Author Archives: djwebb2010

Free the Marine!


by D.J. Webb

After reading unpleasant news today, I have to say the first thing I would do if I were in power is to release the Marine framed for a “crime” in Afghanistan and sentenced to life imprisonment today . I have clarified repeatedly that libertarianism has nothing to do with the idea there should be no nations and no borders. There need to be borders so we can defend our nation and its culture. Freedom can only be realised as part of a free society, not a ragbag of individuals, and so that society needs to be defended. There are going to be foreign opponents of the UK that our soldiers confront in battle – it is irrelevant for my purposes that the stated objective of bringing democracy, sweetness and light to Afghanistan was unachievable from the outset and had no connection to our national interests.

Continue reading

Challenging the “Conservative” mindset


By D. J. Webb

I haven’t had much time to write on politics recently, for which I apologise to readers of the LA blog.

I want to address a problem today that I see frequently. You can call it the Daily Mail mentality, or big-C conservatism, or the smug middle class. This mentality is even exhibited in some of the pro-free market think-tanks that rail against the fecklessness of the benefits scroungers and the young in general, hoping that, by cracking down on benefits, a tax cut for the well heeled can thereby be afforded. This sort of thing can often pass for libertarianism.

Let me use the example of my mother to illustrate the problem. She condemns her grandchildren for not getting jobs and running up payday loans. Apparently, the young people today don’t want to get on the hard way, by working for your living. They want it all now, handed to them on a plate, without having to work for it. I think many readers of this blog will recognise the theme, which appears to be a regurgitation of some of the worst articles on the Daily Mail website. Warming to her topic, she has been known to wax lyrical on the social obligation to pay the council tax. Is she a budding libertarian? Continue reading

Celebrity Rape?


by D.J. Webb

We have seen a spate of accusations of sexual assault, and even rape, against people in the public eye. It seems clear that celebrities are often surrounded by groupies, people who expect to be subject to some kind of sexual contact, and it also seems clear that, even where such contact is unwelcome, accusations made many years after the fact contravene any possible concept of justice. There is no way to prove any of any individual historical accusations. Instead what we have is a “weight of evidence” approach, where accusations from 100 people claiming to have been groped in the 1970s are considered to more or less prove the case, although none of the individual claims can be proved or disproved. This removes the burden of proof from one of “beyond all reasonable doubt” to the one of the “balance of probabilities” accepted in civil cases. In many cases, the balance of probabilities is that some kind of repellent behaviour did go on, but that does not mean that our criminal justice system should find people guilty of serious crimes on the basis of such “evidence”. Continue reading

Rent controls or landlord subsidies?


by D.J. Webb

Steve Davies constantly intervenes in public debate to argue for what he sees as free markets. However, in the absence of wider economic reforms, some of his arguments may end up, however inadvertently, supporting skewed markets, markets skewed by government intervention, rather than genuinely free markets. As Education Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), he may represent the views of the IEA more broadly, and the IEA is an organisation with a reputation for libertarianism. But it is important that libertarians argue for a wholesale restructuring of the economy, to remove existing distortions, and not simply oppose further intervention while retaining existing distortions, because otherwise we may unintentionally end up supporting government intervention that currently works to deliver unearned gains to the well-heeled. Continue reading

Abuse of Power


by D.J. Webb

The way social power is used is very important in English thought. We have always admired measured used of power and the giving of opportunities to the weak to put their point of view in open judicial and other processes. For example, the judicial review provision of the courts aims to prevent the government from implementing imperious and poorly considered decisions. The government must give evidence of having considered various interests properly before coming to its decisions. While I cannot accept the way judicial review has morphed into judicial striking down of decisions that are properly executive, I do see the reasoning behind the development of judicial review. Continue reading

Libertarians and the Banks


by D.J. Webb

We were told today by the Office for Budget Responsibility that rising longevity will mean another blow-out in the public finances by 2062. Health, pension and social care spending will all rise rapidly.

I am not trying to play devil’s advocate in the Libertarian Alliance here, but to flag up a necessary discussion. All libertarian analyses so far have tended to just affirm that privatising everything will solve this problem. True, if health, retirement provision and social care provision are all privatised, and presumably income tax and national insurance abolished, it would remove the implications for the **public** finances of demographic ageing.

But the implications are still there for the economy as a whole. The difference is that, after privatisation, it becomes a private financial problem. However these matters are handled – this is the key point – spending in these areas will have to rise as a proportion of GDP. Even if that spending is purely privately undertaken, it will still need to rise as an overall percentage of UK GDP. Continue reading

Debt in a Free Economy


(by D. J. Webb)

Debt and debt collection are rising up the political agenda, and I think the issue is of central importance to understanding the British economy today. The banks have gained a centrality in life that they did not always have. It used to be possible to get paid in cash and handle most of your affairs in cash. Nowadays, financial products dominate the whole of the rest of the economy, and the burden of debt on UK consumers plays a large role in limiting any takeoff in private consumption spending that could produce a sustainable recovery. It is as if we only exist to service the banks. Continue reading

The money-laundering nonsense


by D.J. Webb

Personally, I do take cash. I love it. I wish I had sacks of it. Unlike those shops that refuse £50 notes, I would take bags stuffed full of them. No one has ever given me bags of £50 notes, but it is not for want of my trying to persuade them. Cash is king, for me, at any rate.

What is this nonsense about money laundering? Such laws are a nuisance for the law-abiding. If the authorities really wanted to check into money laundering, all transactions over £1 million in the London market involving Greek, Russian, Chinese or Arab money could be looked into. It seems absurd for smallish transactions to require reams of documentation, under the pretext of anti-money laundering, and my presumption is that the authorities are really interested in preventing us from collapsing fiat money by keeping our money under the bed. Continue reading

Are we trapped in a downbeat culture?


D. J. Webb

Some cultures are positive and upbeat; others lay undue stress on negative things and consequently create higher levels of personal stress. This is worth the consideration of libertarians, because a free society can only really take off in a society that is positive. In a negative culture, people will be depressed and fearful, and will look to the government to protect them from life itself and even from themselves. The English are known for their love of a good moan. One way of looking at this is that they are thereby letting off steam. Even if that is so, however, people who focus on the negative aspects of everything are ill-equipped to take advantage of the opportunities in life and in the economy. Continue reading

Reflections on the Woolwich atrocity


I don’t have time for a long comment, and am only 1,000 words into chapter 2 of my novel. But no one in the LA has commented on the Woolwich murder.

This has key implications for liberty, not least because it is argued that the government’s snoopers’ charter proposal is a good idea in order to combat Islamic extremism. Islamic extremism in our country is a powerful confirmation of John Stuart Mill’s view (in chapter 16 of On Representative Government: read the section starting “free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities”) that free institutions are impossible in a culturally divided society. Cultural conflict encourages state control. Continue reading

How It Happened, chapter 1


Note: The Libertarian Alliance does not recommend or condone the use of violence to achieve political ends. Of course, the story published below is merely advice on how lawfully appointed Ministers of the Queen should proceed once in office. As such, it falls within the section of the Bill of Rights providing “That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.” But the Directors and Officers of the Libertarian Alliance devoutly hope that the restoration of constitutional government will not require such extremes as are described below. SIG Continue reading

Should our law be made by judges?


by D.J. Webb

Libertarians have generally been concerned about the development of a police state. While I am concerned over the behaviour of the police—and in particular, what Sam Francis in the US called anarcho-tyranny [“we refuse to control real criminals (that’s the anarchy) so we control the innocent (that’s the tyranny)”; see here]—there is a good deal of evidence that it is the courts that are driving the creation in our society of the miasma of state control. So I am more worried about living in a judicial state. A police state could be a state where laws passed by Parliament are enforced in an overbearing manner; a judicial state is one where the laws aren’t even drawn up by Parliament in the first place. There is a connection between the two, of course, because in the absence of judicial tyranny, high-handed actions by the police and other officials could be combated. Once the judges are committed to unaccountable rule, it is harder to discern a path out of the maze we’re in. Continue reading

Is Libertarianism “Unfair”?


by D.J Webb

I have umm’d and aah’d for a long time over how to approach this issue, because it often seems that libertarianism is an ideological reflex of personal interests. For example, Allister Heath at City AM, generally fairly free-market in his approach, called recently for tax reform, but a “reform” that would retain taxes on income and profits and avoid imposing any levies on the occupation of land. On this very LA blog, many people otherwise libertarian in their general views have seemed vituperatively to oppose shifting taxation from income and profits onto property. Such people are often vocal in decrying any attempt to talk about the “fairness” of the free market, while happy to accept state intervention to skew economic opportunities in the interests of those who already have wealth and property. It is likely that most people who are “free-market” in their view of economics are simply expressing their own interests in the economy. Continue reading

Who wields the Royal veto?


by D.J. Webb

An intriguing article on the Telegraph website claims that the Royal family are regularly vetoing new laws, although the article appears sloppily written, and in particular the writer doesn’t appear to know the difference between the formal casting of a veto and the registering of some kind of objection to a law in advance. Continue reading

Why is the State Involved in Childcare?


by D.J. Webb

Women are forced out to work by house prices. This is the real subtext to absurd plans for the state to pay £2,000 to each working woman for childminding. With high taxes and council tax, high transport fees and high childminding bills, it is hard for women to make work pay — and the only result of their trying to do so is to push up the income on which mortgage loans are calculated, thus supporting the property Ponzi scheme. Continue reading

Is Capitalism Just Fraud?


By David J. Webb

Located as I am in “rip-off Britain”, it is a worthy question indeed whether capitalism is, in the final analysis, just fraud. Businesses should try to sell their goods for the maximum price in the market—doesn’t that make it likely that the free market is just a conduit for deception? Libertarians are generally left with vague comments along the lines of caveat emptor that ignore the fact that good value and good service are hard to find in the market, whoever one buys from. So I think the question apposite and worth considering. Continue reading

Who are the Real Patricians


by D.J. Webb

It is amazing just how much authority our current ruling class draws from the distinction it continually draws between itself and the former ruling class. We are seemingly unable to identify the ruling class today. We still think that it is the Blimps, the “conservatives”, the people who went to Eton, members of the Bullingdon Club, the Royal Family, the Lords, the “rich” (???), people who wear ties, people who wear straw boaters at Oxford, etc.

Actually, this has not been the ruling class for a generation, and yet those who have taken their place constantly poke fun at them and gain a kind of demotic support for a much nastier and more intrusive form of rule today. Continue reading

Economics or politics? The arguments the élite tries to sell us


by David J. Webb

The real key to understanding politics in a country like the UK is that the élite long ago tired of the nation-state. It is not that the concept of a self-governing nation lacked support among the wider population—after all, the opinions of the wider population are heavily influenced by the “opinion-formers”—no, it is that the élite themselves no longer believed in the concept, and so set about trying to move on to more cosmopolitan territory. I would argue that the real reasons for our membership of the EU, our promotion of multiculturalism and our encouragement of mass immigration are political or cultural—our élite wants to change the look and feel of the country—and not economic. Yet these policies are “sold” to us in economic terms, as if dropping these policies would lead to a collapse of the economy. Even people who are opposed to the EU and immigration on political/cultural grounds have to pause for breath while considering the economic impact of a policy change, as we all depend on the economy for our livelihoods. Most people simply don’t know whether the economic arguments are true or not, and so a large section of the population is hoodwinked by bogus economic arguments. Continue reading

Thoughts on Finland


by D.J. Webb

Finland is a country that I have mixed feelings about. One of my great-grandparents was Finnish, from the Swedish-speaking minority (the other seven great-grandparents being English and Irish by extraction), and so I am interested in the country. Yet try as I might, there seems to be some kind of barrier preventing me from really admiring the country and its culture. Finland’s demands for “collateral” when taking part in eurozone bailouts are a pointed reminder that this country is quite different from the UK culturally, taking a full part in the EU structures, but demanding the right to defend its own interests all the same. Surely if you’re in the eurozone, you should either meet all your obligations, or just leave? Finland’s troubled relationship with Russia is also worthy of analysis. In the end, I feel that Russia is the long-term strategic partner the UK should be focusing on, at the expense of EU nations such as Finland. Continue reading

WHY LIBERTARIANS SHOULD SUPPORT A LAND VALUE TAX


by D.J. Webb

Libertarians support low taxation on principle, in order to free people and the economy from the burden of the state. If the writings of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill are anything to go by, however, there is an important exception: land taxation. Land taxation is not just a necessary evil that affords the state some revenues with which to perform the very few necessary functions of government; it is a positive good, in that it tackles monopoly and speculation, and should ensure efficient use of land. If land taxation had remained the key source of government revenue in the UK, the current economic crisis would not have taken place. Continue reading

The Duchess of Cambridge’s assets


by DJ Webb

Flat-chested women all over the world will sympathize with Kate Middleton today, after her assets – or lack of them – were captured on camera.

Why should Buckingham Palace be thinking about suing the French magazine that published the photographs? They were taken with a telephoto lens – but it is clear that Kate Middleton does like to relax topless. Would Queen Alexandra or Queen Mary have relaxed topless (with or without the intrusion of telephoto lenses)? Continue reading

A Constitutional Daydream


by DJ Webb

My thoughts wandered for a while after I read that Boris Johnson had taken part in discussions to find him a safe seat by means of which he could be propelled into Parliament. Mr Johnson has made a name for himself as a eurosceptic, although I fancy this is just clever positioning. I doubt he really gives two figs for our ancient constitution—and as Mayor of London, he has made clear his support for mass immigration to displace the majority population of England. For various reasons, therefore, I doubt his true political convictions are much more conservative than David Cameron’s, although he might be able to promise a little bit more “true blue water” between the Conservatives and Labour, although not so much as to restore our country’s constitution. Nevertheless, my subconscious filled in the blanks in my rêverie and this is what I dreamt of as I suspended belief for a few minutes: Continue reading

The Other House


by DJ Webb

It is interesting to see some parallels between the government of England under the English Commonwealth in the 1650s and the revolutionary constitutional settlement being gradually established in recent years. One thing I have just noticed is the parallel with the second chamber of Parliament.

The intention of recent constitutional changes is that the revising chamber should not consist of the landed interest, people who have dominated the country for centuries, but should be cronies, appointed purely on the basis of their support for the constitutional revolution.

Cromwell’s Other House was established in 1656 as a check on the Lower House, as one of the provisions of the Humble Petition. Cromwell refused to adopt the title of king in the draft of the Humble Petition, but accepted the other proposals in May 1656, giving him the title of Lord Protector, providing for Parliaments every three years, and for him to nominated 40-70 members for life, with a quorum of 21.

Interestingly, most of the peers refused to sit in the Other House, apart from one, and Cromwell had difficulty finding enough appointees to accept the positions (a difficulty not encountered today, where senior people are all too eager to angle for life peerages). So the Wikipedia article tells us of the 63 people nominated by Cromwell, only 42 accepted the positions.

The Other House lasted for less than three years, and was finally dissolved in April 1659. The intention of English Common Law, that the Crown, the House of Commons and the House of Lords should balance each other, and each should be constituted according to time-honoured common-law principles, has been badly traduced. I cannot regard those accepting life peerages as honourable people, and I would like to see all legislation since the introduction of “life peerages” called into question in a new constitution setup.

False arrest of victims


by D.J. Webb

As libertarians will be well aware, English Common Law confirms the right of Englishmen to use arms in their self-defence. I am one of those who would not accept the legality of purported laws to strip us of this right, but in any case, we have not been stripped of this right, at least in terms of statute law. The 1688 Bill of Rights, which has not been repealed and has been affirmed by higher courts as being a major constitutional law that cannot be impliedly repealed (i.e., can only be repealed by express language clearly repealing it), specifies our right to use weapons in our own defence. Continue reading

Civil Society or Manipulated Democracy?


by D.J. Webb

Libertarians have traditionally stressed the need for freedom, rather than democracy. There is a good reason for this: democracy is a way of selecting legislators, but contains no guarantee that legislators will not seek to become ever more intrusive in the lives of citizens. Furthermore, democracy, if interpreted as indicating widespread popular support for the political élite, may be used to justify state interventionism. A democracy can be a manipulated democracy and not a free society. Consequently, freedom and democracy are not equivalents, and are not necessarily even mutually supporting concepts. Continue reading

When Will Policy Stop Protecting the Well-heeled?


It is only natural in any human society that government policy should be overwhelmingly oriented towards defending older, vested interests in the economy. To a large extent, the vested interests are the economy. Yet taken too far, this becomes a case of protecting those with wealth at the expense of those without, and cutting off the possibility of economic growth in the future to protect the bank balances of the older generations. At some point it becomes unsustainable, as the need for economic growth in the future has to ultimately override all else, although politicians often take their time in getting round to that conclusion, making the eventual crisis even more painful that it would otherwise have had to be. Let’s take a few overseas examples before discussing Britain. Continue reading

Legal firm bottom feeders and the NHS


by D.J. Webb

Dear all, no time for a long post, but I was amazed, at a time of cuts, to read that clinical negligence payments by the NHS rose by £10bn over the past five years to total £16.6bn! [See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9353443/Comment-The-spiralling-cost-of-no-win-no-fee-lawyers.html%5D This is not a small amount of money. Continue reading

My education manifesto


by D.J. Webb

1. Privatise the whole education system
2. All teachers’ salaries set by the schools
3. A voucher system instituted allowing parents choice, but the vouchers set at a level that does not cover the full cost of education (e.g. requiring a top-up co-payment averaging 10% of the cost of attending an unglamorous school from the parents, and much larger top-ups to attend better schools). Unmarried mothers with five children would still have to find a certain sum for their children’s education. Continue reading

The Drive to War and the Euro?


by D.J. Webb

The euro is part of a pan-European architecture that is keeping the peace in Europe, they say. I don’t think the European nations have any appetite for war, and such talk is either hysterical or too grounded in the views of people who lived through the Second World War, whose influence on politics today logically needs to start rapidly declining. Continue reading

Expanding the welfare state


by D.J. Webb

 don’t have time for a long post, but I was surprised to read today that the welfare state is expanding, not being scaled back, and that people who care for elderly and disabled relatives will gain the legal right to “time off”, with councils required by law to provide stand-ins for them. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/9320910/Carers-to-be-given-respite-holidays.html for a news report. Continue reading

Keep the Gravy Train Coming?


D. J. Webb

I’m a great supporter of lower taxation, and so the report released on Sunday evening by the 2020 Tax Commission, supported by the Taxpayers’ Alliance under the chairmanship of Allister Heath, attracted my attention. Of course, as a libertarian, I would prefer to see the state spend around one-third of GDP, as recommended in the report, which would be an improvement on the current level of around 50%. But the report struck me as incredibly unambitious. Why should the state even spend as much as one-third of GDP? In Hong Kong, the figure is closer to one-fifth. The conclusions of this report are therefore a long way from libertarianism, amounting to a proposal that would keep the gravy train coming for the bloated public sector. A glance at the image below shows that the proposals in this tax reform report are far from amounting to a genuine closing down of the public-sector sinecures. All the income streams indicated below are required to keep the state show on the road: Continue reading

Homosexuality


Note: Because this has attracted nearly a hundred comments, and is one of our most active threads, we have decided to stick it back to the front page. SIG

by D.J. Webb

HOMOSEXUALITY

Homosexuality is in many ways an awkward subject to write about. In the old days, such things were not mentioned in polite conversation. Even today, the continual discussion of sexual orientation can grate: surely such things are meant to be intimate and private? However, conservatives do not set the tone of public debate, and for good or ill homosexuality has become a high-profile topic of political discussion. Continue reading

Accountable Government


by D.J. Webb

Accountable Government

Accountable government is not the same as democratic government. We have seen in recent years how we are still able to vote for governing parties, and yet still see the business of government largely conducted behind closed doors in Brussels and in Whitehall. The democratic electoral mechanism is still in place, but it doesn’t appear to make any difference any more. The reverse could also be true: a government could be accountable, while not being fully democratic. Before the advent of full democracy in the late 19th century, for example, the British government was accountable, in law and to Parliament, a consideration aided by the fact that government was still relatively small in scope and objectives. Continue reading

The English élite’s cultural style


by D.J. Webb

Are Unflappable Englishmen Actually Just Complacent?

England, and especially the political élite, has long cultivated a rather admirable cultural style. I call it unflappability. It is a kind of sang froid that dates back to the days when England ruled the waves. Our current prime minister, David Cameron, exudes unflappability partly because of his upper-class, Eton and Oxford roots. His class were born to rule—to rule one-quarter of the earth, and not just England—and many members of his class retain a serene cultural style, which means that he performs well in a crisis, debates well in Parliament and gives a good account of himself in front of a television camera. Continue reading

What are new citizens expected to know?


I took the UK Citizenship Test at http://www.ukcitizenshiptest.co.uk/ to see what questions they ask. I got 14 of 24 questions right. I wonder if that means my passport will be revoked. 45 minutes are allowed for a test that takes 3 minutes. Continue reading

Propaganda for Fiscal Embezzlement


by D.J. Webb

I have commented on Peter Oborne’s blog on the budget, where he says “the decision to educate ordinary citizens about how their taxes are spent is inspired: it is one of those apparently small innovations which over time can generate profound cultural changes”. I don’t regard this as a positive thing, and this is the comment thereon that I left on his blog: Continue reading

Mortgages and Repossessions


Mortgages and Repossessions
by D.J. Webb

Traditionally in England it was considered disgraceful not to pay your debts. Yet with the current financial crisis apparently running and running the way in which financial products are rigged against the consumer—and the way in which property prices have been fuelled over decades by a number of government policies—has introduced the notion of the lenders’ responsibility into the debate surrounding the property market. I welcome this development. Continue reading

A Minimum Wage or a Free Economy?


by D.J. Webb

A MINIMUM WAGE OR A FREE ECONOMY?

 dj

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat halves of our ruling coalition government are engaged in a debate over employment legislation, with some Conservatives calling for less regulation of employment and also for smaller companies to be exempt from minimum-wage legislation. Libertarians oppose state regulation, although I think it would be fair to say that libertarians are seeking a more holistic, workable approach than simply deleting minimum-wage laws. The reason for this is that, in the absence of welfare reform, abolishing the minimum wage will have the result of decreasing yet further any incentive for the unemployed to find work. I am not convinced that removing the minimum wage—especially one set at current rates—will have a significant positive impact on the employment market in the absence of a broader package of measures to free the economy. Continue reading

Gatwick Airport’s Cultural Revolution


by D.J. Webb

I read a story in the Daily Telegraph today that reminded me somewhat of my experience in Gatwick airport last year. A man who, incidentally happened to be the creator of the Fireman Sam children’s character, made a comment while going through security checks about a Muslim woman in a veil who had not been subject to the same level of checks that he had. His comment was not a racial attack, or a diatribe on the subject of immigration or multiculturalism, but the following: “if I was wearing this scarf over my face, I wonder what would happen.” Continue reading

Using perjury laws to prevent a defence?


by David Webb

The news that the parents of Gary Dobson and David Norris, recently convicted for having “murdered” Stephen Lawrence, may face charges into whether they perjured themselves in court by giving their sons alibis strikes me as rather alarming. Continue reading

Obesity by DJW


OBESITY
dj

An undeniable problem…

It is difficult to deny that obesity is a problem in England today. An apparent inability to control one’s body size and shape is cited by millions as something that diminishes their enjoyment in life. We only live once, and a life spent battling “flab” can only be described as a wasted life. It is clearly far from ideal to look back in one’s 40s or 50s, as many do, on what should have been the best years of one’s life, knowing that one’s own lifestyle choices spoiled those years. For this reason, propaganda by the government and healthcare professionals on obesity and lifestyles is undeniably relevant, albeit objectionable from the point of view of individual freedom. Continue reading

Huhne—defenestrated!


I am delighted to hear of the resignation of the former energy secretary, Chris Huhne, one of the most repulsive creatures in British politics. His allegedly “green” policies have already led to a large rise in fuel bills for all households. How is it right for the government to be adopting policies designed to push up our basic living costs? I cannot see that as anything other than an abuse of power. Continue reading

REINING IN COPYRIGHT


dj

The EU recently extended its copyright laws for audio recordings. Such recordings are now protected by copyright for 70 years, up from the previous 50-year term. Bizarrely, given the ephemeral nature of fashions in popular music, all recordings produced since 1941 are now in copyright. The campaign to extend copyright had been backed by the ageing singer, Cliff Richard, who stands to benefit financially from the change now that his 1959 number 1 hit Living Doll is back in copyright. Continue reading

Taxing corporate profits


dj

I am increasingly of the view that corporation tax, as long as it exists (of course libertarians would aim to delete all such taxes, but that could well take some time), plays a wholly negative role in penalising corporate success. Companies that are inefficiently run pay little, but those that are well run and could create wealth and jobs pay more. Moreover, we read in the UK that some large banks manage to pay little on their large earnings, owing to losses brought forward and an array of offshore vehicles, and even that some large newspaper corporations pay almost no tax in the UK.

A profit tax is a ridiculous concept in an economy that wants to grow. I would replace these by a business turnover tax. Quite simply, no losses would be brought forward, no profits would be calculated. The tax would simply be a percentage of turnover. So all banks would pay it at the set rate; so would all newspaper corporations. Inefficient companies would have to pay it, and some could be forced into receivership by having to pay more than now; but the profitable would find they paid less. By keeping their costs down, and given that no calculation of profit or earnings would be made, they would find they paid less by simply paying a percentage of turnover.

Finally, all companies would pay on their UK turnover, so offshore financial vehicles and the like would not reduce their liabilities, thus lowering the burden on the companies that currently pay corporation tax. Accountancy costs would be lowered by the elimination of profit/loss as a basis for payment.

The Equitable Life shakedown


djw

This is a short message on the subject of the Equitable Life compensation affair.

I think there probably is such a thing as misselling of investments, for example, where grossly misleading claims are made. But such claims would need to be barefaced and wholly out of kilter with any sense of reality. Were an investment adviser to advise you a fund was likely to rise in value by a factor of ten in a year, that would certainly constitute misselling. If he were to advise you it would rise by 30%, and it in fact fell by 20%, that would be within the normal range of risk of investments.

However, even in cases where outrageous claims about investments are made by advisers, the priniciple of caveat emptor comes into play. Would a reasonable person believe that a fund might rise in value by a factor of ten in one year? Unless it could be shown a reasonable person would believe outrageous claims, even blatant “misselling” of this kind ought not to give rise to a legal action.

I am fed up of hearing Equitable Life investors claim they believed their investment could only go up. No reasonable person could think an investment could ever be “a dead cert”.

I would like all compensation claims with respect to Equitable Life to be cancelled. In future, such attempted shakedowns (whether of a company or the state) should be considered as attempted fraud and the investors prosecuted. People have to take responsibility for themselves. Their investments fell in value, but such is life–they have no reasonable claim against the company or the state. To read that HM Treasury is to pay £1.5bn out of general taxation to the investors is intolerable–don’t they realise the country is already indebted?

Guilt, or Self-righteousness?


dj

For conservatives prepared to consider the proposition that there is some kind of fundamental distinction between Western culture and that of the other civilisations of the world, the distinction is sometimes seen in terms of morality. We are, according to this interpretation, a more moral people. We can see this most readily in terms of a contrast with the East Asian civilisation. In China, the interests of the collective (family, nation, state) override moral considerations. Chinese people who know of their government’s use of late-term forced abortions to enforce the national family planning policy often simply deny that anything of the sort takes place; or, when presented with evidence, they get angry and start shouting. Anyone who has lived in China will know that discussions of Chinese brutality towards China’s own ethnic minorities proceed in a very unfruitful way. The Chinese government is prepared to peddle the most transparent lies, such as claiming that a small group of Tibetan refugees, shot dead by China’s border guards for fleeing the country, as shown on a mountaineer’s videotape, actually attacked the border guards. Lies come easier to the Chinese, which is why we call them “inscrutable”: we cannot gauge their moral sensibility.

The abuse whereby Chinese workplace bosses would refuse to allow their employees to marry—they were required to sign the documents—unless the bride first gave her virginity to the boss has been stymied by a change in the law, which does not now require workplace approval for the match, but sexual abuse in the workplace is not only rife, but standard, in China. The parents who lost their children in the Sichuan earthquake of 2009 were arrested for protesting over the schoolhouses that collapsed like jelly as the money for school construction had been siphoned off by corrupt officials. Of the 80-odd earthquake orphans who were disabled as a result of the earthquake, not one—not a single one, according to the Chinese press—found a family in the world’s most populous nation willing to adopt him. As far as most moral issues are concerned, the Chinese do not really seem to “care”.

We care. It is what we do as Westerners. We are the nations intent on building up geo-political rivals by subsidies and technological transfer. Hillary Clinton cares about the rioting Egyptians (although apparently much less about the displaced Palestinians in much worse circumstances). From racism to sexism to homophobia to destruction of the environment, Western political views are directly informed by a sort of cod-altruism. We are worried about the plight of slaves in Mauritania and about child labour in Pakistan. And such supposed “altruism” feeds directly into the politics of guilt: it is “unfair” that other nations are poorer than we; we were the ones who engaged in the triangular slave trade; we are not doing enough to help the homosexuals of Iran; the underclass in Britain cannot be expected to control their own fertility, even in the age of the “morning-after pill”, and so it would be “unfair” not to subside their unproductive lifestyles; and the death penalty for cold-blooded killers would be cruel, as social disadvantage is deemed to play a key role in such individuals’ personalities.

Clearly we are different from the other civilisations of the earth. And it is not just the Chinese who fail to measure up to our moral standards. While the Islamic civilisation includes a large and unbending moral component, one of the key things that stands out is the cruel use of state power to enforce their moral code. For some reason, Islam never set out to create individuals who were morally upright; it did not set out to build individuals who did not need cruel punishments to stay in line. Hilaire Belloc’s wonderful tale, The Mercy of Allah, sets out an understanding of Muslim society that is every bit as selfish and greedy as Chinese society. To rob others, unbeknown to them until you are far off, is shown in that book as viewed as “the mercy of Allah”, who facilitates the crime. Christian concern for others, even those you do not know, does not seem to be present in those societies. In Britain itself, the paedophilia and sexually predatory behaviour of young Muslim men, long suppressed as an item of news, has recently hit the headlines. What surprises you is that such behaviour is not rare or a fringe activity, but one participated in by large numbers of Muslim youths working together. Crime statistics are apparently “top secret” in the UK, but statistics from a range of Western countries confirm the prevalence of crime among the non-European part of the population. In Sweden, for example, the still demographically small first- and second-generation immigrant population is responsible for a large majority of rapes and sexual assaults.

True, violent crime is less common in China, where it is the overwhelming social norm for men to frequent brothels, and the lower level of violence can also be explained by higher average IQ levels in East Asia, which produce a fairly stable population, who prefer to use their intelligence to rip others off financially than to use their fists or force themselves on lone women. Indian and Pakistani doctors in the UK are known for “feeling up” their female patients—presumably in their culture they would get away with this behaviour, and “anti-racism” ensures they often do in Britain too. Real hard violence, as a social norm, is, however, rather found in the African-descended part of the population, who lack the IQs of the Chinese and the economic prospects of everyone else. Many geneticists believe that not only IQs but also the tendency towards aggression is coded for in human genes, and further solid information on this subject is eagerly awaited by conservatives.

So it seems clear that there is a real difference between the West and the other civilisations. This is not to deny that bad behaviour has not become much more prevalent among the Western underclass, possibly as a side function of state sponsorship of sexual incontinence and unmarried motherhood. The “wigger” phenomenon suggests that British youths are modelling themselves on their Afro-Caribbean counterparts, with negative social consequences. However, these phenomena are the result of the distorted morality or guilt of the Western middle classes, who have allowed bad behaviour to take root rather than being “judgmental”. This produces the curious circumstance that, whereas other civilisations, such as Islam, are unofficially immoral, in contrast to the full Islamic law, which would be unbendingly moral, we now officially support immoral lifestyles. Islamic revulsion at Western society has been frequently described in the press: it seems that calls for social integration fall on deaf ears, when that society smiles at images of young women drunk and half-naked lying on the pavement. At least officially, in their own communities, the Muslim leaders are not afraid to denounce immorality. It seems we are both more “caring” and less strict on the moral front than they are, or at least claim to be; there is a good deal of evidence that private moral behaviour is much worse in the Muslim community than it would be in mainstream Britain.

This produces a complicated picture. How can we be more moral if we are morally lax? The solution seems to lie in the cod-altruism mentioned earlier. Western society, and particularly Anglo-Saxon society, is noted for its sanctimonious and self-righteous tone. Western society functions as a competition for moral status, a game of moral “one-upmanship”. I think this explains the pretence of altruism: by displaying your concern for others, you prove your superiority to others, in this game at least. Free Tibet! I’d rather pay a bit more in tax! Save the whale! One of my best friends is black! We mustn’t be judgmental! All these are particular manifestations of the game of moral status.

Actually, the self-righteous do not actually give a damn about any one of their causes. I have tried to winkle out the bottom line of their altruism: when the self-righteous witter on about their concern for the 3,000 desaparecidos of Chile, I ask them if they are as concerned about the 30,000 members of the Matabele tribe slaughtered by the anti-imperialist, Robert Mugabe, in Zimbabwe. That generally leads to a tense conversation: their eyes glaze over, they refuse to listen to any more facts and get angry. Yet, if they really were altruistic, they would care about deaths at the hands of anti-imperialists too. It was shown at one point in the Somali famine that the agricultural situation had recovered in that country, but the fact that Western food donations kept rolling in made farmers reluctant to cultivate their fields. Why would it make any difference to the self-righteous if they were actually harming the Somalis by their vaunted “kindness”? Does it make any difference to them that the welfare benefits system has led to a large rise in the numbers of children brought up by single mothers? And that that situation is linked, in one of the strongest statistical links in the social sciences, with crime, delinquency, drug abuse, and the physical and sexual abuse of the children, often by their mothers’ string of “partners”?

If we are “moral”, we are moral in a way that is largely intended to flatter ourselves. That is why the objects of our concern are so curiously selective. In the 1990s, we were oh-so-concerned about the driving of the Bosnian Muslims out of their “safe havens”, which we viewed as part of a wonderful attempt to create a multi-ethnic society (ahem! among people killing each other), and yet the driving of the Croatian Serbs out of their “protected areas” failed to provoke a similar reaction. It was ordinary people who bore the brunt in both cases. It could be said that Western people are idealistic, and that they pick out the cases to show concern over with a careful eye on what would make themselves look good morally.

That is not to say that self-righteousness is not connected in some way with real morality. The fact that in most of these cases people are being treated in ways that would call for compassion—especially if you were a member of that society, and rather less credibly if you are just enjoying the sensation of concern via the television screen—is what the claim to altruism rests upon. To that extent, it seems that “youthful idealism” is used by a more cynical class of free riders to stake out their own claim to moral superiority, while not really giving a damn. I am a long way from condemning genuine altruism, although it would be very rare, and I do not think I have come across it in British society. Anyone who is really concerned about the starving millions in Africa would sell his house and give the money to the starving. I would not discourage anyone from doing so, as long as no-one else (for example, wife and children) were affected, in which case imposing suffering on them would not be genuinely altruistic. Quite simply, I myself do not care about the starving in Ethiopia—it is a very abstract concept to me, and charity is better directed to one’s own immediate community—but then neither do the self-righteous; the difference is, I do not feel the need to indulge in gesture politics on the issue.

Self-righteousness has become the moral stance of the British elite, many of whom are making large sums out of their concern for others. I am sure senior civil servants, bureaucrats in the health service, headmasters on six-figure salaries in failing schools, “quango queens” and charity directors all tell themselves that they are handsomely rewarded for their superior morality. They are all trying to do good, or so they tell themselves, and if they are actually imposing a financial burden on the low-paid, siphoning money off from front-line healthcare, teaching trendy subjects they know will damage the life chances of their pupils, wasting money on fatuous and politically motivated campaigns, and even directing money collected as “charitable donations” into their final-salary pension funds, they are able to rationalise it in some way to themselves. How lucrative “caring” has become! Quite often these people are prepared to siphon off large sums of money into overseas projects (collecting their salaries on the way). I would argue that the Chinese-style naked pursuit of self-interest at least has the advantage of allowing the Chinese to support their own society. They do not have to pretend to care about the Sudan, and so they can keep all their money in China. And they do not need to feign concern about the human rights of murderers, and so are free to support the death penalty and keep China a stable, low-crime society. And the Muslim society of wealthy Saudi Arabia sees no need to fund unmarried motherhood, so helping to ensure that most children in that society are brought up by both of their real parents. Amazing, is it not, how self-interest often fosters a healthy society?

How did Western society become so self-righteous? Is this merely a phenomenon of the twentieth century as our Christian culture receded? I would argue that the sanctimoniousness of the elite, and their middle-class hangers-on, has huge material advantages for the elite, in that it has vastly expanded the size of the state, but there are other advantages too for the elite of this form of self-righteousness. Whereas traditional morality required them to set a social example themselves, the new form of cod-morality requires nothing of them personally. You can be a serial divorcer and abandoner of children, and as long as you are passionate anti-racist and concerned about global warming, you are still a good person today. The cod-morality requires nothing more than occasional lip-service, whereas traditional morality was a tight life-long straitjacket of behaviour. We have reached the point where morality is what you say and not what you do. A pleasant person who never does anything to harm others, but voices his opposition to immigration—I would put myself in this category—is deemed in self-righteous circles to be a “nasty individual”, based entirely on his views. Someone who has ruined the lives of his wife and children has only to mouth platitudes to become accepted in the best company.

Clearly, though, self-righteousness is connected to our erstwhile morality. Even in the old days, those who were determined to be seen to be behaving in line with the church’s moral precepts were seen as self-righteous. They cultivated their moral images every bit as much as the new elite cultivate theirs. From one point of view, the change in society has been nothing more than a shift in the focus of morality, from sexual to racial matters. Incidents such as the persecution of the witches of Salem in early America show that the same tendency to self-righteousness, together with a taste for persecuting others that is very much alive in the new political correctness, has been there all along. Yet the difference is that the old self-righteousness of the family and the church fostered a good society: it held the fabric of the family and nation together. The new self-righteousness is destructive of the fabric society because it opposes the family and the nation, and it is for that reason, and not its mere sanctimonious tone (unbearable though that is), that I oppose it.

Finally, the church itself warned of self-righteousness and judgmentalism. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were probably not engaging in any form of immorality, but it was their self-righteousness that offended Jesus, who condemned them as “whited sepulchres”. A nation steeped in the Bible was on the look-out for self-righteousness, and this at least meant that a genuine difference between real morality and the cultivation of a fake moral image was clear to all members of society back then. Could it be that, as we have in the main abandoned Christianity, we no longer see the distinction between righteousness and self-righteousness? That having been weaned off the Bible, we take claims of morality at face value?

It was always a problem for the Christian church that it called for righteousness and condemned unrighteousness while claiming to oppose self-righteousness too. Is it not self-righteous to tell others to be righteous? I can only square that circle myself with the concept of nation that is Christian, rather than individuals who are Christian. At one stage, Englishmen were told they were “building Jerusalem”, that England must become the kingdom of God on earth. It was not a messianic vision of the Second Coming of Christ, but was rather a messianic vision of a good society, right here in England. Once the values that were once seen as moral and right are assimilated by the majority of society, it becomes harder for one individual to stake a greater claim to morality by adhering to them. They were once the norm in society. True, there were individuals hamming up their devotion to God, but there was nothing unusual back then about loving your wife “till death do us part” and bringing up your children to behave themselves. This moral tone was what was great about England—we were individuals with integrity, not individuals who it took the strictures of a cruel and barbaric shari’ah law to keep in line. The goal of the Church of England was never merely to create moral individuals, but to create a society where moral behaviour was the accepted social norm. Whether the theology of the Bible was true or not, it is a fact of history that the “new personality” spoke of by St Paul was put on by many—the majority?—of Englishmen, and that a society that worked on its precepts brought the religion of Christianity alive regardless of the facts of science and history.

So it seems to me that our traditional morality has metamorphosised into the self-righteousness, the cod-morality, of our new elite. Having been profoundly influenced by the Gospels, our nation was ripe for the emergence of anti-racism and various forms of synthetic outrage to replace the old certainties. Is this some kind of original cultural flaw in the Western societies? Does our oft-proclaimed moral superiority conceal a tendency towards self-deception and gesture politics? The irony is, when the Western civilisation was at its height, it was better than the rest of them put together!

Regulation should be by Act of Parliament and Rule of Law


dj

It is very difficult for me to write about the need for some regulation. After all, it is precisely this that has allowed the large state to mushroom. Supposedly, all the quangoes and agencies are protecting us. However, high taxation and intrusive regulations, often laid down by extra-parliamentary bodies, are a high price to pay for the establishment of a level playing-field in the market. The market will never have a fully level playing-field, it is true, but I am going to surprise some people on this site by arguing that some regulation is needed. But I will also argue that what regulation there is needs to be by Act of Parliament, without regulatory bodies to enforce it or lay down regulations not approved by the Crown in Parliament, and that the Rule of Law means, not rule “by regulation”, but rule by proper accountable laws that can then be upheld in the court system. The main purpose of this article is to “think aloud” and thereby provoke discussion of a key issue for libertarians.

Many libertarians come across as adopting a glib tone in response to a large range of related issues, arguing that the free market will resolve all questions and allow society to function well, almost without any regulation at all. I am reminded of China’s free-for-all style of capitalism, where products can contain poisons leading to large numbers of child deaths, and yet no real remedy is available through the existing political or judicial system. There has to be some law, in order to have a rule of law. And what I am proposing is consonant with a small state spending 5-10% of GDP as in the nineteenth century.

Furthermore, however worthily intended, I would like to limit the quantity of legislation. I see no reason for Parliament to sit for long periods; my understanding is that each session of parliament was relatively short in ancient times, and I would like to see parliament meet for no more than a couple of weeks in each quarter. Given that we have a common law, there is simply no need for vast quantities of legislation. A further advantage of a parliament that rarely meets is that parliamentary salaries, housing allowances and expenses are not required.

But some things do need to be regulated, and this should be by Act of Parliament. There should be no secondary legislation whatsoever, and regulatory bodies should not be required. The individual citizen can use the civil law as he sees fit to defend his interests. Part of the reason why I feel doubtful that all activities of the state can be accomplished by civil society is the lack of a decent cultural environment in England today. The “chavs” are here, in force, and the only reason why Asbos were introduced is because the behaviour of millions of Englishmen warranted it. That is not to say that I view Asbos as the correct policy response. In particular, the way they individually tailor a law or order to fit the particular recalcitrant individual is contrary to the rule of law. And in general, we need to think about how to raise children that grow up not to behave like “chavs”.

The state has played a role in fostering social fragmentation, in particular with the way the benefits system encourages unmarried motherhood, but also the way in which state-funded media and education systems are used to encourage behavioural problems. But it would be glib to state that the moment the state withdraws from social security, broadcast propaganda and education, behavioural standards will revert to the mean. The “chavs” are the new mean. It would be a long process to recreate the bands of society and culture that eventually helped to produce the type of individual who, as was said in America in the 1950s, had a “policeman in his own head”.

Personally, I feel that relatively little “policing” work is genuine policing nowadays. In the 1950s, when estates were patrolled, the local “bobby” could give a nuisance individual a clip round the ear, and suggest to his parents that a good hiding was in order. I would like to see this type of policing restored. I recently myself became the victim of a nuisance neighbour who has begun to play loud music. I have not spoken to my neighbour, simply because I presume that people who behave like chavs are aware their behaviour is inconsiderate, but simply don’t care. To speak to such a neighbour would be to invite an escalation in bad behaviour. What is the solution? I don’t have one, and I don’t think anyone has one, but in the old days the police could be contacted to deal with the neighbour, but now such behaviour is the preserve of the council. The council’s response is to build up a case against the individual over a period of weeks, before imposing a noise abatement order. But clearly this presumes that the decent householder is willing to put up with bad behaviour for weeks. Probably a better solution is local bobbies to deal with nuisance individuals in an ad hoc way, and for the householder to be able to sue the landlord/owner of the property for damages.

So we are in the chav society, the Jeremy Kyle Show society, where a sudden withdrawal of the state could potentially lead to a creation of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee in England. Better solutions are needed by libertarians than the simplistic assumption that civil society will rush in where the state withdraws. A number of options, such as estates hiring their own private-sector patrol teams (instead of the local constabulary), could be looked at, but there are a number of problems, including what to do where an individual household did not agree to the local arrangement. Another way of tackling the issue would be assign bobbies on the beat to all neighbourhoods, and for them to patrol all the time, and to separate such policing from relative small criminal investigation units that dealt with major crimes. Most libertarians support free availability of drugs, which would probably reduce some types of crime, but probably also grossly increase lower-level nuisance crimes. This illustrates the difficulty for me of creating a free society in a society where cultural standards have been abandoned.

Another problem for me is the “rip-off Britain”. The individual citizen often feels helpless in the face of businesses that no longer operate as they once would have. When I took the train over Christmas, I found the final leg of my journey had to be by taxi, owing to a “strike”, and yet the train company told me they would not refund my fare. If you apply for a mortgage you face large and meaningless “arrangement fees”, often more than £1000. Banks are trying to impose “account fees”. You phone up companies, and find yourself put through to call centres in India. In my case, an Indian operative kept telling me I could not have a print-out of my US dollar account that I needed for my accountant, as the bank had decided that, as it was used only once every couple of months, the account was inactive, and the computer system did not permit a print-out to be sent out. I felt angry that someone based abroad could make such a decision, and that I could not speak to anyone in the UK about it, and only after many hours of phone calls did I get what I needed.

Reading of apartment management fees in the press the other day, I was struck by how many businesses today have become “cowboy”, “fly by night” operations, charging whatever fees they like for nothing. Isn’t it the same people who move from wheel-clamping operations to apartment management and then into nursing home management, partly profiteering on the back of the taxpayer, but often exploiting people in situations where the taxpayer is not picking up the bill?

Mobile phone companies charge huge and outrageous roaming fees. It is idle and factually false to claim that left to their own devices, the phone companies will eliminate these. I have even been shocked that BT refuses to connect calls to directory enquiry services other than their own. When I contacted Oftel to ask why all phones could not dial all numbers, I was sent a leaflet from BT. Yet my point was that if Oftel was the regulator, why wasn’t BT told that in the direct dial world, all phones can dial all numbers, and—end of discussion, BT would just have to do as it was told.

I do not believe that in a libertarian world all regulation could or should be eliminated. I am not talking about sheafs of regulation, and certainly not about regulations that have not gone through parliament or that are issued or administered by regulatory bodies, but I do mean that some high-profile abuses could become political issues, and that a rarely-meeting parliament could pass legislation, and then leave it to the citizen to sue where necessary. I do not admire the US-style overly-litigious culture, and would like to see some limits to prevent vexatious litigation, as, in particular, a free-market health system that allowed for poorly grounded suits against hospitals and doctors would simply see health charges soar. Without evidence of malpractice, the strong presumption must be that doctors do their best for their patients. I resent being put through to India to deal with a UK company, and I would like the practice banned. And without a penny-by-penny breakdown of exactly what mortgage arrangement fees, overdraft charges, apartment management fees and the like were actually for, I would regard such fees as fraudulent.

There is a clear risk that the approach I am outlining—and I am only talking about the occasional law—would lead to rule by unelected judges, freely legislating from the bench on what companies could charge for their services. Statute legislation needs to be drawn up with little latitude for interpretation, unlike the common law, but I think if a number of key abuses were outlawed in one law, it could provide the basis for closing down a host of regulatory bodies (the Office of Fair Training and the like) and allow for a reduction in the size of the state.

Another problem is that previously state-run bodies continue to be run along the same lines in the private sector, especially where they are natural monopolies. The behaviour of the unions in the railway industry in one example where the public-sector mentality remains in full swing. Look at how the government “allows” the rail companies to raise their prices by double-digit percentages each year: is it not clear that, without regulation, the prices would be going even higher? As monopolies, it may seem to the rail companies that they can price their tickets as high as they like, within the bounds of current regulation. I can’t understand why the prices need to rise each year above inflation: if they do have to, would it not be better to cut salaries? Union activity has worked to ensure that salaries for many menial jobs are often in excess of white-collar salaries, and there is plenty of room for a large cut. Personally I think striking workers should be sacked, their pensions cancelled and their access to public social security curtailed for life. After all, what do they think this is? That we, the public, have to just pay whatever they want?

It is not clear to me what the libertarian answer to these issues is. Another example is the way headteachers often now award themselves salaries of over £200K, despite their failing schools. Even were education to be provided, it is likely that most parents would have few viable choices for the education of their children (eg, they could go to one of, say, three local schools), and the privatised schools would operate as a cartel, with high fees charged by them all. Could salaries for the teachers, including the head teacher, be determined by a vote of the parents (and the parents alone) at the parent and teacher association? The parents would then be deemed to be “hiring” the staff, and could not pitch the salaries so low that good staff could not be hired, but the more flagrant and kleptocratic abuses would be constrained.

Ultimately, I don’t have a good answer to all these issues. There would still be abuses in a libertarian society, and there would be political demands that they were dealt with. It would be possible for a small state to prevent the worst abuses by the rule of law, and for the privatisation of state roles to be done in a way that prevented the current managerial elite from continuing to screw the public, or screwing the public even more in the absence of regulatory bodies. The thing is made more difficult by the fact that the people of our country do not know how to behave any longer—which is why the state came in so triumphantly in the first place. I explained in a previous post why I think the managerial elite (straddling the public/private sector divide) is the problem, and not just “the state”. By focusing just on the state, we may miss the fact that the same managerial elite manages the private sector. Ultimately, libertarianism attacks problems politically rather than socially and culturally, and yet, how do we create a free society without the old bourgeois elite and its social and cultural values?

Joanna Yeates’ landlord and murder suspect


dj

I am a diehard believer in the right to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, but I understand that most people do regard anyone arrested by the police as guilty of some crime. I am reserving judgment on the case of the murder of Joanna Yeates, but I do admit to being more than a little perplexed.

If this man was a confirmed bachelor, probably interested in men, as far as he had any inclinations, then the details of the murder remain obscure for me and probably for most readers of the newspapers. But I am left hoping that this is not the latest in a long line of cases where the police have simply arrested “the local weirdo”.

There are many aspects to the suspect’s description that present him as a rather interesting character, although a few sleazy descriptions too. First, there is the passion for the English language, and the fact that his pupils used to get good grades in a time when exams were worth something. Shelley. Poetry. Etc. Second, there is the passion for classical music, with pupils invited around to the flat for an evening of “music appreciation”, following the score while listening to pieces such as Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique. If only teachers today had the knowledge and understanding to do so. Third, there is the membership of the Prayer Book Society. As a former member of the society myself, it seems to me the PBS is made up of people with an appreciation for the English language and England’s religious heritage. His participation in a campaign to save a rifle range is also interesting.

A question that springs to mind is “what was such a man doing in the Liberal Democrats?” The Lib Dems are not interested in linguistic or musical standards or England’s heritage. Could it be that homosexuality led the man to take an interest in antinomian political campaigns? There have been plenty of homosexual men whose interest in the English language, classical music and England’s heritage outweighed any inclination to join the sexual revolution (in its political aspects, at least). Other people have been quoted in the newspapers claiming he used to peer into the windows of his tenants’ flats and generally behave like a creep — the details create an extraordinary impression of someone both conservative and sleazy.

Although his friends have stated this man would not have been sexually interested in the woman murdered, I am not sure proof of homosexuality has been advanced to the public. Apparently, the man arrested refused to referee sport at school — and I would have thought many homosexual men would not be averse to spending time with teenage boys in sports kits? The lack of interest in sport is, however, an acknowledged “sign” of homosexuality.

Finally, another concern of mine is that this man was arrested on Thursday morning at 7 a.m., but after a number of extensions will be questioned until Monday before knowing if he will be charged. The first 12-hour extension was granted by a senior police office, the police thereby granting themselves the power to violate the rights of a suspect. The second suspension from Friday to Monday was granted by a magistrate; I wonder what evidence the magistrate required before granting this? This doesn’t mean the man is innocent — please don’t misunderstand this article — but if the police have evidence that he is guilty, he should have been charged in the first 24 hours. Constantly extending the deadline implies they don’t have the evidence they need yet. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this case, I think libertarians would have to oppose holding anyone for longer than 24 hours without charge.

Basically, I like nutty professor types, and will be sorry to see an England shorn of her eccentrics, and am concerned that in many people’s eyes eccentric behaviour is becoming prime facie evidence of criminal guilt. I don’t have any knowledge of the details of the case, but I just hope the police are acting on the basis of real evidence. On the other hand, if he is guilty, throw the book at him!

North Sea Oil


dj

I think investments are on-topic here, as we need a nation of people providing for themselves and not relying on the state. I said earlier (http://libertarianalliance.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/another-masterpiece-by-richard-blake/) that Xcite, an oil company with a prospect in the North Sea, was a good punt.

That was on September 16th, when the price fluctuated between 80.3p a share and 92.5p, where it closed. On December 21st, they announced the result of their oil flow test, which proved the oil, 200 miles to the east of the Shetlands, to be commercial. The price fluctuated between 356p and 431.65p yesterday, closing at 384p. If you invested the day I mentioned it on the LA site – you would have quadrupled your money.

Tips in the newspapers are useless. The FTSE shares do not go up that much – you would get a 5% increase if you were lucky and think you had scored a hit. The AIM market shares are for developing companies and you can easily double your money in a year, even during a recession.

I am not a wealthy person, so I am not “bragging” of success here. My house is very small and cheap, and I may be living in a house that no one else on this blog or in the LA would contemplate living in. So I am not richer than you people here. But I am living cheaply and trying to invest. But I believe in trying to better yourself via investment and have been feeling my way this year.

First, always do your own research. Don’t rely on bulletin board comments or anyone’s recommendations. You need to fully understand the company and what it is doing.

Second, make sure you have a detailed knowledge of upcoming newsflow. You need to know if the company is announcing a drill result in the next week – and possibly consider buying in beforehand. On the other hand, if you invest in a company with good prospects, but no upcoming newsflow for several months, you will just see the stock dive and dive and dive, before eventually making good on your hopes for it.

Third, an investment mistake needs to be recognised immediately. Don’t sit for weeks on a plunging stock. Take the hit and find a better investment.

Fourth, don’t panic over fluctuations in the share price, especially very close to news results. The Xcite share rose to 330p and then plunged to 226p in the week before results, before rising on results to 431.65p (intraday high). You need to decide if the price is being manipulated and, if you still believe in the stock, hold, or sell with an aim of buying back cheaper, if you think it will be possible to do so (but you run the risk of not being able to buy back in).

Fifth, the AIM market is illiquid. You can’t just roll up with £1m and buy shares in Xcite. There are not enough shares being sold for that. You would need to buy in stages, or get a negotiated price with a market maker. You frequently find you can’t sell on a price spike. The price goes up, but the market makers are not accepting your sell offer. Don’t bank on being able to sell £100,000 of stock in one go.

Sixth, be careful how you time your purchases. If the Sunday newspapers tip a share, 8am on Monday is going to be the worst possible time to buy. A lot of people will ask their brokers to buy in on Monday morning, and the price will spike dramatically, before falling back. You will normally find 11am a more better time to buy in, although no hard and fast rules apply. You need to get up at 7am every day to check for news on your shares, as companies can issue Regulatory News Service (RNS) information bulletins from 7am in the morning, and often do so at 7.01am. Alternatively, you can get text messages sent to your mobile phone if one of your companies issues an RNS.

Seventh, try not to give the state money. If you open a SIPP, a self-invested pension, you get tax relief on investments, and any money you make is free of tax. You can’t access the money till you’re 55, when you can take 25% tax-free and draw the rest as a pension. There is a limit of £1.8m on how much you can build up in a SIPP, but you can ask the Inland Revenue for “enhanced protection”, whereby the limit is removed but you can’t put more money in. ISAs are tax-free too, but you can only put £10,100 in a year, although you can let the shares you invest it in build it up as high as you can go. Note: not all shares can be put in an ISA: I know libertarians will agree that the state should not try to tell you what to invest your money in. AIM stocks can’t normally be put in an ISA, unless they are dual-listed on a recognised exchange. In the case of Xcite (XEL:LN), it is listed on Toronto, and so can be put in an ISA.

Broker reports have upgraded their price target for Xcite to £6 a share (compared with the close of £3.84 today), and the company is expected to upgrade its oil in place estimate in Q1, and the target price could go up to £8. The Competent Persons’ Report on their oil reserves, which may double oil in place estimates, is expected to come by the end of January, or in the first quarter, and could see the price hit £6 or more. Xcite are starting production in late 2011, when the share price could (probably will) go into double figures – and that is if the company is not taken over by then. The company has a mechanism in place to prevent hostile takeovers, so any T/O would only be at a good price. Nothing is certain in life, but this share is a probable two-bagger, or three-bagger, in 2011. Note that some analysts, such as those who write the FT Alphaville blog, have egg all over their faces today. They poured scorn on Xcite, only to see the small private investors win here.

Other good prospects:

GKP: Gulf Keystone Petroleum – they have billions of barrels of oil in Kurdistan and only the murky Iraqi politics are holding this share back. The Iraqi government is on the verge of being formed, and this should lead to clarity and the eventual passing of an oil law ratifying the oil contracts given out by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Of course there is a theoretical risk they will expropriate, but the Kurdistan parties in the parliament are insisting on a resolution of the oil question as a price of joining the coalition. This share could treble in price in 2011, and go even higher in 2012.

CNR: Condor Resources – they have silver and gold investments in Nicaragua and El Salvador. If you believe that quantitative easing will boost precious metals, this would be a good punt. They are expected to issue an official upgrade of their reserves imminently, which could put the price in orbit. El Salvador has a moratorium on drilling in place: if that is lifted the orbit of CNR could go stratospheric. Some punters expect this price to treble or sextuple in 2011.

Another silver share that could double in 2011 is Arian Silver Corporation (AGL) – this is one of those that can be put in ISAs.

BLVN: Bowleven – an oil company exploring in Cameroon – a number of newsflow items expected imminently and throughout the first quarter should boost this price.

EO. : Encore Oil – have started a drill in the North Sea and the results are expected ca. January 7th. This company has a number of prospects and is a good long-term hold (but you still need to find a good entry point even into shares that have prospects). This share could be taken over early in 2011… which would be very positive for the share price.

NPE : Nautical Petroleum – also prospecting in the North Sea and expected to rise in 2011.

RKH: Rockhopper – expected to rise in 2011 as they drill more in the Falklands and prepare to start production from their Sealion prospect.

It is very much “caveat emptor”. DES (Desire Petroleum), drilling next to RKH, has caused a storm by announcing an oil discovery, only to say it was only water a couple of days later. A lot of investors lost their shirts on that (which is why spreading investments is a good idea). I personally would not touch DES with a bargepole after that stunt.

Too much buying in and selling out of shares, chasing spikes and the like, can be a waste of money and lose you a lot of money. I recommended Xcite to a friend when it was at 130p, saying it could treble in price. It has trebled in price, but she did not invest until it hit 259p, and kept selling when the price fell and getting back in when the price rose again. Suffice it to say she lost a lot of money, and is now blaming me, despite the fact that the price has trebled as I said I thought it would. Even good shares can lose you money if you play them with stupidity.

Finally, I have to say, if you lose your shirt, don’t complain. Be like the Englishman in Rudyard Kipling’s If, who lost everything on one game of pitch and toss and never breathed a word about his loss!

A Libertarian Approach to Family Values


dj

We live in the era of so-called “women’s rights”. I am not sure that women’s rights could only have been interpreted in a way that has weakened the traditional family. But that is the situation that now obtains in England today. My interest lies not in opposing women’s rights, as far as the latter is a self-sustaining ideological movement and not achieved via state fiat, but rather in the traditional family, and, in particular, in the role that it has in supporting the social fabric.

While I do believe that, ideally, all children should be brought up by parents that are committed to each other and to their children, I don’t see that the state can mandate the traditional family as the sole household arrangement. However, by the same token, it should not be funding the breakdown of the family either. It is simply anti-social for the state to allow single mothers to apply for and get social housing. The result has been an upsurge in the numbers of women who see single parenthood as a career choice.

I should add that I do not agree there should be any social housing available at all. Social housing distorts the property market, and allows large numbers of people to live essentially parasitical lifestyles. The recently leaked US embassy cable referring to the fact that 28% of Muslims present in the UK live in social housing also highlights the fact that social housing is being used to promote the government’s anti-British demographic objectives.

I would like to see all social housing privatised and all levels of government withdraw from housing policy. As a libertarian society would scale down (and ultimately eliminate) social security, one feasible way of withdrawing from social housing and slashing social welfare payments would be to give all present social housing to their present occupants, giving them a safety net in life, but being accompanied by a large cut in social welfare payments too. I would strongly support this in the case where social housing is inhabited by people of British or Irish descent; in other cases, social housing could be sold in job lots to private landlords, thus allowing the state to withdraw from the sector.

This would mean there was no social housing for single mothers—which is how it should be. No single mother should be able to casually assume that the broad mass of the population wished to fund her parasitical lifestyle. But the other aspect of this moral/social question I wish to comment on is relations between the sexes, and in particular the impact on the fathers of the children being brought up by mothers outside wedlock of the mothers’ decisions to proceed with the pregnancies.

While I do not necessarily approve of abortion—and serial abortion as a means of contraception is even more repugnant to me—there is an interesting social question regarding who makes the decision to proceed with an unplanned pregnancy. At present, the decision is 100% the woman’s to make—not unreasonably considering the fact that an operation on her own body would be required to accomplish an abortion—and yet the man is left in the situation where he will be called upon financially for 16 years thereafter if the woman decides to proceed, regardless of whether he wants the child or not.

This is manifestly unjust. The Child Support Agency is also a manifestly unjust organisation that doesn’t even ensure that the monies it garners from the fathers are given to the mothers/families involved. Quite simply, if a man has not entered into a legal agreement to support a woman and any children she bears—and this is the definition of “wedlock”—it is unjust for him to be required to financially support the upbringing of children who do not live with him and whose birth he did not agree to. A thirty-minute liaison after a drunken night out does not create an agreement of lifelong commitment to the woman—or to her future children. While people will say that a man has to honour his responsibilities, he is not involved in the decision whether to proceed with the pregnancy or not. He therefore has no responsibilities in the matter.

Why would any man want to pay for children who don’t live with him and with whose mother he has never entered into any agreement of commitment? A glance at The Jeremy Kyle Show on ITV shows that most working-class men who are interested in their children want the mother and the children as a package—and where he wishes to have a relationship with the woman, but she doesn’t reciprocate, he rarely wants to fund the lifestyles of either the mother or the children. Most of the DNA testing done on that show relates to the idea that a man has a responsibility to fund the upbringing of children who are genetically his, but who he may not even know, or with whom he is allowed only brief and supervised contact, and who are often the results of only a thirty-minute relationship with the mother.

The Child Support Agency should be closed down. Where children are born out of wedlock, and bearing in mind that the mother’s decision to proceed with the pregnancy is final, there should be no legally enforceable obligations on the father. In such circumstances, and given that I support the withdrawal of all benefits to unmarried mothers, the woman could only proceed with the pregnancy had she a private income or where her parents were happy to help to finance the child’s upbringing. The father might be prepared to help out, but given that he was under no moral or legal commitment (i.e., “no bond of wedlock”), it would be his free choice whether to do so or not.

Of course, a decision to proceed with a pregnancy is irrevocable once the child is born. It should be possible for parents who are not married to agree that the pregnancy go ahead, with the man signing a legal contract agreeing to take on the obligation of supporting a child born to a mother to whom he is not married. Such a legal agreement would give a cast-iron guarantee to the mother that she could proceed with the pregnancy and would be able to sue the father for maintenance were he to go back on the agreement. In the absence of such an agreement, she would not be able to look to the father or to the state for help. (Were it later shown via DNA testing that the child was not his, this could create a legal justification for his backing out of the agreement; ultimately, a mother does know if she has been having sex with numerous men and she has to take responsibility for herself too.)

This policy would lead to a large reduction in unmarried motherhood, with positive implications for crime, delinquency, child abuse and the quality of child rearing. It would create a situation of genuine equality between the sexes, which is after all what the rhetoric surrounding women’s rights is all about.