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Phew, What a Nutter!

Professor Nutt’s sensible and measured description of the harm that various recreational drugs do has caused an entirely predictable storm of indignation from the knee-jerk prohibitionists. This is just as last time he questioned Government policy. Except for one crucial factor. The press is starting to see through the prohibitionists’ case, based as it is on willful prejudice and habit and is broadly supportive of the sacked scientist. Obviously there is no sense from the ususal suspects, but Just as the Tabloids were still (and still are) puff bashing long after homosexuality was made legal, they will lag society and the law on this issue too. Now that even the Daily Mail carries an article supporting Professor Nutt, it is clear which way the wind is blowing.

Drug policy is my political weathervane. Anyone who cannot see the logic of freedom on this issue where the limits of state power over the individual are so starkly demonstrated, is an idiot who shouldn’t be listened to on anything else.

The scientists who advise the Government, not just on this issue, but on others too are considering their positions, and a raft of resignations may yet follow, as professor Nutt was not criticising Government policy but setting out the Harm done by various drugs. Legal drugs were included, to put the harm in perspective. This is something the British people can see, and the press coverage is backing him up. Guido’s post is worth reading in full:

The sacked Professor David Nutt has turned the tables on Alan Johnson. Johnson keeps repeating angrily that the professor should stay out of politics, the professor is squarely saying that politicians should stay out of the science.

Professor Nutt opposed the re-up-grading of Cannabis to class B, and opposed the ‘clarification’ of the law which saw Magic mushrooms in their fresh state classified as class A, as neither move reflected the harm to individuals and society from their use, and brought the law into disrepute. I would like to see the Conservatives make some party political capital out of this, but I suspect they’re still afraid of the Daily Mail tendency, even though most of the public (though not, crucially, the majority of Conservative voters) are in favour of some relaxation of the law. Chris Dillow sums it up beautifully:

It seems that when public opinion is wrong – for example on immigration – politicians pander to it, but when it is right they ignore it. The function of representatives in representative democracy, it seems, is take all the idiocies of public opinion, and when these are insufficient, to then add some of their own.

The Brown Bounce, Anacyclosis and Ochlocracy

There were 2 polls in the papers over the weekend, which saw the Tories return to election winning leads: ComRes in the Independent had the Tories 9% up (they recently posted a Tory 1% lead) and YouGov in the Sunday Times which showed a 13% lead. During this crisis, fear of an unknown quantity – the Cameron conservatives has seen Labour pick up floating voters. Nationalisation of banks has seen the Labour core strengthen. But as perception of a sure hand on the tiller gave way rapidly to hubris, spin and hyperactive policy making – spending taxpayers’ money with the accuracy and care of a man urinating after 20 pints, so the public support waned.

As unemployment rises inexorably towards three million, and ever more tax-payers money is shovelled into schemes to get banks to commit commercial suicide by lending to marginal companies in a recession, whilst being pressured simultaneously by a hyperactive and panicked regulator to rebuild balance sheets, that ‘fear of the unknown’ will give way to anger. That anger will be directed at the Government, and there is nothing they can do about it. The next stage in the cycle will be Hope, yet this will not save Gordon Brown.

Hope will be invested in the incoming Government rather than the incumbent, though as Conservatives, it will not be so euphoric as 1997; luvvies will not be leading the cheerleading. Instead it will be led by the middle classes, grey business people and others who will be doing the rebuilding of the economy once more. Hope will give way to optimism, though I fear that is many years away. A return to fear, and the completion of the cycle is a decade or more hence.

This is the political cycle in a democracy. But democracy is dying – it was already on its deathbed but is now being smothered by Labour who are hastening the move to Ochlocracy: the final phase in the development of societies in PolybiusAnacyclosis. This time it is not just the Rulers who have been corrupted, but the mob too: corrupted by a sense of entitlement. Alexander Tytler supposedly observed that democracies are…

always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship

Apathy has given way to dependence, and dependence is giving way to bondage. Look how the Daily Mail and the Sun – the best selling papers in the UK demand ever more surveillance and support CCTV, the suspension of Habeus Corpus and the draconian powers of the State. Even tax-cuts are viewed with suspicion. The British people have become slaves – at least the Northern half of them because they have become totally dependent on state hand-outs. This coming recession will merely complete the process.

Unless…

It is easy to go onto Wikipedia and find a cycle, see where our society is on that cycle – be it Tytler or Polybius and fear. But these cycles were written not as predictions but warnings. Polybius was lamenting the demise of Republican Rome – as was Tacitus when he put freedom-loving soundbites into the mouths of ancient British noble savages.

“they call it ‘social justice’ when it is part of their slavery.”

But the fall of Roman democracy was not inevitable, it just became so with hindsight. People can influence history. It was inevitable that Germany would defeat the British Empire in 1940 but the British people pulled together. It was inevitable that Sterling would join the Euro (and aren’t you glad that didn’t happen?) but a coalition of papers and politicians made that politically impossible without a referendum. Just as inevitabilites were not so, these political cycles are warnings not forecasts. If heeded, we can become free once more. All it takes is that pressure be applied in the right places We should eshew revolutions until we have tried the simple things first: Have you written to a local Conservative MP demanding the end to the database state? Demanding the repeal of a specific law? because you can bet that plenty of people have written to the incoming party of Government demanding something be banned. Let’s use our remaining democratic feedoms to persuade our next Government to relax the choke-hold a bit, and hope that the long-forgotten but ancient instinct for freedom gets rekindled in the British heart. It’s going to take a long slog to climb out of the economic and political mire left by this most odious of Governments, but it is achievable with a bit of faith, in the country, its people and their capacity for hard work. Democracy has failed. Long Live democracy!

To Make Maternity leave fair, we need to invade France.

Imagine for a moment you are a businessman and you have 5 people working for you. They are all equally responsible, hard working and competent. But the male workers get all the really important jobs and the key client relationships. Clear sexism, right? Or good business risk management?

Maternity leave is 26 weeks and is compulsory for all employees- regardless of how long they have been working – in theory a woman could tip up 3 months pregnant, not showing and work for 6 months, before buggering off for 6 months on the company payroll. Why would you risk 20% of your turnover to something as inevitable as childbirth – especially when it can be avoided?
Now I’m infavour of maternity leave – mums should bond with their children. And I’m in favour of equal rights for the ladies – they shouldn’t be penalised professionally for fertility. So by this rationale, you need to have men be just as risky to employ as women, giving no excuses to employers to discriminate. This is the rationale behind paternity leave, and men likewise need to bond with sprogs. The problem is men dislike screaming brats, and can’t wait to get back in the office to get away from the squawking thing which appears to have eaten the part of the brain responsible for his wife’s ability to converse with grown-ups. Men don’t take up paternity leave. We’re back to square one.
TA mobilised service, at 6 months per tour, is about the same as maternity leave. Unfortunately Iraq and the ‘Stan just don’t provide the opportunities for the million or so men of Child-Bearing age in the British population.
We need a proper war. France anyone? Let’s take back Normandy and Aquitaine. And all in the name of Gender equality.

Petty Managerialism


I’ve been agonising about what it is that I loathe about New Labour. After all they haven’t seriously challenged the Thatcherite legacy. They’ve just been incompetent.

With old labour it was simply being wrong on every issue, so its the ideology of socialism that I have the problem with. As individuals, socialists can be nice people. Often, a socialist enjoys a good debate with a Thatcherite storm-trooper like me. After an intellectual ding-dong we can chat about the rugby or cricket or other shared interests having enjoyed the mental work-out of defending your position against a coherent (but still wrong)opponent, with no hard feelings on either side.

With New-Labour there’s a nastyness I can’t fathom, and usually a personal edge to their argument.

Because New-Labour is a party for the post-idealogical age, they have no coherent philosophy. What they have taken from their socialist DNA is a belief that the state can and should provide solutions. Because they have no respect for tradition, this just becomes populism.

Without a coherent philiosphy, policy is made on the run. Banning things and meddling in areas in which government has no business is the hallmark of this government. They are arrogant, and assume that anyone who dosn’t agree with them is motivated by self interest, whilst they are trying to “do something”. Their constant calls on business to cough up (pensions, charity, Tax, NI, social responsibility) and the exhortations to do so willingly has cost business dear, and made us all poorer.

They are happy to send the troops into danger (and the British Army always delivers), but aren’t prepared to spend the cash to equip the forces properly, whilst spending freely on petty bureaucrats in the department for work and pensions. The Navy desperately needs its carriers, the RAF desperately needs its tankers and heavy lift but the money’s being used to pay 30,000 gender outreach co-ordinators. The army is now so small that it is more heavily deployed than it was in 1943. It needs more than the 300 or so tanks it has. It needs more not fewer Infantry batallions. It needs new radios (and has done since the 80’s). The troops need time to train and rest beween trips to the Gulf. Women and homosexuals in the front line is not a solution for the manpower shortage.

New-Labour is losing its way (if it ever had one in the first place). In a shameless U-turn, Labour have announced a policy (Trust schools) that looks very like the Tory Education policy of the Major government. It is a return to grant-maintained schools, a policy the government scrapped 8 years ago as soon as they got into power. I agree with this trust schools policy, but there’s no substance behind it. It will end up getting watered down to the point of uselessness, because the government doesn’t understand why it works and will give up all its benefits in shabby compromises with the Teaching unions.

Without a coherent philosophy (and the “third-way” is not one), the principal aim of government is to STAY IN POWER. Is this why they are recruiting so many pointless civil servants? The public sector salariat, insulated from the rigours of life by the private sector tax-payer’s ever increasing efforts, are largely Labour-voting. If they can get these creatures to make up over 50% of the population Labour can stay in power forever, after all turkeys would not vote for christmas.

Brownites and Blairites battle over trivial, pesonality driven politics, whilst occasionally cooking up an ill conceived plan full of unforseen consequences whilst blaming everything on the Tories’ legacy. They are still doing it, which indicates an unwillingness to take their responsibilities seriously.

Without a philosophy, the New-Labourite resorts to personal attacks to defend an indefensible position. Tories are always “interested in the few, not the many” according to New Labour’s demonology; in fact, the Tories have always had a deep and abiding concern for the working man. The tories however do not patronise him by offering government solutions to everything. Instead we believe that he’s the best architect of his own sucess.

Without a philosophy, New Labour is simply petty managerialism, mixed with a lot of nany-state autoritarianism and sinister news management.

If you want this country properly run, go to the party which thinks within an intellectually coherent framework (certainly not the wooly inbetweens). Most of Labour’s most popular ideas are originally Tory. Think about their education and Health policies… Haven’t you seen them somewhere before? We would shrink the role of the state, give people back their liberty, give people a choice amongst a range of increasingly flexible, reformed public services. Taxes will come down, paid for by a shrinking of the civil service, and running the country more efficiently, growing spending slower than the growth in the economy. We’ll prioritise the services that matter, and cut the fat (see the Guardian jobs page for examples). Because we understand why the best policies work, we’ll do it better.

The War on Drugs


I’m a libertarian. That means I believe in freedom of choice is for the individual and not the state. With that principle underlying most of my political beliefs, I find a dilemma with drugs. Cannabis should be legalised from a personal freedom point of view, and there is no need to go through the arguments. It’s “hard drugs” which pose the greatest problem for society and lawmakers.

Being addictive, especially the opiates and the highly refined chemical drugs, can freedom of choice really be said to be exercised by the individual? Does the state have a duty to protect the British subject from substances that remove freedom by encouraging addiction? That is the principal argument behind the “war on drugs”.

The state, I believe does have a duty of care, and therefore should act to limit drug use, but the prohibition of sale and interdiction of supply are doomed to failure, especially in a free society. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN A BUSINESS AS PROFITABLE AS ILLEGAL DRUGS. This morning, the Government spokesman on the subject Paul Goggins boasted about an increase in seizures of drugs at ports. Well that’s more likely to reflect greater flow than greater success in stopping the trade. Even if the supply were temporarily interrupted, the price in the market would rise, and so would the rewards to potential traffickers. In any case 60% interdiction is necessary to seriously disrupt the supply chain instead of the 20% stopped now.

The drug lords therefore operate in a Government guaranteed oligopoly, but do not have to provide any welfare for their staff or customers. Indeed the cutting of drugs with less than savoury mixers to increase profits leads to many of the health problems associated with drug use. Furthermore, there have been cases of a wave of overdoses if a batch unusually pure heroin for example hits the street. All these are symptoms of the drugs’ illigality, not the drug itself.

The crime associated with drug use is also, in part, a symptom of government policy. The policy of interdiction keeps the price artificially high, and once hooked, an addict will find it harder to get help than he otherwise would were drugs legal. Because the price is high, theft is easier than work to fund a habit. The surest way to fund a drugs habit, though, is to become a dealer yourself, and this guarantees an efficient pyramid marketing scheme that creates more users. It also puts layers in the supply chain, each further insulating the organised criminals who run the business from the law. People who like, for example a bit of pot to pass round with their friends, or a tab of MDMA for a party get exposed to this criminal marketing scheme. This is dangerous.

Drugs are bad for you. Nothing will change that, but prohibition makes the situation worse. Instead the resources (huge resources) that are currently tackling the supply should instead be directed at limiting demand through education of the dangers and rehabilitation of addicts. At present, the government is treating heroin addicts with methadone, even more addictive, which is just crass. Instead a rehabilitation program using the real thing, as has been successfully used in Switzerland would be more successful.

By removing the extreme sanctions against drug use, users would be more inclined to seek help before they lose their jobs and lives. Habits would be easier to sustain from within normal society, so the effects of a habit would be mitigated.

A state sanctioned supply of all drugs would break the criminal hold on the industry. The highly efficient pyramid marketing scheme would collapse. The price would fall and habits would become cheaper to sustain. The drugs themselves would become purer and less harmful to health. Demand for some of the really harmful drugs would recede. Why take crack or crystal meth when cocaine or heroin is freely and cheaply available?

This issue is one where a 180 degree change in policy is needed, but one where the “daily mail”* viewpoint would mean that the best solution: total legalisation of everything combined with vigorous anti-drugs propaganda and massive increase in resources for rehabilitation, would be political suicide. The daily mail arguments against such a policy “Government says drugs OK”, “Kids free to be hooked on drugs” can be safely ignored, but there are real risks to such a policy.

Arguments about the increased availability of drugs undser a legalised regime are reasonable. You are never more than a short bus ride away from your next hit, even in the leafy suburbs, but a legal supply is easier than an illegal one. It is likely however that, in the short term at least drug use will increse as people experiment. Just as with Tobacco, this will receed with time and education. Organised crime, denied its most lucrative business, will find something else to do, and that won’t be pleasant. Someone is going to make a legitimate profit from the sale of drugs, and that is difficult to stomach. It will be hard to legalise something so clearly harmful, but I feel it is the least bad option.

Whatever the objections, it is clear the current policy is failing everyone except organised crime. It is time for a radical rethink. I would really like to hear anyone’s opinion on this, so comment away!

*for American readers, the Daily Mail is a nastly little right-wing authoritarian rag with pretentions to seriousness, parodied in the BBC’s Yes Minister as “the paper read by the wives of the people who run the country”. If there is anything wrong with the Tory Party, it is the Daily Mail’s opinion that is at fault. The only paper I hate more is The Guardian, a tedious left-wing rag for sanctimonious, pretentious sociology students and Islington polenta-eaters that represents everyhig about the smug left that I loathe.

PR Disaster



It seems the Germans are not yet ready for a change.

The Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder managed to scare the electorate by proclaiming Angela Merkel’s CDU party would spell the end for Germany’s cosy social model. As a result, the CDU collapsed in the polls in the last weeks of campaigning.

The fact is he’s right. Germany’s social model is at risk from the (fairly modest) reforms proposed by the CDU. Nevermind the fact that the difficulty of firing employees makes it extremely risky for a firm to hire, so unemployment is around 10%. Those who have jobs remain the majority of voters, and they’re loathe to give up the protection that a freer “Anglo-Saxon” model would sweep away. Most of the electorate seem to want reform, but are unsure and afraid as to the shape this will take. Thus the “Grand Coalition” is favoured by much of the electorate as exemplifying the German consensual political style.

It was the ability of Mr. Schroeder to portray Professor Paul Kirchoff as a robber-baron who would tax the poor more than the rich (thus totally mis-representing the benefits of a flat tax) which changed the tone of the election, from a shoe-in for Angela Merkel, to a hung parliament.

Whilst the British Electoral system is inherently unfair to my favoured party, It has been unfair in the past to the other lot. It is perpetually unfair to the wooly in-betweens, which is a good thing. At present, Joschka Fischer’s greens can effectively choose the next chancellor, giving a casting vote to just 8.1% of the electorate. It is this position that the Liberal Democrats want to maneuver themselves to in the UK. The UK should resist Proportional Representation (PR) in all its forms, for all types of election, and instead attempt to address the inconsistencies in the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system.

The strong government, plus the relationship to local MPs, who can and do raise parochial issues in Westminster, are the benefit of the FPTP system, and this shouldn’t be cast aside lightly. The system does tend to create results that are rarely disputed, and more often than not reflect the will of the people of the UK in all its contrary inconsistency.

The fact is coalitions in the UK are WITHIN parties, not between them. Thus the electorate knows what shape the government might be with each vote (even the wasted ones for the Lib-Dems). I feel a pang of pity for the German voter, who casts a ballot for a party, and then has to watch the post-election horse-trading. He might vote green and watch them get into bed with the CDU… an unlikely result, but unwelcome to the average green voter. Would those who voted for Ms. Merkel’s reforms be happy with a sorry, stagnant “Grand Coalition”

If you want an even more eloquent argument for FPTP, look at Italy’s parliament since the War. PR leads to chaos and stagnation or cosy compromise (or worse, both!). It prevents parliamentarians exercising Leadership when necessary and puts too much emphasis on back-room deals between politicos. This leads to the situation where a political elite can hold and excersise opinions vastly at variance from their electorate, often for decades, and face no electoral punishment. This has been the case in much of Western Europe for two decades on some issues. In the end, this is less democratic than brutal, winner takes all politics of Westminster.
*Cartoon by Roger Schmidt