THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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August 2016

Am I alone in seeing in this a golden opportunity for Britain post-Brexit?

Apple faces €1bn bill for Irish tax loophole

Apple has conducted itself in Ireland in full compliance with Irish tax law. The so-called "loophole" (aka lawful structuring) was not something devious used deceptively but was well known to — and accepted by — the Irish tax authorities. The Irish government agrees that Apple has done nothing wrong and is embarrassed at being put into this invidious position.

The EU Commission — probably at the behest of the leaders of core EU "boss states" envious of the high-tech jobs Ireland's well-educated, English-speaking young workers are enjoying. — has argued, and the European Court has now decided, that the arrangements were illegal "state aid" and the Apple should pay up to €13bn in taxes neither it, its legal advisers nor the Irish tax authorities think is due. As an Irish politician has already commented, "they want us to tax Apple here on money made elsewhere".

There is no doubt that Apple, Inc. acted in good faith. Its shareholders (probably including you, gentle reader, if you have a pension plan, life assurance policy or other investment as few portfolios lack some holdings of the world's largest company) have every right to be furious at the EU's attempt to rewrite the laws in retrospect to their detriment.

Theresa May's government should make it clear that it will replicate whatever attractive arrangements Ireland had been offering in return for the relocation of Apple's European operations here. Under longstanding arrangements that predate EU free movement, Apple's existing Irish employees are able to move here without restriction and even vote in our elections. They will be most welcome.

Outside the statist, near fascist mindset of the EU, there is nothing to stop Britain abolishing corporation tax (a pointless tax anyway as the burden of it — as a company is a mere legal fiction — always falls in truth on its employees, shareholders or customers). Then watch all the great companies of Europe as well as the Americas move here to be based in a place with the rule of law, the greatest reservoir of international legal, accountancy and other expertise in the world, no retrospective legislation and with the world's financial centre at hand.

With the extra taxes earned not from stupid corporation tax but from the income tax of the new British companies' employees etc., the government could pay for the infrastructure and educational improvements required to make sure the country and the new corporate arrivals reap the long term benefits of their short term decision.

What went wrong with feminism?

Woman and men are in this life together and bound by the most powerful of bonds. By which I don't mean sex. Sexual partners (and not just heterosexual ones) often move seamlessly from love through hate to damnable indifference. But that rarely happens to the love of mothers and sons, sisters and brothers or fathers and daughters. If you believe in the conspiracy theory of "the Patriarchy" you have to believe that the men in all those relationships don't give a damn about them.

For most of modern history, most institutions, religious, philosophical or legal, were built to square a cruel biological circle. To transmit her genes successfully, a woman needs to nurture her helpless child until it can itself reproduce . A man however can take the route successfully followed by the Great Khan. Sixty percent of modern Asian males carry his DNA because he impregnated and ran. Many of his offspring died but he is as near to being the father of Mankind as any alpha male has come.

If you think the likes of Genghis are no more, consider the behaviour of the modern "Big Dog" male. His wealth is largely the means to access – more and for longer into his old age – the women drawn to the protection it offers their progeny. Hello Rupert Murdoch. Hello Donald Trump. Hello Bill Clinton. Yes, I am talking to you. 

Contrary to "gender studies" orthodoxy, historical religion, law and social mores were developed not to lock women into subjection but to contain the male beast so that civilisation could be built. 

Technological advances gradually enabled changes in the male/female relationship. The Married Womens' Property Act of the nineteenth century. Votes for Women in the early twentieth. In living memory, birth control provided the final key to a completely changed relationship. For the most part, I don't think men are much interested in resisting that change. They want improvements in the lives of their mothers, sisters, daughters, partners and female friends. Why wouldn't they?

I admit I still encounter occasional men who have chosen "little women" to look up to them (or pretend to). But even in the dark ages of the 1970s I actively sought an intellectual equal as my partner. I could not imagine living with a woman whose intelligence I didn't respect. As it turned out, in my teenage hubris, I may have overshot. The late Mrs P was intellectually formidable and no sufferer of fools. But though our relationship was not always smooth, I still don't think that was our problem. 

Before she died, in contemplating her daughters' future, Mrs P. became alarmed at the direction feminism was taking. She was all for the removal of legal, social, institutional or educational obstacles in her daughters' paths, but she feared the sexual revolution had removed more constraints on men than women. Woman had kept all their old responsibilities but were also under pressure to be "Superwomen" and "have it all".  If they failed the opprobrium from their "sisters" was vicious.

She worried that a pattern was emerging where young men paired up happily with female peers pursuing their "Superwoman" goals. By the time the women were finally ready to have children, their men – as often as not – skipped off to have them with a younger woman. It seemed to her that it was men who were "having it all".

Our daughters' response to her worries was interesting. They told her they we live in a transitional time. "The old ways have gone but new ones have not emerged yet." They assured her that they were alert to the risks and would do their best to build happy lives. She needed to hear that but I hope that's not the only reason they said it.

For what it's worth, I think their analysis is essentially correct. We can't turn the clock back, even if we wanted to. They (and I) certainly don't. My concern is that the current feminist movement is not even trying to build on its achievements but rather veering off into wild conspiracy theories and ever more ludicrous radicalism.

"Female Eunuch" author Germaine Greer is banned from most British campuses, for example, because she doesn't accept that gender is a social construct to be changed at will, with or without surgery. Asking her doctor to sew floppy ears on her, she observed, would "not make her a fucking spaniel". This earthily practical observation – with which no sane person can disagree – has made her an outcast.


I want my daughters – and all modern women – to have all choices open to them that their skills, inclinations and ambitions support. I want them – all other things being equal as economists say –  to earn the same for the same economic input. I want them to be able to choose paths traditionally reserved to men. But I am inclined to agree with Milo Yiannopolous that the "third wave" feminism now attacking the fabric of reality itself is a catastrophe.

Part of the problem is natural enough. Revolutionaries in politics (like entrepreneurs in business) have a different mindset to the rest of us. When the loathsome sadist Guevara achieved his revolution in Cuba, he was bored. When shooting people he deemed "enemies of the people" lost its novelty, he went off to fight another revolution and die. When Peter Tatchell won his campaign for "gay rights" he didn't settle down to enjoy his new sexual liberty with a partner. He has led a celibate life as a fanatic, constantly raising the victimhood stakes to perpetuate the "struggle" he craves.

In business we know that we need the mad, ballsy entrepreneurs to take the high risks involved in opening new businesses. But the businesses that work then need sane, risk-sensitive people to manage them. Similarly, when the revolution has been won, the revolutionaries need to move on so that sensible people can build a stable, productive and potentially happy new society. When, if ever, is that going to happen with feminism?

Where Freedom stands now

America has forgotten that Small is Beautiful

I feel lucky to have lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. I never saw it coming. The bad guys in the Cold War seemed to have all the advantages and the abject grovelling of the West's politicians seemed to confirm Lenin's remark that "a capitalist will sell you the rope with which to hang him".

In Britain our Communist Party and many of our trade unionists and politicians were sympathetic to and in some cases in the pay of the Kremlin. The political game of those years seemed just as rigged as the Olympics in which naive amateur Westerners competed with drugged-up, pampered, full time Communist athletes.

My mother in law camped out at Greenham Common and claimed of the USA and USSR that "they're as bad as each other." She had at least visited Moscow with a Labour Party trip, seen the bare shelves in GUM and experienced the joys of Soviet service culture, so she was less enthusiastic than most of her leftist contemporaries. Having heard my Russian teacher's reaction in Moscow to my revelation that I had been a Maoist in my teens, I strongly suspect there were more true believing socialists in Britain than there ever were in Soviet Russia. "You actually believed in it?" she said. "No one here did!"

What were the chances of the Cold War ending as it did, given those circumstances?

Without the happy coincidence of the USA and UK producing the best leaders in their history at the same time, the views of the other Western leaders who dismissed them as fools and warmongers right up to the point of victory could have prevailed. Yes, the USSR would have foundered anyway because economic truth, always less attractive than fantasy, would have prevailed. But the West of the détente era would cheerfully have continued to sell grain and other essentials to feed its people and prop up its vile regime. Without Pope John Paul II, Lech Walȩsa (history's second most under-rated hero after the original and best Tom Paine), Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the Soviet Union might still be limping along.

I feel even luckier to have worked, as an international lawyer based in post-Communist Poland and Russia on the reconstruction of the countries of Central & Eastern Europe. I helped my clients provide facilities, infrastructure and housing that improved the lives of locals immensely. I was, in Marxist terms, a "running dog" of international capitalism and I could not be more proud of it. No socialist in history ever improved the lives of the people of any country on the scale that we did. When I visit today's Poland and remember the country I first saw in 1992, my heart sings.

After what I have witnessed in my life, I am as surprised as Matt Ridley in the linked article from The Times today that free markets are again out of favour. It frankly astonishes me that anyone sentient could still use the word "socialist" with approbation. And yet the Labour Party in Britain now has more members than all other political parties combined, precisely because it has returned to its socialist roots. Economic reality remains unpopular. For all the empirical evidence of 20th Century history, socialist fantasy retains its appeal — as witness the recent devastation of Venezuela, urged on by the ideological cretins of the Labour Party.

Yet all over the West (even the Land of the Free is "feeling the Bern") real world economics are still being dismissed with the Marxist pejorative "capitalism". And this by young people dressed, fed and equipped for their SJW campaigning with tablets, phones etc. provided, as Lenin predicted, by "capitalists".

It's often noted that Marxism has some characteristics of religion. True believers see everything through its prism. Facts don't disturb their convictions. The Satan of "capitalism" is at the root of all evil and the "God" of socialism is credited with every advance. What leftist ideology and theology really have in common I fear is that they both exploit the human weakness reported by Paul Simon in my favourite song, "The Boxer." As he wrote on a yellow legal pad in Queens all those years ago, "a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest".

The idea that humans can treat all their fellows as brothers and sisters and share with them as they would with their own family is appealing. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a great slogan. So much more noble than the truer ones from Communist era Poland such as "standing up or lying down it's still a złoty an hour" or "if you're not stealing from the state you're stealing from your family'. The daily economic grind, particularly of the young setting out on their careers, is tedious. The temptation to envy those who are - for whatever reason - better off financially is close to irresistible for many. Most tellingly, perhaps, the temptation for politicians to pander to such weakness requires more morality to resist than anyone attracted to bossing others about is likely to have.

I am particularly struck by how profoundly we tribal humans experience the boundaries of the nation state. We simply refuse to learn lessons from the experience of other nations. Twenty years as an expatriate took off my national blinkers but now I am back I understand that my fellow Brits don't really accept the relevance of other peoples' history. My posh socialist friends in London seem to think Communism only failed because those shambolic Russians were mostly in charge of it. If I were inclined to their methods of debate I might call them racist. At least they have more excuse than young Poles, Czechs and Hungarians who are raising the red flag again. Don't they talk to their grandparents?

That's a long whinge and I apologise for it. The only real question is always "What to do?" I wish I had a simple suggestion but let's face it - the lure of simple ideas is our enemy not our friend. It may be the youth of American and Britain won't learn until Bernie or Jezza have had their way with them as Lenin, Mao, Castro and Hoxha had their way with their own peoples. But if we love them (and I love quite a few of them, not least the Misses Paine) we have to read widely to arm ourselves with arguments and be brave enough (even at the risk of being the golf club or family bore) of advancing them whenever we can.

Perhaps one lesson of Labour's situation is that our political parties are now highly vulnerable to "entryism". Cynical though all wise men must be about the motivations of party members and the politicians they serve, perhaps we should hold our noses and join? If enough classical liberals, aspirational working-class voters re-politicised by Brexit and plain old-school Thatcherites joined the Conservative Party, for example, perhaps the authoritarian social justice warrior who leads it might quake in her kitten heels? Its membership is so trivially small that it is far more vulnerable than Labour. UKIP is also making such a mess of itself post-Farage, that its members could surely be tempted away?

I am no pessimist. I have faith in our young people. They are every bit as clever as we were and have more historical data to work with. They will err (as we did in our day) and then life will teach them hard lessons. The job of the older generation that loves them is to make them more receptive. 


Tribal politics

The names by which we know Native American tribes are those given by their enemies. They are hostile and insulting. That's because in the languages of the Plains Indians the word for one's own tribe simply translates as "human". The "other" tribes in their notions when their languages were formed were simply not human. Something of the same concept is reflected in the Chinese word for foreigner sometimes being rendered into English as "foreign devil".

Are we in the West above this primitive thinking in which different tribes of Homo sapiens compete for the title of "human?" I am not so sure. Consider the powers of the President of the USA. Whereas in his dealing with his own people he is bound by law to respect their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, he can kill or maim foreigners more or less at will. To a lesser or greater extent this is also true for the political commanders of the armed forces of other civilised Western powers. So to us, no less than to the Plains Indians of old, the "other" is, if not actually inhuman, quite considerably less.

Something of the same can be detected in our response to the refugee crisis. For someone who is "other" to be accepted, he must be so weak and unthreatening that our own tribe's prestige is enhanced by protecting him. On the other hand neighbours will often protest the deportation of an illegal immigrant if he or she has integrated into the community sufficiently to have — in effect — joined the tribe. Father or mother a native and the law will even confer that status on you officially.

I am singling out the West here not in the hypocritical manner of a social justice warrior. I am openly holding us to a higher standard because I believe unashamedly that we are — or at least should aspire to be — ethically superior. I am not surprised to note that undemocratic rulers of lesser lands can casually have foreigners killed without negative consequences for themselves. I am surprised that we are not surprised that our leaders can. In fact, we mostly don't even think about it.

If you follow the debate within the Labour Party about Tony Blair's status as "war criminal" or otherwise, it doesn't turn particularly on legal issues. In fairness how could it, when "international law" is such a nebulous concept? It seems largely to reflect another form of tribalism; Blair was not truly a member of the Labour tribe and does not therefore come under its protection. Or he was and did.

Wars happen of course. A libertarian state would never initiate one. Given the non-aggression principle, a state that began a war would cease to be libertarian. But it might have to fight one if attacked. And in the course of a war, people kill and are killed without legal consequence. [I am choosing my words carefully; one of the best things I can say about humanity is that there are almost always consequences to killing, even accidentally or otherwise lawfully]. But though Western leaders now love to declare war on abstractions (drugs, terrorism, obesity) they rarely now declare an actual war. They just order in their forces (aka our sons and daughters in arms) for not "war" but "military action" to kill foreigners with no justification that would suffice for one of their own. 

Oddly Western leaders are increasingly slow to cloak themselves with a status that would clearly protect them from criticism. Our warrior kings don't like to go to official war. Perhaps because their electorates would require them to justify such a dramatic step, whereas just killing people who are clearly "other" is not such a biggie? If that's true, what does it say about us?

If you are waiting for me to get to the point, I must disappoint you. I don't really have one. I am just asking a question that has always been important but is now made urgent by the Presidential campaigns underway in the US. Two of the worst people in America are competing for, amongst other prizes, the right to order in the Marines or even use that infamous "football" that's carried around with POTUS. In voting, Americans are — amongst other things — choosing the next likely targets for their military. Why are we not more concerned? 

It's wrong to be prudent, successful, able or talented in modern Britain

If you have worked hard and saved for your old age this is a bad day for you as the Bank of England bails out the feckless and the over-borrowed by reducing interest rates in a vain attempt to stimulate the economy by encouraging more feckless over borrowing as opposed to prudent investment.

If you worked hard, campaigned and succeeded in the Brexit Referendum, then you go unrewarded today as the personal groomers of the Cameron household and the failed campaigners for Remain make out like honorific bandits in the outgoing PM's Resignation Honours List.

Change your nation for the better, take care of yourself and your family and you are despised. Fail, be dependent on the taxpayer and you are loved. And this under a "Conservative" government.