Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A taste of one future

Via EU Referendum, I see that the Isle of Eigg has run into some problems.

So what?

Well, as The Telegraph explains...
It was hailed as Britain’s first “green” island and a glimpse of the what the future could hold for the rest of the country.

And it seems that Eigg has indeed given us "a glimpse of what the future could hold for the rest of the country"—and it's not pretty.
But when the inhabitants of the remote Scottish island of Eigg put their faith in the wind and rain to provide all their electricity they did not reckon for one thing – mild weather.

Now the 95 residents are being asked not to use kettles, toasters or other kitchen appliances after uncharacteristically mild weather caused a critical shortage of power.

Weeks of what passes for heatwave conditions in the Inner Hebrides have caused water levels on the island’s three main burns to drop uncharacteristically low, cutting off the island’s hydroelectricity supply.

The normally powerful Atlantic gusts in the tiny island south of Skye have also reduced to a pleasant breeze leaving the island’s wind turbines idle for hours on end.

As a result, the community owned power company has placed the island on “red alert” and issued notices effectively rationing electricity.

It has had to revert to using old-fashioned diesel power to run a backup generator to keep the lights on.

Eigg is a tiny island, with a population of 95 people.

Britain is a large island with a population of nearer 65 million people.

Unlike the last time that we had severe electricity shortages—during the Three Day Week—almost all businesses rely heavily on computers.

If the lights go off for any sustained amount of time, the economy will collapse. If there is no electricity—especially in winter—people will die: after all, even hospitals with back-up generators can only run them for so long.

Now, this is probably seen as a bonus by the idiots who subscribe to the utterly discredited prognostications of Malthus or Ehrlich but most of the rest of us would view it as a very bad thing.

Eigg is indeed "a glimpse of what the future could hold for the rest of the country" except that its population consists of many thousand of times fewer people than would die if these insane policies are allowed to pertain across Britain.


This article is classic Daily Mash.
The use of television has been a source of controversy in the sport, but experts insist it offers a fool-proof method for determining whether a team is good at football or whether it is simply a collection of absurdly over-compensated, second-rate commercial brands with ghastly, vulgar wives, locked in a sado-masochistic relationship with a cretinous media that merely reflects a society that has taken its natural intelligence, its sense of perspective and its values and violently drowned them all in a bucket of piss.

Yup, that just about sums it up...

UPDATE: I enjoyed this from NewsArse too.
NASA ‘faked England 1966 World Cup win’

A leading ex-NASA scientist has gone on record to confirm one of the longest-standing conspiracies in the football world: that the American space agency faked footage of the 1966 tournament in order to imply an England win.

Dr Robert Wellington—who worked for the agency throughout the sixties and seventies—spoke out following ongoing speculation on the internet.

“We needed a practice run for the moon thing,” he said, from his home in Florida. “And the soccer world cup seemed just the job. We wanted to see if we could delude an entire nation that they could achieve something that was frankly unimaginable. And it worked perfectly.”

“But we had absolutely no idea that it would become a recurring delusion,” he added.


Living in a police state

Over on the Libertarian Party blog, Young Mister Brown has published this video of the attempted detaining of Jules Mattsson, a 16 year old freelance photographer, who tells his story here; a version also appears in the British Journal of Photography.

Having read the transcript posted on the Libertarian Party blog, Young Mister Brown is, I think, being somewhat charitable when he opines that "One gets the impression that our the police don't really know what they are allowed to do". In fact, I think that he's wrong.

I think that the police, having been caught out by someone with knowledge of one law, tried—deliberately—to cycle through various laws to achieve their aim. In other words, these police officers were not upholding the law—they are, deliberately and with malice aforethought, attempting to use the law to enforce their personal agenda.

I won't argue that there are way too many laws—memo to Our New Coalition Overlords™: the Great Repeal Act cannot come quickly enough, nor can it be too comprehensive—but in this case I believe that the police (who are, in many cases, responsible for the number of laws, having lobbied hard for their enactment) are simply acting as corrupt, thuggish bullies.

Effectively, these policemen are trying to make the law up as they go along.

Quite obviously, however, the police cannot protect citizens by upholding the law if:
  1. they do not know what the law is, and

  2. if they don't give a shit anyway.

To remedy this important situation, there are three things that Our New Coalition Overlords™ need to do immediately:
  1. Enact the Great Repeal Bill, ensuring that it cuts away at least 90% of the nearly 4,000 new offences introduced by NuLabour.

  2. Bring in the promised elected police chiefs, so that local people can decide what they want their local police force to focus on—speeding or murders, photography or robbery?

  3. Stop paying £10 million every single year to the Association of Chief Police Officers, a privately-owned lobbying company that "leads and coordinates the direction and development of the police service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland" and, as part of this tremendously vital work, has just decided to splash out £500,000 of our money on a champagne gala.

That will be an excellent start: after that, we can start prosecuting officers who attempt to overstep the bounds of their authority and of the law by, for instance, trying to detain, illegally, people who are taking photographs...

Voices of Freedom: a quick reminder

Just a swift post here, to remind readers that your humble Devil is participating in the Voices of Freedom debate at the IEA tonight.
The Free Society and Liberal Vision present


Libertarians, Lib Dems or the “liberal elite”?
Tuesday June 29, 2010

Chaired by Mark Littlewood (Institute of Economic Affairs)

Speakers include:
Julian Harris (chairman, Liberal Vision)
Chris Mounsey (leader, Libertarian party)
Brendan O’Neill (editor, Spiked!)
Paul Staines (aka blogger Guido Fawkes)
James Delingpole (writer, journalist and broadcaster)
Mark Pack (co-editor, Liberal Democrat Voice)
Michael White (assistant editor, Guardian)


2 Lord North Street, Westminster, London SW1

Entry to all debates is free

Strictly RSVP only
Email contact@forestonline.org
or telephone 01223 370156

I haven't yet entirely worked out what my opening remarks will be, but I suspect that it will something around voluntary collectivism and community building. Oh, and destroying vested interests...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Physician, fuck thyself

(nb. I am not the Devil's Kitchen)

This week, our nation's doctors* are taking a well-earned break on the Sussex Riviera, where they can forget about the tiresome business of healing the sick and devote a few days to their real passion—pretending to run the country. I do not exaggerate...

The Annual Representative Meeting (ARM), the BMA's key policy making forum, takes place in Brighton from 28 June to 1 July.

This year, the 'policies' that these unelectable leech-wielding fabulists wish to inflict on us have been overshadowed by the one thing that is even more important to BMA members than their war on civil society—ie. keeping their grasping hands on vast sums of taxpayer's money

NHS cuts 'haphazard', doctors say

Cuts in the health service are being introduced in a "haphazard" way which could harm patient care, the British Medical Association has said.

Both Mark Wallace and Richard Smith have done a fine job of exposing the pisspoor straw-poll being used by the BMA in their fight to keep their 13 year spending spree going. Smith, a former editor of the British Medical Journal, quite rightly describes the BMA as a trade union and calls its conference "an annual whinge-fest".

Most doctors earn most of their money from the NHS, and so more money for the NHS means more money for doctors – with the reverse also being true. So, the BMA must do all it can to maintain or increase resources for the NHS, and because all the funds come ultimately from the Treasury, it can do this only by keeping up a constant a constant litany on the inadequacy of resources. 

By rigging the questions and the sample, it is easy to get the answers you want. But it's less easy to fix the response rate, as people often won't bother to answer meaningless surveys. The BMA has asked the chairs of its 361 negotiating committees about cuts in the NHS. Now, who are these people? They are the local "activists". It's like asking the shop stewards of Unite what they think of British Airways...

The BMA should be ashamed to use such meaningless data, and the newspapers should learn not to report them – and I'm pleased to see that the Guardian hasn't. 

Indeed. But using meaningless data and rigging surveys—or, to call it what it is, lying to the public—is par for the course for these odious quacks; their addiction to fear-mongering deceit epitomised by former Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson, whose response to every health scare—from secondhand smoke to swine flu—was built on a shit-heap of demonstrable lies.

But we will have more whingeing each day until Thursday – and more next year and the year after, perhaps even ad infinitum. I suggest you ignore it.

The whingeing may go on forever, and if the BMA is intent on bullshitting the public in perpetuity, the time will surely come when everyone ignores it. The price of pretending to be in politics is to be as hated and mistrusted as politicians. If you keep lying, eventually people are going to call you out as a liar and stop listening to you.

And when the doctors have finally and irretrievably lost the public's confidence, when they have abused the last of the trust bestowed on them and when they are sat around wondering why they are now treated like a bunch of sleazy timeshare salesmen, perhaps they will reflect that it all started to go wrong when they did things like this...

Doctors will urge alcohol ban on all public transport at BMA conference

Doctors are calling for an alcohol ban on all public transport, including intercity trains and cross-Channel ferries, in an attempt to stop drunks annoying fellow passengers.

"Annoying fellow passengers"? What the fuckity-fuck has this got to with the British fucking Medical Association? Are we now openly banning things on the basis of annoyance? Because if we are, I've got a long list of suggestions I'd like to submit and meddlesome doctors are right at the top of it.

Dr Christine Robison, an anaesthetist in Edinburgh who proposed the move, said she recently had a return train trip from Edinburgh to Oxford disrupted in both directions by drunk young men and women, and football supporters, swearing, throwing beer cans, making constant noise and talking loudly about sexual behaviour, with families and children within earshot.

This is a fascinating insight into the mind of the Righteous and a prime example of the kind of anecdotal evidence that drives 'evidence-based policy' at the BMA. Because this curtain-twitching, pointy-headed, snooty, chloroform-clutching busy-body was forced to come into contact with the great unwashed for a few hours, the entire population of the country must be prohibited from having a drink on a train or ferry. 

Over my dead body. Listen up Robison, you lemon-sucking bitch, welcome to Britain. We have more than our fair share of dickheads living in these isles but we have more than enough laws to deal with those who make nuisances of themselves, including those who are drunk and disorderly. If you don't like the company in one carriage then do what I do when some twat starts listening to Cunted in Ibiza Volume 28 at full pelt on his iPod—get off your arse and go to a carriage more to your liking. 

Do not—repeat not—imagine that your personal preferences should be enshrined in law because, believe me, whatever abusive language was being used on that train will be like a fucking Elizabethan sonnet compared to the words you will hear if you and I ever come face-to-face.

"If a ban in London is working, why not extend it across the UK?"

Well, bugger me! They want to extend Boris's tube ban across the whole country. Prohibitionists using salami tactics to achieve their aims—I didn't see that one coming, did you? Now all you right-wing "libertarians" who cheered Boris on two years ago can enjoy your alcohol-free zones all the way from Inverness to Penzance. If you need any help kicking yourselves, you'll let me and DK know, won't you?

"Why should drunks be able to disturb people's journeys in that way?" she asked. 

Fuck yeah. Why can't Christine Robison be the centre of the world? Why can't the entire apparatus of the state be directed towards persecuting those who reject the ways of the Righteous? Why, indeed, can we not do what The Daily Mash suggested earlier this year?

DOCTORS have proposed a network of concentration camps to contain Britain's ghastly poor people. Frustrated by their continued awfulness, the Royal College of Physicians said the poor should be herded into long barrack huts in remote areas and surrounded by a large wooden fence so that affluent, middle class children will not be able to see them.

RCP president Professor Sir Denys Finch-Hatton said: "We've tried controlling their vileness with bans and taxes, but it's not working, so eventually we thought 'fuck it, let's just round them up'...

Norman Steele, a family doctor from Hatfield, said: "They all fight over the celebrity magazines while the untouched copy of National Geographic just sits there in the corner, staring at me as if to say 'let's run away together'.

"I dream that one day me and the National Geographic will get into my Audi, drive to the Cotswolds and set up home in a lovely little village full of rich, healthy people who will pay me a hundred grand a year to chat."

He added: "I really don't see why this has to be a big deal. It's just a few camps, a bit of barbed wire, maybe some dogs. No-one's talking about gassing anyone. Not at this stage."

As my gracious host intimated in his excellent post yesterday, few people represent a greater threat to liberty, tolerance and civility in the 21st century than the hypocrites at the British Medical Association. As if to underline the batshit craziness of the BMA's latest campaign, even the notorious fake charity shit-stick Don Shenker thinks they've gone too far.

Alcohol Concern, which campaigns to reduce drink-related harm, did not back the plan. Don Shenker, the chief executive, said: "To ban alcohol consumption across all public transport goes too far – a glass of wine or beer can be enjoyed on a long journey which will cause no disruption to anyone else."

This should really give the delegates in Brighton pause for thought. If a say-anything, do-anything temperance shill like Al Con Don thinks you've gone too far, you are not just an illiberal neo-prohibitionist bastard, you may well be seriously mentally ill. Hell's teeth, what's it going to take to make you wake up to yourselves? A pox on you all. I hope your days are short and miserable and I hope the Brighton Centre catches fire. Fuck you.

* I use the word 'doctors' in the broadest sense. Like all trade unions, the BMA is dominated by lazy, left-wing, power-crazed obsessives—possibly not a representative sample of the medical profession. But until the rank-and-file doctors speak out against the tyranny of the BMA, they're all tainted by (the) association. 

Yeah, right

Well, that's everything sorted then, aye?
Leaders at the G20 summit in Canada have agreed to cut national budget deficits without stunting economic growth.

In other news, Our New Coalition Overlords have agreed targets to release unicorns into the wild, the USA has announced that it can't stop the oil gushing out but the oil pollute anything, and the Saudis have announced that women will walk around in bikinis whilst obeying sharia law.

OK, I might be exaggerating but—seriously—do any of these morons have any idea of how they are going to achieve any of this?

After all, Our New Coalition Overlords™, for instance, have announced savage cash cuts of precisely fuck all.
So the cuts are going to be long and deep, which nobody can deny.

Well, nobody that is, except extremely naive people who simply look at the government's spending projections. People like John Redwood, who at the TPA's budget briefing today, drew attention to the plain fact that under the Osborne plan, total public spending is not facing any cut at all. In fact, it is projected to increase from £697bn this year to £758bn in 2015-16, a rise of 9%.

So, when anyone talks of these "savage cuts", I can but utter a hollow laugh. Because, in truth, this government is going to carry on spending more and more of our money, and racking up more and more debt.

The simple fact is that there are no cuts; the government has simply said that they will increase the rate at which they spend our money by a smaller amount than the previous government wanted to. And the other simple fact is that the government is still overspending by far more than £100 billion per annum.

So, according to this BBC story, the G13 governments have agreed to "halve their deficits within three years" but—given that they seem unwilling or unable to sack hundreds of thousands of pointless bureaucrats and to cut hundreds of millions of pounds worth of pointless projects—our own government is not going to achieve anything like that.

Unless, of course, they massively increase taxes.

Of course, our government is already spending about 50% of the entire economic output of the country and so, if they raise taxes, you can be damn sure that they will increase the "stunting [of] economic growth".

So, you'll excuse me for thinking that this pointless posturing (at our expense) is going to achieve precisely fuck all, apart from making our leaders feel that they have "arrived" on the world stage...

Doctors do not have your best interests at heart

As the scum of the medical profession begin, once more, to flex their muscles—having realised that Our New Coalition Overlords™ have absolutely no desire to curb the BMA and their ilk—your humble Devil would like to quote an extract from a book that illustrates just how much the medical profession cares for the working man.

The book is one that I borrowed from the ASI some time ago (and will return, I promise!): it is by David G. Green and is entitled Working Class Patients And The Medial Establishment: Self-help in Britain from the mid-nineteeth century to 1948. The piece that I wish to quote comes from the Introduction to the book, and deals with the success of the friendly societies, co-operatives and other mechanisms of worker empowermen—especially as regards medical care.

It is quite long, so with no more ado, let us proceed. [Inevitably, the emphasis is mine. I have also split up some of the very long paragraphs, in order to make the piece more readable.]
Particularly striking is the success of the friendly societies, whose social insurance and primary medical care schemes had attracted at least three-quarters of manual workers well before the end of the nineteenth century. Until the 1911 National Insurance Act every neighbourhood of every town was dotted with friendly society branches, each with their own doctor, who had usually been elected by a vote of all the members assembled in the branch meeting.

In most large towns the friendly societies had also established medical institutes combining doctors' living accommodation, surgery and a dispensary. These embryo health centres employed full-time salaried medical practitioners, full-time dispensers, and nursing staff under the management of a committee elected by all the members.

The friendly societies were so successful that their arrangements for social insurance and primary medical care formed the model for the early welfare state.

As, in fact, I have recommended in the past, it should have been.

Unfortunately, of course, nothing is ever that simple—especially where vested interests are able to influence—or simply bribe—vain and venal politicians.
But this [their success], ironically, was their undoing. The 1911 National Security Act was originally seen by Lloyd George, who charted it through Parliament, as a way of extending the benefits of friendly society membership, already freely chosen by the vast majority of workers, to all citizens, and particularly to those so poor that they could not afford the modest weekly contributions. But on its way through the House of Commons the original Bill was radically transformed by powerful vested interests hostile to working-class mutual aid.

The organised medical profession had long resented the dominance of the medical consumer, and particularly resented working-class control of medical "gentlemen". The BMA were equally anxious to obtain more pay and, above all, higher status for doctors.

Working-class fraternalism also had another arch-enemy: the commercial insurance companies. They had long disliked the competition of the non-profit friendly societies and saw the 1911 National Insurance Bill as a threat to their business. They were organised into a powerful trade association, called the 'Combine'.

The BMA and the Combine formed a temporary alliance to extract concessions from the government at the expense of the friendly societies. The essence of working-class social insurance was democratic self-organisation: amendments to the Bill obtained by the BMA and the Combine undermined it. Doctors' pay had been kept within limits that ordinary maual workers could afford: under pressure, the government doubled doctors' incomes and financed this transfer of wealth from insured workers to the medical profession by means of a regressive poll tax, flat-rate National Insurance Contributions

I am reading the rest of the book avidly, for it is, of course, rather more nuanced than the Introduction—which is, after all, essentially a summary of the exposition—but the above paragraphs give a good flavour of the whole.

The essential point to make—before one of my colleagues highlights yet more of their disgusting attempts to control us in order to gain more status—is that the medical profession have never, ever been on the side of ordinary people.

The only people that the organised medical profession give a shit about is the organised medical profession.

Most of you will have seen—in the newspapers and, in particular, on blogs written by members of the medical profession—claims that doctors should be allowed to run the NHS, because they know what they are doing. Of course they do: they want to run your lives and giving the medicos control of the NHS would give them the ultimate tool to do so. That would ensure a much "higher status for doctors" and the edict would be simple—obey us or be left to die.

If you doubt this, just take a long at some of the news stories around, especially as regards the medical profession's urgings to deny healthcare to smokers, drinkers and fat people. True, the BMA tend to side with Fake Charities more than the insurance companies these days, but the process is the same; government-funded "medical advisers"—no less effective or poisonous than Grima Wormtongue—whisper into politicians' rights ears, whilst government-funded "charities" bolster the message from the left.

Our New Coalition Overlords™ promised to take on the vested interests but, narrow-minded as they are, they seem to mean only the bankers and other huge commercial interests whose establishment status flows from the rules and regulations imposed by government.

But no mention has been made of those other vested interests: those—like the medical profession—whose power, privilege and money is propped up by the government and funded by the blood of taxpayers. There are so many of them that a stupid person might find it difficult to know where to start.

But, actually, it is really very simple: if we want decent welfare for all, affordable medical care and freedom, we need to return to "democratic self-organisation". And if we wish to do that, we have to smash and utterly destroy the organised medical profession, and grind it into the dust.

We need to return these arrogant doctors, and their associated scum (a category in which I include politicians), to beings servants of the consumer, not the masters. But whilst the doctors continue to run our medical services, and continue to bribe, bully and poison our rulers—and whilst our rulers still have the power to force us to obey these bastards—we will never be free, and we will never have a proper, functioning society.

To paraphrase P J O'Rourke, when the legislators can decide what can be bought and sold, the first thing for sale are the legislators. And the medical profession bought them a hundred years ago.

Destroy the power of the BMA and the medical profession and we can begin to struggle towards freedom. Leave them in place—poisoning public debate and raping the freedom of ordinary people in order to gain money and prestige—and we will always be slaves.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eggs by the kilo

The poor little Greek boy points me to this piece of idiocy from the EU.
British shoppers will no longer be able to buy eggs by the dozen under new regulations approved by the European Parliament. For the first time, eggs and other products including oranges and bread rolls—will be sold by weight instead of by the number contained in a packet.

Eggs have traditionally been sold by the dozen or half-dozen because the old imperial measurements such as inches or pennies were calculated in groups of 12. But the new rules, to be introduced next year, mean that instead of packaging telling shoppers a box contains six eggs, it will show the weight in grams of the eggs inside.

An FSA [Food Standards Agency] spokeswoman said: "This proposal would disallow selling by numbers. Retailers would not be allowed to put "Six eggs" on the front of the box. If it was a bag of rolls, it would say "500g" instead of six rolls."

This is utter idiocy: who gives a crap what weight the eggs are? I want six eggs, not the exact bloody weight.

Apart from anything else, this has no benefit to the consumer: does it give me more information about the eggs? Not really—some might have thicker shells than others, thus ensuring that I have no real information about the quality or otherwise of the eggs.

Does it take information away from me? Yes: because now I cannot know, without opening the box, how many eggs are in it.

Does this measure have any benefit to the consumer at all? No. It's just harmonisation for the sake of it.

In fact, it actively harms the consumer because the eggs will cost more. Why?

Well, I would imagine that selling a 500g box of eggs that does not, in fact, contain 500g of produce is illegal under Trading Standards. So now the egg producers are going to have to weigh each and every box, and stamp the exact weight on each box. Not only will they have to buy the stamping equipment (because you can bet your bottom dollar that just writing the weight on is not legal: they even have to stamp each individual egg now, for fuck's sake) but it is also labour-intensive.

To adapt a classic Daily Mail phrase, it's bureaucracy gone mad.

To be fair to that paper (much as I hate to do so), whilst it confirms the Scotsman's story, the Mail does point out that these laws are very far from being decided.
‘It is important that information is provided in a way that is meaningful and beneficial to consumers. This issue is still being considered by EU member states and it will be some time before the regulation is finalised.’

... says the woman from the FSA. However...
Experts say it will be next year before the EU is able to pass the controversial measure, which bureaucrats say is designed to help consumers make an informed choice when buying their food because it will require suppliers to provide more comprehensive information.

But last night, food industry experts said the EU plan was ‘bonkers’ and ‘absolute madness’.

Federation of Bakers director Gordon Polson warned that it may be too late to change the rules, even though they will be debated further in the European Parliament.

He revealed that lobbyists had already tried to rectify the regulations, discovered in the 174 pages of amendments to the initial 75-page proposal, but there was not enough time to convince MEPs before the crucial vote.

The fact that one would need to lobby MEPs in order to convince them of the idiocy of this law is, in itself, a damning indictment of the sheer, brutal stupidity of our representatives. However, the EU voting system—in which legislation is voted on in "blocks"—also won't help. This law will go through.

Unless, of course, this is all a cunning plan by the Tories, to feed newspapers a story about an utterly ridiculous EU law which was never going to pass anyway, and then paint themselves as "tough on the EU" when it is voted down. Or am I crediting Dave with too Machiavellian a mind?

Probably not.

In any case, there is a wider point to be emphasised here, and we may as well use a snippet from The Mail's article to lead us into it.
The move could cost retailers millions of pounds because of changes they will have to make to packaging and labelling, as well as the extra burden of weighing each box of food before it is put on sale.

The cost is likely to be passed on to shoppers through higher grocery bills.

The cost is "likely" to be passed on through higher bills? No, the cost will be passed on through higher bills, just as all of the costs of EU regulations are passed onto consumers through higher bills.

And this is, of course, the problem—a problem which I have decided to illustrate pictorially.
  1. The first graph shows the proportion of our exports that go to the EU, and to the rest of the world. Whoa! 50% of our exports are to the EU? That's a pretty big chunk.

  2. The next graph shows the proportion of UK businesses that must abide by all EU laws, whether they trade with the EU or not.

    All of these regulations cost time, money and effort to implement—and so the costs are passed onto the consumer. Not only that, the costs of ensuring that these regulations are being followed—all of those inspectors and suchlike—are undertaken by the UK government, so we consumers pay again in tax.

    But why should 100% of businesses have to obey these EU regulations—after all, only 50% of British businesses actually deal with the EU. Isn't that right?

  3. Well, no—that's wrong. Only 50% of our exports are to the EU: the vast majority of trade within the UK is internal. In other words, the vast majority of businesses never trade abroad at all.

    This final graph shows the rough breakdown of the UK economy. As you can see, trade to the EU accounts for only 10% of the total, 80% of the trade is internal and trade to the rest of the world is another 10%.

    And yet, as you'll remember from the pretty graphs, 100% of businesses must comply with EU rules—with all of the associated regulatory costs that that entails.

Now, to be fair to the EU, our own Ministries are very good at "gold-plating" (that is, adding in their own little madnesses to) EU Directives. But, if the EU did not force this crap on us, then our snivelling, cowardly civil servants wouldn't be able to hide behind the EU fig-leaf: their own pusillanimous, interfering, cost-inducing evil would be plain to see.

I believe that this, as much as anything, is one of the reasons why government is so pro-EU: it allows them to conceal their own petty vindictiveness and mismanagement by pointing the finger at the EU.

Anyway, all of this has a cost—it's difficult to know how much of a cost, but it is certainly in the range of tens of billions of pounds. All of which gets passed onto us in the form of higher prices and higher taxes.

Not only that, of course, but the EU stops us doing more trade with the rest of the world—through two main mechanisms.

First, the EU controls all trade beyond its borders and it has a tendency to put tariff barriers up against other nations—usually to protect EU-based firms (the big firms, the ones that can afford to lobby the EU bureaucrats). A classic example of this is the fact that there is a 66% import tax on energy-saving lightbulbs from China: this was imposed (and renewed last year) after heavy lobbying by German Siemens and Dutch Philips.

Now, this makes us poorer again—we are having to pay 66% more for an energy-saving lightbulb than we might.

However, in retaliation, non-EU countries then tend to put up tariff barriers against EU goods (and point out to their workers that the reason that they aren't selling more light-bulbs in the Eu is because the EU has erected tariff barriers).

The result? Everyone is poorer.

Second, of course, the high costs of regulation mean that British (and EU) businesses cannot compete so well abroad, as our products have an even higher cost than they otherwise would.

Now, Timmy would maintain that it is the imports that make us rich, and that exporting is just the tedious stuff we need to do in order to be able to afford the imports. And he'd be right.

But the point is that we do still need to export of we cannot afford the imports. If we export less, we end up owing other people a lot of money.

Plus, of course, all of this crap offends the sensibilities of a man like myself, who maintains that it is free trade that makes us rich and, as a result, that tariff-wielding organisations like the EU make everyone poorer—and ensuring that people are poorer means that you ensure that more people die unnecessarily.

So, whether or not this eggs and rolls story is true or not, can I join both my peripatetic Athenian friend and Timmy in saying "can we fucking well leave yet"?

Unio Europaea delenda est.

UPDATE: John Band has a good comment on this, as usual. It doesn't alter the main thrust of my argument though, which is that this is not free trade and the EU should be dismantled.

UPDATE 2: Nosemonkey also debunks some of the myths surrounding this matter, illustrating how this particular measure is actually about deregulation.

As a matter of fact, it is a result of reading Nosemonkey for some years that made me express some scepticism about this law; however, I believe that my wider points still stand.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Steve Hughes, libertarian comedian

It's somewhat unusual to find anyone in the media who is in any way libertarian—but I suspect that Steve Hughes might well be it...

Very funny: there's some good stuff on his website too...

Not very civil

Apparently, Tom Harris MP has encountered some civil servants and doesn't particularly like what he sees.
The British civil service, eh? Makes you proud…

Well, yes, Tom. Which is why we don't want to be subject to their every whim.

But the government that you were a member of has increased their power immensely. If you—a politician!—think that the civil service is incompetent and clueless, why the bloody hell did you keep passing vast wads of legislation that gave them ever more power over us proles?

Oh, yeah: because it's one rule for the plebs and another for our Lords and Masters...


P.S. By the way, Tom, I have to point out that—as far as I am concerned—the more that MPs suffer, the better.

And if you and your colleagues are feeling sorry for yourselves, just remember that—had we engaged in the sort of massive fraud that MPs took part in—we would be trying to avoid picking up the soap in the prison showers right now.

Consider yourselves lucky.

The vast wealth of the poor

For some time now, Timmy has been pointing out that wealth in this country is not measured properly.
That report on wealth inequality. It’s wrong. For everyone has a large asset: it’s called the welfare state.

In April, he posted a long and detailed article at the Adam Smith Institute blog, laying out the issues and attempting to calculate just how much the Welfare State is worth.
The Hills Report states that the wealth gap between the 10th and 90th percentile is of the order of 1:100. It says that the average 10th percentile household has assets of £8,800 and the 90th £853,000. But it is only possible to reach this conclusion by ignoring all of the things that we already do to redistribute wealth.

Just as we do with income inequality, we should measure wealth inequality after the influence of the tax and benefit systems. The benefit system provides a number of income streams to the poor and we can calculate their net present value by treating them as an annuity.

Combining the value of just the NHS and the state old age pension every individual has wealth of over £100,000. This must of course be added to the wealth of both poor and rich but it brings the 90:10 wealth ratio down to 10:1.

Looking purely at the income support available to an average 10th percentile household the value of their annual receipts from the welfare state is some quarter of a million pounds when capitalized. This lowers that 90:10 wealth gap to somewhere under 5:1.

In order to illustrate this point, Jenny Jones (some utter muppet at the Grauniad) has decided to excoriate George Osborne for not being a Socialist shitbag like the author capping the amount of money that will be paid out in Housing Benefit to a still-massively-generous £280 per week for a flat and £400 per week for a house. Yes, that's per week, not per month.
The caps on the amount a household can claim in housing benefit will be set at between £280 and £400 a week, or up to £20,800 a year. The chancellor claims this is only fair, and that the current benefits are excessive.

In central London, the Local Housing Allowance gives families in four bedroom homes up to £1,000 per week to pay their rent. So families in Westminster and parts of boroughs such as Camden could be worse off by up to £600 per week, or £31,200 per year. Families in Camden in the inner north London sub-region can currently get up to £575pw, and in cheaper inner east areas, such as Southwark and Lambeth, families can get up to £430pw.

So, just to clarify, the state is paying out up to £52,000 per year for some people to live in areas that those paying tax couldn't even dream of living in. And, after the cap, these families could be worse off by rather more than I get paid.

My heart bleeds.

I think that CiF Commenter Mr Joe summarises the situation very succinctly indeed.
To sum up, some people are effectively being given a pre-tax income of £77,000 for doing nothing, and people far poorer than that are paying for it through taxation. The chancellor claims this is unfair and you disagree. Right.

The situation is made even clearer by a Times article (behind the paywall):
Finally the figures are being exposed. Spending on welfare has risen by 40 per cent in real terms over 10 years of unprecedented economic growth. In that time the number of people claiming disability benefit has trebled and housing benefit doubled. This week, the loudest voices are warning that Mr Osborne’s cap on housing benefit could be devastating, especially in London, where rents are high. But do not underestimate the effect on the silent majority of the news that we spend £21 billion on housing benefit — more than on the police.

The Times reported yesterday that parents may face “eviction” from council houses when their children leave home under new “draconian” laws. But local authorities have queues of families waiting for houses because retired couples refuse to move. People who are scraping together their own rent wonder why anyone feels that they have a lifetime “right” to a council house. Ordinary people regularly make distinctions, not always correctly, between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor. Politicians cannot continue to treat these views with contempt.


As Timmy points out today, the fact that these vast iniquities are being pointed out can only be a good thing.
Limiting housing benefit to only £400 a week, to only £20,800 a year, might mean that some poor families cannot live in central London. Oh Woes!

Then look at what the people who have to pay for this are saying: You What? They get more in rent than I earn in a year? And yet I have to pay tax for them?

Why can’t they just move 5 miles east? Why can’t they live in the suburbs, like I have to? What God given right do the unemployed or low paid have to live in Belgravia?

Bugger that for a game of soldiers.

Yes, you have to pay tax so that we can subsidise this numpty to the tune of £20,800 a year to live in Westminster…..yes, you have to pay tax so that the kids of this unemployed single mother can eat.

My own guess about my fellow Britons is that the latter will get people quite happy to have the State in their wallets: the former not so much. And the more that the former is held up to the light, the more there will be a general agreement that the system needs to be changed.

And then, of course, we can point to Lee Jasper, Baroness Uddin and the rest who, despite high incomes and professional careers, still have their housing costs subsidised by the rest of us.

Depending upon how the same information is laid out, how the PR is done, these cuts could well actually be very popular indeed.

And not just amongst those of us who object to being forced to pay for all aspects of other people's lifestyles—finally. And it might very well spread: couples who are saving up to have children, for instance, might also wonder why on earth they have to pay tax so that those who have never worked can continue to increase the size of their family.

And then people will get angry.

And, pace Blue Eyes, that is the only way that radical change is going to happen in this country.

Anyway, to bring the conversation back to where we started, £52,000 per year in income is worth a lot of cash; I have made a cursory attempt to calculate the Net Present Value (NPV) and I reckon that—at a 4% discount rate—£52,000 a year for ten years would be worth just short of £1 million pounds as a lump sum.

So, it seems that some of the poor have, in fact, wealth far in excess of that of those of us who work for a living.

UPDATE: in reply to Mark Wadsworth's comment, I'd like to clarify just who I am bashing here. In order.
  1. The idiot politicians who have been pissing our money away. Remember, it takes two parties to agree a price in a trade: in this case, the price that our Lords and Masters were willing to pay was "oh, fuck it, as much as you like—I'm not paying for it." If it were the politicos' personal cash, you can bet your last tuppence that even £280 a week would be way more than they'd be willing to pay.

    There are two reasons why they have not put a cap on Housing Benefit prior to this: first, it's not their cash and they knew that they can magic up some more moolah simply by taking ten minutes to pass a law and, second, because their voters now get to live in Islington.

    Further, these economic illiterates have probably never considered that their profligacy would ramp up the price of housing quite so much, because they are idiots. But, then again, since they don't have to worry about rent—they just claim it off the taxpayer—why the hell should they give a crap?

  2. Idiot Grauniad columnists, their colleagues and acolytes. These people don't mind how much money is pissed away on their pet projects because they are all so stinking rich that they'd barely notice £280 a week disappearing from their pay packets.

    These morons are the kind of people who criticise politicians for being rich, privately-educated, out of touch, elite wankers without realising that—really—it does take one to know one.

  3. The private landlords who quite soon realised that the government was not only stupid enough to pay thousands of pounds a week in order to keep their client voters happy, but also venal enough to pay thousands of pounds a week to keep their donors happy.

    But why should they care? After all, there's plenty more magic money where that last lot came from, eh?

  4. The benefit recipients who are even now bitching and whining about how they and their multitudinous progeny will have to move out of their Belgravia mansion and—like the poor bastards who have to pay for this profligacy—live somewhere within their means, even if that means that they will have to commute a couple of hours to work and back each day.

    To this last lot, I say this: we are sick and fucking tired of paying for you to be able to make life-style choices that are denied us. Get used to it.

Have I left anyone out...?

Anyway, you might have spotted a theme running through the above points. Just in case you are a politician, let me just spell it out for you: when one bunch of people spend other people's money—money extorted at gun-point but at a far enough remove that the first group don't feel sullied—on presents for yet another group of people, not only do they get abysmal value for money but they also massively distort the entire market thus ensuring that everyone suffers.

Unless, of course, by using a combination of legislation and yet more financial extortion, the first group manage to totally insulate themselves from any negative effects. In which case, it is only the plebs that suffer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Best headline ever?

Via Iain Dale, this is surely one of the best headlines ever...

Al Gore behaved like 'crazed sex poodle' with masseuse

Well, who'da thunk it?

Still, the man has spent the last few years systematically deceiving, scaring and conning people so it would hardly come as a surprise to find that these allegations have rather more veracity and substance than An Inconvenient Truth...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mind-boggling hypocrisy

Having said that nothing was happening, I was perhaps a little premature: after all, I am sure that (if one looked) no day would go by without yet another example of our Lords and Masters' mind-boggling hypocrisy or Third-World levels of venality being exposed.

In this case, Our New Coalition Overlords™ have been using the money that they extort from us by force to stock up the Parliament booze cellars.
Foreign Office minister Henry Bellingham revealed that Government Hospitality, which manages the cellar, had spent £17,698 on new stock since May 6—bringing the total value to £864,000—though he insisted the standard practice of buying wines young saved money for the taxpayer.

It isn't just that this bunch of crooks steal our cash so that they can drink wine that most of the rest of us simply wouldn't be able to afford, of course—although that's bad enough.

No. It's much worse than that. And, just to emphasise the point, here's Henry Bell-End-ingham again...
"Careful management of the Government wine cellar enables GH to provide wine for high profile events at significantly below the current market rate, making substantial savings for the taxpayer."

Substantial savings for the taxpayer, eh? That sounds jolly good.

But... Hang on a second! Isn't it you kill-joy bastards that are attempting to introduce minimum pricing and a ban on below-cost alcohol sales so that, in other circumstances, taxpayers can't make "substantial savings" for themselves?

But of course I can see that you people are different: you people won't cost the NHS anything—because you've all got private health insurance, I imagine (involuntarily paid for by us). Can't go mixing with the plebs and the MRSA now, can you?

And you won't cause any problems drink-driving because you've all either got chauffeurs or jolly nice flats within spitting distance of the House, haven't you (involuntarily paid for by us again)?

So, what you're telling me, Hank ol' chum, is that drinking large amounts of booze is bad for the proles, but good for MPs. That booze might damage us but, magically, does no harm at all to jumped-up little authoritarians in suits?

Or is it simply that booze bought with the sweat of other people's brows tastes exceptionally good and, despite all of the expenses scandals, you just can't wean yourselves off that sweet, sweet liquor?

Seriously, you people are just beyond the fucking pale: you would happily deny us the opportunity to make "substantial savings" on our own drink, but you try to defend the—frankly obscene—amount of money that you spend on booze by claiming that you are making "substantial savings".

So, tell me, Hank ol' chum, how much would we save if you bought no booze at all? Oh, and how much would be save if you stopped the booze subsidy in the House of Commons bars? Because, ladies and gentlemen, let us remind ourselves that in 2007/08*, our Lords and Masters subsidised their own booze to the tune of £5.5 million.

As my peripatetic Greek friend has noted, drinking is one of life's greatest pleasures; these bastard politicians are attempting to remove that pleasure—for our own good, of course. And not only do they spend our money on their own booze, they throw yet more of it at fake charities so that Temperance scum like Alcohol Concern can use half a million quid of our money per annum to persuade MPs to make laws to force the rest of us to stop drinking.

IT'S OUR MONEY, you bastards.

And the only reason that you can take our money in tax is because the vast majority of us are not hopeless, helpless alcoholics—we are working, productive members of society who like to have the occasional drink so that we can forget the fact that we spend nearly half the year working to pay for those who aren't.

How dare you rely on our industry and then use our own capital against us? How DARE you?

And there are still people who genuinely believe that people go into Parliament to try to make people's lives better; there are even those in Parliament who will tell you, with a straight face, that they genuinely want to make people's lives better.

The mind boggles—truly it does.

P.S. There's some more quality comment from Dick Puddlecote, Captain Ranty and Leg-Iron.

* I can't be bothered to hunt down more recent figures: if anyone has them to hand, please feel free to post a link in the comments.

Slight outage

Sorry about the temporary outage this morning—it seems that someone had hacked my Google account and sent a malicious message or two to various contacts. As a result, Google wanted me to verify myself before I could come back online.

In other news... Well, actually, the news seems to be a little quiet. Perhaps we're all waiting for Our New Coalition Overlords™ to announce this exciting emergency budget.

In the meantime, whilst we wait for something to happen, how about a short video showing our view of the known universe...?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

You want a housing bubble?

I got your housing bubble right here!

Well, maybe not. BUt I do have a couple of little nuggets that contributed to it.

First, serial commenter Woman on a Raft has got her own blog—hoorah!—and neatly breaks down the folly of HIPs. And reminds us all why Our New Coalition Overlords™ are retaining the Energy Performance Certificates.
Despite the prompt action, the Coalition was lumbered with retaining one element of the pack, the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), because that draws its authority not from English statute law, but from a European directive:

DIRECTIVE 2002/91/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 16 December 2002 on the energy performance of buildings

The original UK legislation on HIPs and EPCs was contained in section 5 of the Housing Act 2004, every word of which section is a monument to folly and can only have been written by someone capable of colour-coding their elastic bands and bonged out of their skull on amphetamines.

There is a related 2007 statutory instrument and explanatory note for bringing in the EPCs which was amended in 2008 and then again in 2010.

The current legislation giving effect to the Energy Performance Certificate aspect of that Directive in English law is contained in the:

Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 (as amended by the Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2010).

(As usual, where appropriate, separate orders exist for N. Ireland and Scotland. It is only necessary to look at the English law to illustrate the problem).

EPCs were, of course, rolled in with HIPs, which are probably one of about ten billion contributors to the housing bubble.
As we all know, HIPs didn't work. Rather than reduce friction in property transactions, they may have helped inflate the house price bubble by reducing the number of potential vendors and thus keeping the price of houses higher than it might otherwise have been.

Indeed. I recommend that you read the rest of the article, as it is really pretty interesting; however, this post is concerned with other things so I shall move on.

One of the contentions of those of us who are free marketeers is that one of the very major contributors to high house prices is, in fact, the restrictions inherent in the planning system. We all know that house-builders tend to buy up land banks decades ahead of being able to get permission to build on them, but there are other problems too.

These are neatly highlighted in this little gem from The Welfare State We're In. [Emphasis mine.]
Here is powerful evidence that the planning system is driving up the cost of housing.

It is part of the system, now, that developers are obliged to create 'affordable housing' in expensive areas. This is gesture towards the idea of making housing more affordable for those who are less well off. But it is one of those gestures that costs the pretend benefactor - the council - nothing but costs the developer and those who buy the accomodation which is not 'affordable' plenty. It is a hidden tax.

While local and perhaps national governments feel they are being terribly philanthropic about this (with other people's money - the modern way) they are themselve guilty of making housing more expensive for the less well off. How? Through the planning system.

It has now reached the stage where one of Britain's major building companies says it has to spend more on getting planning permissions than on buying bricks.

Here is what the chairman said:
The only negative point is that the roll out is being constrained by the time taken by local authorities to give planning permission on both existing and new developments.

Indeed, on the subject of planning, since my return to Redrow some 11 months ago, I have been dismayed by the sheer levels of bureaucracy and red tape that have crept into the planning system. The list of documents required to accompany planning applications verges on the comical. Even the simplest of planning applications frequently takes many months to secure approval and indeed there are many examples where the months turn into years. It is reflective of the system that Redrow, as one of the UK's largest home builders, now spends more money on planning and planning related fees than it does on bricks.

The Planning Green Paper produced by the Conservative Party this week proposes a complete revolution for the planning system. It does however raise a whole different set of concerns for the industry and in particular its proposal for third party appeals is likely to result in an even more bureaucratic system.

There is no doubt that the current planning system needs substantially streamlining and speeding up. The result would be an increased supply of new housing, significantly more employment and a major stimulus to the UK economy.

This is from pages 6-7 of the Redrow interim report published in February, I think.

Yep, Redrow spends more money on planning applications than it does on bricks—does anyone think that these costs are not reflected in the prices of the houses being sold? Anyone?

No? Good.

Now, we know that land is supposedly at a premium, but why is that? After all, there is still a lot of land to build on...
Scale down the UK. To 99 football pitches.

All built up areas plus gardens would be 6 of those football pitches.

Yes, yes: we all know that the south east is rather more crowded than, say, the Highlands of Scotland. But even in the south east there are, in fact, vast swathes of nothing very much. And yes, land is expensive in the south east because there is a greater density of people.

But even so... I mean, Redrow builds all over the country and Redrow, just to remind you, "now spends more money on planning and planning related fees than it does on bricks".

That is insane.

UPDATE: entirely coincidentally, just as I published this post, I resumed my perusal of my RSS reader and the first thing that I noticed was this little snippet from England Expects—quoting Matt Chorley.
Ping! An email arrives from Steve Gilbert, the uber-busy new MP for St Austell and Newquay.

He is “honoured” apparently to have been named “the ‘one to watch’ from the Lib Dem benches on the important local issue of housing by the influential National Housing Federation.”

He goes on:

“I see it as a reflection on the added challenges a community like ours faces when it comes to planning future developments and ensuring local provision in the housing stock.

“Most of the people I grew up with cannot afford to get onto the property ladder in Cornwall."

Well, you can do something about that, Steve, now that you are in government...

There is something fundamentally wrong with the legal system

Gail Cochrane: five years in the slammer for harming not one single person. What a triumph for the Scottish justice system.

I am a little late to this one—and the Libertarian Party and Dick Puddlecote have both posted good examinations of this case—but I felt that it was worth commenting on because it strikes at the very heart of what the criminal justice system is for.
A grandmother has been jailed for five years for possessing a "family heirloom" World War II pistol.

Gail Cochrane, 53, had kept the gun for 29 years following the death of her father, who had been in the Royal Navy.

Police found the weapon, a Browning self-loading pistol, during a search of her home in Dundee while looking for her son.

She admitted illegal possession of the firearm, an offence with a minimum five-year jail term under Scots law.

Cochrane told the High Court in Edinburgh that she had never contemplated she might be committing a crime by keeping the gun or that she might need to get a licence for the weapon.

She said: "I thought it was just a war trophy."

Taking this case as reported, this is a disgusting travesty of justice. No, not of the law—I am sure that the law was observed—but of justice.

For starters, the idea that there should be a minimum sentence for any crime is, I think, deeply suspect.

That there should be a minimum sentence for the committing of a crime in which no person or property was harmed is absolutely fucking wrong.

This case highlights quite how perverted the criminal justice system has become and, yes, much of it is down to NuLabour—but let's not pretend that Our New Coalition Overlords™ are going to do stuff all about it either.

Let us go back to my first principle and my single law: as far as I am concerned, there should only be one single law—you shall not initiate force or fraud against life, liberty or property.

The criminal justice system should only be concerned if someone is accused of doing so, and the accused should have their day in a jury court, which will decide whether or not said person did initiate force against someone's life, liberty or property.

Now, did Gail Cochrane initiate force or fraud against life, liberty or property? No.

Did Gail Cochrane even threaten to initiate force against life, liberty or property? No.

Should this be any business of a criminal court? No.

Should she have been sentenced to prison simply for possessing a fire-arm? No.

In England, of course, any crime carrying a prison sentence of more than (I think) six months would be held in the High Court, with a jury trial. I am certain that had she pleaded innocent in front of a jury, they would have refused to convict.

Some people have said that she shouldn't have pleaded guilty to the crime but Dick Puddlecote explains why she did.
Just to clear something up for the cynical. The reason that Cochrane would have pleaded guilty is that there is, officially, no defence as the law currently stands. Possession is possession and that's that.

Now, we have seen this before with a guy called Paul Clarke. However, the differences in Clarke's case are twofold. Firstly, he managed to escape the mandatory 5 year prison sentence, and secondly, he was only arrested In the first place because he attempted to hand the weapon in.

Yet Gail Cochrane is now behind bars for not only not knowing that she had committed an offence, but also for not trotting down the police station with her family keepsake, which could have resulted in the same zero-tolerance 'possession' charge anyway if Clarke's experience is to be taken as a guide. What's more, her ignorance of the need to declare her serviceman father's weapon was used against her.

Indeed it was.
Defence solicitor advocate Jack Brown argued that the circumstances surrounding the case were exceptional and that it would be "draconian, unjust and disproportionate" to jail the grandmother-of-six.

However, Judge Lady Smith said: "I am not satisfied that a reasonable explanation has been put forward for not handing this gun into the authorities throughout the 29-year period she says she has had it in her possession."

The judge said she was unable to find herself satisfied that this was one of the rare cases in which exceptional circumstances existed.

She said: "The result is I have no alternative but to sentence Mrs Cochrane to a period of five years."

If this is true, then our criminal justice system is utterly broken: jailing Mrs Cochrane simply serves no public good at all. It is, in fact, "draconian, unjust and disproportionate" and one of the fundamentals of any justice system is that the punishment must be proportionate to the crime committed.

But, actually, Judge Lady Smith could have used her judgement—that is, after all, what judges are supposed to be for—and ruled that this was, in fact, "one of the rare cases in which exceptional circumstances existed": she simply chose not to.

Either there is something that we are not being told, or Judge Lady Smith is a disgusting travesty of a human being and should be stripped of her position as a judge—since her judgement is so utterly impaired—and then beaten through the streets of Edinburgh, continuously, for five years.

I forget which total bastard of a Home Secretary introduced this law—probably that blind arsehole Blunkett—but he should then be dragged in front of a baying crowd who would be invited to stone him. And then he should be joined by Theresa May—the current Home Secretary.

The criminal law in this country has become so twisted and perverted that the whole lot needs to be swept away: rip it all down and start again. Repeal every single criminal law ever introduced and simplify the lot into a single law...

You shall not initiate force or fraud against life, liberty or property.

No one then could claim ignorance of the law, for there would only be one; no one could claim that they were unable to understand the law's meaning; it would capture those who are a danger to society, whilst ensuring that grandmothers who have harmed no one were not jailed for a crime with no defence.

But the simple truth is that the government wants you to be afraid; the government wants you to break laws. The reason is as articulated by the character of Dr Floyd Ferris in Ayn Rand's dystopian nightmare, Atlas Shrugged.
"Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against—then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with.

Please discuss this quote, with special reference to NuLabour's creation of an unprecendented number of new laws and criminal offences, and especially focusing on the particularly badly-drafted laws that make it almost impossible for said legislation to be codified—or "objectively interpreted", if you will.

Our New Coalition Overlords™—with their supposed enthusiasm for civil liberties—are proposing to do something about all of this, with their Great Repeal Bill. Maybe they will, and maybe they won't.

But even if they do, whilst they take their time deciding what, exactly, they are going to scrap (and, remember, they've already had thirteen years to think about it), real people's lives are being destroyed.

How many more, I wonder...?

Friday, June 18, 2010

It seems the EU don't want our money after all

NB I am not the Devil.

The TaxPayers' Alliance and the Democracy Movement have obtained exclusive footage of George Osborne and Danny Alexander trying to hand over Britain's daily £20.8 million (net) cheque to the EU Commission:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Snake oil salesman

I have to disagree with Seth Friedman here...
If Obama & Co really want to do the best by both their electorate and the environment, they could do worse than permanently nationalise oil companies as a way of enacting serious positive change in the industry.

Yes, they probably could do worse—I'm just struggling to think how.

I mean, one of the surest ways to bugger up a company is to put it in the hands of politicians.

For a more indepth—and less flippant—analysis of this article, do wander over to Timmy's...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The deficit hawk's event of the year

I'll be honest, upfront and open with you - this is a plug. However, it is a plug for something which is both free and interesting so I hope you will bear with me.

On Wednesday 23rd of June the TaxPayers' Alliance and the Insitute of Economic Affairs will be holding a post-Emergency Budget Briefing to present the analysis and thoughts of a panel of experts on George Osborne's first Budget as Chancellor.

The line-up is:

Ruth Lea (chair), Economic Adviser, Arbuthnot Banking Group
Philip Booth, Editorial Director, Institute of Economic Affairs
Mike Denham, TPA Research Fellow and former Treasury and City Economist
Allister Heath, Editor of City AM
Graeme Leach, Chief Economist and Director of Policy, Institute of Directors
William Norton, City Solicitor and lead researcher for the James Review
John Redwood MP
Matthew Sinclair, Research Director, TaxPayers’ Alliance
David B. Smith, Beacon Economic Forecasting

so it should be a really interesting event with, of course, the opportunity to ask questions on any given Budget topic you like. As well as being the first analysis of the Emergency Budget, this is also the main event for those who believe there is an alternative to just hiking taxes and constantly growing the size of the state.

Here are the key details:

9.45am for 10.00am, Wednesday 23rd June 2010
Harvey Godwin Suite, Church House Conference Centre, Dean’s Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3NZ

RSVP to emma.bennett@taxpayersalliance.com to book a space.

I look forward to seeing some readers of the Devil's Knife there!

The language of entitlement

My impecunious but peripatetic Greek friend is on coruscating form as he lays into a LibDem Voice article by some arse called Nick Perry, "a mental health social worker" (make of that what you will).
The Times article in question goes even further in its fatuous wrongness:
The decision will cost families earning less than £307 a week about £600 a year, equivalent to a penny rise in their income tax for each child.

No, no, no, no, no! No it won't! These families don't get free school meals at the moment! This decision will not cost them "a penny rise in their income tax"—it won't "cost" them a penny. Ah, you may say, but it adds up to the same thing, doesn't it? But no, it does not. Because once we allow, once we permit, this language to creep into our discourse, to become accepted as true, then we buy into the idea that every time the state does not provide something for us we are somehow impoverished, when in reality the precise opposite is the case.

This is the vicious circle through which the state increases its insidious grip on all of us, rich and poor. Easy political capital is bought by extending entitlements slowly through the lower echelons of society, and once established they are fiendishly difficult, if not impossible, to remove; they become the new 'normal' against which all else is measured. A vast client state has grown over the years, quietly and insidiously, like HG Wells' red weed—and it is bought and sold with taxpayers' gold.

And what is perhaps most obscene is that the very people we are talking about here—families in low-paying jobs—are taxed through the nose on a large proportion of that income. It's a vast protection racket, nothing more; nice kids you've got there Mrs Smith, wouldn't want them to go hungry, would we? And so they fork over the cash every month and are supposed to feel grateful, pathetically grateful, when they get some of it back in government largesse. It makes me fucking sick.

The Lib Dems' policy to extend the personal allowance to £10,000 is one of their few good ones. This government has pledged to meet that goal. They'd fucking better, because taking taxes off families on the very lowest wages is a disgrace, and we should not be forcing these people to work in indentured servitude for the state. It's one of the great scandals of our time, and if this lot do anything to roll it back, they'll have proved themselves more "progressive" than any government in decades.

As my angry Athenian friend notes—and repeats for emphasis—cancelling a proposed increase in government spending is not a cut, and it is a perversion of the English language to claim that it is.

I knew that the LibDems were pretty bloody awful, but can they really be this fucking stupid and evil? Yes: yes, they can.

And I wouldn't give two craps if they were cutting all school meals, frankly. Listen up, parents: I already subsidise you and your ghastly offspring through Child Benefit, Child Tax Credits, Child Trust Funds; I pay for their bloody education and I subsidise their playgrounds; I pay because you seem to think that having a child gives you special rights to waltz out of work or take extra holiday too.

So, here's a message for you: it's got to stop. Can't afford a child on your own, without raping the wallets of those who have none? Well, don't have any damn children: I am sick and tired of being rinsed to pay for your lifestyle choices.

And if you seriously cannot even afford to feed the little bastards, then I suggest that you be forced to give them up for adoption, so that parents who want children and who have the required cash to fulfill this most basic of needs can get on with doing so.

I just don't see why the hell I should be forced to pay for any of it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lending, inflation (and why I'm not a gold bug)

Charlotte Gore has posted an excellent article about lending, and the crucial difference between "good" debt and "bad" debt.
The point of this post is to attempt to tackle this idea that it doesn’t matter whether it’s the public sector borrowing money and spending it, or the private sector borrowing it and spending it—it’s all just cash and it all goes around just the same, creating demand for food and clothing etc. But there IS a difference, and that difference is everything. It is the difference between real growth—increasing wealth—and simply trading other people’s ability to create wealth in the future for short term political gain.

Now, this should be obvious but why does it mean that I am not one of those who constantly bang on about gold-backed currency? The clue is contained in the beginning of Charlotte's post...
So how is wealth created? Wealth isn’t merely cash. You don’t simply print bank notes and announce yourself to be wealthy. Wealth, real wealth is measured by value.

We all know that when a bank lends money, it conjures most of the cash out of the thin air, which sounds alarming… but it is hopefully repaid in full with interest in due course. The loan is supposed to be spent on things of value that generate—or save—more than the amount of the loan plus the interest.

In this way, wealth is created. Simple, right? A loan represents future wealth, future value. You borrow money to buy a car, you’re left with a unit of value—the car itself.

So, say a bank conjures money out of thin air for me, I spend it on a machine that allows me to make bottle caps, I then sell the bottle caps which eventually pays off the loan and then the rest, for me, is profit. Wealth has been created—represented by the existence of the machine and the bottle caps it produces.

The very point of a currency backed by gold—or so goes the theory—is that there is a very limited amount of gold in the world and, therefore, it is extremely difficult to create much more money. The government, for instance, would not have been able to print £200 billion of "quantitative easing" if the currency were backed by gold because there would be no gold to back that £200 billion. The point being, of course, that if the government cannot print more money, then you can reduce inflation significantly.

And here we'll take a swift diversion into the nature of inflation (as I understand it, at least)...

DK's terribly simplistic guide to inflation

Roughly speaking, the British economy is a little like a publicly listed company on the stock exchange. But whereas those companies have shares, we have pounds. Each pound in your pocket is a share of the wealth of Britain plc.

The wealth of Britain plc. is estimated by its GDP, its assets, its future earning power, its level of debt, the confidence that people have in its current and future potential, and hundreds of other factors. As such, the value of the pound in your pocket is affected (to a tiny degree) by the total worth of the economy of Britain plc.

More importantly, if the managers of Britain plc. decide to issue more pounds, then the value of your pound will be less because your share of Britain plc. has been diluted.

Just of the purposes of illustration, imagine that the value of Britain plc is £100, and there are 100 shares—of which you have one. Your share is 1% of the company, and is worth £1.

If, however, Britain's management decide to issue 100 more shares, then you will no longer hold 1% of the company—you will only hold 0.5%. Assuming that no more money has been raised, your share is no longer worth £1, it is worth 50p.

However, the reason that most companies issue more shares is in order to raise more money (for expansion, or whatever); thus, the chances are that your share is still worth at least £1, even though you do not own as much of Britain plc. in percentage terms.

Having issued 100 more shares, if Britain plc. managed to persuade the investors that the company was worth £200—or would be worth £200 in the very near future—then your share will still be worth £1.

However, if the investors decide that Britain plc. is worth £100 or less, then they will pay considerably less than £1 per share; now, not only do you own 0.5% less of the company, your share is also worth less than £1. Which is quite obviously not nice for you—not least because you will need to have more than one share to buy £1 worth of goods.

In other words, twice the number of shares have been issued, without Britain plc. being worth twice as much; your share is now worth less than it was before.

This is, roughly speaking, what inflation is.


At the beginning of the year, Britain plc. issued 200 billion new shares, whilst the value was decreasing. Your share is now worth a lot less than it was before. And with your share being a pound, the pound is now worth a lot less than before.

This inflation process particularly destructive to savings, ensuring that the pound that you put away twenty years ago is now worth a lot less than a pound. Indeed, the total inflation rate since 1900 is 9348% (calculated here)! £1 now has less than one tenth of the spending power that it had just after decimalisation, in 1971.

Enter the banks...

Now, as we all know, the government is not the only agency that increases the money supply: the banks also do it, through a system known as fractional reserve banking. Broadly speaking, if I put £100 into the bank, the bank can lend out roughly £90 of that.

The full £100 is still theoretically in my account, and can be spent by me; but £90 has now been lent out to someone else, and can be spent by them. So, an extra 90 pounds has been put into the economy.

And this, of course, should cause inflation. And often does.

What the bank is doing—or should be doing—is advancing money that will, eventually, be backed by wealth (or worth). In other words, if the bank lends it to Charlotte's bottle top factory, the money gets repaid but, more importantly, that extra £90 is now backed by at least £90 of created worth.

The trouble was, as Charlotte so elegantly articulates, that the banks had forgotten that all of the money swilling about needed to be so backed.
It works because the people in the banks try to make good lending decisions. They want to be sure that the money they lend creates value, creates real wealth, because this is how they’re certain they’ll make their money back. They lend money to make it, and people borrow money to make it. Typically loans are ’secured’ against some real existing wealth—property of some kind—so that if the loan is not repaid there is still real wealth to show for the cash.

Now, in the credit crunch, when the banks were (and in some cases still are) refusing to lend, you can see how this causes a major problem for any economy that depends on it—and why it caused such a catastrophic contraction in our economy.
The reasons for their non-lending boil down to demands from the Government to increase the amount of cash they hold in their reserves and uncertainty that the wealth against which loans are secured have any real value at all. Housing that no-one will buy, for example, is very poor security indeed.

The credit crunch itself was caused by banks neglecting this most basic duty of theirs: Lending only when they are certain to get the money back, to take only good, well calculated risks. It turned out that too many loans were secured against very bad risks that other people had taken, resulting in everyone realising there was no security in the system at all whatsoever—and it nearly brought down our entire economy.

Indeed. Putting aside the banks' stupidity in this regard, the real and continuing problem is the unwillingness (or inability) to lend.

Let's say that I need our putative £90 in order to buy new bottle-top making machinery; obviously, I could save some of the profits from the company but it is going to take ten years to save enough.

But without being able to buy this new machinery now(ish), my competitors' cheaper but more exciting bottle-tops will put me out of business. As such, I need a big capital sum now, and I can then afford to repay it through my profits over the course of ten years.

Of course, I'll end up paying more (because there will be interest on the loan) but I will still be in business; and if I run the business well, and squeeze the most out of my bottle-top-making machine, I will even be able to increase my profits and therefore be better off than before. And, of course, I have increased the value of Britain plc., hopefully ensuring that the extra money that has been created is backed by real wealth.

Which is nice.


Of course, lending puts more money into the economy now, and it is usually not backed by worth now. As such, there always tends to be a low level of inflation (at the very least).

When inflation gets higher, the usual method to try to reduce it is to raise interest rates. Why?

Because if you raise interest rates, you should reduce borrowing—for some people, that extra percentage on inflation will ensure that it is not viable for them to borrow the money and they will find another way around the problem (hopefully).

Or, of course, they will put off buying that 42" plasma TV because the World Cup actually doesn't look too shabby on the 30" flat panel anyway.


In a gold-backed currency, the gold represents the worth of the currency. So, if you want to print more money or lend some out, then it needs to be backed with actual, physical gold. Over a century ago, most of the developed economies operated in this way, and used the international Gold Standard as a calibration.

The upside of a gold-backed currency is that inflation becomes almost non-existent. Taken from this government PDF, the chart below shows retail price inflation since 1900: Britain left the Gold Standard in 1914 (to fund the vast monetary expansion required to fight the First World War).

The downside is that you cannot lend in the same way—as such, economic growth is, necessarily, a lot slower. From the same PDF as above, this chart shows economic growth over the same time period.

Now, one hopes that the growth in wealth will always outstrip inflation and that, as a result, everyone is considerably richer at the end of the exercise. As a general rule, this has been the case over the last century or so.

This process of getting richer, of course, is also helped by the rise in productivity which is driven by competition. It is self-evident that TVs are far, far cheaper than they were even half a century ago, and computers and other labour-saving devices have also become cheaper and cheaper.

So, you have to make a choice...?

Do you prefer near zero inflation, or a far faster enrichment of the general population. Broadly speaking, I prefer the latter because, ultimately, it delivers the most utility. In other words, more people getting richer more quickly is better than zero inflation.

On the other hand, saving for old age is rather harder, since you have to contend with inflation.

Which is why the Libertarian Party policy allows for multiple currencies—one backed by gold, one by the government and then others by the banks themselves. In this way, you enable the lending that drives growth, but also allow a store of currency that maintains its value.

Importantly, you also put currencies in competition with one another, allowing for fluctuations within and between those currencies, whilst maintaining a base currency that holds its value over time.

Perhaps we really could have it all...?

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