Angry Public Sector Workers Shout At Me.

What you have in the comments here, is a circle-jerk of indignation from people who enjoyed public spending (largely paid for by the taxes levied on banks bankers by Labour…) which, when the golden goose was killed, suddenly dried up. The public sector are now having a 2 minute hate against the people, like me and millions of others who pay taxes but don’t take much back.

The profit motive is not bad, nor does it lead to worse outcomes than any alternative. Lord save us from the good intentions of public-sector busybodies. CS Lewis put it best:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

The fact is the profit motive has delivered consumer goods to the masses in plenty only royalty in previous societies could possibly imagine. The profit motive is best at allocating resources to those who can use it most efficiently. The alternative to resources going to the most efficient, is they go to the most powerful. And that is why socialism, in its command-economy, market-hating form tends to lead to an enormous pile of corpses.

But because markets ain’t perfect we use taxes to fund that which is necessary, but unprofitable. Dealing with recently released criminals for example. And there is a legitimate argument to be had about we spend on such things. Tories, broadly want to spend less than labour. And especially when there’s been a financial crisis, and the shoulders which bore the the burden of paying for the lovely state spending are now smaller, and fewer in number. There is less money, broadly because Labour taxed all it could, during a boom, and wondered why the money dried up suddenly.

Let’s get some facts straight

  1. The bank bail-out cost the taxpayer almost nothing.
  2. The big increase in the deficit was caused by a sudden and sustained drop in the tax take as banks suddenly became less profitable or loss-making. Such is the scale of the loss, it will be a decade or more before the tax take from financial services returns to pre-crisis levels.
  3. The mechanism by which 2. results in lower tax-take is NOT avoidance.
The toxic, tribal hate-fest shown in that comment thread is based on shaky foundations. The banking and broader financial services industry has lost over 200,000 jobs or something like 20% of its workforce. The idea the Financial services workers have not suffered or learned from the crisis is ridiculous. There is no comfortable parasitic elite, earning off the poor down-trodden worker. It’s been pretty tough for everyone, and pointing at someone’s (imagined) pay packet helps no-one.
And by that I mean “look. They have an iPhone, so they can’t be poor” as well as “he earns £100k, so what does he know about anything”.

Top Trolling from Rod LIddle in the Spectator.

Off yer bikes! Cyclists are a menace to society — and self-righteous to boot 

You are just pedalling, you plastic-hatted ninnies, not saving the bloody planet 

 Rather than the invisible cyclist, who’s American, perhaps fat, out-of-shape, double-chinned Labour party member, Rod Liddle could have started his Spectator rant with an article about why stupid, working class, labour-voting ignorant chavs cannot control themselves around cyclists, written by someone who lives in the UK and who knows what they’re talking about. Like this one, by me. Instead he finds a pretty harmless piece of hyperbole from a San-Fransico Blogger to start with.

‘Such anti-cyclist anger reminds me in many ways of the feelings about gypsies that I would hear expressed when I lived in central Europe. In Hungary, people would tell me they disliked gypsies because they were lazy and dishonest. The truth was that gypsies — like, I would suggest, cyclists — were unpopular principally for being different.

So he starts with a cyclist complaining that others treat them (us) as an outgroup. Liddle Then moves on to a classic piece of trolling – nice and controversial treating cyclists as an outgroup:

Like many people, I am worried that too few cyclists are being killed on our roads each year.

Q.E.D. Can you imagine being able to write that in the Spectator about any other group of people? Premiership footballers perhaps.

While the number of cycling journeys undertaken in the UK has risen enormously since 2006, and exponentially since the exciting, hirsute Sir Bradley Wiggins won a bicycle race in France in 2012, the official statistics show only a moderate rise in fatalities.

The first error of fact. Wiggins’ win in the Tour De France came long after the number of cyclists started to rise.

This suggests to me that car drivers have become more accommodating in their behaviour towards these people and have lost their radical anti-cycling zeal.

This is a good thing. No-one is bothered by black neighbours any more either. The only people who still hate cyclists are stupid, ignorant, working class, labour-voters mostly in white vans, who hate anyone different. Hate. It’s a bad thing, Rod.

They have been bullied out of it, one suspects, by official propaganda that insists that knocking cyclists over, deliberately or otherwise, is somehow ‘antisocial’, and by the effusions of lionised celebrity cyclists like Wiggins, and that also ennobled Scottish man who cycles round and round a track very quickly indeed, like a sort of thin-lipped ginger hamster with outsized calf muscles.


Wiggins and the Scottish man are both militant campaigners against the killing of cyclists, and they are also in favour of more cycle lanes (which cyclists like to see built, but never use)…

To understand why few cyclists use the laughable provisions in the UK, see the excellent Warrington cycle campaign’s facility of the month.

…and further speed restrictions on the people who actually pay for the roads (car drivers), but the government is on board too.

Of course car-drivers don’t “pay for the roads”. Most cyclists also own a car, and indeed are more likely to do so than the average member of the public. Cyclists are drawn from two populations: those too poor to own a car, but these are now outnumbered by affluent people for whom cycling is an enjoyable way to get to work. Of course Rod Liddle, being a member of the Labour party, is not concerned with tiresome research, or so-called “facts”.

My concern is that if killing cyclists is no longer allowable in a free country, then it is the thin end of the wedge and it may be that down the line cycling will become an ‘acceptable’ pursuit for normal people. We have seen this happen before with homosexuals, single mothers and some foreigners; one moment we are enjoined not to victimise them, the next they are clamouring for equality. Somewhere, surely, we have to draw the line.

OK he’s trolling. Good work.

Well, ok, I jest, in predictably bad taste. And you were probably aware that I was joking, unless you are a committed cyclist who is determined to be outraged. By ‘committed’ I do not mean that you are the recipient of state protection in a secure asylum….

Thanks for admitting you’re joking. But what… there’s more to this article?

…but rather that you are one of those people with an expensive bicycle, a lot of Lycra, a pompous little pointy plastic hat, hilarious goggles, a fatuous water bottle and the fervent conviction that you are a Victim as a consequence of your Vulnerability. And that in being a Victim as a consequence of being Vulnerable you are somehow empowered to take it out on everybody else you see on the public highways, especially car drivers and pedestrians.

Oh, so having said you’re joking, you then start with the SERIOUS BIT? About how we’re all so insufferable for not wanting to get crushed by a fucking truck? Or for expecting drivers to respect our safety? Is that what you’re saying Rod?

There is nothing quite like considering yourself a Victim to bolster the self-esteem, nothing like resentment to make the hours go by a little quicker. Not all cyclists fall into this category of course, far from it. But plenty do. Dare to disparage the cycling fraternity and all hell will break loose; when you are a certified Victim all sense of proportion — and humour — departs.

Well forgive me for not wanting to be crushed by a truck.

I discovered this when I mentioned in a blog recently that I was not sure why I had to pay, through my taxes, for my friend to have a new bicycle — there’s a government scheme on offer which effectively gives you a bike on tick, interest-free.

No there isn’t, Rod. There’s a scheme which lets some people (but not soldiers or the self-employed) to buy a bicycle out of pre-tax income via their employers. It saves at most £400.

Ooh, the fury. But it was nothing compared to the opprobrium heaped upon the head of my colleague Matthew Parris who jokingly suggested that life in his village would be improved by piano wire strung across the roads to decapitate the hugely annoying cyclists.

But this has actually happened. And so some of us don’t think it funny.

Cyclists — or some of them, a lot of them — have become, these last few years, full of themselves, puffed-up with righteous anger. Part of this has been encouraged by the success of Wiggins and the Scottish hamster-man. But part of it too is because these people don’t think they’re simply pedalling from High Holborn to Paddington; they think they’re saving the bloody planet.

This is a charge often levelled, but it’s a straw man. Most people cycling from High Holborn to Paddington (a route containing some of the best infrastructure in London, incidentally) will do so because it’s cheap, healthy, fun, sociable and pleasant way to travel. Few cyclists think they’re “saving the planet”. And if some do, so what?

And they think that the rest of us are destroying it. As the anonymous blogger put it in that quote at the top of the page, they think that they are different.

No we don’t think we’re different, the blogger you quote doesn’t think cyclists are different. But you clearly think we are different, don’t you Rod? You’re projecting your own prejudices.

No — you’re not. You just can’t afford a car or are deluded about the impact cycling a few miles makes to the environment. And you can’t be bothered to walk.

Interesting how Labour members think they’re allowed to sneer at the poor. Of course even Jeremy Clarkson admits a city without cars littering the place is simply a nicer place to be. Cars do ruin the environment. It’s not just about Carbon. It’s why we pedestrianise streets. Because cars scare people away.

Cyclists are another one of those things about which the government and establishment are of one mind and the general public another. There is absolutely no doubt that the behaviour of some cyclists, the militant lot, enrages both pedestrians and car users — i.e. the vast majority of the British public.

The militant cyclist is unlikely to be the same person as the pavement cyclist, who’s much more likely to be from the tribe openly sneered at by Liddle – too poor to own a car.

I had always thought, when I saw two cyclists riding abreast on a narrowish road, holding up the traffic, that they were unaware of the annoyance they were causing. That maybe they didn’t know there was a car behind, and another 50 cars behind that car.

If it’s not safe to pass two cyclists, it’s not safe to pass one cyclist. There’s no extra delay.

Oh, but they do, they do. Check out the cycling websites and you will learn that they ride two abreast precisely to stop cars overtaking them, because on narrow roads they are convinced that car drivers will cut in too close to them as they pass.

Convinced, because IT HAPPENS.

So they block the entire road and feel good about it, because they are Victims. The law states that they are allowed to ride two abreast

…on any road, not just…

…on a big, wide, straight road, no bends and curves, where there is plenty of opportunity and width for cars to pass by in comfort; but a hefty majority of the posts I saw on several websites revealed very different strategies. Their view is that unless a car has room to pass two cyclists, it shouldn’t be trying to pass one. And with that they wrap themselves in self-righteousness as the queues of traffic tail back further and further.

There is no right for you to get past at will, and no obligation on cyclists to “get out of the way”. That you, a fat, slovenly, Labour voter is so filled with a massive entitlement complex that you think you have a right to get past, just shows how fat, stupid and selfish you are. Your 30 second delay (and it really is just that) is more important to you, than another human being’s safety. Which is just fucking grotesque when you think about it.

Likewise, riding on the pavements and thus maiming pensioners. The law is clear about this, for a change. They should never do it.

And if you go to “cycling websites” you’ll find the “militant cyclists” pretty universal in their condemnation of pavement cyclist, but never let the facts get in the way of a good rant, Rod.

But they do it because they feel safer there, of course.

Most pavement cyclists are poor people trying to get about. They feel threatened on the road. Because you think you have a right to get past.

Listen, you plastic-hatted ninny: if you don’t have the balls to cycle in the road, then ditch the bike.

Most pavement cyclist don’t wear helmets. Unless they’re small children. Who ARE allowed to cycle on the pavement. Facts, Rod. They’re out there if you look….

It is still the case that, mile for mile, pedestrians are far more ‘vulnerable’ than cyclists. Mile for mile, more pedestrians are killed. They — we — are the real victims, even if we do not whine about it continuously.

Yes, Rod, they’re killed by motorists, not cyclists.

And the number of pedestrians maimed by cyclists is also rising by the year, to the extent that legislation has been proposed to ensure that cyclists respect the laws of the land the same as everyone else.

The grotesque exaggeration of the number of pedestrians hurt by cyclists is a tiresome trope of this sort of piece. How many people are hurt by cars, and how many by cyclists, Rod?…Rod?

And of course, there are other irritations and dangers. I get infuriated by the cyclists tearing past me on the rural footpath where I live, scattering dogs and kids like confetti, believing that because they are allowed on the path, they are under no obligation to consider anyone else who might be using it.

This happens occasionally. But equally frequently, the ‘shared use’ path has pedestrians wandering about on the bit set aside for cyclists. Who’s to blame? The council for engineering conflict.

I am thinking of training my dog to attack cyclists who behave like this, catch up with them on the uphill stretch and chew their tyres off. I think I will use, as a signal to the animal to launch its attack, the word ‘Hoy!’

Funny, using the name of the cyclist whom you pretend to not remember. Well done, you fat, Labour-voting twat.

And of course there is the running of red lights, a continual complaint from car users, and the weaving in and out of traffic with an expression of rectitude on their faces.

It had to come. The “red-light” crap. Car drivers too regularly run red lights. At least as frequently as cyclists. It’s just for reasons that are obvious, only one motorist will see a motorist do so, whereas dozens of motorists will see a cyclist run a light. It happens. But cyclists running the occasional red is simply not a big problem. Cars doing so is.

And while it is true that by far the greatest number of pedestrian injuries and deaths are caused by car drivers…

…Nice of you to admit it…

…as a pedestrian you always have the sneaking suspicion that, in general, car drivers will try their best to avoid hitting you, while cyclists not only don’t care but will happily blame you for any injury which occurs.

“Sneaking suspicion” of nothing except Rod Liddle’s brute prejudice. A straw man, ideas put into the heads of cyclists (THEM!) whom he has not bothered to consult.

It is the last point which is the crucial one. It is about attitude.

Yes it is, Rod. If you see a cyclist and think, “I’ll slow down, pass when it’s safe, I’ll probably not be delayed at all”, then you won’t feel the hate. Calm down, Rod. You’re fat and out-of-shape. Your heart might not take the stress.

For a long time car drivers have had it drummed into them that what they are doing is antisocial and undesirable and have been subjected to ever greater strictures about what they can and can’t do in their cars, how fast they should travel and why they should leave the car in the garage to ease congestion and save the planet.

Well, Rod, it’s not cyclists causing congestion is it? And you think people should be allowed to go as fast as they like, or abandon their vehicles wherever they choose? These “strictures” aren’t for the cyclists’ benefit, but for pedestrians. And motorists.

As a consequence, they have become mindful and cowed. By contrast the cyclists have been told that they are doing a Good Thing, that it would be better if we all cycled (it wouldn’t — it would be better if we all walked) and so believe they can do no wrong.

Simply not true. This is a mere projection of Rod’s own feelings of impotence when stuck in traffic. Traffic of course being created by other fat people like him in cars.

They have the moral high ground, which includes the pavement, since you asked.

I’ve dealt with the Pavement issue.

I think we need a bit of legislation to sort them out, to penalise adult cyclists who ride on pavements, to book them for dangerous driving when they’re cutting lights or riding two abreast on unsuitable roads. And either to make it compulsory for cyclists to use cycle lanes or for local authorities to stop providing them (and turn the existing ones back into normal roads). Then the cyclists will feel an even greater sense of victimhood, and thus be happier.

Or maybe, just maybe, proper, segregated infrastructure will encourage those people who want to cycle to do so without enraging fat, idle, Labour-voting inadequates as the fat about in their fat-mobiles, and indeed making their lipid lives a little easier. More, better cycle lanes will engineer out the conflict. But that would involve giving “THEM” (a word which along with “They”) appears 71 times in Rod Liddle’s article) what they want, and that would not appease Rod “fat labour” Liddle’s sense of victim-hood which flows through this article. The word “They” usually indicates a lack of thought, a generalisation about another group, and such generalisations rarely stand up to scrutiny.

This is an embarrassment to the Spectator, riven with ignorance of the subject and full of internal contradictions.

Did I mention Rod Liddle is a fat member of the Labour Party?

Update: Before you comment, be sure to check your “thoughts” against this Cyclist-hate Bingo card. I want to collect the lot:

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”.

Check Your Privilege, For Libertarians.

If you’re debating with a certain type of lefty, you might get told to “Check Your Privilege”. This confusing order means that if, for example you’re debating the welfare state, if you’re securely employed and don’t know what it’s like to live on benefits, your opinion is irrelevant. It’s effectively saying “you’re borgeouis, shut up”. Dan Hodges dug deeper for the Telegraph.

Apparently the phrase “check your privilege” first originated on the
social justice blog, (no, I’ve no idea what a social justice
blog is either). Shrub was set up by Andrea Rubenstein…

‘CYP’ can be frustrating. But this post by Pete Spence argues some of these ideas could be an important part of libertarian thought, if Libertarianism is not to be an intellectual ghetto for rich, white, smug men with good jobs who don’t want to pay tax.

The concept of Checking Your Privilege asks you to ask yourself “is life different for other people?” and asks you to listen to those who have different experiences. It’s a sharing of information.

e.g. If you are not considered overweight, you may not be aware of the extent to which those considered overweight are harassed. You may not be as acutely aware of the overrepresentation in TV and advertising of people considered to have a “normal” body type.

Intersectionality asks you to remember that individuals are affected by several different things at once.

e.g. Someone considered overweight may also be considered successful, and have a high income and good education. They are relatively privileged when compared with someone considered overweight who is also unemployed.

Of course we all ignore this when debating, and descend into shorthand. The key is to always blame the system, for example when discussing benefits and unemployment, not the people, who’re mostly just responding to incentives. A rule I’m pretty good, though not perfect at adhering to.

These three concepts are all inherently individualist ones. They ask you only to remember that information asymmetries exist. People can not be treated homogenously, and suffer particular issues that are individual to them. We should act accordingly.

Of course when a rabid feminist tells you to “check your privilege”, they’re trying to shut debate down, not asking you to think about the other’s condition. It’s a form of ‘ad-hominem‘, saying your argument is wrong because it’s a rich, white guy making it.

A consistent approach requires libertarians not just to be critical of
state power, but also of overbearing corporate power and the power of
societal expectations and shame. The ideas of privilege, checking
of privilege, and intersectionality help us to do this. The complexity
of our world is a practical reality, and a problem for centralised
approaches, not a call for them.

And here the libertarianish twittersphere in particular falls down, because it’s not clear many people realise how much power large companies wield.  It’s too easy to see non-state players as somehow on my team against the state, whereas it’s a core role in a night-watchman state to protect people against the interests of rapacious companies for example by enforcing competition law.

Libertarians should not be anarchists, always railing against the state, without considering the proper functions of Government, including economic regulation. Monopolies, state or private serve no-one except the interests of the producer. Extremism, morally blaming weaker members of society for their plight or acting as an apologist for Companies is not going to help the central idea of libertarianism spread.

That is social liberalism, and economic liberalism can go together, ideas which appears to be the future of British politics. Let’s not scare potential supporters off by not considering why some people might be scared by the concept of freedom from state interference.

On BMI, Smoking and Physical Fitness

Quite often amongst libertarians there’s a ‘drinkin’ smokin’ and ahm-a-gonna-continue-coz-you-ain’t-gonna-stop-me attitude’. Because the BMA advises something, some libertarians willfully do the opposite.

I entirely understand the wish to blow the smoke of an unfiltered Senior Service into the face of any public-health busybodies I see. There’s enormous glee for example in the reporting of the meta-study released recently which suggested the slightly overweight live longer than those in the “healthy” BMI range. This is something that I thought was long-known. The VERY underweight live the longest, as near-starvation prevents some damage caused by free-radicals in cells during metabolism. We all know what healthy people look like, but it’s apparently just as healthy to carry a bit more weight as you age. The findings of the report are not surprising.

BMI was invented in the 19th century, when people were calorie constrained, cars hadn’t been invented and everyone was skinny, worked in manual labour, and walked, rode, or cycled everywhere. “Normal” was different back then. However BMI’s not a bad rule of thumb. Normal these days is a bit overweight, and certainly not doing the exercise or suffering the occasional bout of hunger for which nature designed us.

The key is muscle. If you’re carrying muscle, and we carry a lot more of it than our great-grandparents, you’re active, a bit of extra fat isn’t a problem for your body to bear, but big muscles are heavy and so push you into “overweight” on the BMI.  If you’re built like a jockey’s whip, you’re completely sedentary and have an unhealthy lifestyle, you can have quite a high fat percentage and a low BMI as fatty tissue is less dense than muscle. Catwalk models have bad skin from make-up and a diet of cocaine, bulimic vomiting and fizzy white wine yet fall at or below the healthy range. Most professional Rugby Players, on the other hand are “obese” thanks to their large muscle mass. There’s no doubt which looks more healthy (without makeup).

Make-up can be used to disguise an unhealthy lifestyle and unhealthy BMI.

I’ve never been a heavy smoker, but I have recently got into the habit of enjoying a cigarette or two in the evenings when I get home from work. I have for one reason or another been without a bicycle for much of the last few months. I’ve been drinking nearly every day and eating too much. I’ve not been taking exercise. I’ve got a bit fat. My BMI is 25.6. Very slightly over the border into overweight. And that’s probably about right. Fat, but not dangerously so. It certainly doesn’t help anyone who isn’t a professional athlete to see the BMI and think “Overweight is good”, because it isn’t.

Just a week of running and swimming each evening, and giving up the cancer-sticks entirely and cutting down the booze, I feel great. The first run was horrible. The second wasn’t much better. But on the third, I felt I’d cleared out some crap from the lungs and I enjoyed it. From previous bouts of fitness fanaticism I find at first you hate it. Then you start to enjoy it. Then you start to need it.

What interests me in the epidemiology is to what extent is the huge health penalty with which smoking is correlated to do with the harms of smoking itself, and how much is to do with the fact that people who smoke are also less likely to make healthy choices with exercise and food? It’s my belief that for day to day well-being, being sedentary is worse than light smoking. If you take regular exercise, I suspect you can get away with a fag with your pint afterwards. But I’m not a doctor, nor am I a public health epidemiologist. I don’t know.

Just because some nannying doctor tells you something is good or bad for you, doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Feeling hungover, lethargic and listless is not as good as feeling bright, cheerful and healthy. Pretty girls prefer men with toned muscles. You’re better in the sack with those pretty girls (or even your significant other) if you take some exercise. Fit people suffer less depression and have higher self-reported happiness. You’ll live longer and so generate more personal utility from the taxes you pay as you burden the NHS with your longer senescence. You sleep better after exercise, and are so more productive when you get up. Live fast, die young? Sod that. Live fast, die old, that’s my motto.

I’ve just started an exercise regime. I’m not just happy about it, I’m smug about it too. Hate me.

Did Ramesh Patel Get Paid For This?

If you’re active politically, you’ll probably get sent this article today, from The Huffington Post. Ramesh Patel describes himself as

Economist, worked in media and the financial sector

Which means he studied economics at university and has worked in the financial sector. It doesn’t mean he’s got any understanding of macro-economics. His more detailed bio is as follows.

Ramesh Patel worked in finance from investments adviser with JMC Finacial Assets, to comodities brokers in metal and currencies with Capital Assets. As well as a CEO for Proactive Internet Marketing and Brown Pound Publishing. Current working on a book on the UK deficit Myth and the real agender from the right and left.

*Agenda* *Commodities* *Financial*. 3 Spelling mistakes in his Huffington Post BIO! How embarrassing  Which means he’s barely literate, and I won’t be buying his book. Anyway, enough of playing the man, let’s get back to his article and play the ball. I’ll fisk it so you don’t have to. Basically it’s a badly spelled rehash of Labour’s claim that the UK public finances are OK because our stock of public debt is low by international standards.

CLAIM 1 The last government left the biggest debt in the developed world.

After continuously stating the UK had the biggest debt in the world George Osborne admits to the Treasury Select Committee that he did not know the UK had the lowest debt in the G7? Watch: Also, confirmed by the OECD Those who use cash terms (instead of percentages) do so to scare, mislead and give half the story.

No-one credible is claiming that. True, politicians do have an unfortunate tendency to use “debt” and “deficit” interchangably, when it suits their purposes. Ed Balls is at least as guilty as Cameron and Osborne. The UK’s debt is fine. The problem is that we are accruing debt faster than any country in the developed world and will almost certainly overtake Germany and possibly France before the crisis is resolved.

Finally, Labour in 1997 inherited a debt of 42% of GDP. By the start of the global banking crises 2008 the debt had fallen to 35% – a near 22% reduction page 6 ONS Surprisingly, a debt of 42% was not seen as a major problem and yet at 35% the sky was falling down?

These figures are simply wrong, and completely ignore context. In 1997, debt was, yes 42% and FALLING FAST the UK having come out of the recession of the mid 90’s, reaching 35% or so at which point Gordon Brown ABANDONED TORY SPENDING PLANS. IN 2008, the stock of debt was RISING despite there having been 16 years of uninterrupted growth.

CLAIM 2 Labour created the biggest deficit in the developed world by overspending.

Firstly, the much banded about 2010 deficit of over 11% is false. This is the PSNB (total borrowings) and not the actual budget deficit which was -7.7% – OBR Economic and Fiscal Outlook March 2012 page 19 table 1.2

It’s difficult to untangle the syntax, but I think he’s talking about the structural deficit. Whatever, he clearly doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. The UK has the biggest deficit in the developed world. From 2000, Gordon brown embarked on the biggest peace-time rise in taxation in British History. Tax as a share of GDP went from (depending on which stats you uses) 35% to 42% of GDP. This enormous tax rise happened during a long period of expansion. And all this extra tax on a strongly growing economy wasn’t enough. Gordon Brown STILL ran deficits.  Government spending went from around 38% of GDP to over 50% in 13 years. So the idea that Labour didn’t overspend is a simple, complete and absolute lie.The last Government was running a structural deficit. No question about that at all.

Claim 3 Our borrowing costs are low because the markets have confidence in George Osborne’s austerity plan and without it the UK will end up like Greece.

Yes, the markets have confidence in our austerity plan and that’s why PIMCO the worlds largest bond holder have been warning against buying UK debt.

The real reason why our borrowing costs have fallen and remained low since 2008 is because, savings have increased.

This is a half-truth. Every politician will claim (when in power) that low interest rates are a sign of market confidence. And they are – at least insofar as the markets remain convinced the UK will repay. But ultra-low interest rates are also a sign of economic weakness, as investors seek safe assets over risky ones. Bill Gross at PIMCO has been warning against US debt too. Not as a comment on Bernanke or Osborne, but merely that the economy will pick up, and negative real returns on low-risk assets are unsustainable. Yields will rise, so developed market debt is not a great place to be long-term.

Secondly, the UK is considered a safe heaven because, investors are reassured the Bank of England will buy up bonds in an event of any sell off – which increases the price of bonds and reduces the effective rate. Note, how rates fell across the EU recently when the ECB announced its bond buying program. Thirdly, because, we are not in the Euro we can devalue our currency to increase exports. Moreover, UK bonds are attractive because, we haven’t defaulted on its debt for over 300 yrs.

Let’s leave aside the mangling of the English tongue. The UK will not default because the Bank of England can print enough money to meet its needs. Trivially true. This does NOT mean the UK faces no limit on Government spending. Small truth, Ramesh, Big error.

David Cameron would like people to believe the markets lend in the same way as retail banks lend to you and I.

You and *ME*, Ramesh. All politicians use the household debt metaphor, to try to explain what is going on. Yes national debt is different to credit card debt. But most of the public will not understand why.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” Joseph Goebbels

You mean like the lie that as National debt isn’t like a credit card, there’s no limit?

So what are the limits to national debt? Well there’s the observation that debt burdens over 80% of GDP (Like Germany had for many years, and as France has now) seem to depress economic growth. When debt reaches 120% of GDP, which is where Italy is now, it seems to kill growth entirely. Japan when confronted with its asset bubble collapse, attempted to “stimulate” it’s way out of stagnation. It failed, and growth has been negligible for 20 or more years, and she bears a debt burden of over 200% of GDP. The only reason this is sustainable at all is most of it is lent to Japanese citizens. For those countries whose debt is more likely to be held outside the country, like the UK, our ability to sustain debt is much lower.

Ramesh Patel doesn’t mention the difference between internal and external debt. The UK has very, very high external debt. Nor does he mention the effect of debt burdens on growth. Nor does he put the snapshots he gives of the debt into context. He claims to not be a leftie but he’s written pure Labour propaganda. His assertions amount to nothing more than a racist saying “some of my best friends…”.

In short, there are plenty of good economic bloggers out there. Tim Worstall on the Right, Chris Dillow on the left. Ramesh Patel isn’t one of them.

Update, I can confirm that No. Ramesh Patel did NOT get paid by Huffpo, who I think asked me to write a response. Not unless paid. I’m a vicious capitalist you see.

The NHS is being Privatised? Ooh Goody!

Comment in moderation (unlikely to be published) at this post:

Ooh Goody. They’re privatising the NHS? Maybe I won’t die unnecessarily of Cancer, or wait four hours because no-one can be bothered to see me with a dislocated shoulder, until the target time runs out.

Excellent. It will still be free at the point of delivery, so why, apart from vested producer interest and left-wing prejudice, would you oppose private, but state funded provision? 

I note with interest you got the usual left-wing digs at “corporations” like Vodafone. I’m glad you admit you’re against efficiency and don’t want skilled nurses to offer simple services, but would rather ensure that someone wait to see a doctor. I had a bike accident outside my GPs surgery. The Doctor refused to apply a steristrip, and demanded I go to A&E 10 miles away. (and wait 4 hours).

This is an organisation run for bureaucratic convenience, not that of patients, infused top to bottom with the “more than my job’s worth” attitude of the public-sector

The NHS is NOT the “envy of the world”. It’s a mediocre service 17th best despite the UK being 11th richest per capita. The NHS underperforms and is in desperate need of shaking up, if not breaking up. 

With any luck the NHS will be privatised. And I will enjoy watching the wailing and gnashing of teeth from people who have been wrong on absolutely everything else, and are wrong on this too.

Of course it’s not just people not being patched up and sent on their way efficiently. It’s an entire culture of bureaucracy. I’ve no doubt bits of the NHS are world-class. But the shop-window walk-in & A&E is grotesquely inefficient, and that’s all I’ve seen first hand. And I can compare it against the similar systems in France, Germany, Canada and Norway, all of whom manage to achieve Triage without demanding everyone who isn’t dying always waits 4 hours.

“The Young are too Fussy.”

When presented with a problem, the implications of which the left don’t like, their response is usually to malign the “right-wingers” asking the question and pretend the problem doesn’t exist, rather than deal with any issues raised. Do you need an example? Claude at ‘Hagley Road to Ladywood’, one of my favourite lefty blogs, helpfully provides.

Our young people are too fussy when it comes to jobs”.

…And the evidence for that would be…?

Jack, of course, because it’s the typical sweeping generalisation that you hear with increasing frequency from the kind of people who 1) don’t appreciate their luck and 2) have a tendency to hear one anecdote and generalise.

Like “media personality” Janet Street Porter, or Frank Field MP on last Thursday’s BBC Question Time – the latter telling the story of some stroppy kids grunting that for less than £300 a week they wouldn’t even consider a job.

And so the Daily Mailers of this world hear an anecdote or two like that, and voila’…the hundreds of thousands of young people toiling away for shit wages in assorted pubs, supermarkets, Greggs, Starbucks and the rest turn into ghosts.Link

Absolutely. Most people have learned that to get a good job, you must first hold down a shitty one. But in London, try getting your coffee served by a native-born English Barrista. In East Anglia, you will almost never find an English-born vegetable-picker. Not that immigration is a problem, quite the opposite, but in high wage areas, the problem is that benefits are too generous relative to take-home wages and living costs. Benefits are too difficult and bureaucratic to get to risk losing them by taking insecure or seasonal work. The combination of these mean the low-skilled who qualify for benefits, won’t risk them by taking insecure jobs which result in the same or even lower take-home pay.

Surely rather than high minimum wages which in the long run reduce the supply of low-skilled jobs, why not reduce non-wage costs like National Insurance? Why not simplify and flatten out of work benefits, and ensure sensible marginal withdrawal/tax rates (which are at some points up to 107%) mean that it is always significantly better to be in work than not?

And so does the increasing army of bogus “self-employed” people, many of them youngsters with no pension rights, sickpay or holiday pay (check out the hairdressers trade, for an idea), forced to call themselves “self-employed” just so that their employer can dodge national insurance and every other obligation.

So, what Claude is complaining about here is that people have found a way round the huge non-wage costs, by hiring self-employed people where possible. People take these jobs (like me) because they might be all that’s available, and eventually we come to enjoy the flexibility and control they often offer. Some people value flexibility and control over working hours

Not to mention, the millions whose email inbox these days contains more job rejection messages than spam. Because, in case you didn’t know, it’s official news that in parts of Britain “[a]lmost 80 unemployed people are chasing each job“.

I have never, once, ever successfully applied for an advertised job. I’ve gone “temp to perm” and once I had marketable skills, I speculatively hawked my CV around and had a position open up for me.

Nah. You heard it. Janet Street Porter said it. “Our young people are too fussy when it comes to jobs”. “They don’t try hard enough”. “They’re picky”. “They don’t pull their finger out”.

Janet Street Porter is undeniably Ghastly. But “they don’t pull their finger out” put more sympathetically perhaps means “they” don’t know how to find work, and quite understandably get disheartened by the rejection letters. I don’t blame the young people. I blame (if anyone) school careers advisers who think finding work in the private sector is the same as applying for a teaching post, and who don’t teach how to find work in the modern world.

I don’t know about you. But I don’t know one single person who only accepted jobs strictly related to their studies, or that didn’t settle pretty much straightaway for something well below their expectations. Not one.

I know lots of educated erudite people, all of whom are successfully employed in some way or another. Unlike your average leftie however, I don’t assume myself and my social milieu to be representative of the general population. Economists call what Claude is doing here the “availability heuristic”.

And you can be sure Janet wouldn’t like it if cliches were thrown about that people develop her kind of mindset from hanging around too many golf clubs or “dinner parties”. And where, while munching on a canape or two, you hear anecdotes from some other media guru whose posh kid called Camilla, Rupert or Hubert is still travelling around the world while waiting for the perfect job offer to follow their successful degree in PR.

You’re suggesting Janet Street-Porter is posh? Can there be such low-expectations! I love the scare quotes around “dinner parties”. But why not around “Golf Clubs”? “Munching on Canapes”? “Posh Kids called Camilla, Rupert or Hubert”? “Travelling around the world”? “Degree in PR”? Generalisations: don’t they just sound hateful? Oh. Only when it’s a generalisation you disagree with, eh, Claude? Finally, I doubt Janet Street Porter, or any actual posh people give a shit what the proles think of them. Neither do the “middle class” which is regularly and systematically demonised and ridiculed as selfish, grasping, sharp elbowed.

Generalisations: don’t they just sound hateful?

Yes, Claude they do. But lefties don’t spot their own hypocrisy even when you beat them round the face with it.

The fact is Claude and his ilk have opposed anything to make the problem of job hunting easier for the young and low-skilled. Removing job protection and reducing non-wage costs increases the supply of jobs. Minimum wages and expensive job protection mean the low-skilled are priced out of the labour market, probably permanently. He opposes any reform of the Benefits system, Especially when done by Tories. Labour MP, Frank Field comes in for demonisation for daring to suggest reforms which might help solve the problem, and are pretty much identical to those proposed by (savage right-winger) Iain Duncan-Smith. It’s against the rules of the Tribe to work with the hated, vicious enemy.

Left-wing solutions like raising minimum wages and job protection legislation appear to be doing “something” and may even be popular. But they don’t work, at best they increase structural unemployment. At worst, they’re the reason why fifteen percent of our population will probably never have a job. That’s it Claude, you and your middle-class, safely employed buddies (you said it…) keep your boot on the face of the scum, whilst pontificating about “Daily Mailers” whom you’re accusing of the same. Incidentally the Daily Mail, hateful though it is, is the paper of choice of the thousands of small businessmen, who are ACTUALLY providing jobs. Enjoy your circle-jerk over clean consciences. Pull up the drawbridge behind you, there’s a good chap.

Update. Hagley road to ladywood’s comment policy reads “Comments that contain racist, homophobic or generally abusive or insulting language won’t be published. Same with non-constructive, inflammatory stuff.” Both the truncated version of this post, and a subsequent comment have dissapeared. I guess, like most lefties “free speech” means “free speech for those who agree”. They really don’t like it up ’em, do they?

Conversations on Drugs with a Politician.

I had a conversation recently on Twitter with a Councillor from Ipswich about drugs. This is one of the two subjects about which I’m like a dog with a bone (the other is cycling). I cannot think of a more expensive, destructive, counterproductive and stupid policy than the “war on drugs”. And like cycling, the dam is breaking, but it’s important to keep educating, because prohibition’s supporters are many and ill informed, however well supported they are by bad science and “studies” to support their case. She wrote a blog post to introduce her views, so I thought I would respond in kind, answering her points, in detail, one at a time.

I suspect we would ALL like to see killer drugs eradicated (apart from the dealers) so it will just be a question of how we can achieve that.

Let’s start with two fallacies in almost the first sentence. Killer drugs? Pot, almost as widespread as alcohol kills almost no-one. And before you say “Don’t be silly, she’s talking about horse, not weed”, she is talking about pot too. Prohibition benefits dealers. It’s a cash business, with social hours requiring little in the way of start-up capital, with better prospects than McDonald’s. It’s un-taxed, not subject to quality controls and with no statutory rights (other than caveat emptor) for customers. Drugs don’t kill, or at least they would kill much less if a PhD chemist working for GlaxoSmithKline was making them, rather than a dutch stoner in a backstreet lab. The fact is millions of people take “killer” drugs like Exctacy or cocaine every weekend with few ill effects. A dealer who gets known for a bad batch will quickly lose business.

When the hue and cry is over, most drug deaths, such as Rachel Whitear who’s blood heroin turned out to be below the lethal dose; or Leah Betts, who succumbed because she drank 7 litres of water, turn out to be something else. With heroin particularly, Drug deaths often occur from respitratory failure because a batch of purer than normal heroin hits the streets, resulting in a wave of overdoses. This would be avoided in a legal supply chain, because users would know in advance the strenght of the drug they were taking.

It’s therefore reasonable to argue that drugs are killers because they are illegal, not illegal because they’re killers.

I came into politics because of my concern over increasing drug use and therefore I’m not writing this on a position of proving I am right about anything I have already written. If the research and ensuing policy proved me wrong, I would be just as delighted. All I want is for us to at least be winning the war on drugs, whatever that takes.

Economists call this “selection bias”. People who go into politics because of a concern about increasing drug use are talking about a small, but visible band of Crack, Heroin and Alcohol abusers. This population increased coincided with “care in the community” a massive downsizing of the Army in “options for change” and the breakdown of traditional working class communities in the 80’s, and of social norms surrounding illegitimacy in the ’60s. Basically there were more ill-educated bastards, and people with mental health problems, and fewer places to hide ’em away or employ them. It’s easy to blame “DRUGS!” for wider social problems. The same moral Panic, over the same people, doing much the same, but with Gin can be seen at the Tate’s recent exhibition of Hogarth’s work.

I remember vividly the horror of the Ipswich street worker murders and the fact that we were told it was impossible to get prostitution off our streets. Well we proved them wrong with our 5 year strategy and although this long established industry has obviously not gone away, we have at least helped many girls get their life back and helped the residents of London road to have their roads free of street workers and pimps.This was done using partnership working to help them abstain from drugs, get away from the men who were pressurising them and find suitable alternative environments in which to start a new life.

Prostitution is very similar to Drugs. Tolerate the trade (which is not in itself illegal) and keep it where it doesn’t upset good, honest Tory mothers like our good councillor. A delivery business, on the Internet, and in “massage parlours”. The street whores are often the ones with chaotic lifestyles with a relationship to the drug trade. The problem is that a really heavy drug habit is expensive to fund. Drugs that could be provided for pennies by the medical supply chain cost hundreds of pounds. Most of this profit goes to the illegal supply chain. There are two ways to fund a habit. If you’re a woman of little education, and few skills, become a prostitute. If you’re a man in control of your faculties, become a dealer. Recruit vulnerable women, and become their pimp/dealer using the supply of Heroin to control them. Also recruit sub-dealers (who are probably also users) to bulk-up your income. Take your own heroin at source. It’s the illegality of drugs creating this highly effective pyramid marketing scheme, with its attendant cycle of abuse, not the drug itself.

Is there evidence that it’s the illegality of heroin prescription which causes the effects? Why yes there is. Opiates were widely abused from the 1800’s onwards. Laudanum, Opium, Morphine (addiction to which was known as “the soldiers’ disease, because it was often a habit acquired in field hospitals) were widely available. There was little moral panic, because most of the focus at the time was on the demon drink. Opium was seen as a vice of the moneyed classes.

The misuse of Drugs act 1971 changed all that. And when was there a heroin epidemic? That’s right, the late 70’s and early 80’s. It’s not compelling evidence, post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that, but it certainly supports the view that opiate abuse only became a moral panic when the working class started doing it, instead of well-tailored rakes.

And so the negative statement ‘we will never get rid of drugs’ just doesn’t wash with me. Yes we can win the battles, but it will be a slow, arduous multi-faceted, multi-partnered approach and lessons must be learnt and adopted from best practice around the world.

People like to get high, pissed, stoned or stimulated. Get over it. Illegal drugs is the most profitable business known to man, one the United Kingdom went to war over. The battle over its profits has destabilised South America and Central Asia for decades. So no, Councillor. We will never get rid of drugs, not without measures which would be frankly intolerable in anything like a free society. “Best practice”? Well Mao’s threat to shoot heroin users worked. But if that’s all you’re selling, I ain’t buying.

I intend to be open, honest and look for evidence that does not support my approach as well as those that do so that I give a balanced view. I invite comments from professionals in the know and people that have lived with a drug problem.

The people whose opinions our good councillor are NOT canvassing are the Hundreds of thousands of people who take party drugs occasionally. I know these people, I’m a stockbroker, for Christ’s sake, but who knuckle down with the week. Because their drug of choice is illegal, does that mean they have a “problem”? What about the enormous population, probably numbering in the millions who take Cannabis regularly without coming into contact with John Q Law. Do they have a problem. Because if they’re busted, you can bet it pays in terms of less gaol time if they say they do… I have a degree. I know these people, because I’ve been to university.

I have never taken illegal drugs but I know how hard it was to give up smoking a few years ago (apparently very comparable with heroin) so I do understand the torture involved in an addiction. I therefore come from the premise that help is needed as well as punishment for those who commit illegal acts.

It’s amazing how many people campaigning against drugs start their arguments “I have never taken illegal drugs”. To which I say “if you’ve a degree, you must have been a remarkably po-faced and boring individual at University”. You know that argument was once deployed against homosexuality. Or Heretics in Spain. Condemning something BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL, when people think it shouldn’t be (like sodomy or judaizing) is a silly position.

I will start with a statistic that was confirmed to me at our working group meeting this week. That children whose parents take drugs are 8 times more likely to embark on this journey themselves. This alone suggests that we owe it to them to try and work on abstinence of drugs (not merely harm reduction, which was the strategy under Labour). Many of the last govts policies were based on the premise that ‘oh well, we’ll never stop it so let’s just educate them and tell them about the harm in the hope that we can reduce it, while they do it’.

The observation that people become like their parents is hardly shattering. I know people who’ve smoked pot with their parents. Sorry “started down the road to becoming a street prostitute” by seeing their parents take “illegal drugs”.

This is clearly wrong because at best, it sends out mixed messages and, at worst, appears to condone it.

Just as with alcohol, the continental approach – learn to respect dangerous drugs, like alcohol at an early age leads to mature attitudes. The approach of “yes there’s a time for experimenting with drugs, and that’s university” works with drugs.

Yes, we should educate but our policies must now be with abstinence in mind or the next generation will bring us even more victims, addicts, destroyed families and huge costs.

I simply disagree. The addicts, many of them are a product of a pyramid-selling supply chain, not the inherent evil of the drugs themselves.

All those that now find it so difficult to get off the nastier drugs must surely wish they never started…

… and wouldn’t have in the majority of cases, were they not illegal..

it so lets make sure that going forward this regret is not felt by even more of our young people.

by legalising, regulating and controlling a trade in substances that 50 years of “war” by the most powerful nations the world has ever seen, which costs the US alone the same as the entire UK defense budget, has absolutely failed to stop.

Would I have started smoking had I been told the dangers way back in the 70’s? Of course not.

Absolute twaddle! Everyone knew it was bad for you back then. My Grandparents called cigarettes “coffin nails”!

So my first point is We must stop sending out messages that taking drugs is acceptable. Some are comparing taking drugs, like cannabis, with drinking. I am not accepting this argument here for various reasons;
a) 2 wrongs don’t make a right

Find me the victim when someone grows pot and sells it to someone. WHY is the state stopping mutual, un-coerced trade in something that kills fewer people than “accidents involving trousers”?

b) Alcohol is legal and making it illegal will never happen.

No. We’ve tried that, and the result is chaos and carnage. The result of drug prohibition is … um… chaos and carnage, on two continents. Your prescription: More of the same?

c) Wine is a natural substance that is good for you in small measures. One spliff is not good for you, even if you believe it’s not bad for you (to be debated later date)

Cannabis is a naturally occurring herb across most of the old world. It appears to have a great many medicinal, pain-relief, and appetite enhancing effects which would benefit from being researched. No-one is arguing smoking a spliff is good for you, but eating a “space-cake” may not be bad for you, and for many, may be medicinal.

d) Alcohol dependency is an illness but other than making drinking illegal also, it has no relevance to the war on drugs which is a stand alone issue and requires a different strategy.

That’s simply an assertion, supplied without logical argument and frankly idiotic.

The conclusion in ‘The Phoney War On Drugs by Kathy Gyngell, an author and researcher suggests that we must;

Reduce the supply of Drugs

Tried. Failed. It’s simply impossible to interdict supply in any meaningful way in a free society.

Reduce recruitment to drug abuse

I agree, but this is best approached in a legal, regulated supply, without a criminal supply chain which creates a highly effective pyramid marketing scheme, which is without compunction marketing to children.

Encourage people with drug abuse to give it up

Which appears to work with smoking…

The Netherlands and Sweden have both adopted the approach of enforcement of their drug laws, prevention of illicit drugs and provision of addiction care with successful results. Interestingly it is the UK that has gone into the realms of normalising drug use, not the Netherlands, according to research, and I think that would surprise many.

Ultimately the problem, even liberal regimes like the Netherlands have is that the supply chain is in criminal hands. Decriminalisation and toleration is hypocritical. What we need is legalisation. Much is made by the Drug warriors about the Netherland’s apparent volte-face. There’s more to it than “it failed”. “It” didn’t.

So I will firstly use some of the information contained within her research and book before moving onto those from the side of ‘legalising drugs’, something I am deeply opposed to but will nevertheless give opportunity to it’s believers here.

Imagine a legal, regulated supply chain. Addicts getting medical grade diamorphine, which has few of the health destroying effects of street heroin, which are supplied along with help and clean needles. Recreational drugs supplied at medical grade, with users able to be confident they’re taking something of known strength uncut with something nasty. Ecstasy deaths are caused by poor quality backstreet lab, not a drug which given the millions who took it in the 90s, seems far, far safer than alcohol. Cannabis users don’t punch each other in the face in the taxi-rank on a Friday night. Why the hell are we making illegal a simple plant? Coca has been used without harm by the Inca for millenia. British people use cocaine because it’s easier to transport than leaves!

The war on drugs has been an expensive disaster for everyone involved. The UK spends around £3bn on it every year. We could stop spending that, and instead tax the trade heavily. Everyone would be better off.

There are simply no arguments in favour of the continued “war on drugs”. It’s lost. “More of the same” is simply not going to work. Not now, not ever, except by destroying the Freedoms that make us happy and prosperous. Some people react to freedom in a way you don’t like. Get over it.

Libertarianism and when the Lefties’ masks slip.

My good friend @NorthBriton45, who blogs at Radical Blues turned his irony klaxon off this morning. He’s a socialist, one who’s twitter handle takes as its inspiration (supposedly) John Wilkes’ organ ‘The North Briton’, whose issue #45 led to a load of court cases as a parody of a King’s speech was libellous. Wilkes himself got locked up in the tower.

The Earl of Sandwich once said to Wilkes, (a notorious libertine, and member of the Hellfire club)

“you will either die of the pox or on the Gallows”,

to which he replied

“that depends on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress”.

Given what I know to be NorthBriton45’s rather abstemious (by the standards of journalists) and admirable lifestyle – he’s happily married and not as far as I know, a renowned libertine, I feel I would be better an inheritor of Wilkes’ erstwhile organ. After all, read his blog, then mine. Who’s more likely to go to the Tower for libelling someone in power?

Anyway. Back to the Irony Klaxon being turned off. I defined Socialism thus:

The imposition by force of your economic preferences on everyone else.

To which NorthBriton45 replied

libertarianism: the desire to impose your own freedom on other at the expense of others.

Cue Gales of laughter from the libertarianish twittersphere. The mask slipped. Just as it did with Dr Eoin Clarke’s ludicrous assertion about Starbucks coffee and the tyranny of choice, (a post now laughably removed). Just because he trusts in an all-knowing state (run by people like him) to make important decisions, everyone should have no choice. Lefties really, really believe that choice is wasteful, that competition instead of driving up standards and down costs, is wasteful duplication.

So. How can it be more efficient to have competing BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and Volkswagen when you can have a trabant, and wait 6 months for it. Starbucks, or the kind of rusty piss-water that used to pass for coffee in the UK? Have you tried to get a phone installed recently? Now talk to your parents about getting one installed in the 1970s.

But it’s not about the agony of choice in consumer, or even utility services. It’s about a misrepresentation of libertarianism. Later he says

you constantly want to avoid responsibility. Individual and isolationist

as if there is nothing between the individual and the state, nothing between the individual and the law. Libertarianism is about the individual taking responsibility back from the Government. It’s about rejecting safety nets, excessive legislation protecting us from ourselves. It’s about saying “do what you will, but don’t come crying to me if it goes wrong”. Most people are scared by this responsibility, because most people are ignorant children, scared of the Big Bad World. The government likes it that way: scared people can be easily coerced into handing over 40-50% of their income to be spent by the state.

But free people don’t live in anarchy. The old gag: you can’t leave Anglo-Saxons alone for too long or they will start to form clubs. People generally co-operate for mutual benefit without the state telling them to do so. The state of course has a role in enforcing laws of contract, and enforcing those against harm to others. Most libertarians are comfortable with some form of safety net for those less fortunate. Most see some form of Citizen’s basic income in this role, taking a rhetorical position of “the state/society has discharged it’s responsibilities to you with this payment, what you do with it is your business”. Try to deny that this is less of a tyranny than the current welfare slavery which traps the least fortunate in society at the bottom of the heap, begging weekly for money from bureaucrats. The fact that the bureaucracy often makes terrible decisions about people’s lives doesn’t seem to faze libertarianism’s detractors. The casual brutality of the state micro-managing people’s personal relationships is just accepted. The tyranny of the benefit office or laws preventing people getting on the job ladder at all is lauded as “for their protection”. From what? Quis custodiet ipsos custoides?

Libertarians are not hermits or survivalists, often quite the opposite. Nor are we atomistic about human relationships. Most work co-operativly for private companies. Nor are we anarchist: libertarianism requires a strong and competent state, albeit one doing very much less than at present. Libertarians are not selfish, but the philosophy is that of harnessing selfishness to the greater good. Just like free-market capitalism, but with the same insights which led to the greatest explosion of wealth and creativity the world has ever seen applied to the social and personal spheres as well as the economic.

Most economic liberals are social authoritarians. Most economic authoritarians are social liberals (a position which includes most of the British left). Socialists (proper ones) are economically and socially authoritarian, as are fascists. Libertarians are the only people who believe people should be free and actually apply this to people who are not like them. Nowhere has a bureaucracy made a better decision than a properly functioning market. That’s not to say markets are perfect, but like democracy, they tend to improve over time and be better than any alternative.

So as I said earlier, in the statement which kicked off the whole damn discussion.

Libertarianism: the only mature political response to the observation that your preferences are not everyone Else’s