THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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April 2010

No need to blog today...

underdogs bite upwards: When God flicked his cigarette....

Why bother when Leg-iron is on such form over at underdogs bite upwards? Here he is on the cowardice of the past few days. Observing that planes flew when scare-mongers (yes, we had them then but we laughed at them) told us the world was ending during the 1980 Mount Saint Helens eruption, he writes:

Under the dreadful yoke of the current herd mentality, the South and North poles would still be marked as 'here there be dragons' because nobody would be permitted to go there. Yuri Gagarin would have been sectioned for instability - you want to do what? Sit on top of a huge firework in a little tin box and be shot into space? Madness!

The Wright Brothers would have been arrested for endangering themselves. Edison would have been imprisoned for trying to get people to buy a thin glass bulb with a vacuum inside, and then run a high voltage through it. Tesla would have been shot for the safety of the herd because he did some wonderfully wild stuff. Henry Ford would have been ordered to take the engine out of that Model T and tie a horse to it instead.

People traveling on rails behind something that runs on high pressure steam? Insanity! Gas running through pipes right into people's homes? Oh, the risk! A coal fire - indoors? A bridge over the river? What if it falls down? Safer to go around. Better yet, safer to stay here. It might be dangerous over there.

What if, what if, what if. Once that little phrase led to great things. What if lightning could be harnessed? What if we refined that black oil and made an engine that ran on it? What if we were to build a rocket that could take men to the Moon and back again? What if we ignore that 'edge of the world' stuff and just keep on sailing? Let's try it and see what happens.

Now it is completely reversed. What if someone electrocuted themselves? What if that engine caught fire? What if the rocket couldn't get back? What if the edge of the world is real?

Vintage stuff - and how very true. Every time I read the news today, I hear my grandfather's rich snort of contempt in my mind's ear. The West is dwindling. A small sign of that is that thinkers like Leg-iron languish in obscurity, while cowardly moral defectives compete for the stealing/wasting your money concession for the next five years.

Turkey/Christmas interface

Labour has politicised the management of the police and subverted the charitable sector to its political ends. Want evidence? You can find it here and here (both in Labour's Pravda of course).

Public servants should stay out of politics. Elections are for them just like a board meeting where directors with a personal financial interest in the outcome are not permitted to vote. The senior police commanders who "are said to be" against the Conservatives' plan to introduce elected police chiefs have no right to tell their true employers (the taxpayers) how they should go about appointing them. Their opposition to the proposed change suggests only that they know perfectly well that the people they are supposed to serve despise them. Fair enough. The feeling seems perfectly mutual. Sir Paul Stephenson arrogantly remarks:

I could not work in a system where I could be told how to deliver policing

Well, not by the people at any rate. He and his colleagues seem to have taken their orders from Labour well enough - even to the extent of allowing their officers to quiz people who make Freedom of Information requests about their political affiliations and any heretical views they might hold on Anthropogenic Global Warming. The President of the Police Superintendents' Association feels that public confidence in the police;

should not be jeopardised for political ideology

I agree with him, but that horse has bolted. Britain's senior policeman have positioned themselves as the paramilitary wing of New Labour and have lost the public's confidence by their embrace of "political ideology." The only way to restore the confidence of the public may well be to disintermediate police command and control; to cut out the party politicians by direct election of chief constables. Who knows? We may even get some guys like this one! I would worry about that until all but the crimes that existed in some form under Common Law were abolished, but I'd prefer him as my local police chief to any sociology graduate.

The "former charity leaders" whose opinion, it is said (by the Grauniad at least), "reflects the views of many now working in the field" should be silent too. If they are mouthpieces, as suggested, for their former colleagues then they are conspiring to circumvent the law which restricts charity workers from making party political points during election campaigns. Given Labour's entryism in the charitable sector, it would not be at all surprising if they were doing so on party political orders.

Those who have risen under New Labour are as keen to see it fall as were the apparatchiks of the Smith regime in Rhodesia or Erich Honecker's DDR. Their support for the hand that has fed them (and turned them against the people they should serve) tells us nothing new.

Cameron automated. Isn't tech marvelous?

Who has David Cameron been talking to?.

What a useful public service. Just refresh the linked page to get anecdote after Cameron anecdote and all about as accurate as the original. (h/t Crazy Elmont) Now you don't need to watch the next debate.

Too negative a view? Well it is the weekend and I have been listening to my favourite modern country band. Here's one of their songs to cheer you up

All the parties have campaign songs these days. Why shouldn't the voters have one too?

A businessman writes... / Columnists / Luke Johnson - Why I have signed up to political change.

Business in Britain has played along with Labour. It has had little choice as more and more of the economy came under state control. Many businesses developed a strategy of "liberating" as much money as they could from the Treasury by selling the Simple Shopper (© Wat Tyler) goods and services. But the love affair (if such an abusive relationship can be characterised as such) is over.

Luke Johnson's piece in the FT yesterday is damning:

Britain has suffered 13 years of Labour rule, and the country is in a desperate state. It is like a company slithering towards bankruptcy. And, like any business that has to be turned round, there is one absolute rule to fix the mess: change the management. If there is no transformation at the top, then I fear we could become a bigger version of Argentina in 2001.

It is hard to comprehend how much damage Labour has done to our economic prospects ... The most damning statistic is the following: the state’s percentage of gross domestic product in Britain has risen from about 38 per cent in 1997 to perhaps 52 per cent today. Funding this vast amount of public largesse means the UK borrows 25 per cent of all its state spending. Clearly the country is living beyond its means.

We bloggers have been saying so for a while, Luke. We have also been saying this;

This expenditure is significantly funded by foreign buyers of UK government bonds. They can see that this deficit is unsustainable. Sterling’s weakness on foreign exchanges in the past 24 months testifies to international concerns about our economic prospects. If investors are not convinced that serious austerity measures are in train, then they will demand a higher coupon on any British debt they buy. And the one thing Britain cannot afford is higher interest rates.

The UK has huge amounts of debt: household, corporate and government – much of it floating. Only ultra-low interest rates are keeping the economy alive. If base rates were to rise from the current 0.5 per cent to still modest levels of 4 per cent, then consumer spending would plummet and thousands more companies go bust. Unemployment would soar and tax receipts would drop sharply. We would enter a severe, second recession, and living standards as a whole would fall.

Finally, we have also been saying this (and have been called wingnuts for our trouble):

Labour is an entirely fraudulent organisation that pretends to believe in business, then buries it in bureaucracy and tax. Five more years of Gordon Brown would leave Britain an economic wasteland.

If it hasn't already, dear chap. So business has caught up with the blogosphere. About time too.

Andrew Neil slays the Devil

The Devil's Knife: The Devil is dead....

The Devil's Kitchen blog became part of my life in recent years. DK's elegant, foul-mouthed rants were often hilarious . He said things I would never say and conjured images I found quite disturbing at times but always with wit and a sense of underlying humanity. It's hard to explain why such foul-mouthed writing was entertaining, when most sweary sorts are obnoxious. I guess he's just really good at it. What a shame he feels he has to stop.

On the other hand, my only reservation about him as leader of the Libertarian Party was that, whenever we had any media coverage, journalists were bound to focus more on the torments he had vividly imagined for the (richly deserving) Polly Toynbee, than the party's policies. I am not sure this will help. The internet is not as ephemeral as it seems, but it's worth a try. What a shame it will go down as a "scalp" for the already full-of-himself Andrew Neil.

DK writes well, thinks clearly and will be worth a read anyway. The only question now is will he still be funny?

I was wrong?

I recently blogged that "In the General Election campaign, no mainstream party is talking about debt reduction." Today I read the new Conservative manifesto and there, on the first page, are these words:

Today the challenges facing Britain are immense. Our economy is overwhelmed by debt, our social fabric is frayed and our political system has betrayed the people.

On the face of it, I was wrong. Or was I? Let me begin by saying that I want to be wrong. Nothing would please me more (apart from a massive swing to the Libertarians) than for a party with some chance of winning to address the crippling national debt incurred by Labour.

I like the style of the manifesto. It's clean. It's business like. It's in plain English without being too condescending. It pushes many of my political buttons, peppered as it is with references to what the State cannot do, and to the importance of action by individuals and communities. The illustrations are well done, stylish and even occasionally informative. It's a good piece of work and contrasts well (as it needed to) with the Soviet style of Labour's desperate effort. If an election were a manifesto contest, the Tories would deserve a landslide.

I cannot now accuse Cameron of dodging an unpopular issue. But what do the Conservatives propose to do about it? Well to begin with, a much-needed change in the philosophical approach to government in Britain:

...the change we offer is from big government to Big Society...

They could hardly go further in refuting the idea attributed by leftists to Thatcher that "there is no such thing as society." There is, apparently, and the Tories want it to be bigger. But that's going to take two terms to achieve. In the meantime, there is little choice but to swallow Labour's political poison pill by radically scaling down the state bodies that employ so many voters.

As things stand, the costs of life's necessities (food, clothing and shelter) are so high in Britain that in most households it takes two wages to pay for them; especially given the high proportion of income which now goes in tax (and of net income that is absorbed by VAT etc.). So who is going to do the volunteering? Not young people with families, that's for sure. If the Conservatives can drive down taxes and other elements of the cost of living, then the Big Society becomes plausible. Until then, it's fol-de-rol.

Labour has done structural damage to the economy. The State's employees and other dependants may be the only people with the leisure to man Cameron's "Big Society" and - by definition - they are pretty unlikely to be Conservatives.

The manifesto's objectives (e.g. the benchmarks for change in the "Economy" section are great, but there's little explanation of how to meet them. It says the Tories;

...will cut wasteful government spending to bring the deficit down and restore stability

It also says;

We will provide an emergency Budget within 50 days of taking office to set out a credible plan for eliminating the bulk of the structural current budget deficit over a Parliament. 

I am prepared to believe there were billions of pounds wasted under Labour, but I doubt the necessary savings can be achieved by doing what Labour did more efficiently. Even if they could, "..eliminating the bulk"..." of the budget deficit, still leaves us sliding further into debt.

If the cuts are drawn out too long, there will be little or no "feelgood" in the Conservatives' first term. With the constant whining that can be expected about "Tory cuts" a second term is not going to be easy. The best chance of re-election after painful measures is if people can already see good results. Pain, after all, is not the objective!

Worryingly, there are even pledges to create new government agencies (e.g. to give free advice on debt management). If Cameron is just going to wear a different uniform while steering the same ship of state, nothing good will come of it - especially if he's adding even more superstructure to a vessel that's already unseaworthy.

Only together can we can get rid of this government and, eventually, its debt.

...says Cameron in his introduction. He's not wrong. But are the Conservatives really able to get the government out of our way to make that happen? Or will the first sad story of life being "unfair" have the enemies of freedom (never much inclined to act themselves nor organise their communities to do so) demanding that the government "do something"? And, if the story is sad enough, will David Cameron and his colleagues have the strength to refuse?

The true scale of our problem

Map Of The Day: Awesome Visualization Of Global Debt Levels.


(click to enlarge)

In the General Election campaign, no mainstream party is talking about debt reduction. They only speak (unconvincingly) of reducing the deficit (i.e. the rate at which we are going into debt). We are falling off a cliff and they are debating whether to spread our limbs to try to slow the descent.

This graphic from Business Insider shows the countries of the word resized according to national debt as a percentage of GDP. Only if nostalgic for the days when Mark Twain could have Tom Sawyer tell Huck Finn;

Why, look at England. It's the most important country in the world; and yet you could put it in China's vest-pocket; and not only that, but you'd have the dickens's own time to find it again the next time you wanted it.

could anyone enjoy the size of our small islands on that map. More than anything else, it reminds me of a long ago graphic showing the parts of the male body resized according to how conscious men were of them. You can imagine what part that makes Britain.

Politicians think they can't speak of the biggest issue facing us without slumping in the polls. They think the people don't know (or want to know) that they are close to beggary. That's cowardice to the point of treachery. Labour, the Conservatives and even the Liberal Democrats (who could speak all the truth they liked without affecting their chances) are effectively waiting for the problem to escalate until the markets refuse to lend. Their plan then is to side with those fools who curse the bailiff's men for the consequences of their own profligacy.

Edifying, isn't it?

h/t The UK News Network

Todays' test

Top comprehensives 'more socially exclusive than grammar schools' | Education | The Guardian.

1. An actual lottery is a fairer way of choosing which school a child attends than the lottery of which family it is born into. Discuss.

2. Parents who care about their children's education will, if their few choices are removed be:-
a) Happier
b) Less happy
c) Ready to hang left-wing educationalists from the nearest lamp-post

3. Parents who don't care about their children's education will, if they are sent to a better school than they might themselves have chosen:-
a) Give a flying ****
b) Not give a flying ****

4. Removal of parental choice will affect under performing head teachers as follows:
a) increase pressure
b) decrease pressure
c) make no difference as they are tenured placemen at no risk of dismissal

5. That there are so many sink schools with poor academic records and disruptive pupil behaviours is the fault of:
a) Left-wing educationalists
b) Left-wing educationalists
c) Left-wing educationalists

6. The independent University of Buckingham has:-
a) Been infiltrated by left-wing educationalists
b) Preserved its reputation for independent thought
c) Lost all credibility as a provider of education worth paying for

We will trust them when they deserve it.

Society needs institutional anchorage | Antony Lerman | Comment is free |

Antony Lerman's conclusion that politicians must "empower" citizens is somewhat irritating. From where, if not from us, does he think he they derive their powers? If they want to "empower" us, why don't they simply stop taking power from us?  We don't need them to "empower" us but to stop disempowering us!

Lerman tells us public institutions have lost our trust. He is right. Infuriatingly he seems to think it's our fault. Researchers at Cambridge University, he says, have found a correlation between public happiness and trust in public institutions. That makes perfect sense. To a rational person it's obvious that people would be happier if their institutions prove generally worthy of trust. Only a Guardianista could twist that to mean we would be happier if only we were more gullible.

In the New Labour era, the institutions of the British State have involved themselves in every aspect of our lives. Not happy merely to administer public services and protect us from force and fraud, they decided they were there not to serve but to rule. They told us how to think, what to eat, what to drink, how to work and where to smoke.  They have subverted beloved charities, turning them into tools of state power. They have even tried to modify the very nature of our beast; eliminating the hunter from the hunter gatherer beneath our modern veneer. What fool, having lived through all that, could seriously say it is our fault that we do not trust our public institutions?

He sneers at the Catholic Church as an outdated institution but he is as devout as the simplest parishioner when it comes to his own loyalties. Just as some churchmen seem annoyed with victims of child abuse for damaging the Church's name, so Lerman seems to resent our response to the incompetence, dishonesty and corruption of the Blair/Brown era.  Lerman's ilk gleefully broke down the old loyalties to "God, Queen and Country." They sneered at the simplicity of those who felt them. Now it seems they did not seek to replace them with rationality. They just wanted to substitute blind loyalty to new institutions of their making.

If the British State wants respect, let it earn it. It can begin by acknowledging our mastery. Let our servants not speak as if they were rulers. Let them not speak of our money - hard earned by our honest endeavours - as if it were their own. Let's hear no more of money "taken out of" or "put into" the economy, for "the economy" is all our budgets, not just the State's. Let our MPs caught with their hands in the till stop speaking ruefully of being scapegoats. Let them embrace their servitude with joy and treat their masters with the deference we deserve; not just at election time neither.

Lerman writes that we rely on institutions:
"...not just to manage the functions of society they cannot organise on their own, but also to give meaning to our lives..."
If he truly thinks that, he is a damn fool and a pitiful apology for a human being. The meaning in our lives comes from the joy of deploying our talents to make us independent; from looking after the people we love; from caring for families and delighting in the company of friends; from the free exercise of such creativity as we are lucky enough to have - whether in fine arts or cookery or just in telling a good story to amuse a friend. it comes from being fully human, which is to say fully free. He goes on;
Institutions must arise out of responsibility and generosity. Sometimes they seem to be part of a war against what politicians see as the worst individualist instincts of the people. In these circumstances, the legitimation of institutions, which Jürgen Habermas argues means citizens' sense that the institutions within which they live are just, benevolent, in their best interest, and deserving of their support, loyalty, and adherence, will constantly be problematic.

See that? It's not trust itself that's important; genuine trust earned by honest performance. No, it's a "sense that the institutions ... are benevolent"  - and to hell with whether it's true. Well, Mr Lerman, that's not how it works. If you want it, you have to earn it. 

If Parliament wants our trust again, let it serve our interests honestly and not those of its members. If the Equality & Human Rights Commission, MI5 or the Cabinet want our trust, let them earn it. How? By making only promises they can keep and then keeping them. By admitting their mistakes when they make them (as they must). By telling the truth, not only when it suits their political objectives, but even when it interferes with them.

Institutions are human and therefore defective. They can perform wonders and commit crimes. Our trust in them, if rational, must be provisional. Institutions are valuable to the precise extent they serve us well. We no more exist to serve the modern state, than our forefathers existed (whatever they may have thought) to serve the Church or the Monarchy. If they lose that provisional trust, it is their fault. I damn Lerman's impudence for lecturing us about how happy we would be if we trusted them regardless.

The whole stupid article could be summed up in three words;

"Ignorance is bliss"

To hell with that.