Monday, 30 August 2010

Jack Scott is a Twat.

I've taken to trolling New Labour Boot-boy and Gordon Brown lickspittle, Grima Wormtongue Ed Balls' supporters on Twitter. Normally along the lines that if one of the myrmidons to the creepy brownite homunculus says "isn't he brilliant at fighting the cuts" I'll reply "so why is every Tory hoping he's the one to win. He's ghastly, everyone can see it, it seems, but you."

Sometimes it develops into a discussion with an interesting, if wrong person; more often, New Labourites give something away about themselves in their responses and reveal their tribal bigotry. The "cuts" are bad because the Tories are doing them. The same cuts under Labour would be "the right, tough choices for the country" or something. (There are people on the Tory side that do exactly the same - I'm talking about the sterility of tribal bigotry rather than intellectual competition).

One this morning was a case in point. The short conversation with @Jack_Scott, who describes himself as

Labour Councillor for Arbourthorne, Sheffield + Parliamentary Spokesman. CEO of the Foundation for Social Inclusion. Dad of 2, policy wonk, social entrepreneur
went something like this.
@Jack_Scott Sitting down wth Abby (2)+Lucy (1) to tell thm about #sheffield meeting wth @edballsmp - thy r writing questions.any suggestions?!

@VeryBritishDude How does Gordon Brown's creature, @edballsmp have the czhutzpah to talk economics when he and his master wrecked everything?

@Jack_Scott oh dear. Clearly about as sharp as yr pic suggests!
Now fair enough. My pic is of me at a fancy dress party at the Southwold beach Rugby tournament, which was a sober and abstemious affair; Theme: "Hello Sailor" to which I went as "Rum, Sodomy and the Lash". But still, it's a pretty weak comeback to what was, I think a fair point about Ed Ball's culpability in Government not so very long ago. So I replied:
@Jack_Scott I think that's the worst comeback I've seen on twitter. Equivalent to playground ..."YEAH? But you smell"... #debatefail
His reply is informative about Lefty Bigotry. I've had this argument many times from lefties in one form or another, and it's when I declare victory. It's the left wing equivalent to Godwin's law: I'm a stockbroker, therefore I not only caused the credit crunch, but am deeply morally suspect too. You get the impression that were they allowed to, I'd be in the first train to the re-education centre (if they're feeling charitable) or the death-camp if not. When I stop getting this argument from lefties, then maybe, just maybe the Labour movement will be ready for government*.
@VeryBritishDude how about this... You're a stockbroker... #gameover
You can almost see his smug grin as he typed this winning argument. "Haha, he's a class enemy. I'll denounce him!" What a ghastly little cunt. So I make no bones about my reasonably objectionable response. I am capable of engaging intelligently with lefties. Just not this lefty.
@VeryBritishDude and you're a creepy,bigoted new labour homunculus, who doesn't need to shave yet.
Of course to paraphrase Sir Alec Guinness in Episode IV, A New Hope. "Who's the bigger cunt, the Cunt or the cunt who follows him?" applies to Ed Balls and his vile coterie of hangers on. Lickspittles to a lickspittle to a warped and unsuitable ex leader.

I am a stockbroker. I invest people's money, and advise a way through the financial markets. I did not do any of the things - "speculation" or "short-selling" that the left wrongly blame for the crisis. I am not a "Banker" responisble for the over-lending against property, though I did benefit from a cheap, mortgage at the right time. Nor do I as a self-employed broker, a 50/50 man in the old parlance, receive a huge bonus. Though crucially I am not envious of those who do.

So... yeah, but you're a stockbroker, is the left-wing bigotry. It's a hatred of Businesses (who probably emply sweat-shop labour) or Finance (who, like cause market crashes, innit). It demonstrates the prejudices against anyone who seeks independence from state handouts. If they kenw I was self-employed they'd probably accuse me of being a tax-dodger too.

And in any case, Jack what the fuck is a "Social Entrepreneur"? 'Social' in this case, as always rendering any subsequent word meaningless.

These darkies Tories and bankers. They all look alike eh?

Friday, 27 August 2010

Punk Keynsians

A phrase coined by John Redwood which I shall be using more often to describe the deficit loonies, and especially Ed Balls, who has expunged all my recent tweets mentioning him (I spent yesterday during a computer crash of our co's systems trolling his supporters on twitter).

Anyway, Keynes believed that public spending could stimulate an economy, but only if a surplus was run during the boom. Of course that describes neither the USA nor the UK during this recession, so any 'stimulus' from massive deficits is offset by greater costs of borrowing, inflation, and the hoarding of capital against future tax rises. The deficit loonies should not be called 'Keynsians'; to do so is to damage the legacy of a great economist. The money quote from John Redwood:

In the UK Mr Ed Balls has warned that there could be an economic hurricane hitting as a result of the Coalition government’s “cuts” in public spending. In the US Ben Bernanke has pursued low interest rates and quantitative easing as the President has run very large budget deficits. Despite this, the word is that the growth reported for the second quarter of 2010 is about to be revised down substantially.

Ben and Ed have some explaining to do. Why did Germany grow the fastest of the major western economies in the second quarter, when they were running a relatively low budget deficit and announced spending cuts? Why did the Uk record reasonable growth in the second quarter when Labour had already legislated to halve the budget deficit,imposed a range of tax increases and spending cuts to capital spending and the Opposition made clear its intention to press on more rapidly with deficit reduction? Why didn’t the combination of QE and a large deficit with no immediate plan to cut it boost the US economy to the top of the pile?

Ed Balls is an idiot, and a disgrace to parliament. He called deficit spending 'investment' during the boom, and 'stimulus' during the bust when it was what it was: reckless, spendthrift lunacy for short-term party advantage.

If socialists could reconcile themselves with markets, as have the 'left-wing' countries of Scandinavia, and with sound money, without which no German would get elected, then perhaps their redistribution policies might work. But simply shouting Banzai!-like for ever more state control, top down management and ever more deficit spending means that Labour will always, always ruin the country.

Ed Balls is by far the worst of the leadership contenders. The Millibrothers are plausible, if slightly risible. Millibrother Major will probably play best in the county, Minor will better unite the Labour tribe. Balls however represents the worst of the Brown regime: top-down bullying, authoritarian, bureaucratic socialism; unleavend by humanity and compassion and motivated only by Hatred of the Tories. Labour should be ashamed that they're even considering him as an MP, let alone leader.

Ed Balls is Grima Wormtongue to Gordon Brown. If Labour is to survive as a political force, then please let it be under someone less hateful and blinkered than him.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

David Nutt solves the Alcohol problem.

Remember when Professor David Nutt stuck his head above the parapet and said that some drugs where safer than horseriding? Of course we all thought he meant that drugs should be decriminalised. What he, of course, meant was that horseriding should be banned. For our own good, of course.

It seems the good professor is quite the puritain when it comes to alcohol. So I take back the nice things I said about him. Here's his 21 point action plan for the ancient problem of people getting drunk. There's no link, because he won't allow a link here in the comments. You'll have to find his drivel yourself or if you can't be bothered, I've cut and pasted his 'ideas' here.

1. Make alcohol a national health priority: current estimates are that the damage from alcohol costs the NHS the order of £20bn per year and the violence it induces cost £7billion in police time.
From whence these estimates? Anyone admitted to A&E with any alcohol in their blood, whether or not this had anything to do with their admission, just like Road Traffic stats?
2. Tax according to alcohol content since alcohol is the dangerous drug in drinks. Everyone accepts the rationality of this between alcohol classes – e.g. sherry is taxed more than beer and less than spirits, so there is a precedent that could easily be brought into action. A can of 8% lager should cost twice that of a 4% one and 4 times that of a 2% one. This was planned by the last Labour government and the coalition missed a real opportunity to make a statement about alcohol harms by not increasing the tax in this way despite their manifesto commitment.
Why should a 4% can of lager cost twice as much as a 2% can? I can see the logic of a progressive taxation, but this would make wine, that facet of the Mediterranean cafe culture we're all supposed to emulate, prohibitively expensive. He's not thought this through.
3. Increase alcohol tax to bring the cost of alcohol in real terms back to where it was in the 1950s before the progressive rise in consumption started, i.e. gradually, say over 5 years, triple the price. All available evidence shows that the price of alcohol determines use for almost everyone with the only possible exceptions being severely dependent drinkers. The increased health burden of alcohol is largely driven by non-dependent drinkers so would be significantly reduced by an increase in price. I have estimated that the average taxpayer would save the order of £2,000 per year by the reduced costs of alcohol-related harms if we increased the price as suggested. In the case of wine drinkers, only those consuming more than several hundred bottles a year would be worse off with this scheme, and they are drinking at a dangerous level anyway.
Everything except land, gold and whores are cheaper relative to incomes than they were in the '50s. It's called 'getting richer' and it's a good thing, David. You stick to the psychopharmacology, and leave the Economics to people who understand it.
4. Stop selling strong alcohol in supermarkets; use the Swedish model where only alcoholic drinks of less than 3% can be sold outside licensed shops that have more limited opening times than supermarkets. Supermarket alcohol sales are not only destroying lives but also public houses and other alcohol outlets where drinking is conducted in a social manner and where intoxication can be monitored and young people can learn to drink socially and more sensibly.
Because problem drinking is UNHEARD OF in Scandinavia. Clearly we should emulate their drink policies.
5. Ban special discounting of alcohol in bars e.g. happy hours, all you can drink for £10 etc.
I've no problem with cracking down on establishments which cause a problem, and I've no doubt this correlates with happy hours, but it is unlikely that this correlation is perfect. Try enforcing existing laws before banning a perfectly reasonable marketing ploy by bar owners. How about enforcing the law about serving clearly intoxicated people? Wouldn't that work.... Puritanism is the nagging fear that someone, somewhere is having fun. I think you just revealed that here, David.
6. Stop selling wine in larger 250 ml glasses that have crept up on use in recent years - we should go back to smaller glasses again. For a medium size female, 5 large glasses of wine in one hour will lead to a blood alcohol level of 300mg/% which is that needed to produce coma.
Oh for Pity's sake. Where to start with this one. I've been to the pub with many, many ladies over the years, and I've often bought them large white wines in 250ml glasses. Not one, ever has ever slumped into an alcoholic coma. Perhaps you should stop adding the Rohypnol, or would that stop you ever getting laid?
7. Repeal the 24 hr licensing law so bars close at 11pm.
Fuck off, you miserable, bloodless Puritan wanker. I would quite like to be able to stay in my local, drinking a few pints with my buddies until midnight on Friday nights, if that's OK with you?
8. Ban organisations such as Carnage UK that promote dangerous levels of drinking as entertainment
If they cause a problem, why not enforce existing laws first?
9. Make it a law that all alcohol outlets must sell non-alcoholic beers and lagers so that those who like the taste of ales can get it without the risk on intoxication. Make these drinks be sold at below the cost of equivalent alcohol-containing ones and make it obvious that they are available.
mmm. Alcohol free lager. Yes please! Not. Been tried. No-one likes it. Go away. This end up being a mandatory few bottles in the fridge, replaced only when they go out of date, and never, ever drunk by anyone. Just another silly, pointless law.
10. Enforce the law that makes serving drunk customers illegal in bars: have breathalysers in bars and clubs so that seemingly intoxicated people can be tested and denied more alcohol if they are above 150mg/%.
This would go a long way to limiting the harm of binge drinking. Why not try that at #1 before banning stuff for those of us who don't cause problems?
11. Add warning notices to all drinks warning of the damage alcohol does, as with those on cigarette packets.
Oh ffs. Go Away. Leave us the fuck alone. Stop fucking nagging us. You cunt. We drink to excess because cunts like you piss us off. Capish?
12. Reduce the drink driving limit to 40mg/% to deter drink driving and hence reduce drinking. And if caught, get people properly assessed and repeal their licences if they flout DVLA guidance. Encourage the wider use of alcohol detectors in cars.
We've the safest roads in Europe, despite their being the most crowded. We've lower levels of drink driving despite drinking more than many others. Everyone should be copying us. Stupid idea.
13. Invigorate the treatment of alcohol dependence by making alcohol a priority for the national treatment agency; encourage the use of proven treatments that reduce drinking and stop relapse.
Get alchies to dry up and medicalise addiction. Sound point there, at #13.
14. Provide incentives to the pharmaceutical industry to develop new treatments for alcohol dependence and its consequences.
#14 can't hurt either. What are the incentives: a tax break. Wouldn't you see AIDs or Malaria as being more deserving though? Doesn't this show warped priorities?
15. Encourage research into developing an alcohol alternative that is less dangerous, intoxicating and addictive than ethanol and for which an antidote or antagonist can be made available to prevent deaths in overdose.
I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd rather a line or two of coke than a pint of the Nutt's gnat's piss 'ale', but I suspect that's not what you had in mind, is it David?
16. Educate from primary school age about the dangers of alcohol.
Make alcohol glamorous for kids. Good Idea. What could possibly go wrong?
17. Develop public campaigns to make alcohol unfashionable just as was done for tobacco.
None of the pretty girls I know smoke. Not one. NoSireee. Smoking isn't fashionable. Not at all.
18. Ban all alcohol advertising as with tobacco.
Fine. Take money out of sport and new programming. All we'll ever have on TV are American sitcoms. Good Idea.
19. Ban all government supported organisations e.g. universities from having subsidised bars. Ban drinking games and pub-crawls in public organisations such as university sports and social clubs; remove financial support from clubs that allow these.
I'll tell you what: You try and stop Exeter Agrics 2nd XV going on their annual pub golf tournament. How, just how will this be enforced? Fuckwit.
20. Raise the drinking age to 21. When this was done in the USA in the 1990s it was estimated that over 170,00 lives were saved in road deaths.
1. I dispute the figures. 2. It's catastrophically illiberal. You can send an 18 year old to face AK47s in Afghanistan, but not let him face B52s in Bar Khyber? Madness. It's madness in the USA, and it will be worse here. Knob.
21. Finally, a measure that could be a powerful tool in the implementation of the above would be to reduce the use of alcohol by politicians as it could distort their objectivity in law-making in relation to the harms of alcohol. Get them to openly declare any association with the alcohol industry. The government’s wine cellar should be closed and the subsidy of alcohol in the Houses of Parliament stopped. Somehow though, it seems unlikely that MPs would call time on that particular perk…
I see what you did there, David. A knowing wink at the policy makers. I'll tell you what. You've got 3 or maybe 4 out of 21. Fail. No wonder even the last government thought you were an idiot and fired your sorry arse.

Ban, Ban, Ban, interfere with the market, Ban, nanny, stop, plan.

Here's my plan for you, David, and anyone else thinking of interfering with my free time. LEAVE. ME. ALONE.

Sex At Dawn, The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

Sex at Dawn is a very engaging book about who we are, and why we think about sex all the time. It takes the form of challenge to the standard cultural narrative idea that 'Man + Woman = Family and always has'. Instead, Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jethá argue that the monogamous families are a social adaptation to the pressures of agricultural societies which runs contrary to our socio-sexual evolution in small bands of hunter-gatherers.

The Genus Pan, which were we not so self-reverential would probably also include the Homo lineage, is an unusual group of species for whom sex is more about social bonding than reproduction, though many authors have glossed over this part of our make-up, perhaps embarrassed at our nearest cousins' licentiousness. The authors argue that much of the focus on P. troglodytes' perceived social and sexual aggression in the wild is in part due to the difficulty of studying groups in the wild without influencing behaviour, and in any case, our genitals and behaviour are in many ways more like that of the rather more peaceable, free-lovin' Bonobo, Pan Paniscus, who are basically at it, all the time, with anything that moves.

Here's a video of a Chimpanzee raping a toad, which whilst not strictly relevant to this review, I've been dying to shoehorn into a post for a while, and this is as close as it's going to get.

One area where I question the authors' conclusions is the degree of sexual dimorphism: They cite around 10-20% difference in body size. I don't think this is the relevant figure: Human males' upper body strength ranges from 50%-200% stronger, especially in forearm grip. This is clearly an adaptation to fighting, and even more disturbingly suggests that rape formed part of our evolutionary history. Of course human females are going to be able to keep up on a march, we evolved as free-ranging hunter-gatherers, which is why women have long legs. Just 9% separates Paula Radcliffe and Haile Gebreselassie's marathon records. The puny female upper body when compared to the (still puny) adult male shows the real sexual dimorphism of the Human species: The Clean & Jerk weightlifting records show a 41% difference between the sexes and the powerlifters' difference is greater still at over 100% for the deadlift.

This matters because the greater the sexual dimorphism, the greater the degree of Polygamy. Humans are not as co-operative as bonobos, but nor is our natural history one of Harem building, winner-takes-all male competition as extreme as that of the Gorilla. Our genitals certainly point to sperm selection which means an Alpha male cannot guarantee the fidelity of 'his' females as can the big silverback, but there is DNA evidence about how few males bred in history: around 40% compared to the female 80% (can't find citation), This indicates a degree of competition for the spoils amongst our male ancestors, where size and especially strength mattered. The authors reckon we're more matriarchal Bonobo than patriarchal Chimpanzee. I was not completely convinced. I think we were quite violent even in hunter-gather society.

Anthropologists look at existing cultures and the records of explorers who came across the last remaining hunter gatherer societies and try to interpret the findings through the fog of cultural conceit, misunderstanding and arrogance, but often have their own preconceived ideas too. Megafauna the world over dying out a thousand years or so after humans arrived on any given continent, gives the lie to our ancestors 'living in harmony' with nature myth, and I think it is important to reject the 'noble savage' in matters sexual too. It is tempting, therefore to engage in wishful thinking that just because the last remaining hunter-gatherers perched on marginal terrain in the Bornean rain-forest or the Botswanan desert don't fight the neighbouring tribe this doesn't mean this follows for the prime land now given over to agriculture. Germans and Brits stranded on arctic island weather stations cooperated to survive in 1944 whilst their friends were fighting over France. I contend there's not much to fight over in the Bornean highlands, but a band of Hunter-gatherers would fight their neighbours for the right to forage in prime riverside forest in the Ardèche. The authors do talk about localised plenty being cause for strife, but don't follow this through to its conclusion, that our ancestors existed with areas of localised plenty, and would have fought over it.

Any book challenging the recieved wisdom is going to leave itself open to attack on a few matters, but the authors make compelling observations, well backed up by data and certainly along lines that made Kinsey so controversial. You might also be interested in 'the Mating Mind' which deals with the evolution of language and intelligence as a 'peacock's tail', which fortuitously became adaptive after the fact.

The Authors conclusions about modern society's obsessive focus on fidelity causing of great stress is utterly compelling, especially when compared to societies which use sex as social bonding without the deep taboo about infidelity. Our religious history has poisoned the relationship between the sexes by making females chattels of the males, and we would all be happier if you let your partner have the odd fling once in a while. Ladies, you will benefit from his higher testosterone too, and gents, you can't have your cake and eat it. Play fair and let her take a lover once in a while! This is especially true now women are in conscious control of fertility. The authors may believe that paternity didn't matter in highly co-operative bands. It does now, and I can see no way of changing society so that it doesn't. However, the conclusion stands: We can, if we take care about Pregnancy, STIs and AIDs, build a happier society with a bit of Free Love.

Well worth a read.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Reductio ad Hitlerum

Is it possible to write about this story of 'young people' in Kent who have been suitably brainwashed and are now filming themselves assualting smokers, the outgroup untermensch in this instance, and doing so with the approval of their school and the prior knowledge of the local constabulary, without falling foul of Godwin's Law?

Words fail me, they really do.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Paul Krugman. Wrong. Again.

As if Krugman couldn't be any more of a self-serving arsehole in providing Nobel Laureate cover for people who think that extra state spending somehow stimulates and economy, people who call themselves 'Keynsians' but who would never advocate running a surplus during the good times as Keynes thought necessary for a stimulus to work during recession; now he's giving ammunition to the people who are advocating the policy that caused the Great Depression: Protectionist trade war.

China is following a policy that is, in effect, one of imposing high tariffs and providing large export subsidies — because that’s what an undervalued currency does.
Of course what this also does is deny Chinese labourers the benefits of their labour. They are kept poor, so that Americans can have cheap TVs.
That should be a violation of trade rules; it might in fact be a violation, but the language of the law is vague on the subject. But leave aside the fine print of the law for a moment: what China is doing amounts to a seriously predatory trade policy, the kind of thing that is supposed to be prevented by the threat of sanctions.
That's only a problem if you think a trade deficit is a major problem.
Yet the Chinese have taken our measure, and decided that we won’t act. Until or unless that changes, we’re just whistling in the wind.
Again, the losers of this policy are the Chinese people, not Americans.
I say confront the issue head on — and if it leads to trade conflict, bear in mind that in a depressed world economy, surplus countries have a lot to lose from such a conflict, while deficit countries may well end up gaining.
It wasn't the Wall St. crash of 1929 which caused the depression, it was protectionism. It wasn't stimulus that pulled the world out of it, countries which kept budget deficits under control fared better than the USA during the 30's. Krugman has that special form of leftist idiocy which imagines that the economy is able to be controlled and steered by the state. Idiocy here being defined as doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. Deficit spending stimulating the economy may be OK in theory, but in practice it just hasn't worked. Ever.

A trade deficit is not in and of itself a bad thing, because the buyer benefits from imports. Sure there might be a few people who used to hammer TVs together who are out of a job because they're more expensive than a Chinese worker, but the US economy until it started running stupid deficits (yes under republicans I know) used to be pretty good at generating jobs elsewhere. A trade deficit might upset some dick-waving Government officials who measure themselves by statistics, but the American people as a whole are better off for the Chinese "unfair trade practices".

There's a chap, Paul, called Adam Smith, you might have heard of him? Didn't he point out that the buyer AND seller benefit from trade? Americans getting goods cheap, not only keeps things cheap, and therefore Americans richer, it also depresses inflation, meaning interest rates can be kept lower. Hoarding gold - what mediaeval kings thought riches were - leads to inflation. I believe it was called the "mercantilist fallacy" or something.
Or to put it differently, right now we’re in a world in which mercantilism works.
Oh. I see. So the insights of Adam Smith are worth spit are they, Paul? Now that's hubris, Nobel Prize for economics or not.
In the long run we’ll emerge from this kind of world; but in the long run …
It will be the long run if anyone listens to Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate, rent-a-gob for the profligate big state, tractor production statistics-spouting left.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Labour and the Fall of Man.

I have long argued that the most destructive thing ever to happen to human happiness was the discovery and development of agriculture. In return for much larger populations on any given piece of land, we lost freedom, heath and happiness. The evidence is there in the fossil record. Healthy hunter-gatherers had teeth until they died around 60 years of age. They suffered breaks and injury, but were nursed back to health. It was not, as Hobbes suggested, "Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short" life. It was relaxed, happy, lazy and healthy. With natural abundance and a low population, there was nothing to fight over - people simply moved into unpopulated areas in search of game. Subsistence farmers on the other hand were (and still are) lucky to make it to 40, and rarely had any teeth when they died. Disease from living with animals, malnutrition from over dependence on a small number of food sources and an inability to move in response to local shortages were (and still are) part of the lot of settled subsistence agriculturalists. Famines, war, death and disease were (and still are) the lot of peasants.

Humans evolved in bands of relatives, perhaps numbering 30 individuals. Everyone knew everyone else and co-operated naturally. Because agriculture, especially its early iterations was a tenuous activity it benefited from top-down organisation - the management of grain storage, the defense of land and the building of irrigation required the co-option of humans natural ability to co-operate into a system where power flowed down a hierarchy. Religions ceased to be polytheistic and nature-worshipping, and became monotheistic and restrictive, especially in relation to women, who became chattels. Castes of warriors, priests and bureaucrats were able to lord it over the peasantry who toiled in the fields.

Our Hunter-Gatherer forebears were able and willing to care for a sick or injured friend without the need for a potentate to tell them to do so, even though such a friend might be a burden on the community for many years. On the other hand, the atrocities settled agricultural societies have heaped upon each other in war, conquest and the imposition of ridiculous ideas is a monstrous litany of misery, torture, suffering and death imposed from above by the actions of demagogues seeking power and manipulating the natural co-operation of people for base and ignoble ends. Top-down government with a bureaucracy facilitates horrors more than anarchy, where people form their own order spontaneously.

Despite the small, weedy, bow-legged and diseased populations of spirit-broken people, their much greater density allowed agricultural populations to easily shift hunter-gatherers off land and co-opt the passing waves of nomadic pastoralists which occasionally swept over them. Despite the misery, agriculture, and the top-down organisation inevitable in these societies, survived.

The happy time - a folk memory of a hunter-gatherer past - survives in religious myths of the Garden of Eden which has analogues in many other cults and religions around the world. The serpent tempts man into knowledge which causes his expulsion from paradise. Power over nature, in the form of agriculture, did not bring happiness. It is this move from natural self-organisation to authoritarian tyranny which removed most peoples' opportunity for self-actualisation and it is this tyranny which has created the misery which has been the human lot ever since.

This misery of most of the human species, occurred despite gradually increasing material plenty. Over the past 10,000 years, improving farming methods have delivered increasing yields: New crops and livestock species, ploughs, beasts of burden, crop-rotation but until the industrial revolution, and even more importantly the subsequent green revolution of high-technology, high-yield agriculture, the vast majority of human kind have been stuck in this hell of subsistence agriculture. What changed in response to a better harvest is the increasing number of thugs the local potentate can feed from the surplus, or the extravagance of the priestly castes in their temple building programs. Occasional wars and destruction caused by waves of disease did the destruction before the inevitable Malthusian catastrophe.

The industrial revolution changed everything, and did so as fundamentally as the development of agriculture in the Indus, Yellow River and Mesopotamia all those thousands of years ago. For the first time since then, the majority of people on the planet are not subsistence agriculturalists, they do something else.

The trick society has to pull off is use this 'once in a 10,000 year' shake-up of civilisation to create something that runs with human nature rather than build yet another society which needs invent savage religions and tyrannical impositions of state control to try and force people to go channel their naturally co-operative nature against their own interests. Agriculture and the societies it created were a response to periodic shortages. We, in the affluent west at least have solved the shortages and now have abundant plenty, as our hunter-gatherer forefathers did for 250,000 years before they were expelled from the Garden. It's now crucial to work out what created this plenty, and even more crucial to work out what did NOT create this plenty. Human ingenuity which allowed the scattering of seeds to ensure a crop would grow in the same place next year, through irrigation, the plough, the saddle and harness, crop rotation and so on to the steam engine and Internet, it is the endless seeking of a better way of doing things by people which created the plenty. Whilst top down societies were necessary in the early phase of agricultural development because of the need to ensure the surplus is kept and the need to organise the defense of scarse resources; since the industrial revolution, the LEAST authoritarian societies have become the richest. Free market capitalism channels humans innate potential for co-operation from the bottom up. Companies making things and providing services, have driven progress; not, emphatically not, kings, governments and states directing things from the top down.

The Industrial revolution flourished in the 18th century United Kingdom, which believed that that state should only exist to defend its borders. Its ideas spread, not least because the vast surplus wealth it created allowed for the creation of the largest Empire the world has ever seen. And that empire was mostly bought, not conquered. The technology of the industrial revolution came from people, not states. The same is true of the Internet and communications revolutions. Of course states have had a role in facilitating, but without the self-organisation of companies of people motivated by curiosity and profit (let's call them 'businesses', shall we?) there would be no Rail road, no television, no cheap bread and no car.

Now modern government evolved from the people who brought you such advances of civilisation as the Motte and Bailey Castle and the Harrying of the North. Government's aim is the extraction of as much from the economy as possible. In medieval terms, this was then used for self-aggrandising projects like securing the throne of France for the English king or Vice Versa. However in England, the Barons, and later the Commons realised that the tyrannical imposition of royal vanity must be held in check, first for the good of the barons, and then for the good of the people. Government, insofar as it affected day to day life, withered away in the UK and the country prospered as a result.

Britain's decline can be traced to the moment that the income tax was retained after the Napoleonic wars. After WW1, the state got involved with education and pensions, after WW2 the state destroyed the highly effective health and welfare systems which relied on mutual assistance. Similar narratives can be constructed for most countries. Government, who have a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence has used technological advance and bureaucracy to make money flow to that power. The technology and habit of bureaucracy has allowed states around the world to take between 1/3 and 1/2 of all the productive energy of its citizens in the form of tax.

Now I am not here to argue that there should not be a state. Nor will I argue that some things aren't best financed out of taxation. But what I will argue for is a new sort of Government. One that respects its role as protector and facilitator - deliverer of the public goods of law & order, secure borders and a sound currency and DELIVERING little else. Funding health and education out of taxation too MAY make sense, but allow people to DELIVER it themselves. The state is emphatically not there to ensure its citizens behave themselves, or be "productive". People self-organising will do that. Nor is it to ensure that the goods and services available to the people are equally distributed. No government has achieved that, and any attempt to do so leads to economic collapse or a nomenclature who live in opulence amongst a slave population of miserable serfs. Government should not, as Elizabeth I observed "seek to reach into men's souls". Nor should it seek conformity to an arbitrary set of societal norms, be that conformity to an established church or a 'productive' set of economic behaviours. It should instead seek to reduce the stress of life, by removing burdens of taxation and the layers of obstusificating bureaucracy. Instead the state should be providing a protected space allowing people to self-organise as they will according to a simple, easily understood set of Laws.

Government, in seeking to be the King who provides, seeks to act in the same way as the aristocratic and priestly castes did in Mesopotamia 10,000 years ago and with the same result in term of human misery. People are not 'people' they are economic units to be fought over, controlled and taxed. Because 'the state' provides whether you want it or not, the state will see to it that you work, whether you want to or not. Top down bureaucracy seeks to influence behaviour - for our good maybe, but who ever thinks they're evil? So smoking bans, drug prohibition and laws saying when you can and cannot go and have a pint in the pub all limit the possibility of human happiness. Sure, in some stressed societies of marginal people who exist on state handouts, getting off one's face is all they have. The desire therefore to see that no-one starves perversly sees to it that everyone starves morally.

The state's charity crowds out the private charity, to the detriment of the welfare recipient's self-actualisation and the good feeling that altruistic good work generates in the giver. In seeking to alleviate poverty, the government then feels it has an economic stake in everyones' good behaviour and seeks to alter it, by force if necessary.

Supporters of the cradle to grave welfare state have visions of Victorian England's workhouses as what would happen if there were no welfare state to support people. But that was a society crushed not only by a state bureaucracy as much as a stultifying state morality which achieved the same ends. The work-house was not the Dickensian horror, Dickens exaggerated, but the foundling hospitals were. And both were state run. They replaced a much more satisfactory system the poor being in receipt of benefit from their neighbours, being 'on the parish' which did not tolerate free loaders, but also supported those who could not support themselves - a self-organised, local system. "Wouldn't work today", I hear you cry? Switzerland operates a similar system, and that's not exactly a hell-hole is it?

And what of the costs of the system? Not just economic costs engendered by a state which allows, nay encourages the poor to engage in destructive and misery making behaviour, but also in the costs imposed by the state having a stake in everyones' private behaviour. Every time you get chucked out of a full pub at "closing time" the state has impinged on your life. Can't hear yourself think in the pub with the late license? That's because the late license comes with an obligation to provide "entertainment" lest you just stay and drink. The state is emphatically imposing its will upon you. And that was because the Government wanted to influence the productivity (and these being purse-lipped late-Victorians, morality too) of munitions workers during WW1. The law has stuck, because the dam of allowing the Government to look into men's souls had been broken. The bureaucratic state comes with regulations about who can live where, with whom and to what end. Whether you're shagging your tennant matters in terms of what benefits you recieve, and do you think the state should have any rights in your bedroom of your own home? The need to finance the welfare state comes with a need for the majority of the population to tithe 50% of everything we produce to the government. The most tyrannical king in ancient history would have baulked at that. That is a cost not just in economic terms, but in spiritual ones too. For the majority of that money goes in financing a bureaucracy whose ends are control of the population leading to stress, thwarted ambition and misery.

How has the Labour party, once the party of workers' co-operatives become the party of the state bureaucratic leviathan, with all the coercive violence that entails? How has the global left been so completely co-opted by the successors to the kings and potentates they once resisted? How can the hypocrisy of leftist moralising be accepted by a sane brain without spitting it out? The labour party in seeking to control every facet of peoples lives (for our own good) via a massive and intrusive surveillance infrastructure controlled by a bureaucracy accountable only to itself. The Labour party is therefore the representative of everything which has made people miserable, diseased, powerless and poor since the fall of man 10,000 years ago.

Freedom to self-organise. The smallest bureaucracy you can get away with. State funding a bit of desirable stuff, but emphatically NOT providing. By not providing for people, it has no incentive to control the rest of us. We, not the Government will provide for the poor, as we used to before the work house, before the bureaucratic tyranny of the state got involved in herding them into workhouses, slums and council estates. John Donne:

No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee...
I just want the state to leave me alone. That does not mean I want to sit in a cave eschewing company and hoarding baked bean tins awaiting the revolution. It means I don't want to have anyone control my moral and economic choices, which include my moral and economic choice to serve my fellow man, which I would do were there any money and energy left over once I've paid my tax bill. That is why I hate the Labour party - for they are seekers of control, just like and for the same reasons as the first kings of the first city states. Labour are therefore the intellectual descendants of the architects of man's fall from grace and the bringers of misery, hate, envy and thwarted ambition and wasted human potential, for the last 10,000 years. Human freedom is the paradise of the Garden of Eden was all about, Labour: the agents of the devil, offering fake sustenance which merely brings doom. Which makes Gordon Brown the serpent. Which makes Ed Balls, a skin louse on that serpent. Which is a metaphor I like. That is why I am a libertarian.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Greg Philo replies. And a Bit about Teh Interwebz and this whole Damn Dirty Game we call 'Blogging'

There are two types of Blogger. There are those who run behind rhetorical trench systems like the left-wing 'THATCHER, CUTS! Waaaaa!' defensive line. Then they accuse you of denying them freedom of speech for disagreeing (but not before bleating "isn't he beastly" to get some moral support from their followers) as you systematically demolish them, like David Marsden (@dmarsd) whose rhetorical skills failed to flourish on Twitter this afternoon. He then fled the field, without his shield. Feel free to go over to his blog and twitter feed and troll the fuck out of the cowardly lefty mong. Many righties too are exactly the same, content to shout into the ether to an adoring crowd of like-minds, spouting ever more ludicrous, politically extreme nonsense, like the dick-head calling himself Huddie with whom I debated at Tory Aardvark's place this afternoon. He basically replaced 'Jews' with 'Muslims', but otherwise acccepted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (positions brilliantly lampooned by larry teabag in his left/right quiz question: "who do you hate more, Jews or Muslims?) Huddie and Marsden are bloggers content to shout into the ether to a group of like-minded people who will accept ever more extreme view points, so long as they drift towards their view's pole. Criticism is an anathema. That way lies tribal extremeisms of facsim, communism and anarchism.

Then there's People like Professor Greg Philo, my good friends NorthBriton45, Devil's Kitchen, and even the likes of Sunny Hundal, with whom I've crossed swords in cyber and meat-space and, I hope, me, who seem to accept the tone of the debate on the 'teh interwebz' is not as perhaps it should be, but who seem to enjoy debating (vigorously) with people with whom one profoundly disagrees. Last night I wrote this post in response to Prof. Philo's CiF piece. I even e-mailed him in the same provocative terms of the post to get a response. The exchange is below:

I Just read your comment is free article.

You’re a disgrace to your university.

That is all.

Yet 74% of the population don’t think so and the wealthiest groups were more in favour than the lower income ones. As a very wealthy acquaintance said to me, if the government did stabilise its finances, then the stock market would go through the roof and we would all get our 20% back. Funny old world eh?



I think I addressed the popularity of this proposal. The electorate define “rich” as “richer than me”. You’re asking people whether they want OTHER people to pay for bills they get the benefit from. Arbitrary confiscation of assets by government has been tried in the past. Can you point to anywhere where it has worked?

Bueller? BUELLER?

And you think the stock market would like this proposal?

You’re Delusional.

Stick to the pretend subjects and leave the economics to grown-ups, eh?

You seem overly worked up about this. The stock market and the wealthiest groups are supremely good at adapting to circumstances, they make whatever concessions are necessary and have done so for at least 150 years, try reading Hansard and look up Lord Hailsham (then Quentin Hogg) lecturing his party in the 1940ies about the need to accept the welfare state. Here is a reply I posted which might help,

One criticism made in the responses on the Guardian website is that 'the rich won't allow/accept it' but the poll results show the richest groups slightly more in favour than the low income groups. We asked informally some wealthy people why this might be so, and concern for social order was one reason, another that if the government finances were stabilised, then 'the stock market would go through the roof' and they would get their 20% back anyway. Also the plan does not necessitate immediate payment. It is about taking liability for the debt and would be payed off as a form of death duty or through low interest payments. The key issue is to take wealth which is effectively dead and trapped in the
higher reaches of an inflated property market and use it for investment in areas such as new technologies, research and proper funding of centres of excellence as well as meeting key social needs. This is nothing to do with funding incompetent spending, but about an efficient use of national wealth for the benefit of the whole population.


Greg Philo


It's to your credit that you're entering into debate.

But 'the rich' already pay disproportionately into the tax pot, and blaming a group as diverse as this because 'they' caused the credit crunch and 'we' didn't smacks of rhetoric used elsewhere against Jews and Kulaks and I am sure this is not what you mean.

You're saying it could be offset and paid later, so it's really an inheritance tax, and we've already got one of them, so ask for loopholes to be withdrawn by all means, but if you did, your 20% then looks like a tax cut!

It's difficult to see 'the rich' paying any more than they do without extreme coercion. The opinion of one or two very rich Marxists notwithstanding.

I don't think you've thought this one through.

Do you mind if I put this exchange on my blog?



It can't be surprising that the rich should pay the most in absolute terms since they have most of the money. The poorest 10% have 'negative wealth' as it is termed, i.e., less than nothing, only debts. You are right that one way of approaching this is to see it as a one off additional death duty, but the liability could also be realised by paying a low rate of interest on the money owed, which would then be further reduced by inflation.

There is certainly no intention here to stigmatize anyone. Free markets obey their own rules and the movement of so much of the nations assets into property had strange consequences. So for example, in Glasgow's west end , from where I am writing, a townhouse flat in 1980 cost £25,000. It would now be worth £400,000. I am not sure that the grateful owner really worked for this money and personally I would rather that a portion of it went back into financing national growth, new technologies, a healthy population and even a brilliant education system. I can't see it is that odd as a suggestion. Of course you are welcome to put this exchange on your blog.



Basically the problem with blogging is that there is a lot of people doing it, and you need to shout loud to get noticed. Now I could use this space to put the obvious rejoinders that arbitary confiscation of assets is a disaster every time it's been tried but that's been done by Tim Worstall. I could argue that morally such a program would be repellent to a liberatrian who values aspiration and who hopes one day to get rich himself.

But that would be redundant. Of course Prof. Philo is wrong! I would rather use this space to offer a paen to the principles of debate with clearly intelligent people who disagree. Whilst I am not now nor ever going to be persuaded that high marginal taxation work, any more than Prof. Philo is going to be persuaded by the absolute need for a massive cut in public spending and, eventually a lower tax economy with sound money.

What I am going to do instead is talk about the need to have your beliefs challenged. Because sometimes you're ever more confident you're right, faced as one is by the stupidiy and mendacity of your opposition. But sometimes you're pulled kicking and screaming by a point made, often in passing, back into a slightly more moderate centre ground by someone from the other side. And this is what the internet often loses: The open debate with people who disagree. Too often the internet becomes an echo-chamber, as everyone rehearses the arguments, occasionally referring to expert fisks of posts from the other side, but otherwise sitting round in a circle-jerk of mutual appreciation and mutal agreement which advances debate not at all. Therefore with polite response, Prof. Philo has moved from 'left-wing loon' to 'someone on the G&T list'. Not that I'd ever agree with him, but I will enjoy debating with him. And that IS important. Aristotle said "all men by nature strive to know". But crucially, knowledge advances through disagreement and discord, not agreement.

Libertarians who don't engage with their polar opposites in convivial terms from time to time lose sight of the fact that there are happy societies with high taxation. That low taxation is only a part of 'economic freedom' one I'd give up in a trice for a belief in the efficiency of markets from the British left.

There are many ways to skin a cat.

Party tribal bloggers know what they stand for. For them, politics is a contact sport. The arguments don't matter as much as your team winning. That's not the thinker's way. You should not, as a political rhetoritician, aim to be right, though we all believe we are. The best we political extremists, that's most non-party bloggers - we've all got our bonnet-bee - can hope for is to move the centre ground our way a bit, for that is where elections are won. Sure, it disenfranchises we extremists, but is it really difficult to see that THAT IS NOT A BAD THING.

Socialists who don't engage with the enemy end up being responsible for millions of 'the rich', intellectuals, thought criminals and people who own two pigs, dying of starvation and overwork in gulags. Libertarians who don't engage with the enemy once in a while end up in a rhetorical cave surrounded by baked bean tins, nursing a shotgun with a bloodhound called fang at your feet, waiting for Armageddon with only Old Holborn for company. (H/T)

This isn't a new idea. La Rochefoucauld was saying something similar about the importance of being disagreed with, in the early eighteenth century. I mean can you imagine anything more ghastly than everyone saying 'yes'?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Idiocy. Of the left in general and Professor Greg Philo of the University of Glasgow in Particular.

An embarrassment to his University

Sometimes you come up against the block-headed idiocy of the left. They just believe that if the dastardly "rich" would just pay more, and ever more, then all would be good. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, there is no persuading these people. But when the argument comes from a Professor of Sociology, Anthropology and applied Social Science at the once respected University of Glasgow in the form of a Guardian 'Comment is Free' article which he apparently considered sufficiently good for him to consent to have it published, and not only published but published under his own name where it might even be seen, it not only demonstrates the complete descent of Scotland into an irredeemable socialist hell-hole from which it will never recover, but also the sharp decline of academic standards. So here's professor Greg Philo's "logic"
The total personal wealth in the UK is £9,000bn, a sum that dwarfs the national debt. It is mostly concentrated at the top, so the richest 10% own £4,000bn, with an average per household of £4m. The bottom half of our society own just 9%. The wealthiest hold the bulk of their money in property or pensions, and some in financial assets and objects such antiques and paintings.A one-off tax of just 20% on the wealth of this group would pay the national debt and dramatically reduce the deficit, since interest payments on the debt are a large part of government spending. So that is what should be done. This tax of 20%, graduated so the very richest paid the most, would raise £800bn.
I've already dealt with why this might be popular: Because the electorate are a selfish bunch of spiteful bastards who would quite like someone else to pay taxes on their behalf. But it's "just" 20% of THEIR net wealth, so that's OK then. I mean a one off (yeah, right!) arbitrary confiscation of the assets of the richest, most mobile people in the country, who own and run businesses and pay disproportionate amounts of tax compared to the services they use. What possible damage could this do to the economy? What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Plus ca Change...


Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as the the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain.

This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below.

I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:

1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London

2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,


The above was sent to me by an Officer currently trying to fill posts on operations in the teeth of bureaucratic nit-picking in Whitehall and HQs elsewhere. I am not sure of its veracity, but it's the sort of irracible thing the Iron Duke, and every great commander of the British Army since has felt:

The dead hand of the bureaucracy, preventing victory since 1707.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Britblog Roundup #279

Good morning and welcome to the two-hundred and seventy-ninth britblog roundup. There's a wholesome selection of posts to get our teeth into, we will kick off with the criminal justice system. Magistrates courts aren't run by Lawyers (the first thing we shall do. Let's kill all the lawyers...) and coincidentally remain the one bit of the criminal justice system which is not wildly dysfunctional, which is why The Law West of Ealing Broadway is a must read. He's long been opposed to ASBOs and this post demonstrates, not only why Labour's fascist attempt to make everyone guilty of something is so evil; but in doing so he also demonstrates that straight forward humanity and common sense the Bench have shown for hundreds of years, often despite the stupidity of the people who come before them and the inanity of much legislation they are asked to enforce. He's no fan of the telly-tax either.

Politics now, and to kick off: the vexatious issue of Gay rights. To some leftists, all Tories are unreconstructed fascists who want to send the Gays to concentration camps or something. Jane's Political Rablings reckons that Cameron's commitment to a free vote on "these sorts of issues" is the same as Nick Griffin's view that Men kissing is "creepy" but that he's "not a Homophobe". This was day "the right showed its true Colours on Gay rights", as the post is titled. To my view, that's an example of the left showing its true colours by thinking any dissent from the bien pensent view being thought-crime. Tolerating other people's religious beliefs, however loony is not the same as descriminating against gays, but tolerance of dissent nor realising that something like tolerance is not absolute, is not the left's strong point: Tories are evil x-phobes and probably racist, and that's the end of it. The far left's strange alliance with the not-gay-friendly radical islamists is, of course OK because they aren't "The Right".

Mark Reckons Jeff Randal's an idiot for using meaningless percentages. Of course I reckon Randall's an idiot for giving a toss about the Labour leadership election, but we're agreed on the fact that Jeff Randall's a bit of an idiot. And while we're on the subject of ignorant, ranty idiots who selectively mine data for information which supports their prior view, and yet seem to inexplicably benefit from well-paid Mainstream Media jobs as commentators, we can look no further than Johann Hari, fat twat and lackwit extraordinaire for suggesting that slavery is good for the economy. Of course Hari doesn't put it like that, but that's what he means, because he's not only an idiot, but catastrophically wrong and ignorant too, as the Melangerie points out. An Englishman suggests that another Left wing pillock, this time George "fact? what are they?" Monbiot might not have been telling the truth about the Tan Hill fair in 1996.

David Thompson lays into the cultural relativist nonsense of the Guardian.

Strange stuff reckons there's something in David Cameron's "Big Society": namely that Burkean little platoons might be able to get some of their turf back from an over mighty state. THe further from a bureaucracy, the more likely services are to be responsive to individual needs, something he thinks Paul Sagar misses. Which leads us neatly onto where local government fails to deliver: Independent ramblings complains about the priorities of councils: they do what THEY want, not what we little people seem to want them to do. He gives the example of a local event, which was "too popular". He could, of course been talking about anything at all that doesn't fit with council priorities. Delivering services that people actually need seem pretty low on thier priorities.

The ever-so-slightly creepily titled "fertile feminist - Growing the feminist movement, one mother at a time" makes the good point that home births are often better for the mother, and as safe for most low-risk women as a hospital birth surrounded by Foetus-frightening machines that go "bing". This is something nutty feminists and nutty libertarians can agree wholeheartedly on. Our bodies are our own to do with what we will. Our bodies, no not even those of pregnant mothers, do not belong to the medical profession.

Laura Augustin lays into the mainstream media for fear-mongering ahead of the "Looming" 2012 Olympics about the "flood" of pimps and prostitutes that will come. You can almost see the tabloid hack looking to get his dick wet. For journalistic research, of course.

Some numbers concerning BP's Gulf of Mexico spill from Suitably Despairing. Still on BP, but talking about the price of petrol at the pumps, this nonsense from some idiot blogger was nominated not once, but twice.

Onto Transport, and the Diamond Geezer waxes lyrical about the Wrexham & Shropshire railway, a public-service sucess of privatisation, perhaps? The Camden Kiwi and Radical Blues try Boris' Bikes, and point to teething troubles with the docking stations. In general, though the initiative gets a thumbs up from both of them. I hope everyone has a more enjoyable cycling experience than the anonymous blogger behind 101 wankers, who should be congratulated for attempting to catalogue the sheer range of obnoxious and dangerous arseholery with which cyclists contend on a daily basis, in this case, we're up to wanker #6.

The national examiner is not impressed with the ConDem attempts at "Consultation" suggesting it smacks of the astrotrufing of the last regime. Douglas Carswell explains why it failed. (Perhaps because of suggestions like that from 'F for Philistine' that police dogs be replaced with foxes to save money on pedigree breeds and to give work to wayward foxes.)

Richard Osley likes the kinks and mourns the passing the recording studio in Hornsey where they and others laid down their best songs.

EU Referendum tells the story of the AA guns and the Battle of Britain, hugely important but unremembered in the narrative.

Philobiblon, as ever, brings to our attention a book of some interest, in this case: 'Plundered Planet' by Paul Collier.

Finally, there's a sad farewell from a staple of the roundup, and someone who should have been a regular read for anyone, Nee Naw is hanging up her keyboard. (So you'll have to buy her book?) Reading between the lines, I suspect there's an authority "bringing into disrepute, blog or job" threat hanging over, which I hope is not the case. But all bloggers should be aware that authority disapproves of people expressing an opinion, and disapproves even more strenuously when that opinion is expressed on the Internet. 'Coz that's where the Daily Mail says the immigrant paedophiles who are causing house-prices to crash, hang out.

Next week, we're over to Suz Blog, so send any interesting posts from the British Blogosphere to Britblog [at] Gmail [dot] com for her to enjoy.

There was some spam in the inbox - at least I'm assuming the e-mail from an American Piping supplies company and the request to hold onto several million dollars from a Liberian gentleman were not for inclusion in the roundup. I'm sure most hosts are pretty good, but if you are advertising the e-mail address, could you use the format above to avoid spambots!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Oil Companies, Profits and BBC Bias

As some of you may know, I've been popping up on various radio programs talking about Oil Companines. Yesterday, a researcher BBC 3 Counties Radio called me up and asked me in the light of the recent profits from Shell, and the underlying profit of BP, why weren't we seeing lower prices at the pumps from "the falling cost of oil".

My reply was that the oil price hadn't fallen, it had risen from $72 to $82 in the last 6 weeks or so. Secondly, this is priced in dollars. Some of this recent rise has been offset by a rise in Sterling from $1.42 to $1.52, which is why pump prices had remained broadly stable. Oil had, in fact been rising steadily since 2009. The last time petrol was below £1 per litre, Sterling was buying $1.65 and the oil price was $52. Indeed, the rise in Sterling since the budget probably represents a tax-cut sufficient to offset the future rise in VAT. Indeed that alone demonstrates the foolishness of "Keynsian" stimulus as followed by President Obama, and why Coalition style cuts would lead to a richer country.

Furthermore, I said, trying to blame the oil companies for the price of petrol was like blaming farmers for the price of bread. The cheapest petrol around will be sold more or less at cost. The profit being made in the shop, which is why, if you do see 'pay at pump' machines, they're always disabled. Of the £1.129 per litre of the cheapest petrol 57.19p is fuel duty, 10.01p is VAT on that duty, 6.8p is the VAT on the fuel, and just 38.8p or 34% is the cost of the fuel.

That 38.8p pays for the exploration, drilling, extraction, transport, refining, delivery and storage of that fuel. There may be a penny or so profit for BP or shell, but probably not at the cheapest petrol stations. The lion's share of the £70 from a typical tank of petrol goes to the Government, which means that more is probably spent on out-of-work benefits by the Government from your tank of petrol than goes to BP or Shell, indeed more is probably spent on national defence out of your tank of petrol than goes to their profit.

"Ohh, I hadn't realised that". They had clearly wanted an analyst to confirm their prejudice against business and the profit motive. The same questions are asked every time these public companies release numbers. The same answers are given: that excess profit will be competed away, and that margins are very, very low.That there is no conspiracy against the public.

This is bias. It is not a party political bias, but a cultural and econmic one, which betrays a leaning to discredited economic theories which are supported by the party membership of the Labour party: that 'profit' is distorting. That 'profit' discracts from the business of delivering service to customers, and that the Shareholder interest should be secondary to that of the customer. That 'profit' represents the difference between what you do, and what you should, pay.

Of course this is not the case. Look at the queues outside the cheapest petrol station in your local area: people will save a pound or two per tank and be prepared to wait for 10 minutes to do so. It pays the company to offer petrol at cost, and scalp whatever profit it can from the overpriced sweets and chocolate (and on valentine's day, mother's day and your wife's birthday, flowers) you buy in the shop. There is no conspiracy against the public, there is brutal competition for business, and in the petrol business, that means cutting costs and delivering your petrol cheaper than Q8, Texaco, Esso, or the supermarket.

But the BBC didn't want to hear that. So they 'ran out of time' for my slot. Oh well.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

How Housing benefit has harmed us all

I've been having a debate with BendyGirl on Twitter, which I think is worth a more substantive answer than can be given in 140 characters.

The base-line cost of housing in the private sector is set by the Government: Benefit recipients whose rent is paid from Housing Benefit to private landlords. These people occupy the worst housing, and pay therefore the lowest rents. Landlords are revenue maximising rational agents, and the Government is a stupid customer. Therefore they charge the maximum the Government will pay for their shittiest flats.

If you have a better flat, you rent it out to non-housing benefit tenants for MORE than you could receive off the Government.

The purchase price of the least desirable flats is set by value of the rental stream that the Government will pay. Any better accommodation is priced at a premium to this, grossly inflated level, all the way up to 3-bed family homes.

Basically it boils down to this: There is no shortage of housing - most people have a roof over their heads. It may not be as nice as you'd like; this is because, as anyone who watches 'Grand Designs' will be able to tell you, planning laws are absurdly restrictive. This limits the amount of housing, and also limits the ability of people to make houses to suit their needs. For example, where I live a man built a house with a 'tower' on one corner. This became and still is, the most complained about building in the town, even though the centre of the town contains a 60's concrete monstrosity. The "tower" contains the wheelchair-using owner's lift - He'd had the house build around his needs, and his travails with the planning authorities were legendary. He was rich enough to win his legal battles and build a big, nice house suitable for a disabled person.

Everyone else has to make do with an identikit 'executive' house on a Barratt estate, and even these are expensive. The affordability of housing is the problem because the Government acting as a stupid customer on behalf of the poorest distorts the entire market. If you cut housing benefit, the same flats will be occupied by the same people because no-one else wants them. The cost of this is borne by slum landlords, who get less rent for the same flat.

Anyone going to weep for them?

Thought not. The answer to Britain's housing problems is to phase out Housing benefit entirely, (and 71 other benefits too) and replace it with a smaller number of payments to individuals, replacing direct payment to Landlords. True, some people will spend it on smack, not rent, but that's their fault as individuals, eh? What's true of private tenants is also true of council tenants. The Government should get out of housing provision entirely. Instead of subsidising slum landlords' jetskis on the Costa Del Sol, and making everyone else pay through the nose for shitty little breeding hutches, we'd actually be helping the poorest. Second we need to relax (not remove, relax) planning regulations, and assume that people building houses on a plot of land are rational. That way, there might be a few more desirable individual houses on the market and one or two fewer shitty estates of endless Barratt breeding hutches.

Who loses?

Slum landlords. Who wins?

Everyone else. What's not to like?

Update: Burning our money has a more thorough post.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Britblog Roundup #278

Is up over at 'Amused Cycnicism'. It's here next week, so send your submissions to britblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

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