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

May 2011

Liberty -vs- Spending

It's the liberty, not the spending, Stupid!

I am sure that nothing in this report - even though it emanates from a branch of what conspiracy-theorists call "Them" - will change minds on either side of the political divide. As the Adam Smith Institute comments, 
Strange the way we have to keep repeating things we've known for 235 years really.
But is it that strange? Laziness is a basic human vice. It's why scams of all kinds are so successful. Prudent mothers bring up their offspring with the wise words;
If it sounds too good to be true, it isn't
...ringing in their ears, but the likes of Bernie Madoff still find their victims easily enough. Most people are all too keen to believe in "money for nothing" and possibly even "your chicks for free." Yet the report is clear (if dry) enough;

...a one unit change in the initial level of economic freedom between two countries (on a scale of 1 to 10) is associated with an almost 1 percentage point differential in their average long-run economic growth rates. In the case of civil and political liberties, the long-term effect is also positive and significant with a differential of 0.3 percentage point.

In addition to the initial conditions, the expansion of freedom conditions over time (economic, civil, and political) also positively influences long-run economic growth. In contrast, no evidence was found that the initial level of entitlement rights or their change over time had any significant effects on long-term per capita income, except for a negative effect in some specifications of the model. These results tend to support earlier findings that beyond core functions of government responsibility—including the protection of liberty itself—the expansion of the state to provide for various entitlements, including so-called economic, social, and cultural rights, may not make people richer in the long run and may even make them poorer...

Many of us prefer politics to economics because the former is more fun and less work. Angela Merkel even asserted the primacy of politics over economics as a moral imperative. That is just as stupid as saying that justice is more important than medicine, so sick people can't die because that wouldn't be fair. Socialism is simply, in every sense of the word, lazy thinking. For so long as any tentative acknowledgement of economic reality is regarded as cruel, then we may as well get used to "the lowest barbarism" Adam Smith explained was so simple (if not easy) to avoid. Of course it's one thing to inflict it on ourselves, but quite another to force it on the Third World as a consequence of our so-called "aid."

Wild and Free?

Wild and Free Pigs of the Okefenoke Swamp | Network for Education Opportunity.

I wonder if any of the sneering leftists who now have the #rallyagainstdebt Twitter hashtag virtually to themselves could see the point of the linked parable?

...the younger pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn than it was to root out roots and catch snakes.  So the very young began to eat the corn first.  I did this every day.  Pretty soon, even the old pigs decided that it was easier to eat free corn.  After all, they were all free; they were not penned up.  They could run off in any direction they wanted at any time.

I have seen few better explanations of how the British population has been coralled into servitude to the clients of an over-mighty state. As one person living on benefits recently sneered in public, "You paid for this camera, you pay for my benefits, you're basically my slave." As I have observed before on this blog,  how true.

h/t @Offshorebelle

A glimpse into the envious minds of Britain

A glimpse into the modern home of David and Samantha 'two kitchens' Cameron | Mail Online.

Mrs P. alerted me to the linked Daily Mail article because she was upset by its envious tone (and even more so that of some of the reader comments). She's right. The Cameron's new kitchen is pretty mid-range, mostly, but had it been state-of-the-art, designer stuff who could properly care, given that they paid for it themselves? Do those sneering away at the Daily Mail site imagine that the official residences of Europe's other leaders are in any way furnished (or even their fridges stocked) at the occupant's own expense?

As for the sob-story stuff about the Blairs not being able to afford a decent kitchen in the Prime Ministerial gaff, do please pull the other one. I suspect the Blairs (to use an expression I hate) could buy and sell the Camerons today. Admittedly most of their wealth is a by-product of Tony's, ahem, selfless public service, but they (thanks to Cherie) were hardly short of a bob when they first walked through the famous black door.

As for the heir to the Marxist Miliband fortune (preserved in part by those tax avoidance techniques so despised by Guardianistas when used by businessmen) I am sure he will be able to afford the whole Poggenpohl catalogue if his time ever comes. Again, as long as he doesn't get it off the infamous John Lewis list, so what?

It's nice to be home in England in many ways, but the vicious, childish envy that permeates the media here is depressing. There is a reason all major religions regard envy as a terrible sin. Its consequences for social cohesion, crime and economic development are dire.

Which of the seven deadlies is most common in today's Britain? For my money, it's a toss up between sloth and envy. Envy is probably worse. I can just about tolerate an idle man - at least if he enjoys his leisure at his own expense without envying others who (or whose parents) made other choices.

Fiona Pilkington and justice. Shall the twain meet?

Fiona Pilkington case: police face misconduct proceedings | UK news |

I am not arguing with the findings of the IPCC. I don't know enough to do so. Nor am I belittling these tragic deaths. These women were as entitled as you or me to a life untroubled by hooligans. I have a sneaking sympathy however for the police officers concerned.

I am sure, before ever the IPCC ruled, they were already feeling guilty and wondering if they could have done more. Yet how easy was it for them, I wonder, to differentiate Fiona Pilkington's genuine pleas for help from the thousands of false allegations routinely made to them? Inspector Gadget, at his most excellent blog, has often explained how members of the underclass use the police as weapons in their quarrels. They are able to do so because of the stupid rules about treating all complaints equally that were imposed by the last government (and have remained untouched, so far, by the present one). Vulnerable people like Fiona and her daughter are condemned to live alongside an underclass created by the policies of a metropolitan elite that denies - from a place of safety - that such a class really exists. It's not just their car insurance premiums that are adversely affected by their unsavoury post codes. It is also, sadly, their credibility when they cry for help.

A policeman's lot, more than ever in modern Britain, is not a happy one. Like only the most unenlightened of employers, the government expects to replace its workers' intelligence with its own; laying down so many and such detailed guidlelines that they end up using a policeman's arm but not his wits. If our police could (as they used to do) dismiss stupid complaints with contempt, while charging those who make malicious complaints with wasting police time, perhaps they would be more available to those in genuine need. As an additional benefit, the parasitical underclasses would be educated in the need to solve their own problems.

Perhaps the officers in question could have done better. I am sure they wish they had. However, this is another example of the point I made recently about our lives being governed by or, at least, for the worst of us. There is a real sense in which the criminals, chavs and simpletons who waste so much police time are to blame for this tragedy. As most of all, of course, are the scumbag "youths" who tormented poor Fiona beyond her endurance.

As the police officers in this case face disciplinary proceedings for failing to prevent those people from causing this tragedy, I wonder what are the prospects of bringing the real villains to justice?

April's fools?

Government borrowing hits April record | Business |

David Cameron is still rebranding the Conservative Party by his odd technique of never doing anything that Labour might not also have done. This makes life hard for Milliband, who is reduced to attacking what everyone knows would have been his own economic policies (give or take a few basis points). Politics is a game and it's fun to watch your opponents struggle, but surely this tactic cannot last for long. It's pointless anyway. The moment Cameron implements a Conservative policy the cries of "nasty party!" from the BBC and the Guardian will simply be more triumphant.

Playing games is all very well, but there is a job of work to be done. The government's income is falling as the private sector continues to be squeezed. The coalition has made no meaningful cuts at all. Not implementing those new expenditures dishonestly promised by an outgoing government simply does not count. I might as well claim I am cutting my costs by not buying the Ferrari I have always promised myself. This government will only really be cutting costs when it does something that would be recognised as such by a business fighting for survival or a household struggling to make ends meet under the pressure of rising taxes.

Please note that the Guardian is quoting figures adjusted to exclude "support for banks and other 'financial interventions'", so you can ignore the reflex Labour cry of "blame the bailout." Indeed, the position is worsening despite one-off "special factors" that have increased tax receipts by £3.5bn this year. A better-informed reader may correct me, but aren't those "special factors" Alistair Darling's and Gideon Osborne's levies on the wicked banks?

I don't blame the public for not understanding the dark realities of the national finances. Cameron himself, in yesterday's speech in Milton Keynes, confused reducing the deficit (i.e. the rate at which government debt is mounting) with reducing the debt itself. Yet the facts are simple, stark and alarming. The government's income is in decline. The government's expenditure is still growing. The unproductive sector refuses to share the pain and Cameron is too weak to confront state employees who are now paid 43% more, on average, than their productive counterparts. In consequence the national debt is mounting at a terrifying rate and there is a serious risk of the UK's credit being exhausted.

It's time for Cameron to stop playing games. His country needs him to be a real Conservative now, even if it means some sneers from his champagne Socialist friends.

Criminals suck

Apart from the anti-intellectualism of my Northern school-mates, the worst thing about my school was the way the bad children set the rules. Not that misbehaviour was rife. Those were the early days of the comprehensive fiasco. My "high school" had been a tough secondary modern a year before I arrived and the senior people in charge were serious disciplinarians. Radical leftist young teachers (like the one who issued A, B, C, D and E grades in rotation in protest against "elitism") were still waiting their chance to create today's shambles. Still, school trips were suspended for a while because some bad boys ran amok on an excursion organised by a well-meaning, ineffectual teacher. We shivered outside at break times because a minority would otherwise trash the place, smoke in the toilets (or use them for the traditional bully's version of waterboarding).

I never expected it to spread to the adult world. Yet now, just as in school, the criminals, idlers and wasters are a minority, but everything seems to be done with them in mind. They set our insurance premiums and force us to buy the safes and security systems our insurers demand. Decent adults are afraid to interact healthily with children for fear of being confused with paedophiles. We are all ruled on the assumption that we are like the worst of us.

This week I collected some medicines for my sick wife. They are controlled drugs. We recognise that we are pretty unusual for our generation in never having used drugs recreationally, but we just haven't. Until quite recently, we have generally been quite happy with our reality. Yet the palaver involved in collecting those drugs, duly prescribed, was ridiculous. Mrs P. is not well enough to hang around pharmacy counters, so I had to identify myself and be logged as the person taking possession of this dangerous stuff. The meds were brought out in a bag with a warning tag the size of a table tennis bat announcing their nature and reminding the pharmacist to register them in a special book. While a lady in pain waited, we went through a rigmarole that certainly wasn't for my protection. In fact the security theatre exposed me to a far greater risk of being robbed. Because the drugs make a pharmacy a target for thieving addicts, some were held at a secure remote location, causing a 24 hour delay. Mrs P had to endure a day of unecessary pain because - just as in our comprehensive school - the rules were set by the worst people around us.

Of course, if the drugs were legal, addicts could buy them cheaply, in pure form, from Boots. They need not conceal their habit from their medical advisers or families. The drugs could be taxed just enough to cover the cost of treating addiction, while remaining cheap enough not to stimulate crime. There would be no need for the nonsense that wasted my time this week and, far more importantly, caused such unecessary pain.

I hate criminals. And I hate politicians who criminalise unecessarily. If no individual (or his property) is genuinely at risk from another person's conduct, it should not be a crime. For so long as the stupid "war on drugs" continues, however, the bloody criminals are - as usual - hurting all the people around them, not just their immediate victims. God rot them, one and all.

When is a rape not a rape?

When is a rape not a rape? SHOCK « POLICE INSPECTOR BLOG.

Inspector Gadget is a brave man. His post today will set off a stampede of sacred cows. I sincerely hope he doesn't get trampled. Regardless of the inevitable synthetic fury from the luvvies, I believe him. I am still quite shocked though. The Wimmins Studies brigade would have us believe that false allegations of rape are vanishingly rare. If he's right in suggesting that 8 out of 10 allegations are false, the debate is even more appallingly skewed than I already thought.

The last banner?

There is a new masthead for The Last Ditch today. It's overdue as I moved to London almost a month ago. I now live in an apartment near the hospital where Mrs P is being treated. My days as a professional nomad are over and the battered passport in the banner will gather dust for a while.

London already feels like home. My travels mean I understand more of the conversations around me than most Londoners. If you can ignore the false mateyness of those selling you stuff (and the government-mandated impertinence of GPs and pharmacists) it's a wonderfully liveable city. Those critics in the last six years who have dismissed me as an out-of-touch expatriate will soon need a new ad hominem.

Last night I attended a "whisky masterclass". which was fun. I can attend some poltical meetings now, which should be interesting. I should get my long-lost vote back soon, which pleases me more than I can quite explain. My MP's seat is pretty safe though, with or without my household's two votes. We will make as little difference to the selection of the country's government as we did in Russia or China.

I began this blog while living in Moscow and its first banner was a view of the Kremlin from the rooftop bar of the Park Hyatt "Ararat" hotel in that fascinating city. Then I moved to China and the banner showed a view of Shanghai from the bar of the Ritz Carlton Portman hotel. Until today, the banner was a view of the Sofia skyline. That was where I was hoping to settle, but Mrs P's health issues ruled that out. So here we are; back in the line of fire of the British taxman.

To the barricades

Why do people in Britain not rise up in arms against the farce that is the NHS? Mrs P just called for a GP appointment and was told the earliest available is in TWO WEEKS. What kind of medical service is that!? And the joke is the doctor called *her* to say she needed to see her urgently and she should call to make an appointment.

Fortunately, Mrs P is seeing her (private) consultant today anyway. The soviet doctor really only seemed interested in acknowledgement of her role in the case (which - from our point of view - is only as gatekeeper to services sadly not available privately, such as oxygen supplies at home). The state's GP (please don't tell me that in any sense she works for us) matters very little to us right now. God help us if that ever changes.

Rally Against Debt!

Rally Against Debt | The TaxPayers' Alliance. I wish I could be there, but Mrs P and I will be in transit from Venice. I hope there is a good turnout. Someone, in the face of public servants now earning on average (and taking account of their pension provision) 43% more than their productive paymasters, needs to say a few public words for fiscal sanity. It might not be as exciting as smashing windows to protest "cuts" that merely slow the rate of increase of our indebtedness, but it's far far more important.