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

Equality does not equal fairness

The Spirit Level Delusion: Fact-checking the Left's New Theory of Everything: Christopher John Snowdon: Books.

Cold Capitalists
I am reading Christopher Snowden's book, The Spirit Level Delusion, which sets out to rebut - graph by graph, statistic by statistic - the thesis of Wilkinson and Pickett's work The Spirit Level. These books are both worth a read (the latter - it seems - more for its influence than its accuracy).

The Spirit Level has been embraced by socialists of all parties as proof that equality makes everyone happier, healthier and kinder - and that redistributive taxation is therefore good for all. As someone who has lived in the former Soviet Union, it only proves to me (a) how short human memories are and (b) the truth of Paul Simon's youthful insight that;

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

Let me cite one paragraph from Snowden's counterblast, referring to the chart clumsily reproduced above. The further right the country, the more "unequal" it is, apparently;

"Equal and unequal countries donate part of their GDP to good causes in their own way. More egalitarian countries use money from high taxes which is given away as politicians see fit. Low tax countries allow people to give to charities and causes as they see fit. But although one system relies on compulsion and the other relies on charity, it is the voluntary system that generates the greatest sums. As shown ... the amount France gives to charity amounts to just 0.14% of GDP, twelve times less than the USA (1.73%). Even if we add the 0.39% France gives in foreign aid, it is still a quarter of the American total of 1.91%. When the contribution of individuals is combined with that of the state, it is clear that less equal countries are at least as philanthropic as the rest and often more so."
Next time you feel inclined to dismiss libertarian advocacy of volunteerism as mere camouflage for uncaring stinginess, please consider that the state is as inefficient at generosity as at everything else. These statistics don't even address how much it costs to deliver state, as opposed to voluntary aid. I am prepared to bet the wastage on administration is much, much greater; leaving even less for the deserviing recipients.

The terrorists who work for us

Air cargo bombs: Controlled reaction | Editorial | Comment is free | The Guardian.

No-one rose to the bait of my smoking, helmetless, biking babies post. It's a shame, as I was looking forward to reading libertarian responses to a baby being taught to smoke, or being taken motorbike riding without a helmet. (How those one trick ponies, the statists, would respond - I already knew).

Here's another issue to test the precise location of the libertarian/statist boundary. Since 9/11 the governments of the West have forced air passengers to endure countless humiliations. We have been scanned, groped, prodded and ordered about "for our own protection" by just the sort of people we worked hard at school never to have to be bullied by again. Now it transpires that, all this time, airlines were loading unscanned freight into the holds beneath us. It was all, as some of us suspected, a monumental waste of our time. It was a fraudulent, entirely unjustified assault.

The one trick ponies will now call for massive investment in expensive men and machines to search through and scan freight. Tax bills, shipping costs (and your cost of living) will rise. Globalisation will face a setback. I heard at a conference that Germany is the last developed nation to ship the bulk of its exports by sea. Most of America's exports, by value not weight, now travel either by air or electronically. The more primitive your economy, the less it will be damaged by these measures. Meanwhile, just wait for the Guardian to tell us that the life-saving intelligence from Saudi Arabia was compromised because of their interrogation methods, so we should shut our ears to useful information from our ethical inferiors, while submitting to ever more invasive security searches.

Libertarians will argue that all the security theatre has now been proved to be just that. It was not to make us safe, it was to make us afraid. The only things we have to fear are fear itself - and the political parasites who feed on it. They assaulted, humiliated, delayed and inconvenienced us while, all the time, there was no real airline security at all. Packages of unknown origin and content were being stowed beneath our seats. No-one was even tasked to consider whether packages shipped from Yemen to American synagogues might not be kosher. I guess that would have been "racial and religious profiling", right? Libertarians will also point out that the first attempt to down a plane with a parcel bomb was foiled by the real answers to terrorism; commonsense, police work and secret intelligence.

Longrider has written eloquently on this here. He says, and he's not wrong, that politicians who foster fear in their voters for political advantage are also terrorists. We have the right and the duty to defend our civilisation and should stop being such wusses about it. Let's infiltrate the terrorists. Monitor their primitive attempts to disrupt civilisation. Arrest them if we can. Try them if we do. Assassinate them in the field if we can't. Let's give them some good, Mossad-style what for. But, whatever we do, let's stop winning their battles for them by actively inspiring terror. Let our politicians stop exploiting their activities to scare citizens out of their wits and their rights. Let them stop building their own power and privilege by betraying the liberty that differentiates us from our enemies.