THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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March 2011

Crime is not progressive, it’s reactionary

Harry's Place » Crime is not progressive, it’s reactionary.

Since I spend much blogging time criticising the writings of those on the Left in Britain, I feel it's only fair to highlight the linked article, which is amazingly sensible. Those of us who grew up in working-class areas have never understood the Guardianistas' / Islington Labourites' apparent affection for the criminal classes. I have often argued that the Labour Party itself, with its absurd education pollcies, incentivisation of idleness and disincentivisation of thrift is the working man's worst enemy. Though I was once a criminal defence lawyer, I would strongly argue that the criminal class is a close second.

Criminals are lazy. Criminals are (thank goodness or they would never be caught) stupid. Criminals can rarely be arsed to venture far to commit their crimes. As the one disadvantage of their lifestyle is that they can rarely (at least not now sanity has returned to the mortgage market) borrow money to buy a house, they are usually to be found in public housing, blighting the lives of poor but decent people around them and offering terrible role models to local youth.

Criminals deter people from earning and consuming because their activities are an income tax (unofficial, but with the same economic effects). They also drive up insurance premiums, creating an effective wealth tax. You may be able to afford that nice watch or necklace now, but can you keep up the premiums on your household insurance for the rest of your life, expecially when you have retired? As the linked article notes, the homes of the rich are likely to be full of security measures - not only because householders feel the need but because their insurers insist. Again, that's an effective wealth tax. It makes it more expensive to live in a high crime society and is another pressure on the rich to move away and/or consume less.

The only people who benefit from crime are criminals, policemen, criminal lawyers (prosecutors, defence lawyers and judges), probation officers and other social workers, insurers and security firms. The poor are disproportionately likely to be victims of crime. The last time my home computer was stolen I was secretly quite pleased to have the chance to buy a new one on the insurance. A poor person, often uninsured or paying higher premiums because of his postcode, will not feel the same way.

I am delighted to encounter a so-called "progressive" advancing these points. New Labour's idea of "tough on crime" was to create many more crimes, rather than rigorously and vigorously to enforce the few that really matter. They set targets for higher conviction rates, when an occasional conviction is no deterrent unless sentencing is (to use one of my most hated words correctly for once) "appropriate".

One of the best features of the criminal justice system in Britain is TIC ("taking into consideration"). It offers a convicted crook the chance to offer up all his other crimes for punishment (at a sentencing discount) so as to ensure he cannot be charged with them again later. The double jeopardy doctrine then guarantees that when he leaves prison, he has a chance to start again with a clean slate. Other countries don't have this idea and criminals would never dream of confessing to undetected crimes. The detection rate in Britain would be far worse without it. One consequence is that you really don't have to catch the criminal every time he offends. Once in ten or twenty times is quite enough, if the punishment is appropriate and offers a sufficient deterrent. The rat does not need to find cheese (or in this case poison) in the maze every time to be on the alert for it and think carefully about his choices.

Let's take the heat of detection targets off the police, so as to reduce the well-documented distortions to which they have led. Let's scrap most crimes, to allow the police time to focus on the ones that really matter (in my view, mostly the ones that were known to Common Law before Parliament's legislative incontinence began). Then let's revise the sentences for those "real" crimes to ensure (when occasionally caught) that those who commit them spend their lives where they cannot blight the lives of those around them.

By the way, if this doesn't sound very "libertarian" to you, you haven't grasped the concept yet!

Spread the word! #RallyAgainstDebt

Please spread the word! : Rally Against Debt.

The old cynic in me fears that the Rally (conceived, I am sure, as a Facebook witticism but now gathering momentum) will be a damp squib. If so, there will be lessons to be learned. Right thinking bloggers will earnestly/bitterly juxtapose the recent militant fervour of the massed parasites against the indifference and placidity of their long-suffering hosts.

The idealist in me (and the Misses Paine reckon me more a frustrated idealist than a genuine cynic) rather hopes the organisers pull this off. I may even get on a plane to be there to witness the dampness of the squib or (hope against hope) the glorious ignition of the libertarian revolution.

In the meantime, friends and fellow-victims of state robbery with violence, please do like the man said and spread the word.

The cost of high-tech medicine

Britain has fewer high-tech medical machines than Estonia and Turkey - Telegraph.
This will not surprise anyone who has lived in an emerging market. The interesting question is "why?" In a spirit of scientific enquiry let me offer a theory for you all to shoot down;

The profitability to the vendor of a a good or service varies directly with the number of bureaucrats involved in its purchase, multiplied by their average annual remuneration but divided by the square of the number of decision makers with a financial interest in the outcome. Where "bureaucrat" is defined as a paid, office-bound employee with no financial interest in the outcome of the purchase.

Please note that it is not specific to the public sector (although the number of decision-makers with a financial interest in the outcome is likely to be lower there). Let's call it "Paine's Theory of Purchasing."

Any thoughts?

Rally Against Debt!!

Rally Against Debt.

Some humorous soul on Facebook is organising a Rally again Debt in London on 14th May between 1100 and 1400. If you have not succumbed to the electronic embraces of FB yet, it is billed as follows

A well mannered, polite rally for civilised people who don't wish to see their hard earned money being spent on pointless government initiatives and instead would like government spending to actually fall and our national debt to be cut.

Any visits to Fortum and Mason's by protestors will only be to marvel at their selection of quality goods and perhaps make the occasional purchase.

Bonfires will be strictly forbidden: it's out of season anyway

Trips to see Vodafone and other high street chains will result in congratulations to the company for providing jobs and growth in the UK.

It's a nice idea but well-mannered, civilised people who object to their grandchildren being impoverished by ever-increasing government debts will not get much coverage from the BBC, I suspect.

Of anarchists and force

TUC march: How a family day out turned to mayhem - Telegraph.


I wish journalists were more careful in their presentation of poltical viewpoints. The people who rioted yesterday are not "anarchists". The demonstration was demanding more use of government force to enslave private sector workers for additional days each year in order to support state dependants.

People making such demands are most certainly not "anarchists." If we are going to call them nasty names, let's use the right one - socialist.

Cowboys etc.

nourishing obscurity » Cowboy songs.
JD over at Nourishing Obscurity has posted links to three classic cowboy songs. He hit a couple of my nostalgia buttons (an emotion I try to avoid, it's not as good as is used to be). In the comments, I suggested he should have featured "Big Bad John" in his playlist (though the hero was a miner, not strictly a cowboy). That sent me looking for the song on YouTube and (groping valiantly for relevance to this blog's theme) I post it here as a vaguely libertarian paean to self-reliance - and self-sacrifice). Big John didn't send for the health & safety officers, after all.

Looking for the video, I discovered that Jimmy Dean wrote an awful sequel to cash in on the song's popularity. I am not going to link to it or even tell you its name so you can google it. Like Big John, I have sacrificed myself so that you can escape. Don't go looking for it. Really. It may spoil the original for you.


Imaginary Stories: There should be a law against it

Child poverty shames the UK – so use the budget to invest in our young | Paddy Ashdown | Comment is free |

Even necessary laws are evils. Unecessary laws are worse. Yet, with leftist imaginations given legislative free rein, it's hard sometimes - even for a libertarian - not to fantasize about the things one might forbid if given power. If allowed one non-libertarian law of my own devising it might be this;

"It shall be a criminal offence, punishable by a lifetime ban from public office, to use the word 'invest' in relation to public expenditure from which there is no reasonable prospect of a financial return."

In the spirit of the Red Kryptonite-laden "Imaginary Stories" of the Silver Age of DC Comics, what other laws would tempt libertarian readers from their principles?

The fastest mission creep in history?

Libya: Col Gaddafi told to leave now or face the bombers - Telegraph.

Hang on. I thought the idea (already ill-advised in my view) was that we were authorised by the UN to enforce a no-fly zone to protect civilians from military attacks. Now it's regime change already! Perhaps he really is the "heir to Blair" after all?

Why is it so attractive to these people to wield the power of life or death over strangers? I am no medical expert, but I understand there are names for such a psychological craving.

Nuclear scaredy cats

underdogs bite upwards: Waking nightmares.

Leg-iron comments on, amongst other things, the panic buying of radiation protection gear in California;

How many nuclear bombs have gone off on this planet? By 1998, the figure stood at 2053. Not reactor leaks. Actual nuclear bombs. Not one of them was Japanese. Nobody is scared of two thousand nuclear bombs but one leaking reactor and the whole world panics. Yes, it will be horrible if that reactor goes into meltdown but all that safety gear, masks and drugs and Geiger counters? You're buying them sixty years too late. The radioactive steam coming across the Pacific won't even show against the background levels in the US and Europe now.

It may not sound like entertainment material, but it's a well-written, enjoyable post and I recommend you to read the whole thing. He riffs amusingly on the fears of the coddled West.

On the other hand (h/t Captain Ranty in the post to which Leg-iron links above), if you really want to be scared, take a look at this;


All of those nukes were set off by governments (one-fifth of them in the atmosphere, the rest underground). Not to worry. Obviously the state is entirely benign. Only the profit or pleasure-driven actions of private individuals or enterprises can cause cancer or climate change.

Ban smoking, emasculate motor cars, turn down the heating and all will be well.