Dispersed Benefits, Concentrated Costs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why couldn’t Bob Ainsworth have stuck his head above the Parapet Two Years Ago?

Bob Ainsworth(less), a minister of spectacular uselessness even by New Labour standards has come out and said it. The war on drugs is a counter-productive, expensive, damaging failure.

Why the hell did he not do anything about these views when he was in Government? Of course the rhetorical question can be answered: Because of grotesque producer capture by law-enforcement and media; political inertia and cowardice on all sides of the house. Suggest such a “crazy” thing and you will get comments like “I have seen what drugs do to communities…” without considering the counter argument of legalization, regulation and some control would do much more to help the addict, at much less harm to the non-problem user and cost to the tax-payer than the enormously expensive and totally futile attempts to limit supply.

The fact is slowly, one by one politicians are realising that a cheap win is to decriminalise drugs and medicalize addiction, whilst leaving the non-problem user alone. This removes a cause of enormous harm to populations, especially in Britain, poor and ethnic minority populations who don’t use particularly more than their white compatriots but are FAR more likely to have their doors kicked in and their collars felt by plod. The tide is turning. Pot was nearly legalised in California. There are experiments in Holland, Portugal, Spain and others, which have not led to the collapse of society. Nor have they even led to increases in drug use. The fact is the failure of prohibition is so complete that illegal drugs are more available and cheaper than they’ve ever been. Because of the hysteria about booze, in many cases they’re easier to get hold of for a teenager than alcohol. Cocaine, once the preserve of rock-stars and the rich is now available for £30 a gram. It’s cheaper and easier to get high than it is to get drunk, especially after pub closing hours.

The Zero-Tolerance approach could only work when you had worldwide acceptance of that policy. That has broken, and steadily the failed dogma of prohibition will be rolled back. Even in the USA. Once it is seen that legalised pot hasn’t caused a major social problem as promised in “reefer madness“.

The current coalition are, or were, sympathetic to legalisation, and I have spoken to senior people in Law enforcement, politics who will, in private say that the war on Drugs is lost, is unwinnable and it is the war on drugs, rather than the drugs themselves which destroy communities. The only people who say otherwise are the kind of people in the military and police who proudly say “Having never taken drugs, I can say they have nothing to offer”. People who think through the issue, beyond the dogmatic line can see that decriminalization or legalisation would significantly reduce harm, in many cases without increasing use. It remains career-harming for a copper, especially in the lower ranks to say so publicly. Unfortunately, it is still electorally risky to say so publicly, and whilst significant numbers of Tories and Labour MPs are in favour of freedom on the issue in private, there is an authoritarian wing of both parties, which sees something of which it disapproves and thinks “Ban This” and it is this tendency which gets the popular press on their side, because they make a lot of money from pictures of Kate moss snorting a line.

However, David Nutt, for his faults is in favour of a more realistic line, as were the other scientists on the Advisory council on drugs. Law Enforcement against Prohibition are increasingly influential in the USA, and Chief constables, Lawyers and Civil Servants working in the Field in the UK have added their voices. Just about the only people who will consistently oppose legalisation who know the situation in any detail are drug dealers themselves – these guys have the most to lose. Sooner or later, drugs policy will come in from the cold, and the reality of what it is doing to countries like Mexico will mean that something will give. Already, the number of police, politicians and scientists who are prepared to put their heads above the parapet is increasing. Cracks are beginning to show in the dam holding reality back, and one of the good things about democracy is that it usually gets social questions right. Eventually.

At the moment, the prevalent view is that drugs are a moral issue – they represent weakness of character. This is the line deployed against masturbation, extra-marital sex and homosexuality by the authoritarians in the past. It was a fallacious argument then, it’s fallacious now. Moral has nothing to do with whether something should be illegal. The fact is that most of us have had a spliff – find me a graduate who hasn’t – and few of us go on to mainlining smack. Some stoner undergraduates have even gone onto serious careers in the police, the Military the professions. Some however become politicians. Drugs policy IS a moral issue. The current prohibition is grotesquely counterproductive, destructive of societies and communities and astonishingly illiberal. Anyone who supports it is either malign, ignorant, stupid or all three.

My guess is that the Daily Mail is wrong and we will be able to have a spliff after dinner fairly soon.

The Life and Trials Of Julian Assange

Guest post by Mara
Much of the media frenzy surrounding Assange is born of the fact that little is known about him. Thirty nine years old. Australian. No fixed address. Parents ran a touring company. Attended thirty seven schools. Has a child from a failed relationship. Malcolm Rifkind describes him as a ‘frighteningly amoral figure’, Edward Heathcoat-Armory as ‘paranoic and archaic’, one who lives a ‘bizarre peripatetic life’. Assange has been ritualistically demonized by the media as a shadowy, sinister and above all wicked figure who will stop at nothing in order to print a sensational story. In a savage evocation of the McCarthy era, politicians across the world have been baying for his arrest, his silence, and even his blood. It is ironic that some of these politicians, Attorney General Eric Holder who refused to prosecute the CIA for torture in particular, are now mounting a moral crusade using the ‘forces of darkness and light’ narrative to achieve their ends.
The latest move to silence Assange lies in the lap of a Swedish prosecutor who, despite a wealth of contradictory evidence, has issued a European Arrest Warrant in order to prosecute him for the alleged coercion and rape of two women. Prior to the issuing of said warrant, the case had been thrown out by a second Swedish prosecutor for lack of evidence. The first woman invited him to stay at her home, had intercourse with him, and threw a party for him the following evening. The second, evidently starstruck (describing him as ‘interesting, brave and admirable’), invited him to her home and paid for his rail fare in both directions. Later, the two women got together, the first “victim” having attempted to expunge an entry on her blog entitled ‘7 Steps to Get Legal Revenge’ and to erase a Tweet which read ‘Sitting outside … nearly freezing, with the world’s coolest people. It’s pretty amazing!’ They appear to have blown the whistle based on the fact that Assange had Biblical knowledge of them both within a matter of days. Whether this is a case of ‘sexfalla’, which may be loosely translated as a ‘honeytrap’, or two women seething with indignation that Assange shared his sexual favours impartially, there is negligable evidence that any crime was committed. Indeed, Assange has been attempting to meet face-to-face with the Swedish prosecutor for over a year in order to set the record straight.
The typical media response, imbued as it is with a prurient need to know the explicit details of this and every other case involving sex and a kneejerkist Puritannical desire to punish those involved for their morality or lack thereof, has been to define Assange’s character in relation to the allegations. Sex, though a powerful motivation, is not sufficient to explain, or detract, from Assange’s desire to see justice done: to make public a file passed on to him by Bradley Manning, a man whose own character has been torn to shreds, in order that global governance may not get away with covering up its sins. The release of a number of diplomatic telegrams, which has prompted Sarah Palin to call for the death sentence to be imposed on Assange, is both important and necessary. The intelligence that the Obama administration views ours with suspicion, believing that our PM isn’t up to the job and our military is inadequate, has a profound effect on our supposedly ‘joint’ efforts to pacify Afghanistan. Why should we continue to expend resources and lives to assist those who have no faith in us?
The fact that Hilary Clinton deliberately gave orders to pervert the course of justice by covertly obtaining biometric and personal data of UN delegates, including the Secretary General, highlights the fact that the United States believes itself to be above petty legal concerns. Such a profound insult, perversely, may make those waiting to be groped by the TSA at US airports or exposed to radiation via body scanners feel a little more solidarity with the powers-that-be. In relation to Iraq, US troops were commanded not to release details or investigate tortures of Iraqis under an order called ‘Frago 242’. And the latest ‘atrocity’ to be leaked, a list of defence facilities which has been characterised by the US State Department as ‘arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way,’ a move that puts the ‘national security of the United States has been put at risk; the lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk; the American people themselves’ at risk, despite the fact that said information has been available in the public domain for a considerable time. The claim that such an act is tantamount to ‘giving a targeting list to groups like al-Qaeda’ is risible. Though it is easy to represent those committing atrocious acts as the Other, an amorphous mass lacking both in intelligence and self-governance, it is more than likely that said group has both access to the Internet and a fair idea of what they want to target.
On balance, I would applaud Assange’s stance. He has, at personal risk, sought to expose the prim-lipped hypocrisy employed by Western governments towards each other, towards those nations they attempt to subdue and subvert in the name of ‘democracy’ and towards their citizens. This information is very much in the national interest. It is in the interest of each and every working man and woman because they are the ones who bear the financial and moral burden, and the after-effects, of governmental decisions taken on their behalf. Far from villifying Assange, we should applaud his endeavours; to hold those responsible for gross travesties of justice, rather than embarking on a witch hunt. We should overcome the Washington-driven jargon that seeks to make a laughing stock of Assange in order to sweep their dirty dealings under the carpet. Media analyst Glenn Greenwald noted that: ‘this kind of character smear (‘he’s not in his right mind,’ pronounced a 25-year-old who sort of knows him) is reserved for people who don’t matter in the world of establishment journalists – i.e., people without power or standing in Washington and, especially, those whom American Government authorities scorn. In official Washington, Assange is a contemptible loser – the Pentagon hates him and wants him destroyed, and therefore the ‘reporters’ who rely on, admire and identify with Pentagon officials immediately adopt that perspective – and that’s why he was the target of this type of attack.’
And, in making such an attack so personal, all accountability passes to the person being demonised. Higher standards need to be employed by those journalists who, despite bleating about impartiality, hop on to whatever political bandwagon happens to be rolling out that week so they gain approval. Where the bravery, where the unflinching honesty, that once used to epitomise reporting, from Deep Throat to the Killing Fields? Ironically, what most party line journalists seem to have overlooked is that in villifying one of their own, they are encouraging the establisment of a system wherein their own right to free speech, should they ever use it, could be revoked. An unhappy notion for the ‘global’ world we live in. And harping on about ‘responsibility’ and the ‘balance of liberty and power’ simply won’t cut it, for if they are willing to shore up the system unquestioningly, they are willing to shore up its abuses of liberty and power too. As Assange stated, ‘when governments stop torturing and killing people, and when corporations stop abusing the legal system, then perhaps it will be time to ask if free-speech activists are accountable.’Guest post by Mara

Labour: Shameless & Despicable

Tony Blair, when arguing in favour of the authorities being allowed to lock terrorist suspects for three months without charge, made the case, over and over that the move was vital for “security”. Three months was a bit much, even for Labour and this was eventually knocked down to 42 days pre-charge detention.

The police demanded it, he said, and the police are all-knowing. They never fit up the local suspicious dusky-looking odd-ball for high profile murders, and would never, ever use flawed intelligence to allow them to lock up, or even better, shoot the local suspicious, heavily bearded religion enthusiast. Intelligence, especially in the hands of those tireless and incorruptible public servants is always faultless, and the police cannot therefore be denied any power they ask for. It’s for the public’s own good, and of course, if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear. Despite the Government’s watertight case, Parliament in one of its occasional fits of contrariness, disagreed. The “compromise” was for suspicious-looking dusky types to be banged up on the police’s whim for a mere 28 days without being told why, if a nod from a judge could be obtained. 28 days is of course many, many times longer than in any other free democracy.

This was of course, never about “security”. Indeed the powers were never used. The plan was transparent. To create such an outrage against civil liberties that the Tories would be compelled to oppose it, thereby allowing Labour to campaign against them as “soft on terror”, because in Labour’s white working-class heartlands, “terrorist” means, “dusky, bearded religion enthusiast” and definitely not “us” or “people like us”. This case would be handy in a fight against the BNP, as the subtle difference between being locked up and being locked up WITHOUT CHARGE is lost on the majority of Britain’s spectacularly stupid electorate.

Now, in opposition, Labour need back their wet-arsed, mewling, pinko former supporters who hated the Labour government’s outrageous and savage assault on civil liberties. When in opposition, there are no “difficult decisions” just voters to placate, and lefties, who are so brainwashed into believing that Tory=Evil, and Labour=Righteous that they have forgotten, and forgiven Labour in a mere 6 months, whilst not seeing any irony in still blaming Thatcher & the Tories for everything else wrong with the country. At best, this is naive, at worst dumb, lumpen tribalist stupidity. Labour has admitted its mistakes, and the thuggish Ed Balls has said he MIGHT support a move to drop the detention without charge to the still-outrageous 14 days, which is still much longer than in any equivalent free democracy.

Labour, having run for 13 years one of the most savagely authoritarian regimes in the free world in which they systematically and comprehensively demolished most of the safeguards protecting the people from the misuse of executive power, cannot be taken seriously when they say “whoops, sorry! Our Bad!”. I would need to see a lot more evidence of a change of heart before I forgive the party. I suspect Labour’s U-turn is as transparently political as the policy when they were in Government. Their U-turn is welcome, but I don’t trust them nor should anyone who claims to have any love of freedom, until they expunge anyone who voted in favour of 42-day pre-charge detention.

Yes, that means you, Mr Balls. I make much of Labour’s catastrophic economic mismanagement, but it is the profound destruction of freedoms that will be the legacy of the Blair & Brown years long after we’ve paid the financial bill.

The Somme offensive 1916 and ‘Pointlessness’

The Somme offensive, “a gargantuan effort by Field Marshall Haig to move his drinks cabinet 6″ closer to Berlin” and with 1.5 million casualties over the 3 months of fighting vies with Leningrad, Stalingrad and Verdun as the bloodiest battles in history, and is consistently held up as an example of the futility of war. What was the point, people ask, of throwing all those men, thoughtlessly over the top, which achieved nothing. To which I always reply, it wasn’t thoughtless, nor did it achieve nothing. The image of men marching into machine guns an inaccurate caricature of the first day, not the whole battle. Indeed contrary to popular imagination of thoughtless Generals piling ever more men into ever more murderous offensives, enormous thought was put into the battle as many approaches to end the stalemate which had existed since 1914, were tried. That many failed should not reflect badly on the men desperately seeking solutions. Whether the objective was worth the cost, you decide. Those making the decisions, and those obeying the orders which flowed from them at the time clearly thought the cost was ‘worth it’, and thought it ‘worth it’ for a further two and a half years.

First, the strategic point of the battle was a little more sophisticated than that parodied in ‘Blackadder’. It was to relieve the French on the Meuse, who were at that point being bled white by a massive German offensive at the fort of Verdun. The French Army was close to collapse which if it occurred would see the British Army surrounded, cut off from the channel ports, and nearly a million men would have been captured. The war would have been lost, and the British Empire would probably have been carved up between Germany and Austria-Hungary, to the detriment of, I think, every citizen of the Empire. France would have been over-run. The light of democracy in Europe would have been snuffed out. The British Army HAD to relieve the French and the only way to do it was to launch an offencive themselves. In this ultimate strategic goal, the battle was a success, despite hasty preparations. The German army immediately ended its offensive at the Meuse to concentrate on reinforcing the Somme front to the North-West. The French stayed in the war.

Second: the tactics. This was the first major offensive involving Kitchener’s citizen soldiers, many of whom were hastily trained. They were not the “Old Contemptibles” who so surprised the German Army on the Marne two years earlier with accurate rifle fire of such a rate that the Germans thought every man was armed with a machine-gun. Complex small-unit tactics such as section and platoon fire & manoever were just not possible with such raw troops. So the army tried a new tactic, one still in use today the Creeping, or Walking Barrage. Prior to this, the enemy were to be annihilated by a massive bombardment lasting several days, that it was hoped, nothing could survive. And if they did, the still new mine warfare led to detonations under the German Lines 2 minutes prior to the men going ‘over the top’ would finish off the survivors. The attacking British wore full kit, because they were expected to occupy positions they took, perhaps without resupply. These were new tactics: The troops following on day one were too far behind their own gunfire (to protect from self inflicted casualties) allowing the Germans to come out from their dug outs and man the Guns before the British troops got into the German lines. The mines weren’t numerous or big enough.

Blackadder, set in 1917 has the guns fall silent before they go “over the top”, because it’s “more sporting” to let the Germans do the killing. A gag, but telling about the world-view of the writer, and ultimately inaccurate. The heavy guns would have switched to depth postions o prevent reinforcement and still be firing, and the ligther guns would be raining fire down ahead of the advancing troops, who would, by 1917, be taking more casualties from “dropshorts” than enemy action: 10% casualties from your own guns was thought better than 15% casualties from the enemies’. It still is.

The German defences were hard, and well-constructed. And the German soldier is always tough. And this has led to the idea that the pre-bombardment didn’t work. It did, in places: the Germans who faced the French to the south of the British, for example faced an army much better equipped with really heavy artillery (and with the right shells, see comments). As a result, the French bombardment of the Germans worked. The Somme is not seared into the french consiousness as it is the British because they achieved all their day one objectives, and more and at much lower cost. The popular image of the futility of the pre-attack bombardment is false. The British guns were just not big or numerous enough. Lessons were learned.

There were examples of inflexible behaviour from officers, as there are in any war, sticking to the plan at all costs, but there were also examples of excellent leadership successfully exploiting local successes. You only need to look at the survival rates of officers compared to their men to see that the British officer led from the front. These were not “lions led by donkeys”, but brave men doing their best in all ranks. The myths of the first world war do disservice to the men who fought.

The first day of the Somme was Britain’s bloodiest day, seared into the folk memory of the communities who were ripped apart by the losses suffered by the pals battalions which went over the top. Newfoundlanders, Ulstermen and men from the New Army formations, mainly from the Midlands and The North were shattered in a way hopefully never to be repeated.

As the battle wore on new tactics were tried, new technologies rushed into service, such as Landships (codenamed ‘tanks’ to fool the Germans that they were mobile water supply vehicles). This was not an organisation which was throwing men’s lives away lightly. Nor was it without point.The citizen-soldiers facing each other across the Somme in 1916 were not victims of stupidity. They were soldiers fighting a total war of a sort that perhaps, if we are lucky, the likes of which the world has seen the end.

Those men died so France would remain in the war, eventually so that the Democracies of Britain, France, the Dominions, and later the USA would triumph over the totalitarian monarchies of Central Europe. Their legacy, and that of their Children who fought for the same goals 23 years later, is the basic human freedom we still enjoy to this day. Our freedom to say what we will to those who would rule us did not come free.

Wear your poppy with pride, and protect dearly that for which they fought. For that is the best memorial to the young men who died 94 years ago.

I Want A Pub, not a Drinking Barn.

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

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

Knickers in a Twist

Late last year, an unfortunate 20-year old teaching assistant, Sarah Lyons was pictured with a pair of knickers round her ankles, and became the “face of booze Britain”. Though I think the defence that the knickers weren’t hers (they were given away in a drinks promotion) raises more questions to the tabloid mind than just shutting up, the defence that she wasn’t drunk is, however, important.

Here was a girl just joining in the fun, only to have a snapper splash her across tomorrows papers without so much as a by your leave. Anyone can be snapped pretending, playing, dancing and in that moment, you can depending on your facial expression for an instant, appear violent, drunk, aggressive, slutty, whatever. The truth may be very different. The camera can, and does, lie regularly. What’s more the, widespread publicity has genuine and serious effects on individuals. In Ms Lyon’s case, she was suspended from her teaching job. No-one seems interested enough to find out whether she lost it in the end to publish a news story about it.

What’s worse is that some people who should know better think that this is reasonable. “How can she set an example to the kids?” they bleat, “when you’ve made an exhibition of yourself. The children will never respect you”. Well if you cannot laugh off such tabloid nonsense with a lesson on the third estate’s power, then you shouldn’t be a teacher. And if a blameless 20-year old gets caught doing nothing illegal, dangerous or even immoral by the press, a Head Teacher should show some leadership and loyalty to staff and stand by the poor girl, giving a lesson in the right thing to do. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

This isn’t about moral decline. Tacitus thought we were a bunch of piss-heads who liked fighting. Hogarth, 2,000 years later depicted depraved Gin lane next to the virtuous Beer alley. Booze is part of the fabric of national life. Everyone from the lowliest Cardiff teaching assistant to the most exalted New Labour panjandrum or Bishop of the church of England uses booze as an excuse. Posh Students get pissed and act up:

every bit as much as the boy from the sink comprehensive. Nothing has changed since the Roman Invasion: booze is the one thing that unites this nation.

What’s changed is the ease with which images are captured and disseminated. The length of time they hang around on the Internet and the damage they can do. Because anyone Googling “Sarah Lyons” will get that image. And anyone Googling “Knicker Girl” will return Sarah Lyons. I’m lucky. I have this blog, and a twitter account, some sports results and the Cambridge mind-games Olympiad and an article In the Wall st Journal, should you google my name. Though Student Jackart + Alcohol = nudity, I have yet to have my image splashed across the Sun, mainly because I am not an attractive 20-something girl and facebook didn’t exist when I was an undergraduate. Men are titillated by a pretty girl, apparently with her panties off, and women judge other women and love to purse their lips about them. It’s what they do. So I get away with mooning in the street. And Ms Lyons gets the order of the boot from her job.

And of course this brings to mind the most staggering hypocrisy: Women are judged harsher than men, and the poor and disadvantaged are judged more harshly than the rich and privileged, who don’t, by and large get ASBOS. My favourite drinking song, It’s the same the whole world over, makes this very point.

It’s the same the whole world over,
It’s the poor that get the blame,
It’s the rich that get the pleasure,
Ain’t it all a bloody shame.

And, Feminzazis, don’t try to pretend that we men are to blame for this hypocrisy. Most men, apart from pant-wetting hypocrites like Quentin Letts, like sluts (though I am not suggesting that the blameless Ms Lyons is one). Other women are the ones who do the judging. It’s not men who think that women are “asking for it” because of a short skirt or a glimpse of tit, It’s women. Female jurors are far more likely to let an accused rapist off because some women hate other women. Most men are taught from an early age that “no means no” and would happily lock a rapist up for life and cut off his balls while we’re at it. Rape and rapists disgust men. Many Women seem to blame the victim. Look at the Daily Mail where the savage misogyny of women is most apparent, where rape is barely reported apart from women who made it all up. Look at the magazines like ‘closer’ and ‘heat’ for whom women are too fat/thin and therefore disgusting; or too promiscuous/frigid and therefore deserving of public humiliation. Men wouldn’t be seen dead reading that drivel. Women, you see, hate each other and keep each other down with jealous, prurient and spiteful judgementalism.

So girls. Don’t wear a party dress in town and get out of a taxi. Don’t attract male attention with a flash of cleavage or thigh. Remember at all times your sexuality, and your body is public property. Don’t have a few drinks with the girls and have fun. Don’t get seen kissing in public. Don’t ever get drunk or hang about with people who are, just in case someone sees you and takes a picture and makes you a face of the nation’s moral decline. It’s for the chiiiiildren, you know.

Who is David Selbourne?

When I picked up this week’s Spectator, you expect a range of interesting, well argued pieces which inform and provoke, by people of note. This week’s contained one by a “political philosopher and theorist” called David Selbourne who argues that Britain is a country in steep moral decline. If he is, as Lord Carlile of Berriew described him, “perhaps the leading political philosopher and theorist of our day”, then I don’t know about the morals, but Britain is certainly a country in intellectual decline.

You expect “lights out, it’s time to go” nonsense from the right: we’ve just endured 13 years of economic lunacy under a spendthrift government which tripled an already oleaginous tax code and heaped more ill thought out regulation on business and inposed a new crime a day on the benighted people of this country; more than any regime in its history. As a result, I made plans for a new life in Gibraltar should Labour have won the election. But to see this opinion from a man of the left surely can be marked as an admission of defeat for the leftist vision?

But that’s making a serious point, and I would like to indulge in a bit of ad-hominem first. He’s a political philosopher, and clearly thinks in terms of morality. Yet he spends the first few paragraphs demonstrating his profound lack of understanding of economics: “Britain” he says

“has been impoverished by the mismanagement of the National Economy”

that’s true,

“the running down of manufacturing”

which is false,

“and the voraciousness of free-market ethics”

which is arguable.

Manufacturing output has not shrunk since the recession of the early 90’s in the UK. What he means is that Manufacturing has shrunk as a share of GDP. Well so’s agriculture, the sector stupid, visionless people thought was the ultimate root of wealth in the 18th century as people left the land for jobs in factories. The shrinking of manufacturing is a mark of progress. What once took 50 people now takes one and some machines, just as farming used to employ an army of labourers now employs tractors. Quite why hammering things together is seen as noble is a mystery to me, though it is surely the same notion as the Romantics had of the pastoral idyll. Making something you can drop on your foot is not, as common wisdom would have it, any better an economic activity than designing the thing or selling the thing.

So we come to Selbourne’s notion of “Free Market Ethics” which he blames for the atomisation of society. This is arguable and I argue that he’s as full of shit about the morality of markets as he is of the economics of them. There is nothing moral, or indeed immoral, about a free market. The market is a statistical collection of the decisions of millions of moral agents: you and me. What Selbourne is clearly hankering for is state direction of the economy so that less is directed to paying bankers which are “bad, m’kay” and more is directed to nurses and teachers who are “good, m’kay”. However the most cursory glance at the 20th century’s bloody history would show that free markets are vastly superior to state direction in every way. Command economies turned themselves into vast prisons rather than let their people escape, and succeeded as in turning a Nation populated by Germans into a poor country. The relative economic performance since the war of Germany, east and west should give you a clue about the utility of state control of the economy – one’s a mass-murdering prison with an astronomical suicide rate, and one the most successful economy in Europe. Or if that isn’t enough evidence there’s North and South Korea, Cuba and Spain (which had similar GDP per capita before the Cuban revolution), and so on. To suggest a market has “ethics”, though is facile.

He tries to hide his obvious leftism by pretending to balance.

Moreover the truth about these matters is not in the exclusive possession of either left or right but lies between them: you cannot strengthen “social cohesion” while privatising public institutions which hold civil society together…

…why not? Who owns what is less important than whether it works…

…or by slashing public provision in order to pay for the harms caused to the polity and economy by unbridled private interest.

Which is pure Marxist hatred of any sort of mutual or private provision. It’s just as easy to argue, especially now, that excessive public interest in the form of a decade of excessive state spending has damaged the economy more than the private interest.

So let’s look at the individual people who make up the market, and here, you’d think Selbourne was on surer ground. However this part of his essay is a long rant about the teaching of History in schools, which went tits-up with the abolition of Grammar schools, a policy a “man of the left” like Selbourne probably supports axiomatically. Indeed the one place you can still have knowledge of Britain’s history transmitted to the next generation is the fee-paying sector, whose alumni decorate the higher echelons of the professions, politics and indeed celebrity to a greater extent than at almost any time since education became universal.

As for the idea that the country has “coarsened”; anyone of any sense knows that Aristotle had the same complaint. There is nothing new under the sun.

“The difference between freedom and license has been unlearned”

and to cut a long story short, has led to a profound moral collapse, or so he says and therefore we should find “somewhere happier”.

Of course “society” of the great unwashed are always looked down upon by the intellectuals who have always espoused socialism as a way to “improve” the people. The desire to improve has led the Fabians in the past to support euthanasia, condone Gulags and deliberate famines Here, it leads the likes of Selbourne to support policies around welfare and education which have condemned millions to a life rotting on benefits bereft of the skill necessary to secure gainful employment. The majority however still do pretty well, despite the state education system Selbourne describes. This is because people, in all their variety pass on values and knowledge, not just state indoctrination centres Selbourne calls ‘schools’.

I, for example, don’t care whether one family gets round the TV to watch Big Brother with a plate of Pizza, or whether they eat organic rocket and discuss Proust. Whether you inculcate your offspring with the…

“…talent and stamina carefully to record, and to analyse, the travails of this country in a philosophical spirit…”

…is up to you. Whilst there are people of culture and interest, and the blogosphere will show you most eloquently that there are from all walks of life and it is up to you to seek out their company. By indulging in the free movement of people and the free exchange of ideas, we can each seek out our own interpretation of this most excellent collection of islands.

You see, Selbourne fails to understand what the market is. He expects the society of erudite philosopher kings to be laid at his feet by the benign action of an all-seeing state, but the state, or “Society” whatever that is, cannot deliver that any more than it was able to deliver guns AND butter to the Soviet empire. Your choice of your society – your friends and family is every bit of a market decision as that informing the car you drive or the breakfast you eat. Markets are indeed the only freedom, properly regulated with respect for property rights and trades descriptions where appropriate do not represent

“self-degrading moral and market free-for-all”,

but the triumph of freedom of choice. The fact that he bemoans that some people choose not to indulge in philosophical discourse is merely evidence of the universal leftist loathing of the people their dishonest rhetoric seeks to serve.

Now we have a Government which is seeking, however imperfectly, to return power to lower and more organic echelons of decision making, I think there’s a hope that freedom from an oppressive state will lead to a renaissance of learning and a “big society”. But I don’t care, because in my home, and amongst my friends, we don’t need a renaissance of learning or of hope and ingenuity. It never went away.

Drug Decriminalisation, again.

Another day, another sensible person in the public eye bravely puts his head above the parapet and says “isn’t it time we decriminalised recreational drugs for personal use?” In this instance, it’s Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Green QC. I wonder if he’s to suffer the same fate as the unfortunate professor Nutt.

A growing body of comparative evidence suggests that decriminalising personal use can have positive consequences. “It can free up huge amounts of police resources, reduce crime and recidivism and improve public health. All this can be achieved without any overall increase in drug usage. If this is so, then it would be rational to follow suit.

In the Telegraph’s report, we get the same facile rent-a-quote arguments against this sensible proposal. First up is savagely illiberal Labour crypto-facist and serial Hypocrite, Keith ‘I cannot believe I’m still an MP after the shit I’ve pulled‘ Vaz, who offered the “message” argument:

I am shocked by the suggestion that drugs should be decriminalised for personal use. The legalisation of drugs would simply create the mistaken impression that these substances are not harmful, when in fact this is far from the truth

There’s a law against procuring malfeasance in a public office, Mr Vaz, you corrupt little maggot, and that didn’t prevent you accepting a peerage to vote in favour of locking your co-religionists up for 42 days at a time on a Governmental whim, did it? So you’re shocked that someone expresses an opinion, mr Vaz? I’m shocked you’re not in gaol, fuckwit.

OK, so I’m playing the man, not the ball there, but the law is about setting the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, and the savage penalties for drug use are out of all proportion to the harm they do, especially when compared to Alcohol. The law is not there for public health, and shouldn’t seek to protect people from themselves. It should certainly not be used to “send a message”, because the law is a powerful, but blunt tool that can bitterly oppress. The law creates victims if overused. It should not be used to express disapproval.

Next up we’ve got the “slippery-slope” argument from Tory MP James Clappison.

There seems to be a very strong link between recreational drug use, leading to drug addiction leading to crime fuelled by drug addiction. I would have thought the chairman of the Bar Council would have seen that for himself.

How many people have tried Canabis and never tried any other illegal drug? The answer to that question blows the slippery slope argument out of the water. Some 25% of young people enjoy a joint. Fewer than 10% report use of anything else, though the article linked seems to claim that this does show a slippery slope! If that won’t wash, try anecdotal evidence: How many people were enthusiastic tokers at University and then don’t touch anything else afterwards? The slippery slope argument is facile.

Next up, we’ve ex-Asda checkout boy and wet-back Tory MP Phillip Davies who offers the “well why don’t we legalise crime argument”:

It is a ludicrous argument to say let’s legalise drugs to take pressure off the police and the courts. That is an argument to legalise everything.

No it isn’t because one chap selling another chap something he wants does not create a victim. Why are we policing something that thousands of people take regularly the vast majority of whom do not cause problems? Why are we prosecuting people for possession of small amounts for personal use, when moderate canabis, extasy or cocaine use causes less problems than Alcohol, which leads to blood and vomit on every high street in Britain every friday night?

MPs shouldn’t ask “why should we legalise”? they should ask “why are we banning when we allow people to get pissed”. An absurd percentage of the court’s time is taken up with “drug-related” offences. Legalising the trade would remove a hugely profitable industry from organised crime, remove profits which are fought over by rival gangs, remove the introduction to criminals by otherwise law-abiding users and allow users to be confident in what they are taking. Legaised drugs would be safer, less harmful, create less crime AND help the exchequer. The Governmnet would have lower enforcement costs (by some billions a year) AND have a revenue stream they could tax.

Inevitably when this subject is covered in the papers we get some Mother who’s son (usually it’s ‘died’, but in this case it’s merely) developed “severe personality changes” when he started smoking canabis at 14. First, is there any evidence that Canabis causes mental health problems. Yes, but it’s not certain that Canabis is worse than Alcohol in this regard. But Post hoc Ergo Propter Hoc – find me a teenager who doesn’t develop “severe personality changes”! Of course no-one’s going to pretend recreational drugs are good for you. But it is a personal choice. And in this instance, a developing brain is more likely to be kept from dope, were it legal and the trade regulated. This is NOT an argument against decriminalisation, but an appeal to the emotion of the reader.

Every argument against decriminalisation falls down because the assumption is that banning has any effect at all on supply, and a negative effect on demand. It doesn’t. If you’re in a town in the small hours, illegal drugs are easier to come by than legal alcohol. If you’re 14, illegal drugs may be easier to get than booze. There are many pieces of evidence that if you want to reduce USE, especially amonst the young, then legalisation or decriminalisation are the way to go. I’ve dealt with this in more detail here, but principally it boils down to the fact that the easiest way to sustain a habit is to become a dealer. This leads to a highly efficient pyramid marketing and distribution scheme.

If you want to reduce harm, then safe, legal and regulated drugs are the way to go. If you want to reduce crime, then remove the profits from THE MOST PROFITABLE TRADE THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN from organised crime and give it to businesses which pay tax and produce safe, reliable products. As well as improving the health of the users, This will reduce enforcement costs, which can be redeployed elsewhere, and the create revenue. Much drug related crime is fighting over the profits. Remove the profits, remove the crime.

Anyone who cannot see this is an idiot. Anyone who thinks there’s a moral issue here about what should be allowed in the face of these utilitarian arguments is a cunt. It really is that simple.

Torture Enquiry.

Some people don’t think this New government is much better than the old one.

Yesterday Britain’s Tory prime-minister did what Barack Obama has so far failed to do. Live up to campaign promises and hold an enquiry into allegations of Torture: specifically that British officials looking the other way while other country’s agents (ahem, American agents) did unspeakable things to potential terrorists. It’s to be a judicial enquiry to ensure maximum public confidence in the outcome. The US insisted on Trials for the leaders of the third Reich, because America then stood for something. Now some Pakistani goatherds are apparently so dangerous that the rule of law needs to be suspened rather than let them out. Now most of the people who think Obama’s the best thing since slice bread are turning a blind eye to his staggering hypocrisy.

Two years on, he’s still not closed the Git’mo camp.

“In war, the Moral is to the the physical as three is to one” Naploleon Dyanamite Bonaparte.

As yet Obama has not had the guts to stand up to the Savage loons who STILL think Guantanamo bay is anything other than a massively counterproductive recruiting sergeant for global Jihad. He apparently regards this concentration camp for people against whom we have insufficinet evidence to bring a prosecution as being a price worth paying for “security”, and practices like waterboarding as not being a standing retort to the rule of Law, and so deserving of punishment.

If we are not better people than the people we’re fighting, then what are we fighting for? Let’s shine some sunlight into the darker things done in our name, and see if the Public like it. Let’s hope the light’s bright enough to reach into the oval office, and persuade Obama to come clean about the abuses perpetrated under his predecessor.

What… you mean it’s still going on? You mean Obama’s no better than Bush? You’re shitting me! There are still 181 people in Guantanamo bay, and he’s been shipping people about to avoid the rule of Law, at potential cost to his alliances.