Dispersed Benefits, Concentrated Costs.

In November, I went to see P. J. O’Rourke give a talk. In which he described the government as a “very powerful tool”, the temptation of which is to use it inappropriately. This was brought to my mind by the conversation I had with a young labour activist on twitter today (slow work day…), who was convinced that “fighting for workers’ rights” is exactly what a governing party should be doing. And then I thought about the depressing graph about “Liberty” verses “Equality” and “Diversity”

Of course, since 1800, the rise of democracy has seen the fear of Tyranny recede, and the fact that the benefits of liberty are dispersed, the benefits of socialism are obvious and its costs are dispersed has seen people, voters, broadly ask this enormously powerful tool which democracy nominally puts at their disposal, to fix ever more problems for them. This, of course, costs – taxes, regulation and such like. But everyone’s paying and some people are getting something “for free” back. Is liberty going to die under the weight of an ever-more activist state? The price of freedom is vigilance, and I fear that a state which even thinks about ending Trial by Jury, Habeas Corpus and freedom of speech, whilst prosecuting people for inane jokes on Twitter and spending 50% of the national pie (which for 40% of the population who say they’ll be voting Labour STILL isn’t enough) is so far removed from any concept of liberty as to be lost.

Or has the activist state finally been shown the limits of the approach by the massive deficits and debts built up by democratic Governments? Are the cuts going to usher in an optimistic, entrepreneurial country which suddenly rediscovers its self-reliance and throws off the burden of state spending along with the benefits which go with it?

Back to my Labour activist on Twitter, who was convinced that minimum wages and “living wage” legislation as well as ever more onerous workers’ rights is absolutely a good thing. Trying to explain to an 18year-old that a minimum wage prices the low-skilled out of the jobs market, and that protecting a job, by making it expensive to fire a worker means that fewer workers are hired in the first place. No amount of education could replace the experience of an actual JOB leading to a vicious circle where the poor cannot get the starter job and end up in despair and on benefits. Policies designed to protect jobs are GREAT for those with those jobs. They’re safe. But for those looking for work, it makes it harder to find work.

Of course, the people with low-paid jobs and those just above them LOVE the Minimum Wage too. They will go out and tell everyone that the minimum wage changed their life. They now have more money at the end of the week. The non-working poor doesn’t put their joblessness down to the minimum wage, job protection legislation or their own lack of skills, instead probably blames immigrants or fact that there are no jobs round here. So the dis benefits of a minimum wage policy or job protection policy can be ignored. Most people have jobs and will vote to keep them. The jobless don’t as a rule vote. Nor do they understand why they’re jobless, and expect the state to do something about their plight.

And every policy cut, every social service no longer provided has two constituencies loudly shouting “I No LONGER HAVE A JOB” and “I NO LONGER GET MY SERVICE” whereas the benefit is spread amongst 40m taxpayers, some time in the future. Explaining the method by which those same services are delivered, usually more efficiently and cheaper if chaotically (look up the actual rather than idiomatic meaning of ‘chaos’ before commenting) by someone other than government, is excruciatingly difficult.

Politicians who would in fact do best cutting taxes, reducing red tape and getting out of the way instead get involved with trade policies, monetary policies and labour market interventions to solve the problem, because it is easier to be seen to be doing something than explaining why Government is the wrong tool for the job. All these social policies and redistribution costs in money, people’s time and lost opportunity and eventually the costs mount up to overwhelm the country’s economy. Fortunately, we are not there yet. The country can go on getting ever more statist for some time yet and this will meet the support of people like UK Uncut. Eventually, however the burden of regulation and tax becomes too great. The coalition has an opportunity to to remove the burden on the hard-pressed tax-payer, and change the narrative. But the success of the policy MUST be seen within this parliament or eventually the problem of people demanding people use the powerful tool for their benefit at the highly dispersed cost to others rears its head.

Just because statists and socialists pretend their market interventions are without cost, Libertarians shouldn’t pretend their policies aren’t without losers. We do have the truth on our side. Every libertarian policy comes up against the concentrated harm, dispersed benefits problem. Socialism or State-activism can point to the people who lose out, and the Libertarian cannot point to anyone who gains much, but overall, everyone is much richer. Making these argument to the electorate is very similar to making the point on Twitter – if you can’t say it in 140 characters, you might as well not be saying it. Your argument is doomed if you can’t tweet it!

So a Christmas problem for my readers: Come up with a 140-character slogan to overcome the dispersed benefit concentrated cost problem for deployment against lefties on Twitter and eventually the electorate. We can’t get them reading books about liberty, so we need to be as good at sloganeering as the statist left.

Farewell to the Devil…

…So the Devil has joined Mr Eugenides in throwing in the Towel.

There’s still all manner of socialist lunacy to oppose at all levels of Government. Even if I am broadly in agreement with this Government’s approach, there are councils, there are celebrities, there are unions, there are people who’ve lived high on the fat of a profligate government now bleating about “cuts”. They are parading the bleeding stumps of the poor, in many cases kept poor by those policies they’re bleating about cutting. These are the people who need opposing – the needlessly entitled client state that Labour built – help the Coalition smash it.

Of course if your demands are “dismantle the entire edifice of the state by next tuesday” you’re always going to be dissapointed. If you cannot see any benefit from the EU, and think it THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE, and see plots and betrayal where I see a pragmatically skeptical Government which has more important things to do than tilt at the EU windmill, you’re always going to be angry. The election, as far as I am concerned produced a result which may, in time, result in a good government. So I too am losing the rage and throwing rocks at opposition politicians (metaphorically speaking I don’t want to end up prosecuted for “threatening communication”) is less fun than it was when they ran things.

The oppositional mindset of the Blogger prior to May was about the savage assualt on civil liberties. Now, its about whining that you have to stand on your own two feet once more as the state removes the comfort blanket. The blogosphere is going to be a much diminished thing if Liberal Conspiracy is in the vanguard and all it is bleating about is ‘cuts’.

Of course, I will miss the Devil’s cathartic ranting ond forensic foul-mouthed fisking. He’s a good mate in meatspace too. However as someone somewere said “Blogging is like the Hotel california: you can check out, but you can never leave”. The devil will return, of that you can be sure.

Some of you may have noticed a drop off in the volume of posting here. Of course when I am inspried, I write, when I am not, I don’t. At the moment I am busy and Travelgall is away for a couple of weeks. Rest assured, we will stay in harness at least until the Labour corpse stops twitching. I may not be directly opposed to the Government, I am, after all, a card-carrying Conservative. I am, and always will be opposed to “the state” insofar as it affects me and my life, whether by enabling corporate fuckwittery, or by rapacious taxation, or by poor, illiberal law-making.

The Government is not libertarian. The state is still consuming over 50% of GDP. Tax is over 40% of GDP. The civil liberties outlook is, like the country’s finances merely getting shittier at a slightly reduced rate. There is still much for the Libertarian blogosphere to do.

Farewell, Mr Eugenides…

I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr Eugenides once, in St Stephen’s Tavern, Westminster, which is also where I first met Trixy, The Devil, The Nameless Libertarian and other potty-mouthed Labour-haters. Stout fellows, all. I can confirm Mr Eugenides is as entertaining in person as he is on his blog. And he had? has, by far, the best Avatar in the blogosphere. He is alas hanging up his στυλό.

I share the scepticism of some readers towards many aspects of the new government’s platform, and worry that their reforms will be too timid, their policies wrong-headed, their instincts far from libertarian. I worry, in short, that they will disappoint us, as I know you do too.

But what I don’t have now is that same hate. The last administration filled me with disgust; the mere sight on my telly of a Charles Clarke, a John Reid, a – God forgive me for even typing the words! – Patricia Hewitt, sent me flying into almost uncontrollable loathing. And without fury, without rage, without spite, this blog is nothing, really – or at least, not what it was – because the way it’s written, it is set up for polemic, not placid discussion.

Rest assured, though I too don’t feel the same rage as I did when Gordon Brown was placing his Hex on the United Kingdom, I will be continuing in harness until Labour’s corpse stops twitching. I am enthusiastic in my support for much of this Government’s agenda, but will continue to point out their stupidities and failures. There is much, much stupidity still out there, the Unions are flexing their muscles, Polly Toynbee still draws breath, and inexplicably gets paid for her “thoughts”; Will Hutton manages to persuade people that he knows what he’s talking about when the Think Tank he runs has just gone bust, and the Government contains its fair share of Authoritarian nanny-staters. (Just please don’t forget just how dreadful the last lot were in comparison). There is much work for the Libertarian movement to do, and many of us are disappointed that one of our most consistently entertaining advocates will not be providing daily belly-laughs.

I for one am leaving his Blog in my reader. I’ve seen it many times: it’s not the end, it’s a break for the creative juices to get flowing again. I give him 3 months before his apologetic and embarassed return. Blogging, you see, is harder to quit than crack. He recently joined Twitter, which as many of you know, is a Time-eater extraordinaire. Is this the real reason for the demise of the Angry Baby? Anyway, whatever the reason. I hope you join me in wishing him well.

I’ve been Mr Eugenides, and you’ve been a wonderful audience. Good night, and good luck.

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…

I Want A Pub, not a Drinking Barn.

Regular commenter and all-round socialist nutcase, NorthBriton45 has written a post with which, broadly I agree. I feel soiled and might have to go and lie down. Of course he has a broad and deep knowledge of pubs as befits a man in his profession, and this expert knowledge of the watering holes of the west end shows.

As he’s a socialist there’s an inevitable turd on the lawn, in the form of a call for Government action, inevitable in a post lamenting a failure of the one piece of New Lab legislation I agreed with. He’s arguing in favour of minimum pricing, though only against supermarkets – why should responsible drinkers not benefit from supermarket loss leaders? But his comments on the way noisy drinking barns have been able to benefit from late licenses when responsible pubs without loud music have been denied them are absolutely spot on.

The Dawn Herald

If anyone feels like helping an author, your comments on the First chapter of Mara’s children’s book, ‘The Dawn Herald‘ would be much appreciated, especially if you’re a CS Lewis or Terry Pratchett fan!

How to lie with a Graph

One of the irritations of the Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, aside from the new post every 10 minutes clogging up the Reader, is the fact that comments are not allowed. In this instance “chart of the day” demonstrates how to lie with a graph, and I would love to make this comment over there.

This would look VERY different on a logarithmic scale as it shows incomes of an order of magnitude’s difference. It starts at the bottom of a boom i n1979 and it stops at the top of a boom in 2007. I wonder what happened between then and now?

Finally of course, who cares how many millions have the top 1%? They’ve always been mega wealthy. The top 1% is, by its nature self-selecting. The people who were in the top 1% in 1979 may have done extremely badly, and are now only in the top 20% and new players have joined the ultra rich. This is distorted by selection bias not prevalent in larger cohorts.

Comparing a top 1% with the middle 60% is not therefore comparing like with like. A graph showing each of the deciles’ incomes over that period would be informative. What would that show? The answer is that you cannot see on this graph, because the scale is of insufficient resolution to answer it, but it appears that the bottom 80% are all going roughly the right way at roughly the same rate. But as charts as dishonest as this one are all you ever see from leftie blogs, then I suspect the 10 lines representing 10 income deciles do not show the picture the inequality-obsessed left want you to see.

To Sell out, or not to sell out?

“No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”

a bon-mot attributed as all such quips are to Mark Twain Samuel Johnson. As I am “the Chap” in question here, go over to Mara’s Musings and answer her question in the affermative for me would you?

Jackart Elsewhere

I’ve a piece up at Hagley Road to Ladywood, on how the Coalition is the best Government we’ve had in generations. Go and make a nuisance of yourselves over there.

Budget reaction

For anyone looking for my reaction to the budget, they could do worse than going to Mr Eugenides’ place, where there is some glorious invective.

This speech is essentially an extended “fuck you” to his predecessors…. Vince Cable looks like he’s swallowed a shit-flavoured landmine.

The cuts are coming thick and fast – thick and fast enough to gladden the hearts of all bloggertarians, and enrage lefties everywhere… If only this presaged a wholesale assault on the size of the state, rather than applying a tourniquet to the gushing wounds inflicted by the witless fuck-muppets who came before.

I hope there isn’t a TV in whatever psychiatric ward Gordon currently resides.

Or you could peruse my Twitter feed. Up to you.