Gender Segregation in Universities

If you believe the hype, you’d think British universities are going to be routinely segregating by gender in order to appease islamists. Twitter is outraged. This is about new guidance from universities UK which suggests that some external speakers may be allowed to segregate their audience by gender. The libertarian in me says as no-one is going to be forced to attend such an external event, segregate away, as it’s no skin of my rosy nose. It advises for example that segregation is left to right, not front to back, to ensure equal participation, but in the competing “rights” of equality of gender and religion, compromises should be available. Money quote:

“…Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system…”

Of course any speaker demanding gender segregation at a UK university is not being culturally sensitive. The kind of speaker who would demand such a policy doesn’t care. Indeed the hue and cry will ensure more radical islamists do demand it; the ensuing publicity will be far more valuable than the speaking gig, whether or not the event goes ahead.

I would be unlikely to attend an event where the genders were segregated to appease a bigoted Islamist. But I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of making a fuss about it. And if you feel you need to go, the segregation demanded reflects badly on the speaker, but is sitting on the left really so bad?

We have become obsessed by trivial symbols. Is anyone actually going to be forced into “gender apartheid” in British universities as some more hysterical commentators have suggested? Or are you just going to have to sit where you’re told to listen to a ranting islamist for an hour or so? Are we so insecure in our society that rational debate cannot overcome the antediluvian nonsense of these religious throwbacks?

“Live and let live” is the most important mantra of liberal democracy. Let’s not give those who oppose it, the satisfaction of letting them think their ideas actually present a threat.

Labour’s dishonesty on tax.

There are few things that annoy me more than watching Labour complain about a “tax-cut for the rich”. The top rate of tax is higher under the coalition than it was for all but one month of Labour’s time in office. The rate was raised as a nasty political ploy in order to trap the coalition. Labour raised a tax, knowing it would be damaging, simply so they could accuse the Tories of being “for the rich”. I cannot think of anything more damaging than using the tax-system to score political points.

This is why Labour ruin everything, every time they get into power.

Never, ever let them get in again.

The Al Madinah School “In Chaos”

The first disaster of the Free Schools program is the Al Madinah school in Derby. Of course this doesn’t have the impact the lefties hope it will because it’s a free school. And it’s a Muslim school, that most parents wouldn’t have sent their kids to under any circumstances.

Kids were segregated at meal-times because (snork) “the canteen is small”. Female staff were forced to wear the veil. And the teaching was crap. Most parents will see “Muslim school fails” not “free school fails” (hard-core lefties will see the opposite) and everyone will feel their prejudices re-enforced.

It scored the lowest mark, 4, in all the categories measured.

The only problem is in the reporting I have absolutely no way of putting that in context. How many traditional state-schools get put in ‘special measures’ with such a score. Do we not hear about it because it’s relatively common? Google is your friend. Though I cannot find statistics, it’s clear there are plenty of standard state-schools in special measures.

So. How many traditional schools are there? How many are inadequate?
How many free schools and academies are there? How many are inadequate?

Of course, a school has to be good before it was allowed to become an academy, so there’s a selection bias there. None of these issues are addressed by any reporting on the issue. Just a lip-biting insinuation that this Free-school failure is a disaster not just for the kids, teachers and parents of the school, but for the free schools program. Labour say x, but Michael Gove says y. This isn’t balance. This isn’t reporting. This isn’t analysis. The media is failing at its basic task of holding our elected representatives to account.

Labour say this is a disaster for free schools. It’s not. Not any more than the King Charles School in Falmouth or Stimpson Avenue primary in Northampton are disasters for State education. There will be experiments amongst free schools. Some will fail and will be found out quickly. By killing off failed experiments, standards improve. Muslim fanatics trying and failing to set up a decent school and being found out, is a feature, not a bug of the policy.

Of course, the NAS/UWT and NUT are on strike today, partly to make it harder for inadequate teachers to be sacked. The fact this attitude prevails in parts of state education is the real reason for most failure. The school’s relationship with the local authority is probably irrelevant. But I suspect free schools will be more responsive to parents, and less tolerant of bad teaching. Time will tell. But the failure of the odd school here and there is part of making the system as a whole better.

Left-wing Myths.

Of course people have left wing views when they’re ignorant of such concepts as Tax Incidence and have opinions formed around myths like “world inequality is rising”, which went unchallenged on “thought for the day” this morning. Of course, with the Chinese, Indian and much of African economies growing at 8-12% (thanks to the much maligned free-trade) the number of people living on less than $1 a day is falling faster than at any time in history.

Even within western countries, inequality isn’t rising that fast. The UK’s GINI numbers are skewed by the presence of the international super-rich in London, a feature which probably affects New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Monaco, Paris and Cape-Town. Otherwise, the middle class is growing, and the working class is shrinking. Inequality is mainly between welfare-recipients and those who work. I argue that our poorly designed welfare state with its manifest disincentives to finding a job represents a trap.

Vodafone doesn’t pay tax? Vodayfone may have successfully won a case against HMRC, and had £4.8bn written off, but it otherwise paid the tax due. Does anyone argue that a company isn’t allowed to challenge the Revenue in the courts? Because the left is dangerously close to arguing for retrospective and confiscatory taxation. It’s there in the report and accounts – they paid 27% of £9.8bn operating free cash-flow in tax (compared to a headline corporation tax rate of 24%). It may have been aportioned in different years, resulting in a figure in the profit & loss account of 17% on £8.5bn of operating profit but the CASH is the actual amount paid to the revenue and the equivalents around the world in that year.

Lefties often reject widely accepted economic concepts like tax-incidence, the idea that the economic burden of a tax doesn’t always fall on those writing the cheque. If corporation tax was abolished, some of the extra money would go to shareholders who pay CGT and income tax on dividends (at a slightly lower rate), however much would go to customers in the form of lower prices (does anyone argue that the mobile phone market isn’t competitive?) with the money spent (and taxed elsewhere) or workers in the form of higher wages, resulting in a much higher rate of tax. The result of abolishing Corporation tax would probably be rather small overall, at least in the long-run.

The idea that Corporate Tax avoidance is THE problem is ridiculous. Avoidance involves using the legal means to keep your tax bill to the minimum. It’s up to the Revenue to challenge “abuse” in the courts. If the court agrees, you pay the difference. The problem the revenue faces is that the UK is now pretty much at the limit of what the people (and the companies they run) will take. People will not pay very high marginal rates. They will hide income offshore, they will move, they will take lower wages, bring forward capital expenditure. Many will think that the rewards of running a business are simply not worth it, and retire.

Left wing myths are so deeply embedded, it’s difficult to challenge all of them, all the time. But these myths result in a slowly strangled economy. Because the solutions that fall naturally from left-wing myths: more investigations, tighter regulations and stronger enforcement are so poisonous to economic endeavour. This is why Labour break everything every time they get power.

Labour and the Unions.

Let’s take these figures at face value: Trades union membership is rising, even in the private sector and union Barons are trusted more than business leaders. That’s perhaps not surprising in the slowest most anaemic recovery on record, one in which jobs are only being created on declining take-home pay. Lower productivity means more jobs, but on lower wages. People’s living standards are falling and have been for longer than at any time in recent history. It does not follow that every Union member wants class war. One third of them vote Tory!.

Despite the headline numbers, It still means the Unions are a massive problem for Labour. Over half the electorate remember the 1970s and what untrammelled union power did for the country. There are obvious parallels with the Tories’ polling on Europe: The electorate agree with broad Euroscepticism, without being fully convinced with the need to pull out. Europe is still a toxic issue for the Tories.
Unite is the Party’s biggest donor, the Unions are responsible for the clearly inadequate Ed Miliband being picked over his much more competent, better looking, less weird and probably better hung older brother. The Unions are trying, openly to get as many of their people into the Parliamentary party as possible, and they’re block-buying labour memberships to achieve this end, whenever there’s a seat up for grabs. This is what happened in Falkirk.
And here’s what they want:

The key policies we want to see trade union activists within the Labour Party fight for at every level are quite simple. It’s about giving workers the right to collectively struggle to change their conditions. We want to shift the balance in the party away from middle-class academics and professionals towards people who’ve actually represented workers and fought the boss. At the parliamentary level the key fight is against the anti-union laws. We have to restore the right to take solidarity action and strike effectively.

They are after a return to class-based politics:

We want a firmly class-based and left-wing general election campaign in 2015. We’ve got to say that Labour is the party of and for workers, not for neo-liberals, bankers, and the free market. That might alienate some people, but that’s tough.

Labour has to be a working-class party — a party for workers, pensioners, unemployed workers, single parents, the whole class.

They’re absolutely right “that might alienate some people“. That is Labour’s problem. Their backers, with whom they have an absolutely symbiotic relationship, on whom they are entirely financially dependent, and who have the whip hand not only over the money, but apparently the party membership too, are intent on dragging the Labour party towards a position: representing a shrinking traditional working class, benefits recipients and those paid to farm them and those people alone.

This is a recipe for annihilation in England outside the Northern cities. It’s a platform which has seen Labour fail, and fail again. It’s only when Tony Blair realised the country (or at least the electorate) was broadly “middle class” that they won three elections on the trot.

Unite are about to put the Labour party out of power for a Generation. And I for one am delighted.

The Crisis Wasn’t Brown’s Fault. The Slow Recovery Is.

Let’s be absolutely clear. The near-failure of the financial system on Gordon Brown’s watch was not entirely his fault. Thus the rise in the deficit from 3% to 11% of GDP isn’t directly Brown’s fault. At least not in the short term. But the slow recovery is his fault. And here’s why.

It’s not just the defict. A 3% deficit once in a while is ok. No Government can balance the books every year. But running a deficit every year for a decade, that’s wrong. Running a deficit bigger than growth increases the debt to GDP ratio. This is fine, when the stock of debt is low, but doing so during a “boom” is wrong. And increasing taxes to fund increased spending isn’t always wrong either. doing so during a boom is fine in moderation. But increasing  spending, over inflation, and during the biggest rise in peace-time taxation in British history, year, on year, on year (as Brown did) was not just wrong, but insane. It’s difficult to over-state how insane Brown’s fiscal policy actually was. He raised taxes during a boom, then spent it all but it STILL wasn’t enough. So he borrowed more, and more, and more, every year on top of booming tax-receipts to keep illusory growth coming. Gamblers call this approach ‘the martingale‘, and it always results in catastrophic losses, because of house limits. Brown believed there were no house limits. But there are, even for Governments.

The pips were squeaking long before the market blew up. The private sector was over-taxed and barely put on any net new jobs at all over New Labour’s tenure. Squeezed by regulations and crushed by rising demands, business stopped hiring. A group of workers, the non-financial private sector, which were not growing, nor were they enjoying increases in living standards under Brown, were being asked to fund a massive increase in the number of, and payment to the public sector. All Brown’s “end to Boom and Bust” growth was debt-financed public sector spending. All the net new jobs were courtesy of the Tax-payer. And when those massive tax-receipts from the City which had allowed this to appear OK stopped, the wheel came off.

Brown’s regulatory regime failed its first test, but so did every regime, everywhere. The Greenspan put, which I ultimately blame for the crisis was standard political economics everywhere at the time. Doing the standard thing does not make Brown culpable.

The financial crisis may not have been Brown’s fault, and his response to it was (I’ll grudgingly admit) not too bad. It’s not exactly what I would have done, I’d have let the banks fail, secured depositors only (not bond investors) and used helicopter money to bail out PEOPLE not bank. But Brown’s approach certainly wasn’t wrong, and represented one of the better options on the table. But the fact is Brown appeared to believe he’d ended Boom and Bust beforehand, and left Britain with no fiscal wiggle-room at all. The fact the crisis was as bad as it transpired to have been for this country was absolutely Brown’s fault. Financial crises happen. Brown though he’d stopped them for good. That is pure hubris. The Tory charge, that he didn’t fix the roof when the sun was shining is actually quite accurate.

Brown overspent when he should have been saving. He rose taxes when a prudent government should have been able to cut them. He left a huge, bloated public sector, the cuts to which are slowing down the recovery.  (That the cuts are slowing growth does not mean we should stop cutting and miraculously get growth, nor would that growth allow the deficit to fall). Thanks to the grotesque tax-hikes of Brown’s tenure, there’s no scope for further rises to close the gap. In isolation, each of the defences of Brown’s fiscal policy hold water. Together, they don’t.

Like the Irishman giving directions “Well I wouldn’t start from here”, should form the Tory critique of Brown’s time as Chancellor and PM. We should have been running a 1% surplus in 2007. This means the deficit would have been 7%, not 11% in 2010. We should have been a creditor nation by 2007, having almost entirely paid off the net national debt and been sitting on great piles of T-bills, JGBs and Bunds. Our stock of debt would have gone up, but we’d be rapidly approaching 40% of GDP, not 100%. There would be no need for decades of Austerity. The fiscal fire-power the Government could have deployed to keep the wheels moving would have been much greater.

But counter-factuals are pointless. All that’s left, is the long, slow, grinding process of austerity to bring the insane levels of state spending under Brown 2000-2007, back under control. This will take decades. I will be paying more tax, thanks to Gordon Brown, for the rest of my life. For that, I will never forgive him. For cheering him on, I will never forgive Labour.

Treasure Islands

Compass is promoting a new lefty theory-of-everything book: Nick Shaxton’s Treasure Islands which Compass claims is

backed with hard-hitting evidence that most people intuitively sense already..

by which they mean the data has been mined to within an inch of its life in order to confirm left-wing prejudices. Of course naughty people squirrel money away from Governments. They always have. Perhaps if Governments didn’t take more than the 40-50% of marginal product (the current highest marginal tax rate in the UK is 62%), or seek to tax away someone’s capital, people might think the tax demanded by greedy states was reasonable. This is why the 50% rate raised no money in the UK. The people who were supposed to have paid it thought it spiteful and vindictive. Which it was. Most of them were business owners, so they tightened their belts a bit, cut their income and paid taxes at a lower rate instead. 40% (plus NI) people could live with. 50% they couldn’t.

“Most people easily recognise that a vibrant economic life in a nation does not come from the domineering, patronising sneer of an arrogant overbloated sector”

They’re talking about finance, without Irony, or noting that the Government is spending 50% of GDP. Which sector: finance or Government is more “overbloated”?

In the past, radicals have complained about taxation. Now they campaign in favour of it (on others). The left is now the establishment. Labour is the party of the unionised public sector, the benefits claimant and those paid to farm them; and they’re demanding the rest of us continue to fund their lavish salaries and pensions.

The fact is, I can’t think of a less productive and more wasteful way to spend money than taxes.

Is a marginal tax-rate of 50% really reasonable, on anyone? Most people who actually have to pay it say ‘no’. Government needs to tighten its belt more. Because thanks to the Last Government,

“there is no more money”.

Where’s the Outrage?

It’s a  futile pass-time, but I like coming up with definitions of ‘left-wing’ and ‘right wing’. For most people it’s like the difference between pornography and art in that “I’ll know it when I see it” but it’s fun to deconstruct the mindset of the two tribes of politics.

There are many theories which try to put policy answers – Left-wing is statist for example but few argue the idea Fascists are other than right-wing collectivist totalitarians, while anarchists are mostly creatures of the left. Nazis and Communists are right and left-wing respectively. The former are dictators allied to the owners of capital, the latter to the means of production. The effect of both is big piles of corpses. Policy is unsatisfactory to define what they are: ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ is about a mindset.
Here’s a thought: Where’s your outrage directed? Are you outraged about policy on behalf of people you know or yourself? High taxes, too much ill-thought-through legislation? Do you campaign against roads cutting through YOUR back yard? Then you’re probably right-wing. The left-wing get outraged about things that happen to OTHERS, specifically people they don’t know. ‘The Poor’ whether here or in the third world and so forth. While the right are demanding/opposing a bypass in the local area, the left are outraged about Roads round someone else’s town that cut through a site of environmental concern for example.
The problem with the right-wing world view is that it tends towards nimbyism and rather ignores social problems once they’re put out of sight. The problem with the left-wing view is that it tends to see people as mute recipients of state charity, and tends to stick its nose where its not needed or wanted, to everyone’s cost. It sees the problems of the prosperous majority as very small next to the problems of their clients, and ends up seeing the Bourgeoisie as a mere source of funds.  
Both views are necessary to temper the excesses of the other. Without the right, the left over-legislates to solve perceived social problems, and in doing so, kills the golden goose of private business and wealth-creation. Left wing outrage, because it’s on someone-else’s behalf, is likely to be less accurately directed. As are the perceived solutions, which are often more about the left-winger’s own prejudices. However, without the left, genuine social problems can be left to fester.

And there we have the glorious creative tension built into the combative two-party politics, which is being lost in the multi-party system which will gift power to party managers and consensus-seekers. Consensus is almost always sub-optimal. Without the tension created by competing outrage, “consensus” will end up being in effect “the man in Whitehall knows best” when all the evidence is clear that, in the long-run, he doesn’t. Of course there are exceptions. Any left/right rule is bound to be simplistic, and riven with exceptions. But think about the things you’re outraged about. How many of them directly affect you?

The Opposition Comfort Zone

In 1997, any Labour activist under 40 would not have had the experience of voting for a Labour government. The attitudes of opposition were deep-set and the party in the country was deeply unready for Government, however prepared Blair and Brown and the rest of the shower were.

In opposition, everything confirms your cognitive biases. Things that go wrong are your enemy’s fault. It’s easy to brush good news under the carpet. Focussing relentlessly on the negative that Government does, when your enemies are the government, feels good. Evidence, the easily available and memorable sort, confirms every prejudice you hold about the “wicked” Tories, and it’s easy to go looking for more.

This is why Blair, who for all his myriad faults, was detested by his party and the broader left. He was comfortable with the compromises of Government. He was unable to deliver the re-nationalisation of industry the Labour movement craved and yearned for. But he was, despite the wailings of the idiot left of his party, a creature who increased state control. The Blair Government increased taxes, increased state spending and increased the scale and reach of the state. State workers were generously remunerated, and headcount exploded. Regulations were poured onto business like glue. Blair was a lefty, leading a left-wing government. It was just not as left wing as the activists wanted.

Can you see where I am going with this?

For Labour in 1997, read Conservatives in 2010. For Blair read Cameron. For Idiot left, read UKIP.

If you’re on the right, ranting about how David Cameron is “no different to Tony Blair” and “it doesn’t matter, they’re all the same. We’re governed by the EUSSR anyway” you sound just like a Labour activist ranting about “capitalism” in 1983, and just as electable.

The morons of the Tory right/UKIP borg: the mirror image of why Labour was unelectable in the 1980s.

Cameron’s a good egg, cutting spending, taking on the Unions, standing up to Europe. Just not quite as much  nor with the relish demanded by, the kind of activist who’s gotten rather too comfortable with the idealogical certainties of opposition. Tories govern, practically and with the best long-term interests of the UK at heart. It’s what we do. It’s what Maggie Thatcher did (whatever the Tory right and Labour left say she did). We don’t govern according to some idealogical play-book nor should we. State spending is growing in nominal, but not in real terms. Stop lying with statistics, and get behind the only man who can keep Ed Miliband out of Downing Street.

If you think that “doesn’t matter”, because they’re “all the same”, my contempt for you is absolute. The enemy is to Cameron’s left, Gentlemen, not yours. Get back to your posts.

“Race to the Bottom”

The Coalition has sought to Abolish the Agricultural Wages Board. Labour oppose this, because they think the Countryside is still some Dickensian hell of near-slave labour, and that only State intervention prevents a “race-to-the-bottom” in wages. The phrase appears again in Labour shadow Education Minister Tristram Hunt’s argument about British Skills shortages.

This phrase also underpins the arguments for the Minimum wage, which Labour introduced, and every other intervention into people’s working lives. Of course the UK has been getting steadily richer over the past couple of centuries, with or without government intervention in wages and industrial conditions. Labour like to point to Laws being passed as the point at which things change. It’s not like this of course. The law changes when it becomes acceptable and economically viable to do so. The law reflects change to society. It doesn’t drive it.

The average British worker expects more than 12-hour factory drudgery for tuppence-ha’penny an hour, but in poorer parts of the world this represents a step up from subsistence agriculture, which is 14 hours of drudgery for no pay, with the ever present risk of starvation. He won’t accept back-breaking labour in the fields, which is why we import Polish fruit-pickers and Chinese cockle-gatherers. The native Brit who once would have done these jobs is better off on welfare.

As countries become richer, they take some of the increase in productivity and spend it on better working conditions, wages and so forth. Some people – the kind who become North-sea divers for example, are willing to take on personal risk for a big pay-cheque. Others, those who become HMRC tax-clerks would sacrifice pay-cheque for a near-job-for-life. The difference between socialists is they think GOVERNMENT should decide who gets to decide their working conditions. But it’s clear. The shortage is of skilled Labour.

Unfortunately, Labour cannot follow the logic. If the shortage is of skilled Labour, then skilled Labourers do not need protection. Employers will be competing in wages and working conditions to attract them. Far from being a “race to the bottom” it’s inflationary. Government has decided that there should be a minimum wage, and for those whose labour isn’t worth even that, a welfare state. And with that, you’ve protected people from “exploitation”. It’s now possible to survive in the UK while taking none of the Jobs on offer. This is true of every developed nation, and this limits employers power over people.

Labour seems to think Government is all that stands in the way of employers, who all carry whips and wear top-hats, driving down working conditions and pay. Nothing in economic history supports this view, though it’s a comforting idea, if you see everything through scarlet-tinted spectacles and romanticise the Workers’ “struggle”. If you want decent working conditions for everyone, give them the tools and let them get on with it. People, making the best of what they’ve got will, over the generations, given peace and freedom, drive up living standards.  Decent pay and standards will happen when everyone’s rich enough to afford them. Conditions we now think acceptable will be shunned by our children. There is a case for minimum standards but it’s weaker than most think. “Race to the Bottom” is a left-wing dog-whistle, which should alert you to the fact the speaker is an idiot.

Scrap the Agricultural Wages Board. It makes no difference. It’s a relic of the bygone age. Like most of Labour’s thinking.