... is over at Philobiblon.
I have been added to the roster of Britblog Roundup hosts so look out for my effort in a few weeks.
Monday, 31 March 2008
Friday, 28 March 2008
I came across this blog, by some drippy kiwi feminist pinko, pontificating on how she protested the Iraq war at New Zealand's Cenotaph on the fifth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq.
The Greenham common women too, were fond of observing that missiles are somewhat phallic. That this was so for aerodynamic rather than Freudian reasons seems to have passed them by, but any thing longer than it is wide is, to the feminist mind, a symbol of phallocentric oppression. No doubt they think they're mighty clever. Everyone else just laughs at their hairy armpits and ignores what they're saying.
But I digress. She's at the pre-arranged protest at the Cenotaph and... you guessed it... no one else turned up.
"For ten minutes, I'd vigiled alone in solidarity with the people of Iraq."Maybe that's because New Zealand, despite its proud martial history took no part in the invasion, and the small engineer contingent they provided to the UN (yes the UN, though their operational command was British) was withdrawn in 2004. Consequently no-one in New Zealand gives a shit. Hell, We've still got over 4,000 boys and girls out there, and like it or not, no-one is that bothered here (outside the usual suspects of the leftist fifth column, naturally). Even in America, which has over 100,000 troops in theatre, it is not the major issue of the Election campaign - the economy is.
"The fifteenth of February 2003 was amazing, but a war cannot be stopped in one day, even one day with millions of people. Anything we do must be sustained longer than the period where urgency overwhelms us. I think the question for those of us who took part is how we can build, next time"Or perhaps you could just get a life? Just a suggestion, darling.
Labour is a busted flush. They're going to get wiped out in the locals in May and they're not going to recover much before the next election in 2010, an election, which our monocular Presbyterian former chancellor will leave to the last possible moment. (2 more years, Jeezus). You can smell the desperation: they're even talking about gerrymandering the electoral system for their own advantage, as Iain Dale says in today's Telegraph: "Electoral Reform, the last refuge of the scoundrel"
This is why I am so rude to Labour "people". They actually think that the Tories running the country would be a disaster and are prepared to do anything up to and including ending democracy in the UK in order to prevent this (for them) unspeakable event. For the record, I would do anything up to but not including gerrymandering the electoral system to prevent Labour ever getting power again.
So let's look at the proposals: Labour "people" think (do they "think", or do they simply download instructions from Labour HQ in the manner of I, Robot) that the problem with British democracy is low turnouts. I'll go with them for the time being, but I can't help feeling abstention is a perfectly acceptable course of action, which accurately reflects what the majority of the British public feel about politics: They couldn't give a tinker's cuss.
So why are there low turnouts? People don't bother do do things that are perceived as pointless. Many people live in "safe" constituencies, which will return a candidate of a particular party come hell, high water and the second coming. Hull returning a strategically shaved, sexually incontinent, illiterate chimpanzee for nearly four decades is an obvious example. Therefore, if you live in such a constituency, your vote is wasted. It has been suggested by some on the right of the Tory party and beyond that NuLab and BluLab are the same, so there is no point voting. Third, it is suggested that parliament makes a fraction of our laws and simply exists to enact laws from the EU legislation factory; low turnouts for parliament for the same reason there is low turnouts for local government: voting one way or the other simply won't change very much. Fourth and linked to all three: people are uninterested in politics, which has become dull, technocratic and spoken of in a jargon which most people are too busy to decipher, and have better things to do.
To prevent a low turnout Labour have mooted compulsory voting. I'm against this on the simple grounds that it is grossly illiberal and does nothing to address the underlying causes of low turnout. Do I need to go on? If you think this is an acceptable proposal, you're a cunt.
Saturday voting is a proposal I could support, however. There is no earthly reason why elections should take place on a Thursday, and the tradition isn't even that old. Perhaps it was more convenient back in the day to have politics on a work day, but I suspect it will have little effect on turnout. Those who can't be bothered to vote on a Thursday are scarcely more likely to vote at the weekend, when they'll be hungover. If you read this, you'll probably be the kind of person who'll vote which ever day of the week it is. It is a sticking plaster on a gunshot wound, and unlikely to have much effect.
Fixed term parliaments have the advantage of removing from the PM the choice of when to go to the country. However it denies parliament the chance to get rid of a weak or unpopular Government through a vote of confidence. I happen to think the latter is a greater advantage than the former is disadvantage: fixed term parliaments would profoundly weaken parliament and strengthen the hand of the executive, especially when the parliamentary maths is tight. Weak governments do not last, and the country will be asked for a more definitive verdict. I think that is real democracy.
Secondary votes is another proposal to make voting more "relevant". The suggestion that if one party doesn't get 50% or more of the votes in a given constituency, then second votes are taken into account. The theory is that Labour and the "Liberal" "Democrats" would gleefully swap votes and keep the evil Tories out of power for ever. I suspect that this wouldn't be the case. Governments tend to be unpopular and when the mood was "it's time for a change" Tories would give their second votes to Liberals and vice versa, rather than prop up a discredited regime. Nevertheless, you can see the wishful thinking - and it would probably benefit the Libs most - Labour second preferences would certainly help them in Lib Con marginals. As a bid for the third party's support come a hung parliament, it's cheap and at the cost is paid by the Tories so you can see why the Goblin King likes it. Nick Clegg, however is whoring his party and he doesn't even have the pride to demand a high price (full PR).
Proportional representation would be a disaster. It puts the party above the individual and precludes local independents. It would mean ever more power for parties central committees, who will have the final say in who goes where on the list. Any attempt to address these issues is fraught with complexity (regional lists, national lists requiring voters to make several choices). The simplicity of First past the post is its principle virtue. Finally it would give undue prominence to the third party who would be able to choose the coalition partner. Although manifestos are not worth the paper they're written on (thanks Labour and "Liberal" "Democrats"), any PR system usually involves backroom deals between parties after the election which means no-one gets a government, or policy platform, for which they voted. In addition, PR is fundamentally unstable. And it's a solution to a problem which doesn't exist. Are you suggesting that landslides in 1997 and 1983 did not accurately reflect the will of the people? The ability to throw the rotters out is the point of democracy, not the accurate mathematical representation of abstract choices of party, which interests only party people who are now an insignificant minority. There are nearly as many Jedis (390,000) than members of political parties (about 550,000)
This debate about voting systems suggest a thought that the constitution is the reason for the loss of trust in politics. Nothing to do with broken manifesto commitments at all, or flagrant snouts in the trough by MPs of all parties. No siree! If only, by this train of thought, those pesky lords were given "democratic legitimacy" then all would be OK. They neglect to mention that those anachronistic and undemocratic Lords are the only bit of Parliament which is doing its job. (scrutinising legislation and holding the executive to account, in case you'd forgotten). It should be noted that it is doing its job whilst not defrauding the taxpayer to enrich themselves. The commons needs to get its own house in order before they start to break the bits of the constitution which are uncorrupted and actually working.
Meanwhile the sight of a financially precarious organisation (the Labour party) attempting to legislate on campaign finance disgusts the electorate. The more open the grubby business of party fund raising becomes, the more the public recoil in horror. Personally, I don't think beyond the names of major donors and the amounts they give, we need to know much more. What is more damaging is, having opened pandora's box, the labour party has been caught trying to hide the contents behind shadowy "trusts" and "foundations". The rules are absurdly complicated and politicians are now in the ridiculous position of tiny mistakes turning into great scandals. Not that the Tories are much better, but they didn't introduce the legislation so they're less hypocritical. It is obvious to all but the most blinkered Labour "person" that the Union money stinks. The Tories are right not to cut any deal until this is on the table, but their funding arrangements smell a bit iffy too, though I have no problem with rich men financing parties, Lord Asshcroft needs to open his affairs a bit to reflect his influence in public life.
But simply speaking, making the act of voting relevant, by presenting honestly what you would do differently to the other lot, having a media which could present a debate as such and not call it a "split", not enriching yourselves at the tax payers expense and speaking the same language as the electorate. These things would go a long way to raising turnout. Withdrawing from the EU would make a difference to the relevance of Parliament, and devolution to local government would mean higher turnouts for council elections. Give people a genuine choice and they will become engaged. Try to pull the wool over their eyes and they will and do turn away in disgust.
Just because it is simple, doesn't mean it's easy.
Labour won't even try of course. Gordon Brown trusting the electorate? You must be joking! And as a result, they'll get increasingly unpopular haemorrhaging support, until the questions will be asked "how big will the Tory Landslide be in 2010?" and "will the Labour party ever recover?" The second question is important and worthy of another post. I hope not.
Thursday, 27 March 2008
I'm 30, and I'm fed up of hearing about the Soixante-Huitards. Do we really have to Laud them every decade: They were and are pointless, socialist cunts - and rioting is rioting. Fun, but ultimately futile. Why is Vietnam, a baby boomer cause more relevant and Laudable a cause than (say) poll taxes, globalisation or football, about which Generation X fought police and broke things?
In 1946, our grandparents' generation started to make love, not war. They'd had enough of the latter. The inevitable result of the fact that the second thing a soldier does when he gets home is take his boots off, was the baby boom. Now as Danny Finkelstein points out in yesterday's Times, the result of a large adolescent population is always trouble, therefore 22 years after our Grandparents stopped fighting and started shagging; young, dumb kids (our parents) started chucking rocks at American Embassies protesting about how they wanted the Communists in Vietnam to win. I'm not sure how they got away with this spiteful adolescent rage being portrayed as idealism, but there you go. Perhaps it's because they did write some good songs about it. However, Between 1957 and 1968, most countries authorised use of the contraceptive pill, which ended the madness: Like socialist lunacy before it, 22 years after the pill, the demographics started to be reflected in sensible governments: Thatcher and Regan. Steven J. Levitt noticed a similar effect in US crime rates following legalised abortion: 18 years after Roe vs. Wade, US crime rates started to fall precipitously from the early 1990s. Demographics had seen these figures drift down from a peak in the early 1980s.
In the UK, this demographic lunacy also meant that the Labour party did its thing for the 35 years after the war: Stupid, ignorant kids, egged on by tired soldiers hungry for welfare handouts as the reward for doing their bit, voted for socialism whilst the Tories impotently sat on their hands and watched taxes rise (especially on the poorest), industrial planning lay waste British industry and inflation debase the once mighty pound. The economic ramifications are still being felt. I think we can forgive our Grandparents. They fought for our freedom and naively thought they could build a land fit for heroes and elected hubristic arseholes who actually thought they could deliver. The Tories who followed them were merely lacking in the confidence to reverse the disastrous changes that Government put in place: the welfare state, nationalisation and the NHS.
The real damage, however was done in 1964-1979, a period which Labour dominated - completing the programme of the post war Government in bringing the country to its knees.
Look at the economic mess that the Baby boomers have left their kids. They voted for governments which promised generous pay as you go pensions. That means we (few) are going to have to pay for their (tax funded) pensions and face no realistic prospect of taxes coming down any time soon as a result. The NHS ineffectually swallows ever more money, and will continue to do so ever more rapidly as our parents become old and incontinent. This bill is unlikely ever to shrink, as our parents made no provision for themselves. Indeed they voted for Governments which actively discouraged it! As a result we will be paying, via taxes an ever increasing bill for our parents' healthcare. Because they failed to check abuse of the welfare state, our parents oversaw the creation of a 20%-strong section of the population who chose not to work. Because the generation of 1968 thought it a sin to be wealthy and live in a stable household, they sought to use the welfare state to subsidise the opposite: unemployed single parenthood. This at once costs us one third of our tax bill in direct benefits payments and results in our property being regularly stolen by a benefit recipient with nothing better to do. Because they were too proud to wipe arses in their precious NH"S", our parents oversaw mass immigration from the commonwealth (they thought black people should do the shitty jobs, not them), which destroyed the very homogeneity which may have allowed the welfare state to work. But It's not just the welfare state, it's economics: Two Generations of Nimbys have prevented houses being built, and those that are are either concrete monstrosities or ghastly breeding hutches. Despite the shit which is being built, House prices have risen sharply, which means most young people, if they can ever get on the property ladder are unlikely ever to pay off their mortgages. Our parents had inflation do most of the dirty work in paying off their mortgages. They will counter with the 15% interest rates which bit them occasionally, but this would have only been painful for a couple of years until inflation eroded the real capital value of the principle. Thus, we are paying for our parents houses, their mortgages, and face no realistic prospect of ever owning a 4 bedroom family home, unless we inherit one, in which case we'll paying swinging death duties because of thresholds which have not risen in line with asset prices. Finally in a last, disastrous exercise in a lack of self confidence and misplaced faith in politicians, they voted to take us into "Europe". Another fucking big bill, which I will be paying for the rest of my life, in the form of taxes and the bureaucratic hyperactivity which characterises the EU project.
As a result of this, the hours we young people work are disproportionate to those in any recent generation, though we see precious little for it - certainly not enough ever to build a nest egg for ourselves. The money is going in taxes: We are being forced to pay for the wealth our parents borrowed. Of course we all live so long, we'll never see any of it until we're in our 50's. Of course I'm not blaming my actual parents, who voted Conservative, and have emigrated, so Spanish taxpayers can fund their incontinent years (payback for the EU perhaps?). If yours didn't and haven't, tell them from the Dude that they're cunts, will you? Then murder them for the inheritance. We want some of that money back - We've got mortgages to pay.
A friend, travelling to Germany has been forced to hire a BMW and has the following questions, which I thought the readers of AVBD would be able to answer:
How do you drive a BMW?
- I know that I have to ignore people trying to get out of a side street, wear sunglasses and cut people up.
- How many centimetres do I have to leave when tailgating somebody?
- Are there any self help tapes I can listen to in the car to enable me to be more arrogant and self important?
- I naturally indicate at turns, are there any tips to overcome this habit built up over years of driving non-BMW cars?
- Do I just go for the one fingered salute, or are there new offensive hand signals in the BMW lexicon of communicating with other road users?
- How much Burberry do I have to buy?
- Are there sensors in the car to lock me out unless I have more than 6 credit cards and 3 gold chains.
- An old lady is crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing. Should I give one long blast on the horn or a series of short irritated little pips on the horn?
- Does your sneer stay like that over a weekend, or do your facial features need longer to freeze in that position?
- In slow moving traffic, how many times must I change lane every 100 yards?
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Guest Post from TravelGall
The NUTers have made fools of themselves again by voting to prevent the Army from presenting in schools. Stefan Simms, a teacher from Ealing, west London said he would only support 'realistic' recruiting literature like
"Join the Army and we will send you to carry out the imperialist occupation of other people's countries"Yet again we see the Tin foil hat brigade are teaching children. Not mine of course, as I wouldn't trust these lazy Commy fuckups to educate a sleeping Spaniel into playing dead - I'll be sending mine to Private school, thank you very much; preferably one with a CCF and Rugby pitches. Obviously they're worried about the fact that they only get them 200 plus days a year to spew paranoid left wing rubbish into their brains and think it just isn't enough.
Actually the "Tools down" teachers are right to be worried - it probably isn't. Most kids are smart enough to know when their teachers are deviating from the job description - reading out their lecture notes made at teacher training Poliversity 20 years ago. They can smell the strong unpleasant odour of teachers forcing their own opinions down their kids throat in the same way and for the same reason they can tell when Wigglesworth has just been "Bog washed". Children are just as able to work out that when somebody uses the words 'Oil company' and 'Imperialism' in the same sentence they're spouting bollocks as any adult with the IQ greater than a squashed apricot.
"I would be personally gutted after years of putting time and professional effort into the students I teach, helping their education and preparing them for adult life, to find out that some of them have said 'I decided to join the Army".Quite right Mr Simms. Ignoring the fact that a teacher saying "educating and preparing children for adult life" brings up a gamut of unpleasant images, you wouldn't want a man coming back to school to remind you what a gelded nobody you really are - you probably get enough of that at home from your "life partner". If I compare the majority of my wimpy teachers with my RSM I know who was the man and who were the drips (Hint: it was the chap with confirmed bayonet kills, not the bloke with a face that made my girlfriend's cats litter box look like Monet's 'garden at Giverny', leather patches on his jacket and dandruff like a 40 centimetre "Dump" on St Moritz. The RSM was smarter too.
"The character of a soldier is high. They who stand forth the foremost in danger, for the community, have the respect of mankind. An officer is much more respected than any other man who has as little money. In a commercial country, money will always purchase respect. But you find, an officer, who has, properly speaking, no money, is every where well received and treated with attention. The character of a soldier always stands him in good stead."Dr Samuel Johnson, a man who wrote books rather than just highlighting them on an overhead projector.
If there is something wrong with Britain's body politic, it is creatures like Dawn Primarolo. Let's start with her good point: She's unprincipled. A former CND activist, she voted for trident's renewal mostly because her position in the government depends on her not having ideas of her own. A good thing too. If people like Dawn, whose "training" for politics was a degree in social science from Bristol poly, were allowed to think for themselves, we'd be in a right mess. As a "former" left-winger turned new-labour loyalist she'd be voting for 3 day weeks, cavorting trades unionists, and industrial planning, were she not told by her betters (yes even Gordon Brown is better than her) what to do. About the only interesting thing to happen to her on the way up was sexual harassment by John Reid. This incident, apparently put her off drinking. I imagine it had the same effect on him.
A spell at the treasury saw her overseeing child tax credits, which in Primarolo-world are "a great success", but her tenure saw civil servants walk out, and the Treasury select committee suggested she had "lost control" of her department. Thousands of the poorest people in the land face a bureaucratic struggle of Kafkaesque proportions to beg the Government for a bit of the money they shouldn't have been relieved of in the first place.
Her climb up the greasy pole has finally led her to the exalted hight of minister for public health, where she can exercise every nannying, vindictive, authoritarian instinct, in her understanding of our best interests, naturally. She's led the charge against the "scourge" of middle class "binge" drinkers (that's half a bottle of plonk of an evening to you or me). She's acted as cheerleader for innumerable petty revenue raising masquerading as public health measures. Her latest wheeze in this position is to remove cigarettes from pubs and ban shops from displaying them for sale. When discussing this on Radio 4, she came across as smug, hectoring and patronising. She actually said "it's for the children": the last refuge of the Daily Mail totalitarian.
When, oh when will Labour stop promoting people like this to parliament? She's never done anything outside the bubble of left-wing politics. She's married to a Trades union official. She went to a poly to read social science. She's incompetent, patronising, ignorant, illiberal and fucking ugly. She's got a voice like a tin bucket being pissed into - and that's when she thinks she's being measured and reasonable.
One suspects that if it weren't for her genitalia, she'd never make it to parliament. So few women put themselves forward, that if you think 50:50 is an ideal, you've got to accept what you get, no matter how unprepossessing. This tokenism means that you've got non-entities like Primarolo running your country. You've laws passed because people who've no concept of unforeseen consequences and no experience of business think it might be a good idea. That's why a new law has been passed every day for a decade and the tax code is an order of magnitude longer and more complex than it was in 1997.
Yes, Dawn, it would be better if people didn't smoke cigarettes, or drink too much or have sex at 13 to spawn vast hordes of bastards, or fight, or take drugs. But they will continue to do so, whether or not you and your vicious band of left-wing nanny-state authoritarians legislate or not. All you can do is make peoples lives harder and more miserable by taking away things they like and making them pay through the nose, though they can ill afford it.
Why don't you make our lives better by fucking off and dying you appalling bitch?
Saturday, 22 March 2008
David Cameron has encountered criticism for going through a red light on his Bike.
Well, as crimes go, it's got to be the most widely broken of any, and if everyone breaks the law, another example is the 70mph motorway speed limit, then the law is an ass and should be changed. The difference between these two widely flouted laws is the reaction of motorists, who get right on their high horses.
"the law applies to cyclists as well as motorists", they bleat.
They will cite "safety" as the reason for their ire, but cyclists know that the real reason is envy. Sitting in traffic, watching cyclists whiz towards their destination, crossing the red light whose sequence ken has ensured has grossly disproportionate time allowed for pedestrians, meaning the junction is usually empty, with four queues sitting impotently behind red lights, most motorists wish they could do the same. They sit there in their boxes, unable to move, seething in hypocritical indignation as cyclists do what they wish so badly they could do themselves.
The most dangerous point, when cycling in town is when the lights change Cyclists, whos'e start is sometimes unstable, can bring the inexperienced cyclist into the path of vehicles, who are accelerating hard, oblivious to the danger they cause to people they may not have even seen. It is more dangerous to wait therefore for the lights to change than it is to look, and go before the lights change. The two deaths I have seen are inexperienced cyclists being hit by buses or lorries turning left into the path of the cyclist. In both occasions, the cyclist was obeying the law of the road, and would have been hundreds of yards away if they hadn't. In both the occasions I was knocked off, the cause was an aggressive twat in a BMW (it's always a fucking BMW) overtaking me then turning sharply left. Going through red lights had nothing to do with it. In all my years of running red lights, I have neither caused myself or any other road user any danger.
For all the motorists who scream that cyclists don't get prosecuted for flouting the law, neither do the thieves who openly vandalise if they can't steal, and fence what they can, openly on Brick Lane's sunday market. Insurance! What about insurance? Well the penalty for causing an accident on a bike is a broken wrist or worse. And in 2 decades of cycling, I've never accidentally caused damage to a motor vehicle, and the only pedestrian I've hit stepped off the pavement into a cycle lane on the King's road without looking and deserved everything - all 15 stone - of what she got.
What damage can a cyclist do if, being aware of and giving way to those who have right of way, crosses junctions if it is safe to do so? Clearly the responsibility for this judgement should be with the individual cyclist. If he gets it wrong, he'll end up in traction, so no further legal sanction is necessary. The law should reflect this: red lights should be advisory for cyclists. This means they should be able to turn left and cross junctions where safe.
Some of the criticism of cyclists is justified. Cycling on the pavement is unacceptable, but is concentrated in a couple of demographics (If you've lived in London, you know who I mean). If you're a pedestrian, and this behaviour pisses you off, just clothes-line the cunts. For you non-rugby players, a clothes line is an illegal form of straight-arm tackle where, if the ref is looking the other way, you swing your fore-arm into the throat of the oncoming winger (or cyclist). It is very effective. Cycling without lights is asking for trouble. I disagree with Boris about the acceptability of cycling with a mobile strapped to your ear (he's for, I'm against), but then he would think I'm a Lycra road nazi. In any case, we see eye to eye on the issue of cyclist-crushers.
The Law is an ass and needs to reflect the reality of the experience of cycling in London, rather than the chippy vindictiveness of motorists. Yes. Prosecute cyclists for dangerous behaviour, but not for keeping themselves out of harm's way.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
The benefits system takes around a third of Government managed expenditure. Do you ever wonder where it is going?
You got one thing right, Natalie.
“I’d like to do a job if I was capable of doing it,” Natalie says, “but while I’m on the methadone and all that, I have to go there daily and collect it, and that prevents me from doing anything, really. I have to go there at 1pm every day and take my methadone, so I can’t do nothing, really.”
“I can sew and I like computers, but they never give you a chance. They don’t give a shit about you. They think that you’re a dirty, lowlife cunt.”
Go read the whole thing over at Liberal conspiracy... That's the lifestyle you're subsidising.
Today's reading comes from the Fourteenth chapter of the book of Jeremiah verses 8-10
 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our forward passes are many; we have sinned against thee.Here endeth the lesson.
 O the hope of England, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth the ball over repeatedly - even against Scotland?
 Why shouldest thou be as a man astonished, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O MARTIN, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.
 Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained from idle hoofing of the ball downfield, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.
I've had some insane comments on my blog, but the recent lengthy cut 'n paste job by "Anonymous" on this post really takes some beating for tin-foil hat wearing millennial lunacy.
...The gods are instruct their tools to defend open free trade, as they will to the bitter end. The gods have a script and they need economic (d)evolution sufficient to justify what they have scripted for our future, so they use their tools to adamantly defend this concept of fair trade::::The time for tariffs has long since past.It goes on, and on in this stream of conciousness fashion interminably. Really. Go read. Next time you consider calling me, or anyone else "insane" please use this as a benchmark. And Anon. If you're out there. Please. Stay away from sharp objects and get help.
Incidentally, the Chinese recalls (lead-based paint on toys, toothpaste, etc) may be in preparation for this invasion, a tactic esuring a percentage of disfavored affected will fight to the bitter end....
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
It's rare that you get financial posting on my blog, because I deal with the minutiae of markets day-in, day-out I can't be bothered to blog about it too. It's also because finance is essentially boring, or at least should be, most of the time. Some people in the markets use volatility as a proxy for risk. This is called the capital asset pricing model, the problem with which is it's total bollocks. Volatility is instead a proxy for how interesting the markets are. On the FTSE we have not yet had an intra-day range of less than 1% in 2008 the markets have been absurdly volatile.
A question people seem to be answering in various articles on the subject of the "sub prime crash" as which this crisis will inevitably go down in the books, is "to which previous financial crisis is this similar?"
A lot of people say 1929, when 3000 banks went bust. I don't think Bernanke is making the mistake of putting insufficient liquidity into the markets, if anything he's risking triggering inflation by ineffectively cutting rates. This would cause something like the Stagflation of the 1970s, which may have been exacerbated by movements in commodities. The reason it led to a decade of unremitting economic shitness however is that Nixon reacted with wage and price controls. Even George Bush couldn't be that stupid. (Gordon Brown on the other hand...) Perhaps more apposite are the financial crises of the 1980's and 1990's which saw the turmoil end with the death of a Wall St. Firm. Continental Illinois, America's Northern Rock which went belly-up in 1984 took a decade to get off the Fed's books. Drexel Burnham Lambert's collapse in 1990 signified the end of the Junk bond bonanza but was brought down by shoddy business practices. Perhaps even more exact is the failure of Long Term Capital Management, which went to the great dealing screen in the sky in 2000 following the failure of its derivative arbritage model to cope with the Russian Debt default of 1998. Apparently one of the central assumptions of the model, designed by Nobel Laureates no less, was "Governments do not default". Extraordinary!
The same assumption was made by people who invested in bonds backed by 120% negative amortization mortgages of the trailer trash who took them out. As a result, one of the firms most laden with this "toxic debt" has gone under. Great. The liability has been unloaded to the fed, but the only people to lose mega bucks are the shareholders of Bear Stearns. That is as it should be. For all the glee on the left who are busy masturbating into their morning stars over news of bankers losing money, this is free market capitalism's creation destruction cycle in action. This is why free market capitalism is better than state control: firms get it right or die. It's the natural process underpinning evolution, and it works. Most of us parasites in the city are comfortable with losing our jobs once in a while*. Shit happens, and if you can't take a joke you shouldn't be in the game.
I leave you with Gordon Gecko's famous speech in Wall Street. Oliver Stone thought he was creating a monster. I think we rather like the cut of Gecko's Jib
*Three times, if you need to know.
The signs that the bottom of the market are near are when headlines talk of "a new wall street crash" and "Depression". A major investment bank goes bust, and the market rallies after the bad news. The Dow Jones actually finished in positive territory yesterday. Never mind that as a price weighted index, this number is not worth the binary code by which it is disseminated, it remains the benchmark index and is significant. The S&P 500 by contrast was down 11.5 or 0.9%, albeit well off its lows.
Is this the start of the fightback? Too early to tell. When sentiment's this bad anything can happen. Certainly stock markets start their rallies when the news is grimmest, but we need 3 solid updays to confirm the trend. This hasn't happened since 28,29 & 30 November and one of those was almost a Doji. The news being "at its grimmest" is only ascertainable in hindsight, but the US' number 5 investment bank being sold at a tiny fraction of its book value is clearly pretty bad news. Maybe even bad enough to be cathartic. Certainly valuations on this side of the pond - no fewer than 31 companies in the FTSE 100 have prospective dividend yields over 5% - support the view that we are at, or near the bottom. These kind of valuations I last saw in 2003. Company earnings are much less volatile than share prices, which are based on an equation:
financial Numbers X market sentimentMarket sentiment is about as pessimistic as I've ever seen it, and I've been in the market since 2000, the first 3 years of my career were mired in deep bear markets. The difference is this one is not about grossly over optimistic forecasts on tech stocks unwinding, it's about confidence in the entire financial system.
Everything Bernanke is doing is aiming to prevent the deflationary spiral of 1929, of the type which has gripped the Japanese economy more recently, which even 0% real interest rates failed to stem. The US now, however is not Japan in 1988: The Fed will let companies fail, unlike Japan which supported banks in propping up grossly inefficient conglomerates. The US ecomomy is not mercantilist - export led, with a huge trade surplus, so the dollar doesn't matter as much to the Americans as the Yen does to the Japanese. Indeed debasing the currency is one way to deal with the national debt! Let the foreigners pay. The FOMC is meeting to discuss rates today and it seems likely that further emergency rate cuts are in order. The Old lady might follow suit. Some say this is wanton debasing of the currency; others that warding of deflationary spirals is worth any inflationary risk.
The problem the Fed faces is not the cost of credit though, but its availability. Banks are unwilling to lend to each other at any price, and are hoarding cash against liquidity crises, which without confidence rapidly become runs. That's what happened to Northern Rock, Bear Stearns and is about to happen to Lehman Brothers, whom Wall St is currently supporting. I don't think anyone knows when confidence will return (and it will, at some point). Without confidence in the banks, we're still screwed, and even 0% real interest rates will have little effect. The rally this morning looks distinctly half-arsed. Whether this is justifiable caution ahead of rate decisions or the sign of worse to come is yet to be seen.
I take heart from the fact that The US authorities managed to get a Bust Bank sorted (JP Morgan was up over 8% on news of its takeover of Bear Stearns) over a weekend, which compares favourably with the shower of economic illiterates which so catastrophically allowed Northern Rock to linger like a leper, spreading disease for several months. The end that no-one in the Labour party could countenance was someone making money by brokering a good deal. Better the tax-payer lose badly than someone win which shows the Labour party for what it is.
I anticipate a raft of comments from bears saying "I told you so" and predicting doom and financial melt down. My only consolation is people using derivatives to short the market tend to get fucked really badly when the sentiment change happens, whereas long-term long only equity still generates the income from dividends, and if your investment view is decades, as any sensible investor's is, you'll win in the end. I'll enjoy the trader's squeals when they inevitably get it wrong and I'll enjoy spending the remaining cash, when the market finally bottoms.
Saturday, 15 March 2008
Well the boyos did it... which means Keatonmask will be insufferable. Despite my experience of Wales being mainly Sennybridge, which distinguishes itself by being the wettest place in the UK. When it fails to stop raining for the entire week and you're living in a ditch it can cause one to fall out of love with any county. Nevertheless I was rooting for Wales.
Scotland met Mr Eugenides' low expetations by losing in Rome, and England proved that they are capable of putting a pass to hand in a thorough demolition of Ireland. I wouldn't want to be Ireland or Scotland coach this evening....
Friday, 14 March 2008
I thought the Labour "Government" had lost its capacity to shock me in its attitude towards we unfortunate serfs, but in the Budget debate the Leader of Her Majesty's loyal opposition pointed out that Britain was enduring the "highest tax burden in history". Ed Balls shouted "So What". As I pointed out at the time, this sums up Labours attitude. In the hours since, that comment has sat with me and the more I think about it, the more profoundly disturbing I find it. In those two words are summed up everything that is wrong with politics.
Devil's Kitchen reacted with a beautiful, sweary rant, Guido gave us this:
but I am still numb.
I can console myself that he may have cost his "Government" the next election. I am pleased to think that a single, ill-considered heckle will come back to haunt him should Ball's climb up the greasy pole reach the dizzy hights of Leader of the Labour party. Any election campaign which features this oleaginous bug-eyed creep in any prominent position will see this comment plastered over billboards and blogs the length and breadth of the UK, and I'm sure he knows it. I hope the realisation hurts more than the endless tortures of DK's fevered imagination.
What shocks me is not that it reveals his cavalier attitude towards other peoples money, which it does, but it also reveals the contempt for democracy at the heart of the system he and others have been building for the last decade.
Which is why I despair: It is becoming clear that politics is becoming more and more technocratic, the managerialist fantasy that if only you give them more power, they will make everything right is infantilising the people and preventing them relying on themselves and their families. As Government reaches ever deeper into our lives they create a need which wasn't there before, atomising society and breaking interpersonal links. With the state taking the families' role, society looks evermore like Lord of the Flies. Despite the state interfering with everything you do at work or play, the process by which that intrusion is managed gets ever further away. Whitehall is taking power off local government, which is itself losing power to Brussels. Of course the people are disengaging with politics, because the electorate is ignored. Only single issue nut-cases are listened to, because they do not attack the fundamental interests of the system, so disengagement from party politics is a rational response to the fact that the Local Government is merely a delivery mechanism for decisions at the centre. Whitehall and Westminster fulfil the same function in the European Union and the European Parliament cannot influence policy, which comes from the Commission. Nothing you vote for will change very much, and that's the way our masters like it.
The people are to be denied their say on the Lisbon treaty, and are unlikely to get a referendum on the Union. So the European Union will continue its march towards bureaucratic tyranny, calmly riding over the wishes of the people in order to further some grand vision of federalism. People who stand in the way are to be brushed aside without even the decency of due process. They are to be punished for disagreeing, and described - apparently without irony or awareness of historical precedent - as mentally ill. But it's no better in our Parliament. Its the fact that Hansard now reports Ed Balls comment as "so weak" indicating that this Government is now even prepared to Airbrush history in order to further whatever it is this Government is trying to do.
What's even more depressing is that there doesn't seem to be an idea at the heart of this shameless, undemocratic sham. As Walter says "say what you will about the tenets of National Socialism, at least its an ethos". The European union appears to exist solely to gather power - essentially nihilist. It exists to exist - which is apparently a good thing in the eyes of the Bureaucracy - a priori, and in and of itself. The people of Europe, however remain to be convinced. Likewise, The Labour party, having abandoned principle in order to get elected now has nothing but power to aim for. They are taking your money and spending it not because they thing it is the right thing to do for the country - they have no idea what is good for the country - but because it will help them get elected. Hospitals are closed in Tory constituencies rather than labour ones. Money is sent more Generously to Labour councils than Tory ones, in order that the swinging tax hike is delivered by your local Conservative association. The state salariat is pumped full of Labour-voting drones who's main purpose is to secure funding for more Labour-Voting drones to be employed. Everything the government does is a shameless bid for continued power.
It's the tawdryness and lack of vision which is so disturbing. Whatever Labour says about the ennui of the electorate, their policies are the root cause, and I don't think they care about such tiresome flim-flam such as "checks and balances". Just because the death camps haven't appeared yet is no reason to give the government the powers necessary to set them up "just in case" of course. Just because this government has no agenda, a subsequent one which does may be even worse.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Should defined benefit schemes exist at all?
Pension legislation exists to encourage people to save for their retirement. Although they are considered the "gold standard" pension, defined contribution or Final Salary schemes have some serious drawbacks. They are a risk to company stability, now the unfunded pension liabilities appear on the balance sheet. As they represent an obligation for someone else to meet, for decades, they could cost wages and jobs to existing employees, potentially putting businesses under, if actuarial calculations are wrong. This is why there are few remaining in the private sector which are open to new employees. They also create perverse incentives to the employed. Defined benefit schemes are the reason we've got mandatory retirement ages and other outrages against individual liberty. People stay in professions - the military and the Civil Service are particularly prone, in order to accumulate pension entitlement. This is rent seeking rather than adding value, preventing people's redeployment to other, more productive areas.
Defined benefit Pension funds are forced to buy fixed income assets especially at times of high volatility in order to match assets to liability. This forces pension funds to eschew their best investment weapon: their long time horizon. As many trustees use a capital asset pricing model, which equates volatility with risk, they are forced to sell equities in favour of fixed income at times when the former may offer best value. There is one major problem with the volatility-based measure of risk. It's bollocks. Thus when shares look most risky (i.e. now), the spreads on bonds goes up, and the yield available on them goes down. The pension fund is forced to reduce the return on its investment, by selling equities and buying bonds. In addition individuals and institutions which are genuinely risk averse are denied proper returns because of the inverted yield curve caused by unnatural, legislation-mandated demand for long-dated gilts. The fact this enables the government to borrow cheaply at the expense of investors and pensioners of course, has nothing to do with it....
Financial products based on the direct ownership of assets, which have the virtue of simplicity are typically the ones which survive financial crises. Any product which involves gearing, capital protection or financial engineering, there's usually some risk you've not considered. Defined benefit schemes are no different.
The Defined benefit pension is a big risk to the Pensioner, who is betting on the company he worked for and the competence of the trustees they appoint. If you've worked for a company for decades and rely on its pension when you retire, what happens to your income if the company goes bust, or the pension fund is badly managed: You become poor, unless the fund is fully funded and the actuaries have made no mistake. What about positive investment returns? You've no upside! The pensioner endures total risk and excess returns are spent by the company who enjoy "payment holidays". In money purchase schemes, so long as you don't make funding commitments based on investment returns (eg stop funding if your fund is doing well or panic when the market falls and stop funding) you are very unlikely to be left destitute. This is especially true if there were no legally enforceable retirement ages. If your income will be insufficient when you retire, you should be able to work for another year, reducing the cost of an annuity and increasing the funding available. Of course the legislation allows firms to fire at will over 65 so at present this simple solution is unavailable to most.
On a grand scheme, the entire country faces a huge unfunded public sector pension liability which is to be met by future tax-payers. Gee thanks, baby boomers! First we need to allow those who wish to work longer to do so, then we need to scrap the civil service superannuation scheme. But before we do that, we need to strip MPs of their gold plated pension, so they face the same shit as everyone else. This is a boil which needs to be lanced, now.
12:35 If the badger faced sock puppet says "stability" one more time, I shall have to assassinate him and his boss.
12:36 He's taking credit for a Decade of Stabilty and suggested that GDP per head has grown to "second only to that of the USA", without mentioning that disposable income after tax has fallen in real terms. His Government has taken all that GDP per head, and more. Cunt.
12:39 Apparently inflation is not a risk. I don't believe him. do you? CPI is the Wrong measure....
12:40 Apparently the UK is not broke. Apparently the UK is well placed to weather this down turn. No hole in the budget here. No growth in borrowing... not me guv... look the other way.
12:41 "Given the fundamental strength of our Government finances"... shameless. It really is shameless. Watch the PSBR forecast raised to £43 bn. I doubt he'll meet even this target he's talking about. He knows no-one will care.
12:46 Defence - "the longest period of expansion in the Defence budget in a generation". Bollocks. The budget was cut, as commitments receded. We're now fighting two wars... He's denying the forces are underfunded and his crocodile tears of "tribute" will not buy extra choppers for the 'stan. Cunt.
12:51 You do not "invest" in public services. You spend.
12:52 I'm bored by this tedious, relative child poverty target. It's meaningless...
12:54 David Miliband is nodding like a donkey giving a blow-job
12:55 He's just spent 70 million of Private companies' money. (Utility social tariffs, in case you're wondering)
12:57 Committed to a "stable business tax regime" unless you're an AIM investor, Private equity fund or a Non Domiciled individual or pension fund.
13:00 The Chancellor has just made an unconstitutional promise, binding the next parliament to his bizzare Non-Dom scheme. Twat.
13:02 by 2011 "every school is and 'improving school'", apparently. Does he realise how damaging this tedious micro-management is for all sectors of public and private life?
13:05 Doubling money spent on transport links. Apart from the roads naturally. Road pricing is still on the cards. The motorist will pay, and receive nothing. Plus ca Change...
13:08 £8Bn on 70,000 new affordable homes for key workers (in Labour's client state). He's offered them a deferral to their stamp duty too. How nice for them. I'm paying for it.
13:10 Long term, fixed rate mortgages will be encouraged - in order that we can eventually join the Euro, despite the fact they will inevitably cost more than a short term fixed rate and floating rate mortgages. Of course he didn't say this...
13:11 Climate change .... blah... blah.... tax.... target... blah. Go further.... blah... committee... 80%.... blah.... Everyone must play part... eco fascism...blah... totalitarianism...
13:14 Plastic bag tax... is there anything more symbolic of this government's pathetic micro management for short-term headlines than this, feeble, counter productive policy? Eco Weenies (environmental charities) will benefit from this largesse....
13:16 Showroom tax on cars... pointless, gesture politics.
13:17 No Smoking day.... 11p on a pack. 14p on wine, 6p on a pint and 3p on cider. Miserable bastard. 6% over inflation, All for child poverty... so that's ok.
13:20 Hypothecated taxes don't work, so why should hypothecated payments. Winter fuel payments should be reflected in a higher pension
Conclusion: A total non event. The economic forecasts are not worth the paper they're written on, but he hasn't really made things any worse. In that, he's better than his predecessor.
David Cameron: "the highest tax burden in our history"
Ed Balls: "So what"
I think that sums up this government's attitude. I hate them all so very, very much.
A man who has spent a career roasting financiers to please a baying mob, on the principle that everyone's a criminal if you look hard enough, is hoisted by his own petard. This is almost as much fun as Ted Haggards Crystal Meth and Sodomy binges.
"Risky" sexual practices were involved. I mean how risky are we talking? This is America, where a blow-job is scandalous, so I doubt we're in the Mark Oaten league. The hypocrite probably just wanted bareback anal. Probably without lube. He's probably wishing he married someone less frigid. But then, if he had, she wouldn't be taking Hillary's advice and doing her Tammy Wynette impression right now.
Enjoy your fall, you bastard. I'll enjoy your landing.
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
Today's reading comes from the Second book of Kings
And they said every one to his fellow, Come, and let us cast lots, that we may know for whose cause this evil is upon us. So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah Balshaw.Here endeth the lesson.
When the sailors discovered that it was Jonah Balshaw who was the reason for their dilemma, they immediately bombarded him with questions. Then said they unto him, Tell us, we pray thee, for whose cause this evil is upon us; What is thine occupation? and whence comest thou? what is thy country? and of what people art thou?
And I said unto them, I am an Lancashireman residing in Gloucestershire, and I fear the high ball, the up and under, the pass. I fear the coach, which hath maketh me the luckiest bastard ever to wear the England shirt despite my repeated failures at international level.
With thanks to Rev Chris Gallagher....
Monday, 10 March 2008
I have seen some shit performances by the England "rugby" team, but this time I think having the England football team at Murrayfield might have actually led to a better result.
A classic case of thinking that the match was won before the kick-off, indicating a severe lack of Leadership both on and off the field. Ashton is clearly not up to the Job and clearly must go. If only for repeatedly picking Balshaw, probably the least popular man in English rugby. It is fine to be wrong when everyone else is wrong, but to persist in picking someone who is widely regarded as a liability when eveyone is telling you not to do so so smacks of hubris. It's not as if he's the only choice at full-back.
Well done Scotland and Go the Boyos for their Grand slam decider next week!
Thursday, 6 March 2008
The Nameless one sums up the "liberal" "Democrats" and to what extent they've made cunts of themselves in recent days, and exactly to what extent anyone gives a shit:
But let us always dream of the Liberal Democrat disappearing (even further) up their own arseholes, and vanishing altogether, leaving the way clear for a genuinely radical third party. It is a long shot, but it is worth hoping for...Go read the whole thing. It really is the most glorious stuff.
Well the commons has shown itself to be at once a gutless poodle and able to accurately reflect just how little Joe public actually care about matters EU.
Now I loathe the EU and all its works (except schengen), but I have always been ambivalent about the more extreme withdrawalist position, whose arguments about sovereignty have always been bogus. The EU is trying to be a superstate, but it will fail, because there is no Demos. People will remain resolutely German or French or Italian, whatever their politicians say. Serbs are still Serbs despite Tito. Any attempt by the EU to create supranational regions like Arc Manche in which I am banging this essay out, will be met with an unstifled Yawn by people who have more important things to worry about, like paying their taxes. If the Politicians go far enough for the EU to register with voters as a primary concern, then they need to be afraid because their mendacity might become a cause to see eurocrats swing from lamp posts, should the EU prevent a democratically elected parliament from ever exercising its will.
Sure, the EU makes most of our laws, but when the alternative is a Bansturbating Labour government, what's the difference? The public's attitude is "a plague on both your houses". And They're right.
Now, should the people of Britain decide that withdrawal is what they want, it will happen, whether or not this constitution is passed by parliament. After all, who is going to stop us? One parliament cannot bind another. All withdrawal requires is political will. What the eurosceptics need to do is create the momentum. What they need to avoid doing is scaring the horses. It is too easy for federasts to paint Eurosceptics as extremists, and that is the one thing no British electorate will ever vote for.
Maybe this vote in the commons is a good thing. Perhaps the retrospective referendum on the Constitution that a Cameron government will be forced to offer to appease angry backbenchers will become an "in or out" referendum. Perhaps the people will be sufficiently pissed off to go for it! Or perhaps the referendum will come later. But it is coming.
This Parliamentary treason is not the end of the UK as an independent nation. It may indeed be the point at which the European Union over reached itself, and laid the foundation for its own destruction. The federasts will scream "little Englander" at me for saying so, but whingeing about nationalism till you're blue in the face doesn't make it wrong to be against a Kafkaesque multinational bureaucracy. In the halcyon days before the First world war, there was global free trade, without a UN to regulate it. That's what I wish to return to - Pax Britannica. NAFTA, the EU and Other regional trade blocks merely get in the way of an economic imperative. But that's economics, and since when has the EU been about that? Politically then, the lesson of history is that Multi-national entities do not last. In Fact, if the peoples of Europe ever start to notice "Europe", it won't be in a positive way. That's why I'm optimistic the EU will not be around in a decade, and that's why I'm not fussed if the Labour and "Liberal" "Democrat"parties betray us. Did you really expect any different?
Wednesday, 5 March 2008
This time society can sleep safely in their beds knowing the scourge of Hopscotch has been dealt with. Hooray for our brave boys in blue, on whom our glorious new Labour masters have seen fit to grant absolute authority.
Gavin Whenman demonstrates the shocking mendacity of the "Liberal" "Democrats" suggesting that their pathetic antics and mental contortions over the question of referendums is in some way principled.
Go and point out to him that perhaps this is why they only get 15% or so of the vote. Everyone else sees through their cheap, transparent position.
As a euro-fanatic party, they do not want a referendum on the treaty of Lisbon, which they know they'd lose heavily. However they promised one in their manifesto, and knowing that an in or out referendum is not on the cards (and there's therefore no risk of the public will prevailing in this instance) they seek to try and get round this deceit by advocating just such a referendum on the question of whether or not this country should remain in the EU.
As it happens I would relish the chance to vote to tell the EU to bugger off, but first let's reject the constitution once and for all.
Would the Egyptian gentleman, or gentlemen who found this blog repeatedly yesterday using the google search term "very young fuck" please very young fuck off.
it pointed to this, recent and entirely unpornographic post.
That is all.
Tuesday, 4 March 2008
I was bored and depressed watching the market go south for the 5th successive day, so I went on a blog ramble. Via Chris Dillow if found this post called "I like the state, the state is Great" (to which I was going to post a response, along the lines that all problems he mentioned are caused by the welfare state - get rid of that and most of the problems people care about go away: Immigration and crime in particular). But I noticed an earlier post: this, which led me to an essay entitled libertarianism makes you stupid - to which I respond yes, but nowhere near as much as Collectivism.
Now, I'm a Conservative Libertarian and as such I'm not doctrinaire. I'm a minarchist - one who believes that the state is an utterly incompetent agent which - consisting as it does of people spending other peoples money on behalf of other people - will naturally buy shit products and services at inflated prices. On this basis the state should do as little as possible, and when it does need to do something, it should act as a purchaser. It may be an incompetent purchaser, but it would be an even worse provider because services would inevitably become in thrall to producer capture, and would be measured like the British NHS by inputs rather than outcomes.
In his essay, Seth Finkelstein makes a number of assertions. He lays into the "initiation of force" principle, which underpins all libertarian thought, suggesting that a doctrinaire libertarian will define "initiation of force" or fraud as "anything of which he disapproves". He's probably right, but as I've never met a doctrinaire Libertarian, and most libertarians couch their beliefs firmly within reality, initiation of force stands as a nice basis for a logical evaluation of right and wrong. I would contrast this belief in an individuals right to go unmolested about his business with the grosser initiations of force implicit in communism or other collectivist philosophies. The extreme position is a straw man.
Where I really start to diverge from Seth, is when he says
"While you might be told Libertarianism is about individual rights and freedom, fundamentally, it's about business. The words "individual rights", in a civil-society context, are often Libertarian-ese for "business"."I see where he's coming from. Many self described libertarians are cheerleaders for big business - but they're ignorant, and often take the position on the basis that"if it pisses lefties off, it is therefore probably right". I, and most genuine libertarians however believe big business to be an agent of the state, which helps huge multi-nationals by making the regulatory playing field so complex and expensive to navigate that in many of the most profitable business areas - in particular finance and manufacturing - only large bureaucracies are capable of competing. Without excessive regulation, "caveat emptor" would see personal relationships spring to the fore - swinging the pendulum of power back to the individual provider of labour and services and away from bureaucratic tyranny. Big business is, from an individual empowerment point of view, merely an arm of the oppressive state.
So big business rails against regulation alongside libertarians, but not as fervently as small business organisations. Indeed the biggest businesses in the UK are often providing most of their services to the state - much of the construction sector under PFI (which is in itself an argument for the state as a lousy purchaser) or have a government guaranteed oligopoly. Example? British Airways: Legislation protects BA's Heathrow landing slots, preventing proper competition in the lucrative transatlantic market, where they make most of their profit. Look how much fares have come down in the relatively unregulated European short-haul market in comparison, which is dominated by businesses which did not exist 20 years ago. Regulation entrenches the status quo. Even the trains are an example of how not to do state intervention: It was crap under British Rail and it's better, but costs the tax payer more under a ludicrously tight regulation which prevents businesses matching demand. Thus state intervention often brings the worst of both worlds: Expensive finance and public sector work ethics.
Above all, though the libertarian is against direct subsidy and protectionism - most grossly the CAP and US farm subsidies. Most libertarians are also against "fair-trade" too, on sensible economic grounds. Get rid of the CAP and there would be no need for Fair Trade! So there is a consistency in the Libertarian position to big business and business in general - we are for some of the things they are for, but ambivalent to the corporation. We are against legislation in general, whatever its motivation, because of the unintended consequences.
Seth then goes on to suggest in some length that Libertarians are against civil rights legislation, and that this is barmy. I disagree about the barmy.
"One of the seamiest and ugliest aspects of Libertarianism is its support of turning back the civil-rights clock to pre-1964 legal situation for businesses. "I am not making this up". They're very explicit about it:Yup. Guilty as charged, but let's look at this again. In the days of blatant racial discrimination, where was the initiation of force? Surely the police and other agents of the state enforcing "whites only" drinking fountains are initiating the force, not the Black man drinking at it. There is a general dislike by libertarians of laws and that includes discriminatory ones. So the true libertarian would have been arguing against Jim Crow laws, just as he argues against affirmative action. Seth is good enough to point out that Libertarians are not racists, though I have seen racists use Libertarian thought to cover their views. What fundamentally changed was not the legislative framework, but society. Racists, frankly lost the argument, and a good thing too! It is now unacceptable to discriminate and a white-owned business which had a sign saying "no Blacks, no dogs, no Irish" would be unlikely to get white business either - certainly not mine. Perhaps the laws were necessary in the deep south of the USA to kick start the process, but perhaps the argument was already lost by the racists by the time the laws came in. I don't think anti-discrimination laws were ever needed on this side of the pond.Consequently, we oppose any government attempts to regulate private discrimination, including choices and preferences, in employment, housing, and privately owned businesses. The right to trade includes the right not to trade -- for any reasons whatsoever; the right of association includes the right not to associate, for exercise of the right depends upon mutual consent.That's "rights" according to Libertarianism. Whites-only lunch counters, "No Jews or dogs" hotels, "we don't serve your kind here", "No Irish need apply", "This is man's job", etc. All this is a "right of association" in Libertarian theology. "
There is no doubt that positive discrimination remains an abomination, and anyone who thinks otherwise is no better than the Klansman he despises.
Because I believe that state action is fraught with unintended consequences, I'm still happy to say freedom of association should be an absolute right, which means if you choose not to associate with people of different races, you should be able to. However the flip side of this is that if someone chooses to sack you because you're a nasty bigot, then there should be no recourse to law. A right to hold an opinion is not a right to hold that opinion without consequences. As such where individual cost benefit analysis of expressing an opinion boils down to whether racism or anti-racism is prevalent in society. Anti-racists can and should take an active part in that argument. Laws, however are often counter productive: with the remaining racists driven into an underground movement, they inevitably become more extreme. Here the initiation of force by the police drives people away from the relatively harmless frequenting of whites-only bars into a more dangerous sullen resentment of a conspiracy to keep the white man (specifically him) down, which permeates racist literature.
Seth goes on:
"The fanatical opposition of Libertarians to anti-discrimination laws also illuminates a crucial aspects of the stupid-making effects of the philosophy. They can never admit even one instance of government intervention doing good overall for society as opposed to the effects of the market."Because there are few examples where the states action did not have unintended consequences. Many anti-libertarians in the UK would point to the Welfare state or the NHS as "good" action by the state. Perhaps the finest rebuttal of this is "the welfare state we're in" by James Bartholemew, which argues that these institutions are responsible for most of the problems of modern society, which Theodore Darymple backs up with some anecdotal artillery. The NHS is certainly not a good argument against a libertarian position! The examples of positive interference by the state given in Seth's essay are noticeable by their absence. Instead he seeks to elaborate his point with a "dispatches from libertopia". It's easy to knock over ideas which you've set up for the purpose. Yet again - the straw man.
Finally, he suggests that there has never been a Libertopia. I disagree. There has been one and in it's day it was the richest, freest and most powerful society the world has ever seen. One where poor young men could, with luck and talent make it to the highest offices of the land and do so from extremely humble birth. Liberal Britain - a country which eschewed a standing army for centuries as a foreign and tyrannical imposition on the populus was very nearly libertarian. The state existed to defend its borders (helped by a handy bit of sea) and little else. Even its empire had to be nationalised from private business! It is sad that in an attempt to create a land fit for heroes in the aftermath of the twentieth century's bloody wars, increasing state involvement in education and poor relief has sucked the spiritual and economic strength of a once great nation.
I forget who it was who said (of the third world) "if you want to be a good country in which to live, don't do war and don't do socialism", but it's true of the UK too. Libertopia died in the mud and blood of Flanders in 1914-18 and I for one yearn for its return.
Monday, 3 March 2008
Abolish Income tax?
If there is to be a Libertarian party (director of communications - DK), why don't they start with some policies which might have some public traction? Like repealing oppressive legislation such as the criminal offence of "failure to kneel before someone in a high vis vest with intent to be free", or Being "in possession of a beard with intent to be Muslim". Maybe they could suggest that 24 hours is quite long enough for the police to hold anyone without charge, Thank you very much. If they are set on tax, then abolishing inheritance tax or VAT or SDLT or getting rid of the ridiculous fiction that is National insurance. Hell even advocating a 30% flat tax with some form of CBI would have been considered radical, but sensible. Abolishing income tax makes them seem off the map. The reaction to this, their first policy is going to be
Hahhhahahhhahhahhhahhahhowever well thought out it is. And it isn't even well thought out: Sure, it's iniquitous that someone on £6,000 a year pays any income tax at all: this is better sorted by raising the thresholds over time. The announcement points out, people at the margins of tax raise very little and cost a lot to administer. This is true whether the margin is at £6,000 or £60,000. And a replacement: local sales tax is ridiculous - tax competition between counties would be extremely unpopular. Just look at the reactions to "postcode lotteries" in health and education, imagine what it would be like if there were major differences in the cost of living - Labour shit-holes would have high taxes and the poorest would be unable to go to the next town. Think "Poll-tax" but with extra anger.
Government, even a minarchist one acting in a "night watchman" role needs money. True, the current government takes too much by far, but income tax is widely accepted as "Fair" by the vast majority of people who pay it, even me. It is one of the least damaging taxes on the economy. I just think it catches people far too low down the income level and any marginal rate over 30% is distorting of incentives. Thus I am a advocate of raising thresholds and cutting spending.
Firing hundreds of thousands of civil servants, however is not going to win you votes, nor is the inevitable mass strike action. A hiring freeze across the civil service is a much more painless way to cut headcount.
By all means abolish the Potato Junta, and the Milk mob and any other snigger worthy quango you can find. Cease funding regional development agencies, scrap the DTI, Stop paying the Euro-tythe, but for the Libertarian party to lead with a policy which will be derided by even people who describe themselves as libertarians as "barmy" is... well, Barmy.
That's why I'm still a Tory, despite occasional lunacy: they remain the least bad option.
I know everyone's going to be mentioning this, but really. What's the point of publishing a manifesto if you're intent on ignoring it? What's the point of democracy if we cannot get an idea of what our leaders will do once in power? What is the point of democracy if the settled will of the British people - that no further powers should be ceded to Brussels - is ignored in such a flagrant way?
Listen, politicos: We, the peoples of Europe, do not want the constitution or its bastard offspring, and have demonstrated this at every turn. If we cannot influence our leaders by demonstrations, leaflets, or by holding ballots with higher turnouts than local government elections; if you are not amenable to the reasonable argument that you promised a referendum and should therefore deliver one, and (this is vital:) respect the result, what can we do but string you fuckers up? Because you are close to leaving us no option!
Either we're a kafkaesque bureaucracy masquerading as a democracy, in which case, how long before we look like the Soviet Union? Or the will of the Demos actually counts for something, in which case just drop the Treaty of Lisbon, or at least give us a chance to kick it out.
It is up to the Liberal Democrats to find a shred of decency, along with about 40 Labour MPs. Is that a Flight of Old Tamworths I see flying past?
I don't want a revolution: I just want my promised referendum and If I don't get it, I will want to see that mendacious Presbyterian fucker, Brown dangling from a gibbet, alongside the revolting shower I am forced to call a Government, with crows feasting on their eyes...
Sunday, 2 March 2008
Bored of seeing adverts for the following products?
- Debt consolidation loans
- Ladies sanitary products
Saturday, 1 March 2008
There is something wrong with British society.
We have the highest rate of Teenage pregnancy, the highest abortion rate, the greatest number of single mothers, and the greatest rate of those being teenagers in Europe, and one of the highest in the developed world. We've got a very high rate of suicide and more problem drug addicts. We drink too much, and kick each other in the head as a result. Far too many people are unemployed, and if the broadest measures are taken, this is not dissimilar to the rates of the European economies we've lambasted for being sclerotic, when they're just honest about how many people they throw onto the scrapheap. This despite being one of the richest major economies in the world. Our young stab each other with the regularity of American school spree shootings.
Basically society has become atomised.
Because of the high taxes, the wealthy feel no need to engage with those beneath them - because the poor are provided for by government. So rich people sort themselves into pockets of extreme wealth and pull up the drawbridge.
Those the rich employ are no better. Because the curse of corporatism and the tyranny of the High Vis Vest, most people have no control over their lives. This is why energy is released in a weekly spree on a Friday night: drunken violence and casual sex is the only excitement most people get.
Those who can't even get the low-paid call centre drudgery are entirely disengaged from society and sit and rot on Benefits for life. Their nihilism and sullen anger is taken out on the rest of society in the form of drunken viciousness and casual crime. Girls are encouraged to get pregnant - they are rewarded with a flat and their baby will be the only person ever to love them unconditionally. Lefties deny this is the motivation for the high rate of teenage motherhood, but this is the denial of reality. The result is the next generation of feral chavs to plague society.
Everybody takes drugs from the middle class wine drinker currently in the nanny state's cross hairs to the smack addicted single mother on a council estate, because there's nothing else to make you feel good.
The thread running through each part of society's malaise is Government action. Too much tax causes the rich to think their obligations to others less fortunate is already paid. Too many rules and too much management by an over-mighty state cause stress for the hard-working middle. Those who feel this stress most keenly, young men, get drunk and kick each other in the head every Friday. And the existence of the poor is made miserable by the skewed incentives of the welfare state.
Government action causes far more problems than it ever solves. If you work for the state, just fuck off! Leave us alone, stop taking our money and let us get on with our chosen profession without having to fill in forms for you. You politicians want to create a dynamic, happy society - Leave people alone for a bit, see what they come up with. Then leave that alone and see if it works. You're worried about the poor. The circulation of the Guardian indicates there are a lot of people who agree. If you stopped taking everyone's money, there would be enough money for private charity from the dogooders to help the poor, without the disincentives to work which permeate the welfare state. A tax cut will enable the hard-working middle to breath in the midst of government caused inflation. Perhaps without the constant tax and nannying, people will decide to do something more productive than getting rat-arsed on Friday night - resulting in less vomit and blood on the streets.
Government makes everything shit. There's a good reason why everyone thinks politicians are worthless cunts: It's the wisdom of crowds. They can see that everything politicians do is an attempt to justify their power, whereas the result of politicians' actions are felt as unintended consequences by everyone else. Politicians are the cause, not the solution to the problems of the UK.