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Monday, 17 December 2018

Democratic robbery

The UK has the worst level of democratic representation in the developed world. I've just checked again our lowest level of democratic representation; we have 45m voters and 21,000 local councillors. That's 2,143 voters for each lowest tier elected politician. In France it's 100, Germany 250, Italy 400 and Spain 600. Here in Austria our gemeinde of 2,500 souls has its own Council, Burgermeister and Town Hall - with eight full-time officers delivering waste, refuse, street cleansing, street lighting, snow clearance, water, sewerage, parking, building control, planning, registrar, business licencing and regulation and so on.

The problem is compounded by our own ignorance - every idiot who cries "no more bloody politicians!" is cutting-off his or her own foot. Instead of politicians we get unelected officials, little jobsworths and prodnoses who can't be kicked out at the next election, can't be harangued at public meetings and in many cases don't even live in the same community as we do. I'm even more astonished about those who have spent the last decade fighting the unelected officials in Brussels who then resist more robust representative democracy in their own communities. The truth is that the 1974 local government reorganisation is now unfit for purpose, past its sell-by date and in urgent need of reform, but every government in recent history has been unwilling to touch it. There are no votes in LG reform - but it's something that's desperately needed. 

We can't leave it up to Whitehall. Their sole instinct is to centralise control and weaken local democracy; they would halve the number of councils (and councillors) on the grounds that it would save money. It's not something one can expect folk to come out on the streets for, but the truth is that we need far greater local control - over both tax and spend. Switzerland splits tax-authority three ways; the central government taxes about a third for national institutions and infrastructure - the army, air traffic control and so on. The Cantons tax another third, and the local municipalities the final third. In the UK, 95% of our tax-take is decided, rationed and distributed solely by central government.  


Of more fundamental concern is that the establishment have turned their attention to our most fundamental democratic rights. I made the meme above in the week after the 2016 referendum result, and I am now scared at just how prophetic it was. Intended as a joke, we've instead been hearing for the past two years proposals to reform our democratic systems from those who really, truly believe that the parodies above constitute responsible public policy. 

The usual suspects the Electoral Reform Society have been punting alternatives to the FPTP system to which I've always said I'm opposed. I was one of the 4m who voted for UKIP in the GE, without a single MP resulting. On the face of it it seemed grossly unfair - now less so with the passage of time. Imagine a Parliament in which Gerard Batten and his Muslim-baiters shared opposition benches with the Antifa Party and the Muslim League. No, the AV system and PR is loved by the little radical parties of the far right and far left but isn't good for British political stability. 

More worrying are efforts by respectable bodies such as the RSA that in effect act to undermine those most fundamental rights, the secret ballot and universal suffrage. They're proposing something called 'Deliberative Democracy' designed to prevent 'stupid' people from majority voting; under it, a special citizens' panel would be lectured first by 'experts' on the subject under vote, then deliberate collaboratively to reach an outcome amenable to the facilitators. Various versions of this are being punted by academic institutions, think tanks and other establishment dag-clumps, all designed to prevent, as my poor joke had it, the 'wrong people' from using democracy. 

Direct democracy also has a place in our system, but not so great a place as some radicals from the far right and far left would wish. Representative democracy provides the best default outcomes, at both national and local levels, but there will, from time to time, be decisions at both micro and macro level to be taken that cross all boundaries - such as the 2016 referendum. Direct democracy is in such circumstances can be the most appropriate tool. But for normal, routine governance and administration, plenaries of elected representatives have proven themselves most capable. Polls should also be available, as in Switzerland, for matters raised by the public - but with a correspondingly high bar. 

But one strength, one freedom of which we should never lose sight, never relax our grasp is the protection we get from our system of universal suffrage, the right to associate and to form political parties and above all the right of  every adult man and woman in the Isles to cast a secret ballot.  

Update
=======
Deliberative democracy and the notion of Sortition had an outing on R4 Today in the context of a way in which a new referendum question could be decided. I told you they were serious. The problem is of course that the one thing a truly representative citizens' panel set up to decide the Referendum Question couldn't conclude is that, erm, there shouldn't be a second referendum. 

The Irish establishment have used this method to get both gay marriage and abortion through the referenda process - for a critical response see Dr Mathew Wall's blog entry here 

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Capturing the benefits of the AI revolution

Our people and our economy face a triple whammy over the next ten years or so. Firstly are the effects of globalisation we are already experiencing - the 'elephant' mentioned in the comments to the post below, and the uncorrected distortions from the 2008 crash that have left large cohorts of our people worse off but highly taxed. Secondly will be the whirlwind of the coming downturn, for which the banks are better prepared than a decade ago but the British people are not, now carrying record levels of personal indebtedness. As QE is winding down, China slowing, bond market manipulation reaching its peak and the Eurozone intensely vulnerable to shocks it all seems to be coming together for next year. However, if we are to have another 1931, remember it wasn't all bad news; the boom in domestic demand for electrical goods and motor vehicles helped shift British manufacturing from steam and rivets to the industrial infrastructure needed for a war economy a few years later.

The third blow of the whammy will come from the effects of AI. I recommend a report from pwc that takes a middle course between the low and high estimates of AI impact on UK jobs - which range from  10% to 47%. Pwc guess that 30% of UK jobs will go in the next 15 years, and the report does a fair job of rationalising the losses. However, it's what the report doesn't say that's important.  


Unequal impact
AI will hit those with lower levels of education and skills disproportionately - 47% of the low skilled losing their jobs in the analysis above compared to 10% of graduates. The C1,C2,D&E cohorts have already been hard hit by globalisation effects, and are coping with a purchasing power significantly reduced in the last decade. AI changes will kick these cohorts when they are already down. In addition to making the worst-hit even worse-off, AI will increase inequality between the flexible, mobile, literate metropolitan elites dominating the media, politics and public administration and the disadvantaged - with the elite groups potentially being able to take substantial economic advantage of AI.

Tax and wealth impacts
AI isn't coming because of some sort of historical inevitability, but because it offers economic advantages in increasing productivity. Pwc and others assume blandly that the benefits of increased productivity can be captured by taxation and increased GDP, the wealthy global graduate metropolitan elites buying ever more advanced iPhones, or eating ever more diversely-sourced curries. However, no consideration is given as to WHERE these benefits are captured - and if globalisation is left unchecked, it is quite feasible that AI will be the Elephant Mark II.

The great challenge for UK governments of the next two decades will be to ringfence changes to the UK by balancing a 30% job reduction with a concomitant increase in UK GDP and UK tax-take - for this compelling need alone we must be free from EU restrictions and governance, and free to set our own tax and tariffs. Without action we will drift into a game-plan run by the global corporates for their own advantage - with the job losses and their costs borne by the UK, but the benefits, GDP and tax takes enjoyed elsewhere. The only domestic beneficiaries from ungoverned change will be the same establishment elites that have already done well from globalisation, at the expense of their fellow Britons. 

New models of social benefit 
I've yet to write a third in this mini-snapshot series to cover Localism, democracy and governance and don't want to trespass on next week's thoughts. But It's already clear that AI impacts to the economy will need fundamental reform to the way in which we tax and spend. I'll leave it to the Pwc report to introduce the options ..
(Social safety nets could be enhanced) by extending existing social security benefits, but more radical solutions include the idea of a universal basic income (UBI). This is an old idea, but it has gained traction in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in recent years as a potential way to maintain the incomes of those who lose out from automation and (to be hard headed about it) whose consumption is important to keep the economy going. The problem with UBI schemes, however, is that they involve paying a lot of public money to many people who do not need it, as well as those that do. As such the danger is that such schemes are either unaffordable or destroy incentives to work and generate wealth, or they need to be set too low to provide an effective safety net.
Nonetheless, we are now seeing practical trials of UBI schemes in a number of countries around the world including Finland, the Netherlands, some US and Canadian states, India and Brazil. The details of these schemes vary considerably, and it is beyond the scope of this report to review them in depth, but it seems likely that more pilot schemes of this kind will emerge around the world and that they will come on to the policy agenda in countries such as the UK as well. While UBI in its pure form may not be politically or economically attractive, some variants on it might be if they involve a greater degree of conditionality (e.g. requiring some form of paid or voluntary work, education and training, family caring responsibilities or similar activities to qualify for payments). Some aspects of the idea, such as providing a universal lifelong learning fund for each person that they could draw down when they needed it, might also be worth considering further even if a full UBI scheme is rejected.

Friday, 14 December 2018

The Causes of Revolution

With a few Brexit gaps in the run up to Christmas, I'd like to look at some of the drivers behind the current hunger for political change and reform. This all started way before the 2008 financial crisis, but it's what has happened since 2008 that has been most telling. The appetite for reform has a number of roots, including but not exclusively
  • Increasing inequality
  • Living standards down
  • People excluded from decision making
  • Decline of working class power
  • Globalism / AI causing disempowerment
  • Cultural loss - damage to cultural identity
A couple of graphs from a recent ONS report -

Take a look at the clusters for the C1,C2,D&E cohorts - APT&C and downwards. You can see a bar at about £30k - £570 a week - and perhaps a little surprisingly, two key cohorts for working-class advancement, skilled trades and factory workers, trapped between the £20k and £30k bands. Neither is the Professional category to which I belong doing so well - in terms of pay at least. Those most at risk of displacement or redundancy by AI are not obvious; robots can carry out knee surgery, but can't cook a curry. Just as many Professional jobs are at risk as factory jobs. 

Now look at what's happened to the Median Wage adjusted for inflation since 2008 - the median wage is just on about £30k / £570 a week in 2018, but worth quite a bit less than the median wage in 2008.

I haven't got the US equivalents, but I suspect they follow the same lines. 

And what have the trillions in QE thrown into the battle since 2008 achieved for the greater part of our people? Nothing. Instead we have seen strong growth in GDP, in asset values, stocks and the most hurtful news to hit the headlines - the wealth of the top 1%. The mass of our people on £570 a week before tax - with tax levels at over 34% of GDP being at their highest in 40 years - simply cannot comprehend the boss of Persimmon 'deserving' a bonus of £75m for the year. It's not even as if he's built that many houses, or even built them to an acceptable standard. 

I really can't blame anyone for feeling angry, frustrated, used or abused. And our political class had better turn their attention to the people who make up the 'median' - and that doesn't mean more vacuous insincere platitudes from the privileged metropolitan elites.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Another Brexit disappointment

Hugely disappointing result tonight.

It confirms that none of the tensions between a largely Remain parliamentary party and a largely Leave party membership are being resolved. This will not go away; Conservative MPs have kicked the can just a few metres down the road, and their spineless self-interest will return to haunt them.

Brexit has been two and a half years of disappointments and losses since the vote. Tonight is no different. 

Peckers up. New battle tomorrow.

On Tenterhooks ...

Well, we're underway.

By 10pm UK time we'll know if we're lumbered with a time-expired failure of a PM to further drag the nation into chaos, despair and division, or whether my Party's MPs are giving the nation a fair chance of coming out of this with something salvaged. 

The ERG will settle on a single candidate. One Brexiteer MUST be on the ballot that will come to we members over Christmas - and I hope to God the Party uses an e-voting option rather than relying on the Christmas post. 

I hope and pray the Lord guides the conduct of our MPs today for the good of our nation and people.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

What medication is she on?

It's almost unbelievable. The woman has become the laughing stock of Europe and beyond. And she has the front to pile mendacity upon mendacity without blinking a bovine eyelash. Either her self-delusion is so overwhelming, so all-consuming, that she actually believes the incredible piffle she spouts or she knows she is lying through her arse.

What will it take to drag the bloody woman out of Downing Street? She's already won the accolade of Britain's worst postwar PM, beating even the dire 'a big boy did it and ran away' Brown. 

William Hague breaks from his naked oil-wrestling in the Parliament gym to plead in the Telegraph "The Tories are on the edge of their greatest crisis in modern times - MPs must rally together", an even more incredible plea for members to abandon their consciences, their sense of justice and right, their patriotism and their honour in order to put Party before country and save this disaster of a PM. You're away with the fairies, William. 

And for what? To delay for a few days the inevitable rejection by Parliament of the Robbins Treaty? 

Every day her stubborn stupidity degrades our nation, destroys international confidence in our democratic competence. The Conservative Party, including the oily Hague, must come to its senses and rid itself of this Prime Minister.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Don't worry - we're winning

For me, it was 2007, when the smoking ban came into effect. That was the point at which I decided I was wholly opposed to all the overbearing bastards who legislated, regulated, spied, pried and prodnosed against me. The centre, the central State and its compliant agents in local government just couldn't help themselves grasping more and more power. That power had to come from somewhere; it came from us, the middle and working classes of Britain; we saw less and less control over our lives, our communities, our economies. 2016 was the first chance we had to fight back - and boy, we took it. 

And yes, it was the EU that precipitated it all. Everything about the EU was contrary to 1500 years of British history, a history of a permissive society in which the law only intervened to prevent specific harms. European law, formed by an authoritarian papacy, a tyrant Napoleon and a dictatorial tradition culminating in power being taken by the EU, is restrictive. You are only allowed to do that which the State permits you to do. And they've covered all options - a serious offence here is 'Resisting State authority' - covering everything from running away from the police to refusing to dib your mates in. 

Of course, our domestic elite - politicians, journalists, broadcasters, local government officials and civil servants, quangocrats, the new fat, bloated cardinals of academia, the vice-chancellors of the learning scam, and the fake charities and their fakenews 'reports' - loved the displacement of British Liberalism by EU authoritarianism. It gave them the opportunity to smother us with a sodden pillow of joyless, dreary regulation. Our pubs and working mens clubs were closed and the sites sold off to Housing Associations, the billions of new money printed since 2008 have all gone to boost the asset values of the wealthy elites whilst our own incomes have stagnated and our opportunities are mired; our children, burdened for a lifetime with a mountain of debt before they start living, now have less chance of owning a home than a Victorian sweep.   

What drives our elites so hard to 'Remain' isn't that they love the EU, but that they've come to enjoy the undemocratic power that the EU brings them, and are fearful of losing it to a more democratic and independent Britain.  

But don't despair. Win or lose this round of Brexit, we're winning. Britain WILL leave the EU, and we will rebalance power in our nation. 2016 let the genie out of the bottle, and strive as they might they cannot stuff it back inside. Right now, we've paralysed Parliament and virtually destroyed two established Parties, to be reborn in our own image. We've created a gap for a third party (sorry, Gerard, it isn't you) and even a fourth to keep them in discomfort. And we're demanding to be heard. 

As Eamonn Butler, the ASI's Director, wrote in 'Abusing the People'
'(populists) see themselves as ignored and exploited by those who are supposed to represent them. And faced with all this, the British public are doing what the British public have always done: poking fun at their leaders and making life as uncomfortable for them as they can. As long as they do not miscalculate and elect someone like Jeremy Corbyn, many of us think that this is actually no bad thing'

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Politicians must either be Globalists or democratic representatives

Those who imagine a tax strike is the most effective way to combat a government in thrall to the CBI, the FTSE100 and the industrialists of the ERT haven't thought things through. Politicians haven't sold their souls so that soldiers and sailors might be paid, warships fuelled and repaired or motorway bridges built. They couldn't care less about a tax strike - because their benefits come from their close relationship with global business, facilitated through a corrupt network of government officials across Europe. The PM's own husband represents a multi-billion dollar global hedge fund, and globalist dags such as that creature Blair are mired in faecal lucre from the parasitic firms that dominate the planet. 

Any effective action to persuade politicians to forgo material self-interest by aligning themselves with the globalists must therefore be prompted by the actions of millions of consumers against globalist 'Remainer' firms - the members of the CBI. ERT and so on. Given that many of them have established themselves as Oligopolies or even Monopolies this is not easy - but either we break them now, or they break us forever, serfs sans a national or cultural identity, without a congruent morality, subject to a supernational unelected tyranny. 

Both Labour and Conservative parties have benefited from an over-close support of the globalists. For the unions, a fat wedge and decent conditions for members working in the public sector or for large multinational corporations is an utterly selfish strategy; they don't fight for the millions on zero-hours contracts, striving within SMEs or fighting against unemployment. We have a two-tier labour market, and the unions represent the fat, privileged beneficiaries of global corporations; they support big government, over-regulation that throttles SMEs and innovation, not British working people, not jobless youths in the rust-belt. And the Conservative party is just as culpable - under Cameron the Party actually imagined that donations from the global firms could replace real members - that the Party could do away with a troublesome membership and just stitch things up with old school chums on the boards of their sponsors. 

A fight against the globalists is therefore a fight that unites left and right in a democratic alliance against the antidemocratic tyranny of globalism. Our Parliamentary system of allowing personal and financial interests that could dominate a member's judgement also needs re-appraisal; here are the holdings of one wealthy Remainer, whose devotion to the EU and the globalists is doubtless from unsullied personal conviction and has nothing at all to do with the value of his portfolio:-
The following shareholdings are held jointly with my wife, and were controlled by a blind management trust whilst I was a member of the government:
LVMH
Air Liquide
Royal Dutch Shell
Rio Tinto
Rolls Royce
RPC group
Babcock
Experian
Diageo
Smith and Nephew
Reckitt Benckiser Group
Burberry
Astra Zeneca
Smith and Nephew
Until 6 April 2018, Glaxo Smith Kline (Updated 08 May 2018)
RELX Group plc (formerly Reed Elsevier)
Schroders
United Technologies
Anglo American Platinum Ltd
BHP Billiton
Hong Kong Exchange and Clearing NPV
(Registered 06 October 2014)

Pfizer Inc. (Registered 05 July 2016)

Primary Health Properties (Registered 05 July 2016)

Dr Pepper Snapple Group (Registered 05 July 2016)

General Accident (Registered 20 February 2017)

RSA Insurance Group plc (Registered 20 February 2017)

Aberdeen Asian Smaller Co Inv Trust (Registered 20 February 2017)

Until 6 April 2018, F and C Global Smaller Cos. (Registered 20 February 2017; updated 08 May 2018)

Until 6 April 2018, Pearson plc. (Registered 20 February 2017; updated 08 May 2018)

Until 6 April 2018, Standard Chartered (Registered 20 February 2017; updated 08 May 2018)

Schroder Asian (Registered 20 February 2017)

From 6 April 2018, Land Securities Group (Registered 08 May 2018)

From 6 April 2018, Croda International (Registered 08 May 2018)

From 6 April 2018, Biotech Growth Trust (Registered 08 May 2018)

From 6 April 2018, Worldwide Healthcare Trust (Registered 08 May 2018)

From 6 April 2018, Henderson Far East Income Ltd (Registered 08 May 2018)

From 6 April 2018, HG Capital Trusts plc (Registered 08 May 2018)
Corporate globalists aren't capitalists - they're parasites and predators, growing and expanding by mergers and takeovers, with tangled webs of their DNA inserted into the very nucleii of other global corporates and uniting them in a dark web of greed and corruption. They are our enemy.