Monday, 31 October 2005

Petty Managerialism


I've been agonising about what it is that I loathe about New Labour. After all they haven't seriously challenged the Thatcherite legacy. They've just been incompetent.

With old labour it was simply being wrong on every issue, so its the ideology of socialism that I have the problem with. As individuals, socialists can be nice people. Often, a socialist enjoys a good debate with a Thatcherite storm-trooper like me. After an intellectual ding-dong we can chat about the rugby or cricket or other shared interests having enjoyed the mental work-out of defending your position against a coherent (but still wrong)opponent, with no hard feelings on either side.

With New-Labour there's a nastyness I can't fathom, and usually a personal edge to their argument.

Because New-Labour is a party for the post-idealogical age, they have no coherent philosophy. What they have taken from their socialist DNA is a belief that the state can and should provide solutions. Because they have no respect for tradition, this just becomes populism.

Without a coherent philiosphy, policy is made on the run. Banning things and meddling in areas in which government has no business is the hallmark of this government. They are arrogant, and assume that anyone who dosn't agree with them is motivated by self interest, whilst they are trying to "do something". Their constant calls on business to cough up (pensions, charity, Tax, NI, social responsibility) and the exhortations to do so willingly has cost business dear, and made us all poorer.

They are happy to send the troops into danger (and the British Army always delivers), but aren't prepared to spend the cash to equip the forces properly, whilst spending freely on petty bureaucrats in the department for work and pensions. The Navy desperately needs its carriers, the RAF desperately needs its tankers and heavy lift but the money's being used to pay 30,000 gender outreach co-ordinators. The army is now so small that it is more heavily deployed than it was in 1943. It needs more than the 300 or so tanks it has. It needs more not fewer Infantry batallions. It needs new radios (and has done since the 80's). The troops need time to train and rest beween trips to the Gulf. Women and homosexuals in the front line is not a solution for the manpower shortage.

New-Labour is losing its way (if it ever had one in the first place). In a shameless U-turn, Labour have announced a policy (Trust schools) that looks very like the Tory Education policy of the Major government. It is a return to grant-maintained schools, a policy the government scrapped 8 years ago as soon as they got into power. I agree with this trust schools policy, but there's no substance behind it. It will end up getting watered down to the point of uselessness, because the government doesn't understand why it works and will give up all its benefits in shabby compromises with the Teaching unions.

Without a coherent philosophy (and the "third-way" is not one), the principal aim of government is to STAY IN POWER. Is this why they are recruiting so many pointless civil servants? The public sector salariat, insulated from the rigours of life by the private sector tax-payer's ever increasing efforts, are largely Labour-voting. If they can get these creatures to make up over 50% of the population Labour can stay in power forever, after all turkeys would not vote for christmas.

Brownites and Blairites battle over trivial, pesonality driven politics, whilst occasionally cooking up an ill conceived plan full of unforseen consequences whilst blaming everything on the Tories' legacy. They are still doing it, which indicates an unwillingness to take their responsibilities seriously.

Without a philosophy, the New-Labourite resorts to personal attacks to defend an indefensible position. Tories are always "interested in the few, not the many" according to New Labour's demonology; in fact, the Tories have always had a deep and abiding concern for the working man. The tories however do not patronise him by offering government solutions to everything. Instead we believe that he's the best architect of his own sucess.

Without a philosophy, New Labour is simply petty managerialism, mixed with a lot of nany-state autoritarianism and sinister news management.

If you want this country properly run, go to the party which thinks within an intellectually coherent framework (certainly not the wooly inbetweens). Most of Labour's most popular ideas are originally Tory. Think about their education and Health policies... Haven't you seen them somewhere before? We would shrink the role of the state, give people back their liberty, give people a choice amongst a range of increasingly flexible, reformed public services. Taxes will come down, paid for by a shrinking of the civil service, and running the country more efficiently, growing spending slower than the growth in the economy. We'll prioritise the services that matter, and cut the fat (see the Guardian jobs page for examples). Because we understand why the best policies work, we'll do it better.



Thursday, 6 October 2005

The War on Drugs


I'm a libertarian. That means I believe in freedom of choice is for the individual and not the state. With that principle underlying most of my political beliefs, I find a dilemma with drugs. Cannabis should be legalised from a personal freedom point of view, and there is no need to go through the arguments. It's "hard drugs" which pose the greatest problem for society and lawmakers.

Being addictive, especially the opiates and the highly refined chemical drugs, can freedom of choice really be said to be exercised by the individual? Does the state have a duty to protect the British subject from substances that remove freedom by encouraging addiction? That is the principal argument behind the "war on drugs".

The state, I believe does have a duty of care, and therefore should act to limit drug use, but the prohibition of sale and interdiction of supply are doomed to failure, especially in a free society. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BUSINESS AS PROFITABLE AS ILLEGAL DRUGS. This morning, the Government spokesman on the subject Paul Goggins boasted about an increase in seizures of drugs at ports. Well that's more likely to reflect greater flow than greater success in stopping the trade. Even if the supply were temporarily interrupted, the price in the market would rise, and so would the rewards to potential traffickers. In any case 60% interdiction is necessary to seriously disrupt the supply chain instead of the 20% stopped now.

The drug lords therefore operate in a Government guaranteed oligopoly, but do not have to provide any welfare for their staff or customers. Indeed the cutting of drugs with less than savoury mixers to increase profits leads to many of the health problems associated with drug use. Furthermore, there have been cases of a wave of overdoses if a batch unusually pure heroin for example hits the street. All these are symptoms of the drugs' illigality, not the drug itself.

The crime associated with drug use is also, in part, a symptom of government policy. The policy of interdiction keeps the price artificially high, and once hooked, an addict will find it harder to get help than he otherwise would were drugs legal. Because the price is high, theft is easier than work to fund a habit. The surest way to fund a drugs habit, though, is to become a dealer yourself, and this guarantees an efficient pyramid marketing scheme that creates more users. It also puts layers in the supply chain, each further insulating the organised criminals who run the business from the law. People who like, for example a bit of pot to pass round with their friends, or a tab of MDMA for a party get exposed to this criminal marketing scheme. This is dangerous.

Drugs are bad for you. Nothing will change that, but prohibition makes the situation worse. Instead the resources (huge resources) that are currently tackling the supply should instead be directed at limiting demand through education of the dangers and rehabilitation of addicts. At present, the government is treating heroin addicts with methadone, even more addictive, which is just crass. Instead a rehabilitation program using the real thing, as has been successfully used in Switzerland would be more successful.

By removing the extreme sanctions against drug use, users would be more inclined to seek help before they lose their jobs and lives. Habits would be easier to sustain from within normal society, so the effects of a habit would be mitigated.

A state sanctioned supply of all drugs would break the criminal hold on the industry. The highly efficient pyramid marketing scheme would collapse. The price would fall and habits would become cheaper to sustain. The drugs themselves would become purer and less harmful to health. Demand for some of the really harmful drugs would recede. Why take crack or crystal meth when cocaine or heroin is freely and cheaply available?

This issue is one where a 180 degree change in policy is needed, but one where the "daily mail"* viewpoint would mean that the best solution: total legalisation of everything combined with vigorous anti-drugs propaganda and massive increase in resources for rehabilitation, would be political suicide. The daily mail arguments against such a policy "Government says drugs OK", "Kids free to be hooked on drugs" can be safely ignored, but there are real risks to such a policy.

Arguments about the increased availability of drugs undser a legalised regime are reasonable. You are never more than a short bus ride away from your next hit, even in the leafy suburbs, but a legal supply is easier than an illegal one. It is likely however that, in the short term at least drug use will increse as people experiment. Just as with Tobacco, this will receed with time and education. Organised crime, denied its most lucrative business, will find something else to do, and that won't be pleasant. Someone is going to make a legitimate profit from the sale of drugs, and that is difficult to stomach. It will be hard to legalise something so clearly harmful, but I feel it is the least bad option.

Whatever the objections, it is clear the current policy is failing everyone except organised crime. It is time for a radical rethink. I would really like to hear anyone's opinion on this, so comment away!

*for American readers, the Daily Mail is a nastly little right-wing authoritarian rag with pretentions to seriousness, parodied in the BBC's Yes Minister as "the paper read by the wives of the people who run the country". If there is anything wrong with the Tory Party, it is the Daily Mail's opinion that is at fault. The only paper I hate more is The Guardian, a tedious left-wing rag for sanctimonious, pretentious sociology students and Islington polenta-eaters that represents everyhig about the smug left that I loathe.



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