Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Cure, Kyoto, and music...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

UKIP, elections, and messaging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hounding Rufus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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