THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Previous month:
February 2010
Next month:
April 2010

March 2010

We are all Russians today

Female suicide bombers kill 37 in Moscow metro | World | Reuters.

I am waiting for news* and desperately hoping none of my Russian colleagues is among the innocents murdered today in Moscow. No cause justifies such actions. As a nation that endured a terror campaign for decades, we British should sympathise with the Russians today. At least let's conduct ourselves better in this respect than our own so-called "friends and allies" who funded, armed and/or gave political asylum to IRA murderers. Murderers some of whom are now in high office to the satisfaction of those "friends" and to our eternal shame. I hope and believe Russia can do better. I certainly expect no Russian ever to have to endure the humiliation I feel when I see the triumphant, evil faces of McGuinness and Adams.

Our own authorities prefer puritanical meddling in our everyday lives to resolute enforcement of the few laws that really matter, but we can hope for better in Russia. Their politicians may be among the worst of that bad bunch known as statists, but they may be relied upon to get this job done. Having lived 6 years in Moscow, I am also sure they will get on with it without inflicting pointless "security theatre" on decent people or parking tanks at airports as PR stunts. They will act, not spin.

You would not expect a libertarian to admire the KGB's successor agency, the FSB. You would be right. But today this libertarian wishes its agents good hunting.

*Now received. Our people are ok.

The end of days?

Intercepting mail is worthy of the Stasi | Henry Porter | Comment is free |

If the polls are to be believed, a lethal proportion of our fellow-citizens remains willing to vote Labour in a few weeks time. This, despite all the evidence of the terrible damage that Labour has wrought.

Labour has lost our AAA credit rating. The agencies haven't announced it yet, presumably so as not to seem political. But bankers of my acquaintance are in no doubt it will happen. They are already re-pricing the nation's debt on that assumption and the epic costs of servicing it will soon rise. Britain has dropped in every international economic ranking. Yet Labour is winning the economic argument. It is winning it with the Keynesian idea that the government should prime the pumps with public money during a recession. That's a respectable argument (even if I don't buy it). What's not respectable is that no-one is pointing out that the pumps should be primed from tanks filled with reserves during the good times. Labour ran those tanks dry years ago. They can't be blamed for a global recession. They must be blamed for that lack of prudence. Why can't the charmless Gideon Osborne and his soigné chum Dave make that simple point?

In fairness, how can they reason with an electorate that believes government can "put money into" the economy? From which other economy do Labour voters think it gets that money? Do they think Alistair Darling leads parties of rievers during the night to raid the Banque de France? Do they imagine he has a stargate in Number 11 through which he runs convoys of trans-dimensional space freighters? Yes, I know he can print more money. He can and by God he has. But currency only represents value, it has no intrinsic worth. Bank notes (and numbers in bank accounts preceded by a "£" sign) are just tokens, like casino chips. They have precisely as much value, in aggregate, as exists in the economy. Stealing one players chips and giving them to another doesn't help. Making more chips doesn't help. Real value has to be earned.

As so often, the wisest words ever written by a Jewish teenager in Queens spring to mind;

"...a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest..."

The British population is not, on average, stupid or insane. It is however in deep denial. It cannot face an economic truth quite so horrific. Perhaps voting for the agents of economic apocalypse is psychologically the very best way of denying it's happening? God knows.

Yet the economy is by no means the worst of it. After all, no Labour government ever left the economy better than it found it. How could it? Labour hates wealth creation. Its puritanical creed revolves around the chastisement of the men and women who do it. It is not, and it has never been, more than the ideologicalisation of Envy. Perhaps the best way to counter it would be to found a political party based on another of the Seven Deadly Sins? Lust might give them a run for their money.

No, the worst of this government's works has been its sustained onslaught on liberty. Labour voters have always envied the distant rich but despised the predatory criminals near at hand. They have always hated their more productive fellow citizens, but loved their nation. The working classes of Britain, unlike Labour ideologues, are criminal-hating patriots; a.k.a. Tories. That was the electoral flaw Mandelson, Brown and Campbell sought to mask when they made "New Labour" - and put up a chirpy, charming, clueless public schoolboy to front it.

They are personally as fond of economic excuses for crime as any Labour intellectual. I am sure they despise our nation as much as, if not more than most of their crew. But they cynically decided to manipulate perceptions in order to counter the long-standing (and accurate) impression of Labour as unpatriotic and weak. They did it very well.

"Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime"

...was a clever slogan. The second part expresses Labour's insulting belief that we are mere automata of social forces; that exposed to economic hardship any of us will become a predator and a parasite. The faithful heard that part, but the politically-inattentive voters caught only the first three -surprising- words. The party's conduct toward criminals is unchanged. If stupid enough to get caught, they are briefly coddled, equipped with psycho-babble to baffle the next investigating officer, and sent on their merry way to undermine property rights and demoralise the prudent. All on state benefits, of course. John Gotti had implausibly to pretend to be  a plumber to explain how he earned his bread. All Britain's criminals have "the social" as a front (and as a start-up grant when they embark on their careers).

Gordon Stasi2 So, instead, Labour has expressed its "toughness" by criminalising thousands of new activities. it has expressed its "toughness" by demanding the population pays a heavy price to defeat crime by sacrificing those irritating freedoms that Labour always hated. The very freedoms that (it deludes itself) prevented previous Labour governments from achieving the victory of socialism. Their CCTV cameras don't work half the time. Those that do produce grainy useless images and have not reduced crime at all. But that's not what they are for. They are to accustom you to state surveillance. The scanners that strip you naked at the airport are no proof against crime neither. They are merely the outward and visible sign of your submission to state power. How ironic that Muslims, the name of whose religion means "submission" are the ones  refusing to submit.

Henry Porter (who is far too good to work for The Guardian and really needs an honest job) says it all in the linked piece. Referring to the imminent changes in the law to permit the Revenue to open your mail without permission, he says;

Years ago I found myself in a dismal room at the Stasi headquarters in the East German town of Leipzig and saw the piles of opened mail left by Stasi officers when the Berlin Wall came down. There was a pulping machine, adapted from a piece of agricultural machinery, which had been hastily used to destroy the evidence of the massive programme of interception. It was an impressive sight and to me a lasting symbol of the East German dictatorship.

Quite, Henry. Perhaps it's time for you - and any others not completely lost to humanity among the Guardian's employees - to acknowledge what your Labour Party has become.

Perhaps it's also time to take heart from that dismal story. The greatest event of our lives was symbolised by the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Stasi did not endure. Socialism failed as it always must. Every decent human yearns to be free. While we may be fooled for a while by "big ideas" that promise us "social" benefits from individual oppression, in the end economic murder will out. But not just yet, it seems.

BA commits suicide slowly / UK / Business - Union warns BA of fresh strike action.

BA has been on my "no fly" list for some years, because of its unique combination of surly service by dowdy staff in shabby aeroplanes from dirty terminals. It is a sort of airborne metaphor for modern Britain.

However its management won brownie points with me today. I glumly realised when I checked my tickets that the first leg of my journey home was with the stricken national carrier. The usual glossy bilge on its website has been replaced with a fast, simple page into which you type your flight number for instant information. Given the pasting their servers must be taking, this was one point to BA management. They earned another because they had transferred the job of transporting me to Paris to FlyBe, a budget operator. I am dreading the unaccustomed in-flight experience, but at least I am flying. Well done BA, the successful strike-breakers.

FlyBe certainly made no effort to steal me as a customer. Perhaps that was part of the deal? The blonde muppet behind the desk had a voice that could only be accounted for by the inhalation of helium. Her make up was heavy enough to cause structural damage to her slight teenage limbs. Her gaze was hand blown in Murano. Despite my cheery explanation of my travel plans, she checked my bags only to Paris. I spotted this and reminded her to check them through to Shanghai. She said that wasn't possible - and hit the button. I held the bags back to stop them disappearing and trotted off to reason with "customer service".

As you know, dear reader, any organisation which regards "customer service" as something reserved to a specialised unit is in trouble. After all, if not to serve its customers, what are all the other employees for?

After a little "reasoning" with the "customer servants", my bags are Shanghai-bound. However FlyBe's entente with Air France is insufficiently cordial to allow it to issue a boarding pass for the next leg. I shall have to check in again at Charles de Gaulle. Not to worry. I set off to relax in the BA Lounge (and get at least some value for my Business Class ticket). The BA lady guarding the dark empty space banished me, pointing to my FlyBe ticket. Was she secretly atoning for her decision to scab? Perhaps. I mentally deducted one brownie point for needlessly squandering my goodwill.

BA may not survive this strike. Despite its management's valiant efforts it doesn't really deserve to. If it wanted to win me back, it would need to take the rare legal opportunity offered by the strike to purge its ground and cabin crews. Even the UK's employment laws permit this, as long as all strikers are fired without exception. But why would it need to pick and choose? The strikers have self-selected themselves as the least desirable employees.

Go for it, guys. There are more points to play for.

My Birthday in Cannes last week

Birthday20103Birthday20102 Birthday20101 Your humble blogger was off the 'net for most of last week, as there was no connection in the apartment where I stayed while attending the MIPIM real estate fair in Cannes. The batteries on my iPhones barely coped with the requirements of work in such a hectic environment and I was getting home too late to blog anyway.

This was a good chance, amidst all the business development, to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. My birthday often coincides with MIPIM and my friends and colleagues from Russia made sure the celebration was a good one this year.

As I am on a diet, I am reduced to "food-blogging" a superb millefeuille birthday cake I couldn't actually eat. This is my favourite dessert and the Restaurant de Bacon in Cap d'Antibes (my favourite restaurant in the world) makes one you will find hard to surpass anywhere. Don't worry, Welshcakes. I am not going into competition with you.

I received several marvellous gifts (though my friends' company was the best gift of all). Of note was a magnificent bottle of Armagnac of the same vintage as myself, which will be saved for a special occasion. What a thoughtful gift too! Surrounded as I was by young, glamorous Russians, it was good to know I wasn't the oldest thing at the table.

The pictured car sadly does not belong to me or any of my friends. It just provided a nice moment in the day when I encountered it parked on La Croisette (the main drag in Cannes). Can anyone identify it?

Blogging will be light for the next couple of days as I will be in transit back to Shanghai.

A new forum for Liberty?

Liberty Network - Uniting Libertarians in the UK.

Well done Max Andronichuk for setting this up and good luck to all participants. If you are interested in a space to discuss libertarian issues with others of like mind, by all means get over there and join. There is plenty to talk about.

I only hope the new forum avoids the factionalism that tends to afflict minority viewpoints untrammelled by immediate hopes of office. Libertarians have a long road to travel if they are ever to regain the majority position they enjoyed when the sturdy, stubborn yeoman was the unconscious mental model of most Britons. Or even the more fragile majority they quite recently enjoyed when the Conservative, Liberal and even (in many respects) Labour parties respected the primacy of individual choice. I hope discussions will be focussed on how to travel that road as quickly as possible.

Too many millions now depend on the state in Britain to be easily persuaded to another view. They are far, far too afraid to let go of Nurse. But persuasion is ultimately the only way. And nothing is less persuasive than ideological introversion.

Back to work

Crans Montana1My delightful break is over. Today, I shall see Mrs P onto her plane back to the UK at Geneva airport and head off to Cannes for work.

At the weekend, she and and I were able to enjoy such views as these courtesy of our gracious hosts who are lucky enough to live - in very considerable style - in Crans Montana.

Skiiing is not our thing (your blogger's limbs are too long and his centre of gravity too high) but yesterday we lunched at the top of the piste and drank in the pure mountain air among the bizarrely clad aficionados. Skiing and golf both seem to involve abandoning all sartorial sense. I wonder why?

Ah well. Back to reality.