objection. It's fucking annoying: how the hell am I going to turn into the traditional Bufton Tufton if I'm not allowed to continue holding outmoded views in the face of all reason, eh?

Anyway, one of the institutions that I have mixed feelings about is the monarchy. I have, in the past, defended the role of Contitutional Monarch, and for much the same—entirely practical—reasons that Obnoxio has today.
It's crucial that I explain why. A constitutional monarchy is not the endgame objective of any Libertarian. It is profoundly unlibertarian that someone can rule over you by accident of birth. However, through happy accident, it transpires that having a ruling monarch that is required to give assent to laws, along with two strong chambers of debate is a pretty good mix for reasonable governance in a democratic, rather than an anarchic state.

And while a lot of libertarians resent the land-ownership of the hereditary peers, the fact that they weren't all from the grasping, venal classes actually made them quite good custodians of our rights. If you look at the regime of New Labour, for instance, the official opposition was utterly useless in the Commons and all the serious defence of the common man ironically came from the Lords. And if we look at the rapid increase in common petty theft in the Lords, is it any surprise that it has all come about since Labour started throwing the money out there to be taken and then appointing people from the grasping, venal classes?

I'm not saying the Lords were saints before, but because they were disinterested and there wasn't really anything in it for them, they tended to either not bother at all or take it seriously for its own sake. Sure they could influence big deals for their own back pocket, but they weren't inspired to enact draconian laws because they'd get a chunk of cash for pitching up and then being "whipped" to vote.

Whether you regard it as class, or breeding, or just some kind of good sense and disinterest, the peers have acquitted themselves much better than our elected representatives, who do not represent us, but rather the interests of their party. And really, for this to work properly, you do need a stronger monarch.

And that's all well and good because what we are really interested in is the best way of governing—and the best method of government is one where numerous executive factions all shit on one another and thus pass no laws whatsoever.

But the trouble is that, whilst I can and will happily defend the theoretical role of the monarch (or hereditary head of state), the simple fact is that the Queen has done a fucking awful job; it is not only the Scary Clown that points this out, but Dr Eamonn Butler of the ASI too (in a passage from his new book, The Alternative Manifesto**).
I hate to say it, but as a constitutional monarch, she has been pathetic. Over her reign, she has allowed government politicians to accumulate frightening power. She has merely stood by as they cast aside all restraint, including the basic rights, liberties and institutions that were fought for precisely to protect us from arbitrary authority.
At first, of course, they were intended to protect us from the power of absolute monarchs. In time, though, Parliament replaced the monarch as sovereign; but these same rules worked equally well at restraining politicians too. Ministers knew that they were only the temporary custodians of the public trust; and that their power was checked and balanced by MPs, the civil service, and the courts.

Indeed, the monarchy itself became one of these balancing institutions. It may seem bizarre in a democracy that the monarch is notionally the head of the government, the church, the peerage and the army; but the reason we keep it that way is not so that monarchs can wield power, but so as to keep unlimited power out of the hands of politicians. For most of the time, our monarchs have had a better grasp of the mood of the people, and of the importance of their rights and freedoms, than have ministers: so this has proved a useful arrangement.

The key constitutional role of monarchs today, then, is to stop politicians from usurping power and turning themselves into an elected dictatorship. But the Queen – perhaps confusing the exercise of this role with political interference – has allowed precisely that to happen. With Magna Carta, the Queen’s distant ancestor agreed to fundamental principles such as our right not to be held without trial, and to be tried by a jury. Yet in her own reign (starting perhaps in 1971 with internment in Northern Ireland, but escalating fast in the last dozen years) these rights, and more, have simply been signed away.

The constitutional role of an unelected, hereditary monarchy must be limited. But it does have a constitutional role, and must exercise that role as a necessary counterweight to the otherwise unbridled power of an executive that – through its majority and its patronage – is in complete control of Parliament.

In other words, the Queen has done a fucking awful job—and her utter failure has not only destroyed the credibility of the role itself but, more egregiously, consigned the citizens of Great Britain to servitude under a tyrannical Executive.

And, let's face, Charles is going to be about 20,000,000,000,000,000 times worse. Before his reign is over, that cunt will have us bowing to Mecca morning, noon and night, with a fucking windmill shoved up our arseholes.

So, one of two things needs to happen: either we get rid of the monarchy and replace it with a President with Executive power, or we get rid of the current bunch of jokers and stage another Glorious Revolution.

And you know what? I'd look pretty fucking good in a crown...

* Also, I'm bored with blogging at the moment. I've become so fucking earnest, it's like I've turned into the most tedious type of left-wing arsehole. Plus, of course, othing interesting is happening***—we're all just waiting for this spectacularly shit but walking dead government to shuffle off this mortal coil so that we can welcome in another slightly-less-spectacularly-shit government to come in and bugger us backwards for yet more cash. It's incredibly fucking depressing.

** I drink colossal amounts of the ASI's booze: the least I can do is plug their books...

*** Except, of course, that I've been proved right about climate change alarmism. That's good, but what's now to fight for?

Green propaganda on the taxpayer

NB I am not the Devil.

We all know that the Government spends a huge amount of taxpayers' money on propaganda - they are, after all, the biggest advertiser in the British economy nowadays.

But the latest detail to come out about their green propaganda really takes the biscuit. The projects featured in the above video are just a few of the absurd ways in which our masters in DEFRA and DECC squandered £8.6m through the "Climate Challenge Fund" between 2006 and 2008.

Some of my particular favourites include:

  • £16,245 to the University of East Anglia to publicise and promote the research and findings of the Climatic Research Unit. (As it turned out, it would fall to others such as DK to actually publicise what the CRU was up to...)
  • £77,698 to a company called Forkbeard Fantasy to produce a video describing humans as "carbon weevils", whose only purpose it reproduce and pollute.
  • £295,000 for an online game called LogiCity, which is a kind of Sim City in which your task is to tackle climate change.
  • £396,026 for an "experiential climate dome" from Carbon Neutral North East which looks remarkably like the world's most expensive tent.
  • £39,810 for a supposedly educational video called Rite2No, in which a group of Mancunian school children are transported to 2020. There they find a nightmare future where thanks to climate change everyone is forced to take swimming lessons to survive rising sea levels, swarms of insects invade British classrooms and - best of all - everyone needs to wear sun glasses. Yes, you read that right - climate change will make...erm...the sun brighter.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Fund was deemed a failure by the Government's own evaluation report - which we can publish today for the first time. Amongst other failings they identified, the schemes preached to the converted, were quite often inaccurate and were exploited by some organisations as a way to get the taxpayer to subsidise their other work.

If you'd like to see the full list of projects that the taxpayer funded, the full report is here. Also, please circulate the above TPA video via your own blogs, by email, twitter and any other way you can imagine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A gratuitously insulting post

Blogging Barbie doesn't have a cunt at all, let alone one that's like a clown's pocket...

This is the new Blogging Barbie which has numerous advantages over many bloggers—including the ability to do more research than many of them. Which is why it is particularly apt that Tory Bear should caption this picture of Blogging Barbie as follows...
Watch out Nadine, you've got competition.

Yup, that's right, Nadine: you've got competition in writing elegant, well-written and well-researched posts from a hunk of pink plastic dressed like some refugee from the Eighties. And not the good bit of the Eighties either.

Still, I think it's a bit harsh of TB to link Blogging Barbie to Nadine: I'm sure that—being a piece of inanimate plastic—Blogging Barbie isn't a lying, expenses-fiddling lunatic...

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Warming rates are not statistically significantly different"—Phil Jones, CRU

There is a very interesting BBC Q&A between Roger "the Dodger" Harrabin and Phil "deceitful bastard" Jones. It's worth reading the whole thing, but the most significant section is the first answer. [Emphasis mine (other than on the question).]
A - Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of global warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were identical?

An initial point to make is that in the responses to these questions I've assumed that when you talk about the global temperature record, you mean the record that combines the estimates from land regions with those from the marine regions of the world. CRU produces the land component, with the Met Office Hadley Centre producing the marine component.

Temperature data for the period 1860-1880 are more uncertain, because of sparser coverage, than for later periods in the 20th Century. The 1860-1880 period is also only 21 years in length. As for the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different (see numbers below).

I have also included the trend over the period 1975 to 2009, which has a very similar trend to the period 1975-1998.

So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.

Here are the trends and significances for each period:

This is pretty significant because Jones is admitting that—over the timescale for which we have actual measurements (rather than proxies)—the current warming trend is not unprecedented—an aspect that the whole alarmist argument depends on.

Watt's Up With That summarises the relevant points from the interview in this way.
  • Neither the rate nor magnitude of recent warming is exceptional.

  • There was no significant warming from 1998-2009. According to the IPCC we should have seen a global temperature increase of at least 0.2°C per decade.

  • The IPCC models may have overestimated the climate sensitivity for greenhouse gases, underestimated natural variability, or both.

  • This also suggests that there is a systematic upward bias in the impacts estimates based on these models just from this factor alone.

  • The logic behind attribution of current warming to well-mixed man-made greenhouse gases is faulty.

  • The science is not settled, however unsettling that might be.

  • There is a tendency in the IPCC reports to leave out inconvenient findings, especially in the part(s) most likely to be read by policy makers.

Now, some of these conclusions might be slight leaps, as Climate Skeptic opines.
I think some of these conclusions are a bit of a reach from the Q&A. I don’t get the sense that Jones is abandoning the basic hypothesis that climate sensitivity to manmade CO2 is high (e.g. 3+ degrees per doubling, rather than <=1 degrees as many skeptics would hypothesize). In particular, I think the writing has been on the wall for a while that alarmists were bailing on the hockey stick / MWP-related arguments as indicative of high sensitivities.

The new news for me was the admission that the warming rate from 1979-present is in no way unprecedented. This is important as the lead argument (beyond black box “the models say so” justifications) for blaming anthropogenic factors for recent warming is that the rate of warming was somehow unprecedented. However, Jones admits (as all rational skeptics have said for some time) that the warming rate from 1979 to today is really no different than we have measured in other periods decidedly unaffected by CO2.

However, there was one of Phil Jones's answers that left me absolutely gob-smacked, and it is this one:
H - If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?

The fact that we can't explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing - see my answer to your question D [where he referenced Chapter 9 of the IPCC AR4].

You what? So, since you are unable to account for the warming in terms of volcanos or solar warming, then it must be human induced? What the hell?

What about this mysterious decadal Pacific oscillation that is now, apparently, "masking the warming"? What about cloud formation, or albedo or... or... so many other bloody things, many of which we may not be aware of? The climate is a pretty Chaotic system and we have, really, very little idea of all of the factors involved. Yes, it may be man-made forcings but, ultimately, it could be something else entirely. Or a mixture of both natural and human, of course.

Still, we are constantly told that the debate is over, aren't we, Phil?
It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don't believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.

Ah. So the debate isn't over? And the "vast majority of climate scientists think this"? Right.

Well, thank you for indulging us poor climate "deniers"—or, in the words of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, we "anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics"—and admitting that there is a debate to be had: that's tremendously kind of you, Phil.

This is very far from being a smoking gun interview and Jones is obviously still of the opinion that man is the cause of the world's warming but, nonetheless, this climate scientist obviously feels that there is still a debate to be had.

So, after many long years of vilifying sceptics and shutting down any comment, perhaps we can have a grown-up debate.

Could someone tell that renowned climate scientist, Sunny Hundal?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Pirate Party: contradictory morons

A number of people have asked me why—apart from the fact that I am the leader of another political party—I do not support the Pirate Party, so I thought that I would discuss this quickly with reference to their headline aims.
We have 3 core policies:
  • Reform copyright and patent law. We want to legalise non-commercial file sharing and reduce the excessive length of copyright protection, while ensuring that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders. We want a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die.

  • End the excessive surveillance, profiling, tracking and monitoring of innocent people by Government and big businesses.

  • Ensure that everyone has real freedom of speech and real freedom to enjoy and participate in our shared culture.

Let's take these one by one, shall we?
We want to legalise non-commercial file sharing...

Look, this is a contract law issue. I have taken a random CD down from my shelf—Morcheeba's Big Calm, as it happens—and printed, quite clearly, on the back of the CD (not on the inside, but on the outside back) are the following words:
Unauthorised copying, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting of this recording prohibited.

These same words are printed onto the CD itself.

This is a contract. I buy the CD and I can listen to the music, but I shall not copy, broadcast, hire or lend the recording—nor will I indulge in any public broadcast of same. In any case, I have signed up to a contract by buying the CD, and I am bound by that contract—this isn't a very difficult concept.

Now, one can argue that there should be—as in the US—a "fair use" clause that allows me to copy the CD onto my iPod, or computer, or whatever. But uploading and sharing it—for free—with others? No.

Is the above contract unfair? Possibly. But then I didn't have to buy the CD—I won't die in agony if I don't have Morcheeba's soothing tones to calm my once drug-addled brain. As with anything else, if I don't like the contract I can refuse to buy the product.
... and reduce the excessive length of copyright protection...

There is definitely a case for this. With the
that I shall come to later on.
... while ensuring that when creative works are sold, it's the artists who benefit, not monopoly rights holders.

And if the artists are the monopoly rights holders? Which, of course, they would be.

I think what the Pirate Party are trying to say here is that it is OK for the artists, maaaan, to be the rights holders, but not eeeeeeeevil corporations. Well, maybe so: but, once again, this is contract law, isn't it?

The artists sign up with the music corporations: those artists sign away the rights to their music (in whole or in part, in perpetuity or for a limited time) in return for fats wads of cash. In other words, the artist sells the (very slim) chance of future earnings in return for fat wads of cash now.

The artist is also getting marketing expertise, leverage, connections and all of the other things that give them some chance of making any money at all in the future. Some artists make it: the majority don't. In many cases, the music corporations lose money: in a few cases, they make millions.

Obviously, there are various subtleties and differences in the way that these contracts work but, fundamentally, it is a private contract between the artists and the music corporations.

It is certainly no business of the Pirate Party's. And that goes for any contracts—the terms of said contracts are none of the government's damn business. The Labour government should certainly not be ingratiating themselves with the music companies, nor should the criminal law be used to punish file-sharers. This is a civil issue—a contract issue.
We want a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die.

Riiiight. OK, there is something of a problem here and, once again, the Pirate Party are rather dishonestly conflating a number of issues. No one wants a patent system that stifles innovation—the very point of patents and copyright are to encourage people to innovate.

Patents and copyright allow inventors to be assured of getting money from their inventions so that they, or others, will go and invent other valuable things.

Now, in the US, the patent system is being heavily abused: there are companies that buy up smaller organisations simply for their patents. These patent "trolls" then break up and liquidate the company, and use the patents to get payouts from large corporations. These trolls are, quite obviously, a drain on society and a drain on innovation.

We do not have this same problem in this country, yet, because we do not have the same loony patent system as exists in the US. The EU has been attempting to bring one in, but they have so far failed. This is A Good Thing.

However, there are certain things that really do require patents to make money, and drug research is one of those things. As Timmy has consistently pointed out, by the time you take into account research and development, testing, several rounds of trials (on animals, and then humans) in varied jurisdictions, bureacratic barriers (such as the EU's REACH Directive) and other hurdles, the average drug takes some eight years and $1 billion to bring to market.

The patent on drugs is, I think, fourteen years. So, the drug companies have six years to make back at least $1 billion—more is needed if the other drugs that they are researching (many of which will yield nothing) are to be paid for. So, yes, the drugs are expensive. Much of this expense is absorbed by the USA (who tend to get them, and pay for them, first)—which is one reason why the US health system is so expensive.

This is why "Big Pharma" companies are so big—because small companies simply don't have the cashflow to bring drugs to market. I know a couple of people, both in Scotland as it happens, who run small companies doing research into a number of different drugs: when they find something, they sell the patent to Big Pharma because only Big Pharma have the money to bring those drugs to market.

Anyway, the point is that the short patent period is one of the reasons that drugs are so expensive—because there is only a short time to make back the vast costs of bringing said drug to market. So, one way of reducing the cost of said drugs would be to extend the patent period.

But the Pirate Party wants "a patent system that doesn't stifle innovation or make life saving drugs so expensive that patients die" and it also wants to "reduce the excessive length of copyright protection".

Er... Let's move on, shall we?
End the excessive surveillance, profiling, tracking and monitoring of innocent people by Government and big businesses.

OK, I agree with this. Although I am not sure that the Pirate Party does, really. After all, they want surveillance of private contracts so that they can stop music corporations and artists making private deals that the Pirate Party doesn't like. But that might be pushing it slightly, so we shall move on...
Ensure that everyone has real freedom of speech...

OK, I agree with this, totally.
... and real freedom to enjoy and participate in our shared culture.

Er... I'm sorry? Whose shared culture?

The Pirate Party originated in Sweden and whilst I am sure that the Swedes are lovely people, I don't know how much culture I share with them. I don't have a shared culture with the majority of people in this country, let alone Sweden.

And what if I don't want to share or participate in this shared culture? What if I want to sign my song rights over to a "monopoly-rights holder"? What if my culture is one of honouring property rights and contract law?

You can, Pirate Party people, stick your fucking shared culture up your collective arsehole, frankly.

So, let us sum up, shall we? The Pirate Party:
  • supports "a strengthening of the right to privacy" except as far as your contract with a music company or other "monopoly-rights holder" is concerned.

  • supports the breaking of voluntary contracts at one party's convenience thus undermining property rights (and why don't you go ask the Africans how well economies develop without property rights?).

  • wants us all to participate in some imaginary "shared culture", unless that culture is one of property rights and contract law.

  • wants to get cheaper medical drugs but supports measures that will make those drugs more expensive, and

  • spouts some hippy shit about artists being able to make money (somehow) unless, presumably, the artist is a "monopoly-rights holder", or signs a contract that the Pirate Party doesn't happen to like the terms of.

Yeah, that sounds like an excellent party—let's go for that, eh?

The stupid thing is that, with the internet, much of what the Pirate Party wants is happening anyway: artists are becoming able to sell their music directly to their audiences and this trend will only increase. The music companies have been forced away from DRM and their sucking of Peter Mandelson's saggy old scrotum is the last gasp of an industry that is going to have to reform or die.

The simple fact is that the Pirate Party's outlined aims are nonsensical, interventionist and authoritarian; the party will happily ride roughshod over contracts and property rights that they don't happen to agree with—much as the Labour Party is doing with the bankers right now—and their attitude to drug development is utterly counterproductive.

So, whilst I support one or two aims of the Pirate Party—such as the right to free speech and the ending of tracking and surveillance of people—I find the rest of their policies, most especially their attitude to contracts, to be repugnant.

On the other hand, I imagine that I shall have a giggle whilst they annoy the fuck out of the rest of the political Establishment...

NHS Fail Wail

I think that we can all agree that the UK's response to coronavirus has been somewhat lacking. In fact, many people asserted that our de...