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

Keep it up, brothers and sisters

BBC News - Public sector strike rallies held across UK.

Did the strikes affect you? Me neither. I would be delighted if the strikers would really go for it; all out, indefinitely. At least that way, there might finally be some reductions in public spending. Because, without the unintentional assistance today of the public sector gang bosses, this government has been increasing the national debt daily. There are no 'cuts' for all the whining. We were driving towards a cliff edge at 155mph. The government has reduced the speed to 150mph. Big deal. 

At one level, I can understand the public servants' sense of grievance. They were told they would get pension x, but now they are told they must make an extra contribution in order to have pension x-y. The fact is, however, that their pensions were largely unfunded. The contribution most of them make (from money anyway supplied by taxpayers) is not adequate to cover the benefits expected. It never was. Their political masters assumed irresponsibly that they could always take the money by force from future generations of taxpayers.

All the consequences of that wicked, failed assumption cannot surely fall on the minority whose taxes are real, because they are not paid from money suppled by taxpayers? The proposals that have led to this strike do not go nearly far enough. They are only a modest beginning to what needs to be done. But the public sector workers' conflict of interest with real taxpayers is total. It is a conflict of interest that could only properly be resolved by removing their right to vote. Undemocratic? Perhaps. But a democracy in which voters dependent on the public purse are prepared to vote themselves more and more of an oppressed minority's money is doomed.

Murderous logic

Ambush Predator: The Paper Says ‘Drama’, I Say ‘Attempted Murder’….

JuliaM posts about so many of these stories that it's impressive she can maintain her outrage. Sadly the problem is more profound than a few misguided judges or social workers. In current political thinking, these are not miscarriages of justice but examples of social justice. There is no notion to which the statist left in Britain is more hostile than personal responsibility. Since the leftists' agenda is to promote social 'solutions' to all life's ills, they need us to believe that we are not free men and women, but victims of forces beyond our control.

Even the meanest intelligence can refute this. During two years of my young life spent working as an unskilled labourer I often heard colleagues say, when confronted with "social" excuses for misbehaviour, that their lives had been just as hard but that they didn't do such things. They could distinguish between an excuse and a justification, even if our intellectuals could not. Now however, as documented byTheodore Dalrymple and others, criminals are well versed in socio-babble and ready to portray themselves as society's victims, rather than predators. 

That journalists, social workers, judges and even some senior policemen believe this drivel is mere proof of George Orwell's sage dictum that:
"There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them"
Until there is a fundamental shift in Britain's ideological alignment, JuliaM's outrage will never have chance to subside.

The Peoples' Cube

Let's teach "Occupy WSJ" some strong communism!

I recommend this satirical site, which features wonderful graphics by Oleg Atbashian, a former propaganda artist in the USSR who created agitprop for the Party committee in a Siberian town. He is a man who 'saw the worst of both worlds and lived to tell the tale.'

The author of Shakedown Socialism, Atbashian has a wicked sense of humour. The name of his site refers to his socialist version of Rubik's Cube, the ultimate egalitarian puzzle and 'the most politically correct game ever" (click to enlarge).


Today,  comrades, is a good day for humour. Because if the credit of the most fiscally-prudent, low-debt European economy is in doubt, there may not be a lot of fun in our future.

There are two ways of looking at this

Cowardly Bullying on the Web - Yasmin Alibhai-Brown - Dale & Co.

Am I alone in believing that, such are the appallingly illiberal beliefs (in the classical, correct sense of the word 'liberal') of Ms Alibhai-Brown, she would be subjected to far greater abuse on the internet were she not of the fairer sex and did she not so relentlessly play the race card? 

This notion is perfectly testable. All she needs to do is set up a blog under a false and less protected identity so that she can experience the full richness of anglo-saxon invective. How far we have come since George Eliot adopted a male identity to help her writings be taken seriously. How far, in so many ways, in the wrong direction.

We men and women of conscience thought, in the third quarter of the last century, that we were campaigning for all humans to be judged by the content of their characters, not the colour of their skins (or the nature of their genitalia). Who knew it would actually lead to such wimpish bleating for special protection from the people supposed to be liberated? Woman up, Yasmin. And do try to keep up with the news. This story was msm'ed and blogged to death ages ago.

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson

Today I finished reading Walter Isaacson's excellent biography of Steve Jobs. As a long-time Apple user, I was vaguely aware of most of the key facts of Jobs' life, but Isaacson has pulled it all together and filled it out with data from 40 interviews with the man himself and many more with the people in his life. I would have said 'business life' but in Jobs case it's an artificial distinction. He may have had a wife and children, but it's pretty clear from the book that his real family was the company he founded. His life's work was to infuse it with his business DNA to such an extent that his personality would live on. And what a personality.

Isaacson constantly highlights the contradiction between the counter-culture, right-on Jobs persona and his business ruthlessness; particularly the shocking way he would treat the people around him. They were heroes or morons. Their work was genius or crap. He was, ironically, very binary in his thinking. He had his name on many patents, but the book makes pretty clear that his contribution to design was to reject endless versions proposed by his staff until one was exactly right. He had a hippyish disdain for money as a business motivator (claiming profits were only relevant in that they allowed the company to make more great products). He eschewed the trappings of wealth, living relatively simply with no bodyguards or home security. He lived so frugally (by the standards of billionaires) that his young son described another computer mogul on whose yacht the Jobs family sometimes stayed as 'our rich friend'. Yet he was aggressive in demanding that his contribution be recognised by financial rewards.

This was a man so obsessed with manufacturing perfection that he took months to agree to buy his family a washing machine. A man who sat in an empty mansion because he couldn't find furniture made to his standards. A driven, often rather nasty man who did not suffer fools at all. He had an unpleasant term for what happens when businesses grow large and coasting second-raters fill the payroll. He didn't want his company 'larded' with such people. He was an impulsive hirer and a ruthless firer.

Reflecting on the book, I am not sure that there's any contradiction between his veganism, his Eastern mysticism, his acid-dropping out-thereness and his ruthlessness. The youth culture of the 60s made a new ethic out of that generation's selfishness. It destroyed the frail net of social obligations that tied people together in families and communities, insisting instead on a voyage of self-discovery and a shallow obsession with self-gratification; chemical, sexual or otherwise. Jobs was really just the ultimate hippy. Only from within his famous 'reality distortion field' could he have continued to rail against the East Coast suits of corporate America while heading the most valuable corporation on the planet.

He called so many people assholes (and worse) that - depite this blog's usual mild language - I feel little compunction in saying he was the greatest hippy asshole of them all. On the one hand he refused a dedicated parking space because he wasn't that kind of CEO, but on the other hand he parked his licence-plate free Mercedes in the disabled bay. Unlike most self-indulgent 60s types, however, he worked tirelessly to make something of lasting value. His products were so 'amazingly great' that I really wanted to like him. It's simply impossible alas. However, I can enjoy Wagner's work without liking the man and I can do the same with Apple's products.

As a Apple stockholder, I hope Jobs achieved his ambition of steeping the company in his business values. I find it hard to imagine that the submissive types who could bear to work closely with such a screaming monster can possibly become charismatic leaders themselves. Time will tell. If not, maybe that won't be such a bad thing as long as Steve Jobs' only endearing quality - his love for quality products - lives on.

The Best Bet Is Freedom

The Best Bet Is Freedom | The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty.

Jason Riddle, over at the Foundation for Economic Freedom's site, compares politics with casino gambling and concludes convincingly that the latter is a better bet. 

There is no such thing as a magical public fund from which political gifts spontaneously generate. No matter how noble the intention or the cause, the benevolent politician is not Santa Claus. All goods distributed by government must first be created or produced by somebody. Whatever is given must first be taken. This is true for corporate subsidies and bank bailouts, just as it is true for transfer payments made to the very poorest members of society.

People by and large accept such a system because they believe they will be able to draw more in political advantage than they lose by way of political plunder. This mentality keeps the population playing the game, and like the casino, if enough people play the game, it is the political class and the politically connected that always win.

In fact the odds of winning in the casino are actually better than the odds of coming out ahead in the political game. In Vegas the house has an advantage of about 3-10 percent on most table games. Currently, U.S. government takes a 32.6 percent rake to serve as the proverbial dealer, cashier, and pit boss. The government spends more, regulates more, and interferes more in our lives each year – and the economy barely grows. Even with the odds stacked against the average person, people still seem eager to place their bets on the system by looking for political solutions. In Vegas they would call this a “sucker bet.”


Real art vs the other stuff

Strictly For The Birds… | Orphans of Liberty.

I recently asked why The Guardian was not more supportive of the reputation of William Shakespeare, our greatest native genius. JuliaM has hit upon the answer over at the gloomily-named GroupBlog, Orphans of Liberty. Real art, in Guardian Land, is stuff no-one wants funded by money taken by force from taxpayers. Not Shakespeare's commercial tat. I am embarrassed now to have asked such a naive question.

Come the revolution, don't say you weren't told

This pantomime of choice has created a mess, and an awful paradox | Deborah Orr | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Deborah Orr of The Guardian has been suffering from breast cancer. I recently lost my wife to that disease so I am primed to sympathise with her. But I can't. Because an idiot with cancer is still an idiot and a villain with cancer is still a villain. Consider Orr's words (please, because clearly she hasn't);
As a recent breast cancer patient, I've made many "choices", and have sat in many rooms having my choices outlined to me, by many consultants. I wanted to opt for "I'm in your hands. Whatever you think best." But I had no choice, except choice.
She wants to be told what to do about her own life or possible death. She doesn't want to be treated as an adult. She wants "daddy" to decide. Because she doesn't understand her choices, she thinks that choice is an illusion. God forbid, that she should try to improve her own understanding so as better to exercise them.
If she were content to flutter her eyelashes and let the nice doctor decide for her, that would be fine. But no, she is a Guardianista and therefore opposes choice for others. Because, you see;
Choice is a driver of inequality. This sad fact has been illustrated very clearly in Britain over the last few decades. The more money and education you have, the better the choices you can make and afford, and the more your position of strength and privilege is bolstered. This is seen mostly clearly in education, not just in terms of state v private, but also, since the Conservative reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, in state education.
To you and me, choice may be the very lever that operates the mechanisms of economic and political democracy. But to Orr, it is a "driver of inequality." She does have one valid point though. It's certainly true that many making economic and political choices are ill-informed. She sneers;
Who, really, is expert enough in olive oil to make an informed choice between 200 olive oils? 

Quite, but never mind Italian pasta-lube; watch this video and consider how well-qualified some people are to vote.


Certainly, it's embarrassing how dumb many of our neighbours are. But over time the wisdom of crowds can prevail. Sensible choices can be made, via market and democratic mechanisms, from the collective choices of groups that include large numbers of fools. Even fools can sometimes see when their friends and neighbours have made better choices and then make the wise choice of following suit. Given enough time, the best products, services and financial institutions will prosper and the worst - unless propped up by some Keynesian (or Kenyan) - will fail.

During her illness, Mrs Paine and I went through a long hell of ever-diminishing choices. We listened, took advice, thought hard and decided. Sometimes we decided to do as were were advised. Sometimes not. Those choices narrowed until they came down this question; "If we can get you stable enough to endure another horrid treatment that probably won't work do you want to try it?" It was a choice to buy with pain (and a large cheque, as the treatment was unlicensed and neither offered by the NHS nor covered by insurance) a lottery ticket with a one in millions chance of the prize of life.

Though we chose to buy that ticket, Mrs P. was never well enough. But she was making choices - and was therefore a free woman - to the very end of her life. There is a value in that. There is a joy and a dignity in freedom that Deborah Orr will never understand.

I wish her all the best for full recovery from her illness. Nonetheless - shame on her.