THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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May 2012

Guest Post by Mark on "Citizen's Basic Income: Productivity"

A common criticism levelled against the Citizen's Basic Income (guaranteeing each person an income as a right of citizenship (as far as I'm concerned this should be irrespective of the work they do)) is that it would interfere with the process of "creative destruction" and therefore reduce long term productivity gains. We will all be better off in the long term if the government gets out of the way and lets the market run its course. I disagree.

Creative destrucion is a process which applies to institutions, not individuals. If we destroy a bank, an idea, we might replace it with something better. If we destroy a man, take his income, take his self respect, home, possibly his family, will what emerges be something better, or something far worse? 

This should be an important question to even the most self interested free marketeer, as technological change means that the work we require from people will increasingly fall into one of three categories - managerial, creative and direct customer service.

The great creative works of humanity have not generally been born of desperation, though many vile acts have. People worrying about survival are not free to make great things - we should give them this freedom. Likewise, people dealing directly with people are unlikely to be able to do a good job unless they actually want to be there. Let's replace obsequious waiters, who despise you, with people who genuinely wish to provide you with an enjoyable meal.

As for good management, what is it if not creatively dealing directly with people?

Increased protection for individuals would reduce the political pressure to protect institutions and would therefore aid the market in producing more efficient means of managing resources.

The time when we could increase economic production by driving reluctant workers into mindless jobs, with the threat of destitution, has passed. We should recognise this fact.



NB: Although posted by me because he had problems with my blogging platform, these are NOT my views but those of Mark - a prolific commenter here of late. His comments all challenge my views from a broadly statist perspective and I thought it might amuse you all to hear them expressed more systematically. Please feel free to comment and let's try to keep the Christians vs Lions vibe to a minimum please!


How Britain was lost

BBC News - Racist Tube rant woman Jacqueline Woodhouse jailed.

The freedoms of people you like; the rights to free expression of those who share your views, those are the easy ones to accept. And the least important. For freedom to mean anything, we need - like Voltaire - to defend to the death the rights of those with whom we disagree. This is why all laws based on people taking offence at each other are mistaken.

The public response to this case saddens me. It reveals that Voltaire's thinking is alien to most modern Brits. The 1970's student union nonsense of "no platform for fascists and racists" has become the law of our once free nation - and we are too stupid (as most students were then) to understand why that's wrong.

OK, so you don't agree with this silly woman. Neither do I (though in this context I feel ashamed to feel the need to say so). But the same forces that have made her silliness and rudeness an imprisonable offence are ready to do the same to you and me. You have views that offend the Left. British Leftists are characterised by their readiness to take offence. They will never rest until they have you in fear of this stupid woman's fate.

What is marriage?

Dreamstime_l_17430269I am reluctant to join in the current brouhaha about the definition of marriage. Firstly, I regard it all as statist agitprop to trap us into conflicting positions that can only be 'resolved' by the very last thing we need; more state interference. Secondly, I suspect it is a ploy to flush out 'homophobia' so as to give a now entirely redundant 'gay rights' campaign a new lease of life.

There is no good reason for the state to be involved in defining marriage legally. It should not be so much a civil right as a civil rite. It is essentially a personal relationship that can only meaningfully be defined by its participants in the context of their own beliefs and values. The state's current involvement achieves, and its proposed future involvement will achieve, precisely nothing that could not be done better by a combination of civil contract (regulating property relations between the parties) and statute law setting out the responsibilities and rights of parents.

It is particularly amusing that gay people demand redefinition of the current legal institution of marriage under a banner of 'equal rights.' Marriage under English Law is a profoundly unequal institution. If people were as diligent about entering into a marriage contract as they are about buying a house, most men would be advised against and most women would be advised for. Not because the rights of a couple during a marriage are unequal but because of the way the law works on exit.

Be that as it may, as a libertarian I am happy for people to enter into personal relationships of whatever kind they like (and using whatever terminology they like) as long as they take responsibility for their offspring (if applicable) and each other and don't expect others to support their lifestyle choices. If 100 humans want to enter into a mass marriage in whatever combination of sexes and sexual orientations they please, that's fine by me. I only expect them to be able to afford a sufficiently large house and matrimonial bed without recourse to the public purse.

Seriously, I don't care how many are involved. Bigamy would be one of the first crimes my libertarian govenment would repeal. I don't care what sex they are. I don't care what sex they have. My only legal requirement would be that they are of legal age and mental capacity to embark upon their adventure.

Let me hastily pacify shocked social conservatives and people of faith among my readers. I am happy for my religious friends to define marriage their way and for their church to teach that any other way is wicked. Provided, that is, they demand no earthly sanctions for breach of their rules. Given what they believe God has in store for sinners, earthly punishments anyway seem a bit de trop. It is the job of churches and the faithful to evangelise sinners and lead them to the right moral path. The law is (or should be) just there to stop us getting in each others' way. It should certainly not be there to tell us how or what to think.

You may protest (and with good reason) that the law needs to define marriage at present because so many laws discriminate between those married and those not. That problem is simply solved. Neither taxes nor 'benefits' nor legal rights should vary by reference to what is, ultimately, a personal choice. All humans should be equal before the law, regardless of their household arrangements.

So let me answer my own question before turning it over to you gentles to answer it better. Marriage is a personal matter which need not concern me unless it's one in which I am participating. Do what you like. Preach what you like. Accept or don't accept other peoples' definitions of marriage or lifestyle choices. Please take responsibility for your partner's (or partners') well-being and welfare, as well as for that of any children you have with anybody inside or outside your marriage. Please don't expect the rest of us to enforce your view on other - or to refrain from ridiculing yours if it strikes us as amusing.

I am finally old enough to know that the more right I feel I am about something, the more likely I am to be wrong. So please feel free to correct me in the comments.

The Austerity Fairy

The Austerity Fairy.

I have to draw your attention to the linked post over at Cafe Hayek, if only because I love the idea of the Austerity Fairy. Much as the BBC, The Guardian and the public sector unions are screwing up their eyes and believing her into life, this Tinkerbell doesn't exist in Britain either. Sorry. Year on year increases in public spending are not 'cuts' or 'austerity' except in Leftist Fairyland. At the risk of sounding like a British Marxist talking about Socialism, no-one can say austerity has failed, because it hasn't really been tried yet.

Change and decay

I attended my nephew's confirmation last Sunday in the bit of provincial Britain where I grew up. In a congregation of oddly-familiar strangers, it was hard to believe the right-on Britain of the BBC and Guardian exists. Yes, they now sing badly-written modern verses to the music of the old hymns. Yes, the lavishly-built bishop-and-a-half (there's no doubt which of the seven is his most deadly) cracked jokes and managed to bring Tesco and ASDA into his sermon. And yes, the Church of England below the rank of bishop now appears to be entirely staffed by mumsy women with bad haircuts. Yet the old ceremonies continue as they have for centuries.

Young men and women who barely know what sin is renounced it; their voices ringing out among old stones. It was hard to imagine they will not sit in the same pews in 20 years or so to hear their own children do the same. I noticed other congregants were also standing in respectful silence as the faithful sang their hymns and said their prayers. Yet I suspect they were as glad as I was that the old forms continue. It is reassuring, after all, to know there is something in the mess we have made of Britain that our great-grandfathers would recognise. And though we lack the faith to run the churches, we are glad that they are there for such family occasions as this.

In such a context, my pessimism about my country's future briefly abated. Then I emerged into the watery sunshine to recall my fellow-citizens' recent electoral idiocy; calling their old drug dealer from their room in rehab with a view to scoring as soon as they get out.

Oh well. It was a respite.

"Can our fiscal austerity be economically justified?" Yes, rather.

Economy: Can our fiscal austerity be economically justified? | Speaker's Chair.

I recently signed up to the new politics site, "the Speaker's Chair" but I can't see myself sticking with it for long. Do I even need to fisk the following unutterable tosh by young "independent voter," advocate of "social mobility" and promoter of "social equity" (yeah right, he's not a Labourite) Ben Szreter?

Our budget deficit is extremely large, but directly removing money from the economy through fiscal austerity is not a way to stimulate and secure economic recovery. While the Government is spending less on employment through large scale public sector redundancy (around 710,000 public sector workers will have been made redundant by 2017), this doesn’t mean they are saving money. Removing these people from the workforce, albeit potentially temporarily, means that their consumption will fall, they will receive government benefits and they will not pay tax whilst unemployed.

The idea that money not spent by the state is "removed from the economy" is startlingly stupid. The only money the state has is that taken by force from the productive (or their descendants, in the case of state spending funded by debt). There are no productive state enterprises any more (not that the ones we used to have were ever very productive anyway). The state creates no wealth of any kind. The public sector is pure cost - some of it necessary cost - but cost nonetheless.

Removing non-essential workers from the public payroll liberates them for productive work. Of course, there's no guarantee they will get it, in an economy devastated by such idiotic thinking as Szreter's, but at least there's a chance. Some of them might even become desperate enough to start businesses; thus saving their souls and boosting the economy by creating wealth. The Blair/Brown regime created almost one million new 'jobs' in the public sector. Even if Szreter's numbers are right (and given the prevalence of the frankly corrupt practice of paying off public servants and then re-hiring them elsewhere in the state apparatus, I doubt it) the Coalition are not even coming close to scaling that back.

Unless the unemployment benefits of sacked public sector workers are greater than their salaries, there is a clear saving. As for the nonsense about the taxes they will not be paying, give me a break. They only ever "paid taxes" from money given to them by the only real taxpayers; i.e. those in the productive sector. Or, to put it another way, money they were given to pay taxes is also part of the saving achieved by sacking them, at least to the extent of the churn involved; i.e money lost on administration costs in paying out and taking back the part of their wages designated "tax"

PUBLIC SECTOR TAXES ARE A FICTION. If we can get nothing else into the statists' thick heads during these difficult times, please let it be that. And as for their lost purchasing power - it was taken by force from their fellow-citizens anyway. To the extent that it was not funded by debt, it will re-emerge elsewhere. To the extent it WAS funded by debt that's just us doing to our children and grandchildren what our welfarist grandparents and parents did to us.

Somewhere a line has to be drawn, because the more delicate issue is this. What if the economy is beyond stimulating into recovery? What if we are seeing the chickens of the Welfare State finally coming to roost? How are we going to cut our coat according to our cloth if so many of our voters are as blind as young Ben Szreter? And how, as he is young enough to be saved, are we going to rescue him from this craziness and make an honest, productive fellow of him before it's too late?