On Recognising Marriage in the Tax System.

I anticipate abuse from anyone and everyone from all corners of the political spectrum, and I hope there’s something in it for everyone (to get all offended about).

I loathe the term “partner”. For me, and all civilised people, the progression is Girlfriend-Fiancee-Wife. A “Partner” is someone with whom one does business. Anyway semantics aside, one’s girlfriend, if she lives in the same place is now deemed in law to be a “partner”, and as such deemed does not qualify for any out of work benefits should she become unemployed beyond Job Seekers’ Allowance (assuming a history of recent NI contributions). The working “partner” is responsible for the non-working one, saving the country thousands in benefits, yet as far as I can see, the working partner (usually the man) sees no benefit from taking on this responsibility at some cost to himself.

No-one seems to bat an eyelid about the fact the decision is made on whether two people who live together are “in a relationship”. The question is therefore one of sleeping arrangements and sex. Were you shagging your lodger, any benefits (s)he may claim would become fraudulent. This gives the state a prurient interest in people’s bedrooms, hence RIPA and bin-snooping by council prod-noses. This represents a gross intrusion into people’s privacy.

This is also grossly unfair on the working partner, who may find himself (for it is usually a ‘He’) with financial burdens he was not expecting and did not want.

Marriage should be the contract under which two people should be bound together by law, where they take fiscal responsibility for each other and any fruit of the union. Taking this logic one stage futher, surely women would take more care with their fertility if they did not have access to a man’s wallet should they “accidentally” fall pregnant. After all, I thought the whole pill, 60’s feminist revolution and all that was about the “woman’s right to choose” put a woman in control, taking that control from the patriarchal phallocracic oppression rape-matrix, or whatever it’s called in sociology classes these days. It should indeed be the woman’s right to choose, but not at the man’s expense. Sex is not an open offer of fatherhood. That, I thought was the other side of the whole 60’s feminist revolution? Don’t like abortion? Pay for the kid yourself, or keep your legs shut until you find a man willing to commit. It is after all, a woman’s right to choose.

Marriage would be the contract under which a man declares that he takes responsibility for his wife’s children (assuming they’re actually his…). Marriage would be the contract that he agrees to pay his wife’s bills when she’s unemployed. In return, he (for it is usually a he) should get to enjoy his wife’s tax allowances by allowing her to take some of his salary. Obviously, working women keeping a beta male at home should enjoy the same advantages. “House-husbands” will remain risible, emasculated creatures, however much the Guardian wishes they weren’t, but the tax-system should not discriminate between the sexes, and should allow people to make life-style choices as they see fit.

At the moment, the tax and benefits system is a standing invitation for both sexes to behave appallingly to each other, but in financial terms, it is horribly weighted against men, who bear most of the risk, and enjoy few benefits of any form of relationship with the opposite sex beyond soulless condom-covered one-night stands.

And though social conservatives were wrong about gay-rights, for example, they’re right about marriage: Because any form of co-habitation is now essentially the same as marriage in the eyes of the law, marriage itself becomes devalued. Thanks to liberal legislation without an eye on the unintended consequences, the flexibility of the genuine lifestyle choice of uncommitted co-habitation has become impossible, thanks to legislation generally opposed by social conservatives: the social Liberals have generally sought measures by which they perversely limit freedom. By all means campaign to remove social stigma, but by seeking to liberalise (by removing any penalties against unmarried co-habitation) any co-habitation, in essence becomes a marriage, whether the parties want this or not. Allow people to choose to be committed to each other. The state should not be forcing the issue.

The grey areas of co-habitation and “long-term partnerhood” should be relegated to mere social descriptors. Marriage should be the sole and only declaration by which any two people are bound together and have responsibilities to each other in law. Thus in the timeless words of the book of common prayer that marriage, and the responsibilities it entails should not be…

…enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly…

… are as true today as they were when they were written. Marriage is a life-style choice like any other, but it is one which entails enormous responsibilities and risks, especially that of child-rearing, and promising to support another person through thick and thin; and those risks should not be forced on anyone. And because everyone benefits from stable families, it’s only fair that those risks should be recognised in the tax-system.

So. The Coalitions slain the post-war shibboleth of universal benefits. In return for middle class mums losing their child benefit (spent mostly on white wine), Dad should get a lower tax-bill. Of course, though they might not say it, the reason the lefties are so against the means-test for child benefit, even though it means they have to argue in favour of state hand-outs to millionaires is the same as they argued against top-up payments for NHS treatment. The principal of universality is one by which the people who pay for the welfare state – those on middle and higher incomes – feel they get a little back. Now this principle is broken, we will see a steady decline in support from the middle and upper earners (who together form a majority) for the welfare state in which they have no stake. They will instead start arguing and voting for lower taxes. Middle and upper income earners are more likely to vote. This is something the more intelligent lefties have noticed.

The left would rather tax someone, then give some of that back as a benefit, simply to keep the tax rolling in to pay for Labour’s client state. This is inefficient, unfair, and frankly idiotic.

The mooted recognition of Marriage in the tax-system is going to be presented as a sop to the Tory right. But will it be a means by which the manifest unfairnesses of the means by which the relationships between the sexes are governed will be addressed, by allowing the furious objections of the left to be dismissed as what they are: divisive political dogma.


Obviously everyone’s seen the video in which Climate deniers, or even those merely indifferent to Global Climate Chaos, or whatever it’s called by the eco-loonies this week, get blown up. Richard Curtis is a talented film-maker, and the video has gone viral. Presumably as the makers intended. They may have apologised, but it’s not an own-goal, it’s a successful piece of attention-grabbing agitprop.

Of course everyone’s fantasised about blowing up their enemies, and if you’re in agreement, of course you’ll find it funny. And defligrating snot-nosed school children in inherently funny. So if Michael Winner’s available, maybe “the right” could put together a video of exploding “deficit deniers”.

Who wouldn’t pay a tenner to see Ed Balls’ entrails splattered over members of the Labour party? It would be more effective than the faux outrage drooling over the web as a result of the eco-nutters’ latest piece of hysteria.

But please, don’t call this stupid, or an own-goal. It isn’t.

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.

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.

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?

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?

“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.

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.

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.

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.