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Saturday, 30 July 2011

It's Hayek, innit?

If you question a raggamuffin 'yoof' on economics these days, don't be surprised if he answers "Yea it's 'bout Keynes and Hayek, innit?". It's all libertarian-funding free market billionaire Charles Koch's fault; his latest venture was funding and commissioning the video below. Do watch - it's really rather good. And look for von Mises in a cameo role in the ring as Hayek's cutman ...

RAF Typhoons to target Media City?

RAF Typhoons armed with precision weapons could soon be tasked to destroy the BBC's Media City in Salford if the government's moral reasoning is applied universally; justifying this morning the destruction of Libyan TV broadcasting facilities, NATO spokesman Col Levoie said:
Our intervention was necessary as TV was being used as an integral component of the regime apparatus designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them
What, like this, you mean?

e-Petitions: Democracy Lite, democracy denied.

Want to restore hanging? Want the UK to leave the EU? The government would have you believe that a newly launched e-Petition service will give you a real say in forming the nation's law and policy. What a crock. The e-Petitions website claims that petitions gaining over 100,000 signatures 'will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons' but in reality the whole thing is no more than a lightning rod, designed to earth any idea of direct democracy. 

Firstly, these are not petitions to Parliament but petitions to government. The government doesn't dictate what MPs debate in the Commons; there is a delicate arrangement around government business that is managed by the Leader of the House and Lord Privy Seal, currently Sir George Young, who is both the government's representative in the Commons and the Commons' representative in government. Any debate resulting from the e-Petitions site would presumably have to be introduced as government business amidst an already crowded and pressured agenda of legislative matters. The fact that this initiative hasn't been introduced by the Speaker but by the Cabinet Office speaks volumes. Speaker Bercow could redeem the entire car-crash of his tenure in one move by enabling e-Petitions to Parliament, but this is too close to direct democracy to be welcome by our political class.

Secondly, any petition must be approved in advance by the senior mandarins of a specific government department - presumably either the Home Office or Ministry of Justice for the death penalty, and the Cabinet Office or Foreign Office for EU matters. There will no doubt be a screening process under which petitions for measures contrary to law, such as the Human Rights Act or Lisbon Constitution Treaty, will be excluded.

Thirdly, as the experiment on the No 10 petitions site proved, allowing numerous petitions that are variations on a theme is a good way of guaranteeing that no single one gains the necessary minimum vote, so petitions to "re-introduce the death penalty for terrorism", "bring back hanging for paedophiles", "introduce capital punishment for treason' and 'bring back hanging' will cause public confusion and scattergun votes.

Fourthly, the measures contain no provision to secure a referendum on any issue, no matter how strongly supported. The issue will at best go to earth in the Commons. Helena Kennedy's 'Power' Commission came up with a workable model for this kind of direct democracy which has been rejected out-of-hand by the government; Kennedy's proposals were

1. A trigger of 400,000 votes to guarantee a debate and vote in the Commons with no censorship by government 
2. A further 400,000 votes to secure a referendum if the Commons have rejected, modified or diluted the original proposal
3. A simple majority and a turnout of over 60% and the measure passes into law

I really do hope that the British public see through the government's transparent intention to defuse some of the public's anger against a remote and unaccountable political class with a pointless and tokenistic exercise, and boycott the entire thing. But no doubt come the 4th August all the usual issues will be there, a soporific tranquiliser and a weak simulacrum of direct democracy. 

Friday, 29 July 2011

Burglary and police numbers

Burglary is on the increase as the hard times bite; a 14% increase last year alone signals that taking other people's property is a growing fad amongst the nation's feckless and hopeless. The government reaction seems to have been to encourage householders to kill more burglars. Morally, such an action is only defensible if a householder truly believes his own life or that of his spouse and children are directly threatened and reacts to protect; the death of the burglar is not an intentional outcome, but a consequence of an action taken with the full protection of the law and the Church. But sooner rather than later householders will start looking at paying for some sort of organised service to prevent and detect this particular crime, perhaps called a 'police force'. 

Ah yes. We have one already. But one for which preventing and detecting burglary comes somewhere in the list of priorities beneath encouraging racial diversity, rehabilitating drug offenders and prosecuting people for being rude to police horses. So when the head of the Police Federation warns against police cuts as impacting on the prevention and detection of an increasing tide of burglary, he is met with a universal public snort of derision; "You don't do anything anyway!" comes the response. 

This of course is the consequence of the growing remoteness of the police from the people who pay their wedge. Their operational priorities are set not by the ratepayers whose homes need protection but by a cabal of away-with-the-fairies policy makers completely out of touch with local priorities. Look, if I hire a security guard and tell him his job's to stop unauthorised people from coming in, to deter people from stealing materials and watch for hazards and threats I don't expect him to sniffily respond that actually, he'll be concentrating on preventing the workers from lifting things in the wrong way and injuring their backs, making sure the hazard lights on the plant are working properly and offering stress-reduction classes for the site engineers. You know he'd be off the site quicker than a Bulgarian transvestite. So why do we let the police do it? 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

'Hysterical' Cameron goes native

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, hit a painful spot when he wrote yesterday
David Cameron was therefore wrong to leap forward and order  "a review of the far right", or of the far anything. The hysteria of the moment may require a knee jerk from those in power, but why the national security council was summoned, or "a review of our security at home" needed, is a mystery. To the victims, the killings were an act of random madness, a terrible accident, a car crash, a catastrophe out of the blue. To seek normality in their abnormality only gives them currency, and probably spurious meaning.
But Cameron's reaction was more than merely hysterical. Together with the government's reneging on its pledge to ditch the DNA records of the innocent, the Bowdlerisation of the Localism Bill to leave practically nothing worth having, the debacle in Libya, his poor judgement on Coulson, the pusillanimous mess of the Public Services White Paper and a clutch of other failures, this was the latest indicator that Cameron has gone native. He's always been a lazy man, only motivated to reaction at the last moment, and appears to have allowed Whitehall to run the roost in exchange for an easy life. And Whitehall has led him into the usual mess of error, cock-up and confusion that uniquely brands the inadequate under-performance of the wartime Central State we have. 

The old Cameron of brave words and loud principles would not allow the civil servants at the MOD to spend £1bn on credit cards and then refuse to disclose what they had spent it on. That Cameron would not spinelessly give way to senior police officers - themselves mired in an endemic and institutional corruption - on matters of civil liberty. But that Cameron has gone, to be replaced by an indolent man smug in the trappings of office and looking to the Mandarins to help him secure a second term. He's lost contact with the zeitgeist, as all but the most capable of PMs do, shielded from the real world by the make-believe stage set erected around him by Whitehall, the Mandarins willingly feeding his delusions. 

No Conservative can look to Cameron for any hope of leadership any longer. He's in hock to Europe, in thrall to Whitehall and in cahoots with a hollow Party HQ utterly alienated from the grass roots of conservatism, inward-looking, metropolitan and exclusive. It's time to scrub through his name and write him off. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Two polls .....

Belgium has now followed France in banning the burqa. No doubt there is overwhelming public support for the move in both countries, but before we look at how well this move, long advocated by a large part of the MSM, is supported in the UK, it's worth pointing out that burqa-wearers have long enjoyed strong support amongst the libertarian blogosphere, which has long opposed any moves to restrict freedom of dress - anyone's dress - by law. The last poll I can find was by Yougov, with fieldwork on the 11th and 12th April this year;
The burqa should be banned in Britain
Agree: 67%
Disagree:  27%
DK: 6%
Libertarians will probably already ascribe the results to an Islamophobia stirred up by the dominant left-wing media, and curiously British people also seem themselves to be aware just who has been responsible for whipping up Islamophobia in the UK; a poll by Comres with fieldwork between the 8th and 10th of July asked the question:  
Which one of the following groups, if any, do you think is most to blame for Islamophobia, fear of Islam, in the UK?
The media: 29%
Muslims abroad: 14%
Far right political groups (e.g. BNP): 13%
UK Muslims: 11%
Politicians and government 10%
The police: 1%
Other: 4%
So, some 39% think that the political class - the media, politicians and government - are responsible for whipping up Islamophobia. Who'd have thunk it. And you certainly won't read either of these poll results in the MSM this week. 

Looking to Switzerland

The Swiss know how Localism works;
Long ago, the Swiss understood that most things government needs to do and constructively does are at the local level. So, unlike in most modern nation-states, local government has the bulk of the resources and activities, while the central government remains relatively small and less important in the daily lives of the people. In the U.S., roughly two-thirds of government is at the federal level, and one third is at the state and local level. Switzerland is just the opposite, with roughly two-thirds of government being at the state (canton) and local level.
Indeed, in overall state expenditure in Switzerland, the Communes, the lowest level of government, account for 30% of autonomous expenditure, whilst the Cantons have 40% and the Swiss State only commands 30% of total spend. Nor is this just a sharing of a State-determined tax pot; the Communes have the competence to determine property and income taxes, which account for fully a third of the total national tax-take, a power which makes them an equal player with both the State and the Cantons. In the UK the position is centralist beyond belief; only Council Tax, at about £25bn annually, is levied and collected locally. The remaining 95% of taxes are determined and collected centrally, and given that local councils are prevented by law from setting the Council Tax they want, rather than the level set by Whitehall, it's also true to say that 100% of UK taxes are determined centrally.

There is no fixed model either for the size of the Communes, or for the relationship of the Communes to the Cantons; again, such things are left to be determined locally, and thus Swiss government is the most delightful 'postcode lottery' of diversity, with administrative arrangements tailored to suit local circumstances rather than determined by rigid central diktat. In Switzerland there is an average of one lowest tier authority for each 2,700 of the population, with each Commune having real autonomy. By contrast, the UK has one lowest tier 'authority' for every 118,400 of us, with each ruled rigidly from Whitehall and with virtually no local autonomy.

Switzerland isn't alone in terms of democratic access; France has one municipality for every 1,580 persons, and Germany one for every 4,925. My examplar US town of Vail is also pretty typical of democratic access in the US, with one municipality for every 7,000 persons.

There are those who talk of a democratic deficit in the UK as though it were a minor political imbalance. In fact it's off the scale. It's not hyperbole to say that our system of government in the UK has more in common with a South American dictatorship than with a European social democracy - UK government is stuck firmly in a wartime model of central command and control, and our mandarins and metropolitan political class would rather push hot needles into their own eyeballs than surrender a nanogram of power back to us.

My disappointment in Dave's public services white paper is even shared by 'Reform', the mildest and least adventurous advocate of true Localism, and that's a damning loss. And those who suffer are children cheated of an education and the ill cheated of healthcare; you may be astonished to discover that Switzerland has universal healthcare funded by compulsory health insurance and a universal education system funded from taxation, that both are superlative and operate at a fraction of the cost of their UK counterparts. The difference is Whitehall. We've got it, Switzerland hasn't. And Whitehall is directly responsible for generations of illiterate school leavers and inadequate health care - simply because they can't let go. 

We really need to decide as a nation whether, when the cost of the inefficient Central State in human lives and potentials is so high, we are brave enough to embrace the solution.  

Monday, 25 July 2011

Are you an extreme right-wing threat?

Wondering whether you should turn yourself into the police as an extreme right-wing fanatic? Here are five questions that can help you decide:-

1. I mostly read
(a) The Daily Mail
(b) Mein Kampf
(c) I can't read 

2. I think Moslem immigrants should be
(a) Assimilated fully into British society
(b) Sent back to where they came from
(c) Fighting us on the streets

3. East European migrant workers are
(a) Cheap and reliable labour
(b) An EU plot to destroy Britain
(c) Taking our women

4. Christianity is
(a) The bedrock of European civilisation
(b) A delusion about the sky-fairy
(c) Poofs, innit?

5. The ballot-box or the H&K?
(a) The ballot-box
(b) The Heckler & Koch
(c) KFC Bucket Box, please

Mostly 'a's - You're an absolutely normal middle-Englander and have seriously thought about buying string-back driving gloves from the Daily Express readers' offers. The backbone of the nation. 
Mostly 'b's - You're a disturbed individual living a fantasy life, a 'Walt', who has failed to achieve any success in life at all and should immediately consider surrendering yourself to the police
Mostly 'c's - As a probable member of the BNP you present a minimum threat to national security. You have the flag of St George hanging from your bedroom window and subscribe to satellite TV for the football. You shout in the pub. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The rationality of evil

Breivik's killing of almost 100 people may earn him as little as 10 years jail time. Although the maximum sentence in Norway is 21 years (with prisoners normally released on parole after a third of this) there is a substantial 'discount' for a guilty plea; as this Domstol publication says " The criteria for entering judgment on a guilty plea is that the accused makes an unreserved confession supported by the evidence in the case. In such cases the sentencing framework cannot exceed ten years, and the accused must concur with the procedure. These cases are heard by a single professional judge." 

However, there seems to be a further recourse called 'containment', used where a prisoner is deemed a danger to society with a likelihood of further violent crimes if released, a maximum period of 21 years can also be used, with a minimum time before parole of 10 years. 

Brievik is 32. If he serves a full 21 years he will be out when he's 53 - with half a life ahead of him. I think this puts the rationality of his acts into perspective. Not a crazed man at the end of his tether but rather an evil man who plotted these horrors with complete rationality.

But even Brievik doesn't shake my opposition to the death penalty; even his life is sacred, and is not ours to take.