THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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March 2009

Food to blame for 100% of our crimes

'Cocaine to blame for 41% of our crimes' | Metro.co.uk.

Statistics are a dangerous thing.

Greater Manchester Police drug-tested 1,000 people arrested for violent offences in the seven month period to March last year.

Half tested positive for drugs and of these, 86% tested positive for cocaine.

Had they tested them for food, I am quietly confident that 100% would have eaten some in the previous 24 hours. Oh, and I think half of 86% is 43%, not 41%. Maybe the journalist has been using?


Ricky Tomlinson fights to clear his name

TV star Ricky Tomlinson fights to clear his name - The Scotsman.

Oh, the vanity of "celebrity." If he didn't keep bringing it up, I fear no-one would remember the viciousness of the picketing in that long-ago strike. As I understand it, Mr Tomlinson denies the violence occurred, rather than that saying it was perpetrated by someone else. That it occurred, I can testify from personal experience. As to whether the particular ignorant scouse thug leading the pickets on the day the scales fell from my young Marxist eyes was Mr Tomlinson, I sadly could not say. A jury of his peers convicted him, however. I suggest he shuts up and enjoys the success his modest talent as an actor has given him.


A clean slate

I was driving down to Cannes last Monday with a client and friend. He's a qualified lawyer but is no longer practising. En route, we played an interesting mind game. We asked ourselves, if every English statute were repealed, how many (or rather how few) Acts of Parliament we would need to make a functioning civilised society. We started by trying to limit ourselves to 10 statutes, but could not actually come up with more than 6!

England & Wales is an unusual jurisdiction. If you abolished all the statutes you would still, thanks to the English Common Law, have a functioning system. There is even an argument to say that - given time - the judges would close the gaps our statutes would fill. But the "game" required that everything worked on day 1 of the new regime. So here is our list. I am interested to know what you think about it and - in particular - how your list would differ:-

  1. The Limitation of the State Act (LSA)
  2. The Artificial Legal Personalities Act (ALP)
  3. The Representation of the People Act (RPA)
  4. The Armed Forces Act (AFA)
  5. The Taxation Act (TA)
  6. The Citizenship Act (CA)

Let me begin with the LSA. This would set the boundaries of state power and would amount to the "Constitution" of our new state.

The UK currently has a constitution, but it is neither unified nor entrenched. It is scattered across various documents, and can be changed at any time by a simple majority in Parliament. For most of our history, that didn't seem to matter. The struggle to establish Parliamentary sovereignty was the key story and much of our constitution (beginning with Magna Carta) was about limiting the power of the King. Having achieved that, we seem to have settled into a sort of smug constitutional complacency, relying on Parliament always to act as the protector of the peoples' rights. That seems to have gone awry of late, mainly (in my view) because political parties have subverted the constitution by selecting parliamentary candidates for their willingness to submit to discipline and then controlling them ruthlessly via the Whips. This means that the executive controls the legislature and can dictate its behaviour.

The LSA would mandate (for the first time in the UK) the separation of powers between the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Rather than drawing the executive from Parliament, any MP appointed as a Minister would have to resign and be replaced. Likewise, no judge could be a member of the Executive or the Legislature.

The LSA would also prevent the State from playing any direct role in health care or education. Neither of us favoured it being involved even in compulsory systems of health insurance, for example, but we had to accept that we are far more radical than most of our fellow citizens. Therefore we limited ourselves to prohibiting the state from employing anyone other than civil servants engaged directly in administration of the government and its agencies, plus the military and police forces. We toyed with the idea of excluding all government employees from voting (on the basis that they have a clear conflict of interest with taxpayers) but there are so many of them that the chance of ever enacting such a restriction is low.

The LSA would clearly demarcate the roles of the central and local governments. It would limit the number of layers of the state. There would be Assemblies for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland which would sit separately to legislate on devolved matters and together as the Upper House (which is a nice economy measure). The LSA would be entrenched legislation, which could only be changed by a majority in the Lower House and in each of the four National Assemblies. It would also outlaw secondary or "enabling" legislation, whereby the legislature delegates the power to make law. It would have little if anything to say about local government, because we envisage a system where local authorities would compete with each other for residents, both on local taxation and the absence of restrictive local rules.

In subsequent posts, I will describe the other five statutes in our imaginary system.


Tolerance vs approval; education vs indoctrination

- Bishop Hill blog - Clause 28 revisited.

What can one say about the proposal to prosecute parents who keep their children from school during LGBT History Month? Bishop Hill, in the linked article, wonders;

...if Cameron's Cuddly Conservatives have actually got the balls to bring Clause 28 in again...

The answer to that is "stop wondering." Of course they haven't. Nor do I think they should. These are matters unmeet for punishment and legislators should keep their noses out. Sexual ethics (like all moral questions) are best left to families, civil society and the remaining fragments of the churches. Nor do I agree with Bishop Hill's commenter, Tristan, who suggests it's unwise to raise this issue in;

...an area with a high muslim population and a high white working class population, both groups not generally noted for their tolerance of homosexuality...

I don't claim to speak for Muslims. I have only one Muslim friend and I can't say his religion much influences his life. I don't think gays bother him though. Yes, the Koran is as trenchant on the subject as the Bible. It's clear that Allah and Jehovah both abominate homosexuals, but few of their followers seem to care quite as much as They do. And the ones who do care are usually people one would not much miss from one's social circle. I have seen my Muslim friend behaving affably around people who must have been pinging even the most rudimentary gaydar.

Lgbt As for the white working class, however, I venture confidently to say they are generally pretty tolerant. At the risk of offending my feminist readers, I would go so far as to suggest that the attitude of most straight working class males is "..all the more women for us..." For that matter, working class women seem to value their gay friends as much as anyone else. Mrs P. trendily had one as a girl in the 70s. He plotted with her the tender trap into which I fell so willingly all those years ago. Everyone knew he was gay. I dare say he took some ribbing (though not nearly as much as I did for aspiring to be an intellectual). The truth was that nobody gave a damn - quite rightly so.

Tolerance, however, is not what the ruling classes now want. They want positive approval, or at least they want - in token of their power - total submission to the idea of approval. I suspect that heterosexual attitudes to gay sex mirror fairly accurately homosexual attitudes to straight sex. "Eugh", pretty much sums it up, in both cases, which seems fair enough to me. Human sexual desire is rich in the variety of its expression and "eugh" may well be our reaction to many sexual practices of which we are nonetheless completely tolerant. Tolerance is necessary for civilised society. Approval is not. Why would a healthy person even need such approval? If I am not seeking to interfere in what you do, why would you raise it with me and demand that I endorse it? It seems impolite, to say the least, if not impertinent.

Bishop Hill is on the money, however, when he speaks of the motivation of the educators;

Children, they believe should be taught to think like bureaucrats, which is to say rarely, uncreatively and only in a progessive, left wing manner.

He is right. This discussion is not about sexual ethics. It is about power. The British State believes that it is the proper fount of moral values. Leaving aside the ethics of that for now, let's be practical. Nothing in history suggests that such a tainted source can be trusted.

Mrs P., her sister and I were discussing the tragedy of British education as we drove back from lunch today, passing one of our old schools in the process. This weekend we are in the area where all three of us grew up - far far behind Labour lines in the North. We were feeling sorry for the many thousands of children, just such as we once were, currently being denied the chance to enjoy their lives to the full by defective local schools. This story came up in the course of that discussion as failing our personal litmus test for education. Done properly, we agreed, education is not about being taught what to think, but how to think. When schools and education authorities try to do do the former, they will generally do more harm than good.


Gordon Brown is wrong

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Bank of England gambles on printing extra money - Telegraph.

There is not enough money in Britain for the state to do everything it has promised. Rather than admit it has promised too much, Labour is making some more money. Literally. Socialists have never really understood the concept of wealth creation, have they? But at least Gordon Brown's predecessors understood that if wealth creation were as easy as printing more money, every nation would be rich.

Sadly, that's still not how it works. Right now, however, Labour's only alternative would be to face reality. If it doesn't run the Bank of England's printing presses, it would have to admit that the party's over (and probably the Party too) by cutting public spending. When it comes down to it, the simple truth is that "Prudence" Brown cares more about bribing his payroll voters, than he does about Britain's economy.


Gordon Brown is right

Full text: Gordon Brown's speech to US Congress | World news | guardian.co.uk.

His address to Congress was utterly cringe-worthy, but by far the worst moment for me was when the Democrats sat on their hands during his passage against protectionism. Though they politely gave him standing ovations for the merest platitudes, they showed their true economic colours at that point.

So should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us that, in the end, protects no one? No, we should have the confidence that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us.

The rhetoric is ridiculous. "The future" will be the product of our interactions and unpredictable circumstance. It will no more "work" for us, than it will sit like a pile of bricks waiting for "us" to "build" it. But he is right that protectionism protects no-one. Indeed it damages everyone.

British+PM+Addresses+Joint+Session+Congress+0-pxT8ZJEx8l Every economic transaction happens (if not forced or distorted by the state or other monopoly or cartel) because both parties believe they benefit. Both parties to each such transaction will not always be right. Often one of them will be wrong and will regret it. Indeed, as the current unpleasantness proves, they may sometimes both be wrong. But - on average - they are better judges of their own affairs than any regulator or other potentate. If the history of the 20th Century teaches us anything other than the usual lesson that mankind in the collective is murderously vile, it is that the sum total of those individual judgements tends to greater economic success than state direction of trade - whether inside or across state borders.

My flesh creeps that the Democrats know so little economic history that they are prepared to buy short term popularity by making not merely empty, but deadly, protectionist gestures. Their pork barrel politics and pandering to economic illiteracy will cause poverty, hunger and death around the world. But they are going to do it anyway. By their silence yesterday, they removed any lingering doubt of that.

Mrs P. dryly observed that the Americans will not believe Gordon Brown was serious. They will assume, she said, that Britain doesn't want protectionism because it has nothing left to protect. She might be right, but that doesn't make the Prime Minister - on this rare occasion - less so.