Wednesday, 29 September 2010

To be, or not to be, (on the birth certificate)

In matters of relationships, I'm a strict libertarian. I don't care with whom you shack up, and what you do behind closed doors with consenting adults. Marriage should not concern the state one jot, as it is a public declaration to family and friends, and as far as the tax advantages of "marriage" go, that's what the civil partnership's for, gay or straight. The state is not interested in the wedding vows, but the signing of the register.

Now the issue of children is a different matter. Deliberate single motherhood, without asking the father's permission is evil, as is abandoning a woman during pregnancy when you'd promised to help support her. The problem comes when the issue of child support creates an incentive to trap a man into fatherhood, and the issue of benefits forces a potentially loving nuclear family apart. The state has regulated too deep, and intrusively and created perverse incentives in doing so.

However, there is no legal requirement for Milliband minor to be on his spawn's brat's child's birth certificate, though it could in theory (but probably not in practice) affect his legal rights as a parent, but neither of the above cases apply to him she neither entrapped him, nor he abandon her. I've no doubt that he's an admirable father, if slightly awkward and bug-eyed, with an anoying nasal whine, which he will no doubt pass on to the unfortunate offspring. Though I suspect anyone trying to make political hay out of the Millisprog's bastardy or anything else related the new Leader of the opposition's unwedded state to be a Daily Mail-reading git, Milliband minor did vote for laws which intrude into the bedroom, in which case, the nastiness is just deserts. Reap what ye sow, interfering socialists.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Shopped for Shopping on Call?

Given that the fines for motoring offences are considerably more severe than those meted for kicking the shit out of someone (generally unpunished, if the victim is me for example), it is clear that society regards illegal parking as really very serious indeed.

There are few things that give me more rage and hate for the state than a parking ticket because I take care to obey the rules, and the couple of times I've been caught in the past few years, has been because of a misunderstanding of which bay was residents' and which was pay & display (whilst training, as it happened with the TA) and an unavoidable delay (I'd stopped to help a cyclist who'd been knocked off). Neither excuse washed and I was made to pay the fines anyway. Often the rules are unclear, and the parking attendents act as if they're on comission, though I understand this is no longer the case.

Obviously though certain, public servants are granted exemption, when in execution of their duties. Clearly the police, or ambulance service responding to a call can reasonably ignore many of the rules of the road including the only crime the police take seriously, speed; and they can abandon a vehicle more or less where they like, if the circumstances demand it. So when I saw this "ambulance" (in truth a vehicle which is designed to meet targets rather than save lives) parked on the double yellow lines outside the front door of our local Sainsbury's, I thought that someone had suffered a turn at the fish-counter in reaction to the price of Halibut, and fully expected to see a paramedic giving CPR, or at least comforting someone next to the frozen peas.

I saw no such thing.

Do we "little people" who don't get exemptions from parking tickets when we stop to scrape a cyclist off the pavement allow paramedics or the police to leave their cars wherever they like whilst they go shopping? You could argue that "If a call comes in" she could drop everything and make a quick get away. But if speed is THAT important, should she be picking up her groceries when she's on call?

The other question would be whether bringing this to the attention of the authorities in the local ambulance service would mark me out as an astonishingly petty twat. Because I hate the police, I'd always shop a cop for speeding if I see one, and the rage I feel when I get a parking ticket means I'm erring on the side of a snot-o-gram e-mail with these attatchments (If I can be bothered).

But I'm seeking the advice of the blogospehere first...

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Labour's New Leader

So, Milliband minor has pipped Milliband major to the Labour leadership post. And many some a few a tiny handful of people are interested in my opinions on the subject. For the fact is even I am not interested in my opinion on Labour's new boss. Anyone who thinks they know what this means for the electorate, is lying. But as this isn't going to stop pundits from all parties and the commentariat, I'm going to guess what this means.

I suspect that Labour will unite under Milliband minor. But this was always not going to be a problem. Labour's tribal psychology suits opposition. They're idealists who are quickly revolted by the necessary compromises of Government. They have united quickly around the Balls/Brownite position of opposition to "cuts" under all and any circumstances. And I don't think "red Ed" will change that. Perhaps Milliband Major would have led the party to come to terms with the need to scale back state spending, but he would have been resisted every step of the way if he did. So the choice for the leader is either economic insanity and party unity OR a reasonable appeal to the electorate and a decade of infighting. They've gone, sensibly for unity for their decade in the wilderness.

Now Labour is riding relatively high in the polls. This is for a number of reasons: first the regular coverage granted to the Labour party election helps. Who's on the news gets a polling boost. Secondly the BBC endlessly describing the cuts as "painful" helps sell the Labour "cuts! Waaaaa!" narrative. Opposition to cuts from the union Barons can coalesce around a leaderless Labour party, who at the same time provide no target for the Government to shoot at. Finally, freed from the pressures of Government, Labour politicians can say what their supporters want to hear and this has led to an increase in membership. The Labour tribe is much happier in opposition to the EEEEeeeeevil Tories than it ever was in Government.

One thing I always notice is that Labour party politicians talk of their party as if it's the country. Only Tony Blair was able to shake this habit, and he's reviled in the party. Ed Milliband may talk about "supporting the squeezed middle" but that middle has not forgotten that the previous leader saw them as pips to be made to squeak. He then immediatley goes on to promise a life-time of higher taxes to that "squeezed middle's" children.

Nevertheless, I suspect that the Labour party will soon get sustained 40% plus polls. I suspect there will be a "Noo Ledah" bounce as there was for the God-awful shit-bird, Gordon Brown. And Millibrother minor is nowhere near as gut-wrenchingly dreadful as the one-eyed son of the Manse. But there is a LONG way to go to the next election, and Ed Milliband is not a politician in the same class as Tony Blair or David Cameron. With his election, The Coalition will have a target to fire at, one who wrote the manifesto which propelled Labour to its worst performance since 1982. Finally the cuts will be nowhere near as "painful" as the Labour party and the trolls in the public sector unions are trying to make you believe. The Labour tribe may believe that the only growth possible comes from public spending, but private sector profitability is rising, demand is following business confidence up and the Private sector will, by the next election be shouldering the burden of growth in salaries and employment that has been bourne by the tax-payer for most of the last decade, to theextreme detrement to the country's finances. The Labour tribe's (in which I include the BBC) promises of "pain" will not be matched by people's experience of the recovery from Brown's fiscal insanity. I suspect Labour will enjoy a few months or a year riding in the polls, but as the election approaches, and the economy improves, the Electorate will be asked to choose between David Cameron, and the Ed Milliband, and the Tories will win an electoral mandate to Govern alone, even if they then choose to continue in coalition.

Labour pundits will talk their own book, and talk their man up, but the habits of opposition are already too entrenched in the Labour movement. It is, after all, where they belong. The Unions' strikes will be the mud that sticks to Ed Milliband, who is already being described as "the Unions' choice". The only predicition I will be confident to make about the new leader is that Ed Milliband will never be Prime-Minister.

Friday, 24 September 2010

The Strange Death of Cycling England

"Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the Human race". HG Wells, himself a keen cycle tourist, may have been a disgusting socialist, but in this at least, he was right.

The bike is one of the perfect machines - certainly in terms of distance travelled for energy expended, it's the best there is. A bike runs on fat, and saves you money, not only in terms of fuel not used in the car, but also in time wasted pouring tea and coffee into yourself to wake yourself up, when you can have some fun on the commute in, and feel great when you arrive. This is as true as my 4-mile country road cycle as it was when I dodged traffic in London or Edinburgh. Indeed, in many ways I feel safer in London than I do on country roads. Stationary traffic, you see, won't kill you.

No matter how pissed up I am the night before, how late I go to bed, and how rubbish I feel in the morning IF I unlock the bike, rather than get in the car, the rest of the day just seems better. So, whenever I have spare money, it goes on bike stuff. I've just ordered a custom messenger bag from these guys (British Racing Green, with yellow detailing as per Lotus Racing team's colours with a broad, reflective chequerboard design. Oh and a Union Jack, and this Blog's URL), and if anyone wants to buy me a present, any of the gear from here would be very much appreciated. So... I'm an enthusiastic cyclist and evangelical about the joys of getting to work under your own steam. When I read that 'cycling england' was heading for the great Quango feather bed in the sky, I should be furious, right? (Afterall, TravelGall says it's so...)


What is the fucking point? Car drivers will not be any more polite to you, because there's a quango spunking everyone's money putting out glossy leaflets about cutting one's carbon emissions by cycling. Nor will a piece of green or red tarmac widen the road enough to allow you and the car simultaneousuly through he gap between a traffic island and the pavement. In Fact more often, the cycle lane will make the driver THINK there's enough room, and kill you by trying to squeeze through without considering the manoevre.

I'm all for the (expensive) well-designed cycle lane, but If cycling england lobbied for the targets for miles of cycle lanes that councils accross the country have painted on the road, then they're not only useless, they're responsible for death and injury as cyclists are hit by motorists who think that the lane means they don't have to slow down. Do you think I like speed-bumps? They cause the motorist to be focussing on something other than not hitting me, AND they are bloody uncomfortable if you hit them fast. And I am ALSO a motorist. Cycling England agitates for speed humps. Cycle parking is so simple and inexpensive that it doesn't need a quango to tell councils and businesses how to install it.

What about the cycle to work scheme where tax breaks are given to cyclists to buy equipment? Unfortunately, I'm self-employed, so I have to buy my kit out of taxed income, because the Last government would rather me be a slave to a company than be an independent trader. In recent months, London has become a MUCH more cycle friendly city, but I suspect that's because of the Cycling Mayor, not because of this useless quango.

My cycling manifesto:

  1. All cycling equipment should be tax-deductable, and VAT-free to everyone, not just those with employers.
  2. left-turn on red allowed for cyclists (& probably cars too).
  3. Roads to be properly maintained. Potholes are an annoyance to a motorist, they're potentially lethal for a cyclist. Cycling on smooth tarmac is a joy.
  4. red lights advisory for cyclists. (If you have an opinion on this, but don't cycle, please feel free to keep it to yourself)
  5. No cycle lane built without input from cyclists to put an end to dangerous, badly designed lanes, which encourage motorists to not give enough room.
  6. Money which did go to pay for 'Cycle England' leaflets & Bureaucracy to be spent on a properly designed network of cycle routes.
But Cycling England agitated for none of these things, and spent a great deal of wasted time trying to get cyclists to obey the red light (again, motorists, keep your ignorant "thoughts" on this issue to yourselves, I'm really not intersted, I've heard them all before) and making helmets compulsory, despite most evidence linking them to a HIGHER rate of injury amongst cyclists, again becaue they give motoritst a reason to think it's safe to drive aggressively against a cyclists. So. From this cyclist (and motorist) good riddance to Cycle England. Maybe councils will actually listen to cyclists rather than bureaucrats if they want encourage the one single thing one can do most easily to make one's life better.

You see the cycle is the last bastion of freedom. You can outrun the police. Something I highly recommend you do as a cyclist is provoke the police to a chase in central London - the best sport you'll ever have - you can't be caught by number-plate recognition technology, you don't need fuel, and if you get caught, are they REALLY going to prosecute you for going the wrong way up a one-way street, and accusing a motorcycle cop of being in it because his boyfriend likes the leather? But it's not just the sport of running from the police. You are genuinely free on a bike, in a way you are not on any other form of transport. Sunk cost of the equipment, which with a bit of skill and elbow-grease you could have a bike capable of beating anyone's... if you're fit, for £50, cycling's free. No-one's going to breathalyse you on the way home from the pub if you've have one or two too many. Speed-humps, one-way systems and traffic lights are advisory. The reason this is OK is that unless you're a total twat (like fixie affecionados who think it reasonable to cycle in town without brakes, and the people who ride on the pavement, for example) you're only risking your OWN life. It's democratic - The bike is truly the libertarian's mode of transport. And the final benefit is that girls are more likely to want to go to bed with men who have firm thighs...

Get on your bike. You don't need a Quango to tell you to do so.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Gay Sex and free speech

In yesterday's telegraph, Charles Moore described Peter Tatchell as an "energetic crank whose life's work is to reduce all human history to the question of gay sex". Naturally the po-faced prigs over at Liberal Conspiracy were quick on the draw with their perpetual bleat of "homophobia". Tatchell himself is pretty robust on free speech. The likes of Charles Moore, Jan Moir on the other hand are always bleating on about Christian Cranks who seem obsessed with the issue too, who are now discriminated against for "experssing their beliefs". Examples like the firemen who were sent on diversity courses following their refusal to hand out leaflets at a Gay Pride march form the punctuations on the narrative that "christians are now discriminated against".

Now I was serving in the Military when it became illegal to discriminate on the grounds of sexuality. We were formed up in platoons and every Colour Serjeant read a statement to the effect that it was all OK in this man's Army now. Some went further, ordering their men to number off, odd numbers to turn to their left, even to their right, and give the man next to you a nice big kiss. I remeber being against homosexuals serving at the time, but seeing as it's caused precisely no problems, I now realise I was wrong. The truth is the only reason a Fireman, Police offcier or Solider would refuse to attend a recruiting event at Gay Pride is if not active homophobia then a certain distaste towards Gay men. They should cover that up and do their duty as ordered, whatever their personal beliefs.

idiots, not criminals

Whilst I am a firm believer in free speech, I cannot get worked up about the rights of people to display discriminatory prejudice when there's ludicrous libel laws to get worked up about instead. "they're there to fight fires?" Maybe, but they're also there to spread fire-safety messages and recruit, and these "outreach" functions are just as important as fighting fires. Likewise, whilst I am certainly no advocate of hate-speech legislation, I find it difficult to get worked up when some placard-waving loony is harrassed by the police for displaying a sign that "Homosexuals should go to hell" or something at Gay Pride events. After all, the job description of the police is not to "enforce the law" but to keep the peace. The kind of purse-lipped puritain who seek out things to be outraged about, and then goes out of their way to be offensive to people deserves little sympathy.

It is not illegal to express your christian beleifs. It may be against your employer's dress code to display religious symbols. You may not be able to act on your consience on your employer's time. You may, if in a public-facing role have to deal with Gay people. If you don't like it, get another job, and don't open a guest-house. You have a right to be a bigoted, spiteful, purse-lipped bigot, but you don't have a right to have that bigotry protected in law. On the otherhand, just as religious nutters were beastly when they had the power, the Gays must not swing back and outlaw private consiences of people who wish to get all hot under the collar about what you and your boyfriend do all night long in those |dens of filth nightclubs. Tolerance, people, yea even unto the cranks.

Instead, it seems eveyone is obsessed by Gay sex. Tatchell, well he's gay, and insofar as we Homo Sapiens are obsessed by sex, that's perfectly reasonable. Plus he got biffed by Mugabe's thugs, so he's both consistent, corageous and can be relied upon to support free speech, he's OK. The likes of Jan Moir, and on the other side of the divide, Sunny Hundal, who both as far as I know play a straight bat, are likewise obsessed. Moir thinks that Gays are out to destroy the family, and Hundal sees homophobia in everything anyone who has ever even thought of voting conservative has ever said or thought.

The fact is Gay sex is not important. Homosexuals have full rights to form civil partnerships which have all the same legal rights as marriage. If you want to call it "marriage", surely that's up to you? Should the state be legislating at all on what is a matter of purely personal consience? So this perpetual bleat of accusations of homophobia, the moment any straight person, especially if consistent with Christian beliefs, or coincident with Conservative membership, is rather wearing. Accept there are Christian cranks who think the matter is important enough to wave placards, do what most people do when they see mono-maniacs with placards: smile at them in a spirit of bemused tolerance. Stop agiating for laws which criminalises the harmless eccentric, for this gives him the power of the Martyr. Stop accusing people who have mere distaste for the Homosexual act of being "homophobic". That forces them into the arms of the real bigots. And as far as the the Christian nutters go, it's remarkable how many laws are observed in the Breach: most of Leviticus for example. Why the obsession with a couple of passages from the clearly confused St. Paul's letters to Timothy (please?...) to give religious weight to what is clearly simple prejudice.

My message to both groups is leave the Gays alone. Gay sex just isn't important any more, except to Gay people. Stop having opinions on Gay sex, and the people who do it. The battle for equal gay rights in the west has been broadly won. Violent discrimination against homosexuals should be fought where it is a real problem: The muslim world and Africa.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

On "Fairness" in political discourse

"All men are created equal" so says the American declaration of independence, putting equality of opportunity front and centre while the French revoloutionary slogan "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood" put equality of outcome at the heart of political discourse. The word "equality" means very different things depending on its context.

The same is true of "fairness". If all men are created equal, surely all citizens should pay an equal share of the burdens of state? This is the thinking behind poll taxes: a flat charge levied on all citizens. All men are equal, and are charged equally for the services to which they are entitled, surely that's fair?

But, those with the broadest shoulders should pay more? Well that's the thinking behind taxation as a percentage of income. Churches were the first to realise the potential in this idea, with the Zakat and the Tythe being set at a most-reasonable (by today's standards) 10%. As society gets richer, so does the state/church levying the taxes. Everyone pays the same proportion of their income to the state. The poor pay the least. The rich pay the most. Surely that's fair?

But then of course, this means that some people get very rich, and some very poor people still have to pay for services they might not use, and the payment is extracted at the point of a gun, is it fair to expropriate 10% of the income of someone struggling to get by? No. So the state set a rate below which it is immoral to take money by force. Let's call this the personal allowance. Above this rate, everyone pays the same share of their income to the state. Surely that's fair?

But then there are some people who are still successful and rich, and that will never do. So the broad mass of envious middle and low earners have taken the opportunity presented to them by democracy to see that someone else pays more tax. That "someone else" means, in effect "The rich" defined as "anyone earning more than I do". The people ask the politicians to see to it that "The Rich" should pay a higher rate of tax "because they can afford it". Some of that is returned to the broad mass of middle earners in paltry benefits of one form or another, to keep them quiet. Of course, in time, the state freezes rates at which the higher rate is levied and lets everyone creep into the bracket fomerly marked as "rich" which now includes almost anyone working. The politicians have managed to persuade the people that this is "fair". Within a couple of decades, everyone working is paying tax. Everyone not paying tax is kept on benefits by 90% marginal tax rates - the Tories haven't shown much interest in this demographic and the Labour party likes to keep its pets supplicant to the state's teat. Is it fair that the poor face obscene marginal rates, while someone who probably uses public services less than average pays more absolutely AND as a percentage of income than the rest of us? If so, why?

Monday, 13 September 2010

Newman's Miracles

When I heard that cardinal John Newman, a victorian Brummie who converted to Catholicism, was to be Beatified, or made into a sort-of Local saint, I was curious as to the Miracle he was supposed to have performed. This got me to thinking of the rather lame ones which allowed St. Thomas Aquinas to be Canonised. In the case of Newman, a man whom he had never met, who lived in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (ie now) had a back operated on, and it got better.

This is dealt with by the Heresiarch

The question I would direct to my intelligent left-footed friends is this: Do you actually, honestly believe this shit? If so, how and why? Surely it's clear even the his holiness the Pope is just going through the motions? In any case, I understand, this desire to confim absolutely ANYONE of note in the Catholic faith as a saint is really quite modern. If I am correct, and I really cannot be bothered to do much research on this gibberish, John Paul II Canonised many more people than had been made saints in the previous 500 years.

Surely you don't want to make it TOO easy for we atheists to ridicule your "faith"?

Britblog Roundup #281

Is up over at Charles Crawford's Blogoir.


Friday, 10 September 2010

A misunderstanding of why business works.

Remember the liberal conspiracy whinge a few days ago about Connaught? The bosses were fiddling the figures, which should have been obvious as a consistently profitable company which somehow never seems to have cash-flow anywhere near the reported profits is always a source of worry. RBS (who else?) pulled the plug and the company went into administration.

10,000 jobs of real people doing real things are now at risk.
Well, no they're not. Morgan Sindall has bought some of the assets, and many of those jobs are now safe. The bosses and shareholders of Connaught, on the other hand have lost a lot, much of the Bonuses were paid in shares. The Chairman and Finance director have both lost shareholdings worth over £1m. No-one can deny that these people at the top of a large, public company were well remunerated, but robber barons they were not.

The financial markets have removed incompetent management and seen the businesses run better and more profitably. The tax-payer owned bank is going to get some of its loans paid back by Morgan Sindall, whose shareholders profit handsomely for picking up troubled assets cheaply (Shares up over 8% this morning). The work will still be done. Incompetent bosses lose out, the rescuer profits. The right people win, and lose.

This capitalist M'larkey sorta works, eh?

Thursday, 9 September 2010

On Rape Jokes.

I have seen 2 articles (By Brian Logan and Kira Cochrane) getting het-up about "rape jokes" in the Guardian recently. Now the libertarian blogoshpere, including me, has been using the image of the rape - usually anal - to describe what Government does when it interferes with one's freedom, for ages. Devil's Knife, I'm looking at you especially. Mainly because we want people to realise how SERIOUSLY we take the government's intrusions into our lives, and how powerless we are to do anything about it. It's an unpleasant allusion, and perhaps tasteless. But apt. Nor are Comedians are not belittling rape when they say for example 'A bit rapey' meaning 'sleazy'. Just as one can joke about life, death, murder, paedophillia, animal abuse, torture; rape is not taboo.

When Kira Cochrane says

Aside from suggesting rape isn't all that serious, these jokes also underplay its prevalence. Estimations of the number of women raped or sexually assualted in the UK every year are necessarily imprecise, but they range from 47,000 to 100,000. It is thought that around one in four women are victims of sexual violence in their lifetimes
I would like to see the study - she links to a report in that well-known academic journal, Marie Claire - suggesting one in 4 women are raped because they've been had sex when they didn't want to by their significant other. How many people define rape as lying back and thinking of England (or for that matter, climbing on and thinking of Christina Hendrick) when you're not in the mood as 'rape'? This is not to belittle non-consensual sex, which is always wrong, but was the question worded so as to include satisfying of one's partner's urges so you can get back to your book or go to sleep? Perhaps 'Havens' rape centres are talking their own book?

If she's suggesting that drunken hubby-humping or a squeeze of tit by a pervert on the tube, is 'rape', or even 'sexual violence', or equating domestic violence with rape, then it is not the comedians or bloggers who are belittling rape & sexual violence. It's her.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

"Casino" Banking

There's an idea, not a new one by any means, doing the rounds that investment banking and retail banking should not done by the same firm because the risky "Casino" bank could pull under a "safe 'n boring" retail bank, and this is the main objection to Bob Diamond's promotion from running BarCap to running Barclays PLC. Never mind that Bob Diamond's business kept Barclays out of the grubby maw of Government - he's the "Unnacceptable face of the Bonus culture".

It may seem obvious that investment banking is risky, but the evidence does not back this analysis up at all. Nowhere did investment banking losses pull a retail bank down, or requrire one to take government bail-out money: let's look at the UK banking sector:

Lloyds TSB: Safe, solvent, straighthforward Retail bank, until it was persuaded to buy HBoS by Economic Jonah, Gordon Brown.
HBoS (Halifax, Bank of Scotland): mainly retail, Large Mortgage Business, which went belly-up and took Lloyds TSB with it too.
Royal Bank of Scotland, very small investment bank, Largest UK retail operation, big Corporate loan book, whose purchase of ING ABN Amro strained its balance sheet to breaking point. It's failure was hubris, not Investment banking.
HSBC: Universal Bank, large global retail and investment banking operations, now trading at the same shareprice it was before the crisis, and is still paying dividends.
Barclays: Large UK retail bank, overseas operations, buccaneering and ambitious investment bank, who were raised funds from private investors and just managed to keep out of Government hands.
Standard Chartered: International corporate and retail bank, mainly Asia and Africa - no problem at all.
Northern Rock: Ex Building society turned Mortgage and Retail, bailed out by a Labour government because they couldn't bear to see anyone make money and wanted to save jobs in key marginals.
Bradford & Bingley: See Northern Rock. Eventually bought by Spanish banking group, Santander.
Let's look at the evidence: Of the two "universal banks" listed in the UK, neither had to touch the UK taxpayer for money. HSBC was able to cope with the crash on it's own resources and Barclays was able to use its contacts from the investment bank to touch sovereign wealth investors, who have now been paid back. The banks which had got into trouble were either Mortgage banks without a large retail business from which the Mortgages were funded: Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley, or they were banks who sailed close to the minimum Capital adequacy ratio like Royal Bank of Scotland. Or, like HBoS, Both.

In the USA, the all but Lehman Brothers and Merril Lynch of the Large investment banks survived. Small savings and loans have gone bust all over the place, and only one Universal banks, Citi got into real difficulty, and it was its massive retail operation which pulled it under. The evidence that the "casino" banking is a bigger risk than lending to Joe Sixpack to buy his grotty suburban semi, is just not there, and anyone who uses the phrase "casino" banking can therefore be ignored on any economic subject, unless you take the view that in the economic casino, investment banks are 'the House', which is very good, safe and profitable business indeed. But I don't think this is what ex-Labour MP Vince Cable means by "Casino Banking".

The fact of the matter is that Governments in the UK, USA and elsewhere have been stoking the money supply for 30 years. They have been encouraging banks to lend "innovatively" to enable "ordinary people" to "get on the housing ladder", which in practice meant encouraging, or compelling, banks to lend large sums at great multiples of earnings with small deposits to people who were expecting house-price inflation to do the work of paying off the loan. There is a banking phrase to describe these people: "poor credit risks". Some banks in the UK became dependent on wholesale markets to fund their loan books, and when this dried up, the banks collapsed.

It's interesting that much maligned buy-to-let investors allowed Paragon, an entirely wholesale financed mortgage business to survive because they lent to good credit risks with big deposits. The old rules of banking still hold. If you've a low income, you can't have a loan, sorry. It's not the bank's job to fund a life-style.

The banks that collapsed because the merry-go-round of phantom money could not go on for ever because house-prices couldn't go up for ever. Eventually the money to fund the bubble was pulled away, and those with unsustainable business models fell over. The proximate cause of this failure was the failure of the wholesale market, but the ultimate cause was a belief, encouraged by politicians for two generations, on both sides of the Atlantic, that the house-market would be a better source of wealth than anything else.

House prices are further away from sustainable multiples of earnings than at any time in history. The Baby-Boomers who own them are going to sell as they're herded into care homes or move down into bungalows, and their children will fund their retirement buy buying those overpriced assets which will return precicesly nothing over the next decade or more, if we're lucky. Anyone who thinks they're going to make money on mortgaged property is a loon.

Which leads us to Banks. They too are not going to make money from lending to people to buy houses that are going to fall in value, so we'd all better get used to bigger deposits and higher rates. Or we can encourage another bubble by forcing the banks to lend to poor credit risks again. Anyone think that's a good idea? There is no difference, fundamentally, between lending to a person to buy a house and lending to a company to fund its operations. If the bank thinks the company or person is going to struggle to repay, the bank takes action so that it recovers as much of possible of its money. Which is why the left's whinge about Connaught going bust is just. It makes no difference that it's "State owned" RBS that did it, Connaught was loss-making with dishonest management, and went bust. It happens, and given that it's in property services, the market will not improve enough to change things. The truth is that banks were too willing to lend to speculative companies in the good times, and they're probably a little too risk averse now. No-one said the market's perfect (just better than economic planning).

So, companies will be denied debt finance. So what options does a good, viable company have when denied bank finance? The other sort of finance: Equity, either private or public, and here investment banks come into their own. If they're unwilling to lend to you, maybe they will, for a fee find someone who will invest who has a greater risk appetite. That too is a banking service, and there is no reason why Banks shouldn't do both. And why should retail deposits be invested ONLY in mortgage loan books? Couldn't banks invest in equity and company debt through an investment banking arm? I thought lefties were against debt and funny money, and liked "investment" in businesses?

The unholy alliance between the left and the ignorant daily-mail right can bleat all it likes about "casino" banking. The truth is that the investment banks did a lot better than both Governments and retail banking during the crisis because of the idiocy of Governments and the Public in buying assets they couldnt' afford and spending more than they earned. Investment banks like BarCap and Goldman Sachs didn't do this, and were able to pick up quality assets in the firesale caused by the inevitable crash. And surely spreading risks in different business areas is a good thing?

Punishing the winner looks a lot to me like sour grapes.

It seems that Clegg ran on this today at PMQs, and wants to seperate Retail and Investment banking. Let's hope grown-ups point out evidence shall we? Too big to fail is too big, it doesn't matter what businesses they're in.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

In Which the Dude takes ACTION!

Mr Eugenides said it first, and I heartily concur with his response to the proposal that all PAYE salary goes to the Taxman who then deigns to give you an allowance: a response of FUCK OFF.

Anyway as he's said everything that needs to be said about this disgusting proposal, I thought I would DO something about it. So here's the text of the letter I wrote to my MP.

I am sure you have seen the Telegraph report about an idea that the HMRC takes one’s monthly salary and then gives you back what it thinks you should have “to reduce errors”.

This is one of the most disgusting, totalitarian proposals I have ever seen; It would shame the last “Government” and shows that there are people in this administration too who don’t understand the correct role of the state: the SERVANT of the people, not our MASTER. I am having trouble writing to you about this without using Anglo-Saxon invective. Are we Tories civil-libertarians, or not? Are there really people so trusting of the all-powerful state who can’t see anything wrong with this?

Can you reassure me that it’s not a serious proposal so I can shelve plans to emigrate to somewhere business-friendly and free, like North Korea, or Cuba?

Furthermore would It be possible to find out who came up with this revolting proposal, so I can campaign to have them removed from whatever post they may hold?
I will keep you updated as to the response.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Bureacracy Ruins Everything.

I am in the process of registering probate for someone who owns shares registered in Hong Kong. This rather wry post from the White Sun of the Desert talks about registering as a Guest in Russia, and this rather moving post from the delectible Bendy Girl on registering for Disabilty Living Allowance show what bureaucracy does.

Try as I might, I cannot see any benefit to anyone of some of the forms which need to be filled in, the permissions sought, and the time consumed. It is because we have miserably acquiessed to the bureaucrat's convenience that we meekly tick the boxes and give them the information they want (but often have no need or use for) out of lethargy and habit. The form has become law, almost by accident. Obsessive collecting of data are the mark of the Totalitarian, separating him from the mere despot.

This informs all my dealings with bureaucracy. I am dealing with people who would do ANYTHING if the order came down on the correct form, without thinking of the consequences.

If you have ever sent anything back for being on the wrong form, or demanded that the same information be put on a different piece of paper, then you are evil. It is people like you who saw to it that the Nazi atrocities were carried out, and I despise you.

Britblog Roundup #280

A really thorough Britblog roundup this week from Redemption Blues. One for this evening when I have a glass of wine to enjoy it with.

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