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

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Of poverty and privilege

After less than two years back in Britain I am bored of the first world problems of this plump and pampered land. I am particularly tired, for example, of the overused word "privilege". To me, the great enemy of mankind is not privilege but poverty. Those of us who are not poor represent a problem solved. The question is how to increase the wealth of those who still are. As a purely economic issue, that's a question long since answered.

History shows us that free markets cure poverty fastest. History also shows us that socialism increases poverty. Ask the millions of people in the former Soviet Bloc. It is a stupid, nasty, hateful doctrine; the moral equivalent of deliberately infecting the healthy with disease in order to reduce health inequality.

Socialism's obsession with material goods ignores the fact that the ability to accumulate wealth, important though it is as an engine of economic development, is not that big a deal at a personal level. Faced with my late wife's cancer, our life's savings could ultimately only buy her more comfortable surroundings in which to die. Material rewards for a life of hard work are all very well, but any sane person knows that true happiness comes from things that have little or nothing to do with money; health, culture, education. recreation and family. 

There's a wonderful passage in one of Billy Connolly's shows where he talks of a man at a dinner party who, asked what he did, said "I am a tobogganist". Connolly has much fun imagining what his Glaswegian working class father would have said if he had told him that's what he wanted to be. I have recently been reading about the famous photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. Both came from rich families. Both walked away confidently from their material comforts (although Frank occasionally took money from his parents to help him along) in order to embark on artistic careers. Their equivalent, if you like, of tobogganing.

The confidence, perhaps even arrogance, of such people about the importance of their life choices derives from the fact that, unlike Billy Connolly (and most working-class children) they have no practical-minded parents telling them, with their best interests at heart, to "get a real job" The confidence, or indulgence, of their parents is helped by money, of course. If you can't support your child for ever, you are understandably more anxious to see him support himself. But their "privilege" was more complicated than that. Their parents did not laugh at them when they aspired to be "tobogganists". Rather, they expected of them, if that's what they were going to do, that they should head for the highest Alp. That expectation is the true nature of privilege.

Yes, it's easier with money but it's also possible without. Chinese children do not do best in Britain's schools because Chinese parents are, on average, richer. They do better because their parents, on average, value education more highly and expect more effort. A "tiger mother" may not feel like a privilege when you are under her care and control, but she is worth more than all the money in the world. Any parent, rich or poor, educated or not, can be a good parent - with better effect on their child's ultimate happiness (and, incidentally, the nation's prosperity) than any redistribution of wealth.

I remember two long-lost school friends in my scruffy home town up North. Their father was a dustman devoid of all aspiration. Their mother, however, had a dream. Both arrived at infants school able to read because she had pushed them around town in their prams teaching them to do so from the road signs. Unashamedly eccentric herself, she empowered them to be different from their contemporaries and not to give a damn about the relentless peer pressure to be stupid at our bog-standard comprehensive school.

She wasn't Chinese. She was from the white working class; now the second-worst performing ethnic group in Britain's schools. She did nothing any parent, grand-parent or aunt - rich or poor - could not do. I wish all the whingeing envy-ridden half-wits banging on about "privilege" would shut up and be like that scruffy, oddball, utterly splendid mother. She refused to be defined by her circumstances. So - if we have any dignity - should we all.

If you have economically under-privileged kids, if you teach them, are related to them or even just have them as neighbours don't tell them they are doomed. Don't encourage them to hatred and envy. Encourage them to dream of "tobogganing" and lend them the occasional book. Let them see you reading for pleasure (pretend if you have to) so they think of it as normal. Then they will be privileged kids too.


These are entirely useless idiots - unless you are a politician

Britain could end these tax scams by hitting the big four | Polly Toynbee | Comment is free | The Guardian.
UK-Uncut-at-Vigo-Street-o-008Ignore Polly. She's just writing her usual hypocritical twaddle. Read the comments. They would be hilarious if they did not so clearly reveal the depths of ignorance, prejudice and hate-addled envy that now characterise most of the British people.

Any reference to tax structuring by Socialists (Margaret Hodge or the Guardian Media Group, say) is dismissed as Tory Propaganda while they rant on about taxing turnover, FFS.

Do they even know what turnover is? Do they understand it's perfectly possible (and indeed quite common at present) to suffer losses on substantial turnover? They either don't or more likely they don't care.

The sad fact is that they just hate (a) the productive and (b) the rule of law. They want their leaders to be able to grab any damn thing they want from anyone they dislike regardless of whether their victims obey they law or not. Due process of law is not the keystone of civilisation to them; it's a loathed obstacle to visiting their mindless hatred on their enemies. It's all (as they keep saying amusingly in demonstrating their entire ignorance of life's complexities) "very simple"

The companies they are attacking and others like them do all the innovating that makes our lives better (who really wants to live now without Amazon or Kindle?) and pay the wages taxed (directly and indirectly) to pay for all the "social goods" these retards lust over. I read recently that entrepreneurs take only about 3% of the value they deliver as their own reward. Their customers get 97%. Compare and contrast with the massive losses on "fiscal churn" involved in delivery of social goods by the retards' beloved state.

Corporate taxes are a joke anyway. The true economic cost falls on individuals (customers, employees and shareholders in varied combinations). There is no point at all in corporate taxation except to disguise the true level of personal taxation. These idiots are being taken for a ride by politicians, as usual. I predict, not a riot, but further punishment and demonisation of the productive in order to win votes from the envious, hate-ridden, feckless readers of that Cayman Island-based model of fiscal rectitude; The Guardian.

Leery about Leveson

It's too soon to react properly to the Leveson Report, as has been graphically illustrated by the meanderings of people trying to do so on TV in the past hour. Two thousand pages of judicial prose are hard to digest. He has played a canny political game. By declaring he will take no further part in the debate to come he has cleverly ensured his reputation for posterity. Any bad things that happen in his wake will be the fault of others. As he said, the ball is back in the politicians' court.

As he was only asked to review the dying, if not yet quite dead, duck of the mainstream media, the main effect of his efforts will be to widen the already hilarious gap between what newspapers publish and what is available on the internet. That will weaken the credibility of the print media, and its demise will be accelerated in consequence. That worries me. The idea that the only professional news-gatherers in the world of journalism will be those in the broadcast media is a dire prospect. Newsnight, anyone?

The BBC is already the most influential news medium in Britain. If its undue influence is further bolstered, then let's at least drop the myth of its impartiality. Let it be set free to be openly the Pravda of British broadcasting and let Murdoch launch Fox News UK. Let a hundred schools of thought contend and let the public be the judge.

The idea that a press Code should be enforced by a regulator independent of both the industry and the state sounds great, but OfCom - the body Leveson suggests should "validate" the regulatory regime is a state agency staffed by well-paid and self-interested bureaucrats. People will angle for such jobs and obtaining the favour of politicians will be far more relevant to them than that of editors. Corruption will creep in, as it must in all bodies funded by force. The "great and the good" will dominate. If OfCom has any scope to "de-validate" the regulator or veto individual appointments to its review panel, directly or indirectly, then it will pretty soon be pulling strings behind the scenes. In a very British way, of course - with a nod and a wink over a G&T.

My only immediate criticism of the specifics of Leveson's report is that I am alarmed by his idea of what might be a meaningful incentive to newspaper owners to sign up for "voluntary" regulation. The only suggestion I have heard from him in this respect is for aggravated or punitive damages in libel cases where the relevant publication had not submitted to the Code. That's a frighteningly subtle suggestion. After all, most of us will be outside the Code. I heard someone from the Huffington Post (I think) on Sky News express total confidence that blogging is safe from all this, because internet publication is, or can be, extra-territorial (like this blog, hosted in the US and protected by the First Amendment). But our defamation law has extra-territorial reach, as witness those men of power who visit our courts specifically to use it to silence their critics. Guido Fawkes' blog is offshore but Paul Staines can be sued for libel in England so long as it can be read here. Foreign courts (including those in the US) will enforce any judgements against him under international treaties, without question.

If aggravated damages for libel by "outlaw" publications become the norm, can anyone seriously imagine that the social media will long remain aloof? Guido's readership, after all, is already far greater than that of all the political journals in Britain combined. It's likely to grow far more as the chilling effect of the new code takes effect. Indeed, I suspect he will be the only real winner from Leveson as fear of big fines further emblandens the mainstream press and as politicians obliged to disclose their every contact with journalists turn to him (as some already do) to publish the leaks and smears that are the tools of their revolting trade.

How politicians act on Leveson's recommendations, given that he has trodden such a delicate political line, is now far more important than the detail of his report. We must be alert to their games. Leveson hasn't killed free speech in Britain, but that's not to say they won't use his magnum opus as cover to do so.


A Guardianista gets it, up to a point

It's elementary - I'm not a racist | Comment is free | The Observer.

It's remarkable how clearly all Guardianisti understand the concept of free speech, when it's their own right to opine at stake. Speak up, speak up they say. Let a thousand flowers blossom, let a hundred schools of thought contend. Until they use one of their free speech safewords, such as "racist", "islamophobe", "sexist", "homophobe", "climate change denier", "smoker*" or, of course, "right wing".

Victoria Coren, however, is to be commended this once for getting it absolutely correct;

Last week, a caller to the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 said that Andrew Mitchell should be jailed for swearing at the police because "there is too little respect for them".

As someone who remembers from childhood the timid, furtive voices of east European cousins on the phone – those few who had survived the concentration camps – who dared not speak freely from behind the Iron Curtain because they feared being tapped and followed, I am extremely offended by the suggestion that my own beautiful British society should become a police state, in which rudeness to these authority figures is punished by incarceration. But do I think the caller should be jailed for offending me? No, I think there should be no such thing as a speech crime. However foul a thing you want to say, you can say it freely as far as I'm concerned. And I'm including the skinheads who shouted "Yid" at me during my grandfather's funeral.

Yet, even if you believe that offensive remarks should be proscribed by law, what about remarks that are misunderstood as offensive? It's nigh impossible to speak without any risk of misinterpretation, especially when mobs are out there looking to be outraged.

You don't have to support the campaign to reform Section 5. But one day, your teasing dig in a colleague's leaving card will be taken the wrong way; or your mobile phone comment will be misheard by passers-by in a crowded street; and then they will come for you.

Well said, comrade. As I pass my weekend ruefully at the Battle of Ideas, I wish I had a time machine to take so many of your readers for a little holiday in the old Soviet Union. Or even to my time in Warsaw or Moscow in the years that followed Communism's collapse to meet so many of those I knew there with clear memories of the old days and deep contempt for the truly racist idea that socialism can be made to work by superior Westerners, without a KGB or Stasi emerging.

h/t Tim Worstall

*usually rendered as "tool of Big Tobacco"


Socialism's popularity - not quite explained

The Commentator.

I am conscious that I have yet to make good on my promise to explain the continued political success of Socialism, despite its core ideas having been so thoroughly and bloodily discredited. Every time I try to write the promised post, something easier comes up to distract me. To be honest, it's hard to write anything the executive summary of which is not that "my fellow citizens are incredibly stupid." I know, on average, that's not true so I keep binning drafts tending that way.

Douglas Carswell MP has however made a contribution to this field of study in the linked post.

...government in many Western states started to grow soon after the introduction of unequal taxation. In the first decade of the twentieth century, in Britain, America, Australia and elsewhere, so-called progressive taxes were introduced. Government has grown in every decade since.

His thesis seems to be that while the original justification for "progressive" taxation (higher rates for those with higher incomes) was Socialist redistribution of wealth, it persists not because voters believe in that.  Rather it's because it makes it easier, selfishly, for them to vote themselves more benefits at the imagined expense of others. I am not sure that saying "my fellow citizens are incredibly greedy" is much more appealing than the way my binned posts were leaning, but he might have a point.

The first comment on Mr Carswell's post is also rather interesting. It has some potential for explaining why the state's "redistribution of wealh" so often seems to be from the poor to the middle class - a sort of national microcosm of the old saw about foreign aid amounting to poor people in rich countries giving money to rich people in poor countries.

The increase in government increases the employment of middle and upper middle class well educated people who lack the drive, technical skills and initiative to run their own businesses. These people have the ability to understand complex procedures and enjoy the fact that following rules will provide a relatively well paid, safe and secure employment.

Might this at least account for the popularity of Socialism with the middle class Guardianisti? Delightfully, if true, it would mean that they are effectively higher-paid welfare scroungers, which might account also for their indignant defence of those worthies. Of course that's perhaps adequately explained by their making a living from farming the underclass, rather than belonging to its saloon bar version.

What do you think? Did the concept of unequal taxation lead us to our present bind? Is the real motivation for big government not the discredited Socialist ideas used to justify it, but the sinecure jobs it provides to educated idlers?


An evil influence

Eric Hobsbawm dies, aged 95 | Books | guardian.co.uk.

Eric-Hobsbawm-010
When friends doubted my assertion that Britain's establishment is more Marxist than Russia's ever was, Hobsbawn was always the name I mentioned. If you were educated in a British school or read history at a British university, you have almost certainly studied from one of his texts. If you have read British newspapers, listened to or viewed BBC programmes you have encountered his pervasive influence.
He became a fellow of the British Academy in 1978 and was awarded the companion of honour in 1998.

What kind of country gives its highest honours to a man dedicated to the destruction of its free society? To the destruction of the economic system that made it capable of sustaining him in a life of contemplation? A man who supported the Soviet Union even after it crushed the Hungarian Uprising? A man who remained a member of the British Communist Party until its collapse - long after all with any decency had resigned? A man so monumentally misguided as to support to his end an ideology that had led directly to the slaughter of millions and the impoverishment of billions?

You tell me.


Government "savings" in perspective

Government savings infographic in perspective | Burning Our Money | The TaxPayers' Alliance.

This (click to enlarge) is the tool we need in our everyday conversations with the Thoughtless. The method to show them, in terms they can understand, that there are no cuts. No austerity. Just a fractional slowing in the rate at which the government spends the money it takes by force from the productive - or their posterity.
Spending-perspective

Surely they must understand it now? Mustn't they?


Is this government stimulating the economy?

'Online snooping' scheme expected to cost at least £1.8bn | Technology | guardian.co.uk.

The national debt continues to rise, yet the Tories have £2 billion to spare to snoop on our online activities. It will cost much more in the end no doubt, as government IT estimates usually bear very little relation to reality.

The government is very welcome to inspect my private communications if it has sufficient prima facie evidence of criminal activity to persuade a judge that it should be able to do so. That's how the law stands. For all the moral panic that the Home Secretary and senior policemen are trying to create and for all their bullshit about "total war on crime" no change to that position is necessary, desirable or affordable.

Theresa May can call us conspiracy theorists to her heart's content, as long as we retain the freedom to call her an authoritarian disgrace to a party that claims to believe in liberty. OK, Theresa? Of course, it might be better if we could converse about it intelligently. Some hope.

Incidentally, our leftist chums over at the Guardian's site are remarkably sound in their criticisms of the plan now that it's coming from the vicious, right-wing Tories. Check out the comments and you may find yourself amazedly applauding. I don't remember them being quite as vocal when this authoritarian twaddle was coming from the Labour Party.


Of panic and progressives

It seems Captain Schettino panicked. Who's to say you wouldn't? | Bruce Hood | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.

There's an interesting (and rather heated) discussion of the linked Guardian contribution to the discussion of Captain Schettino's conduct over at Harry's Place. Libby T asks the provocative and amusing question "Is there anything so craven that it won’t find an apologist at The Guardian?" Quite. However I find the original piece by Bruce Hood, an 'experimental psychologist' at the University of Bristol less revealing than the comments it provokes over at the Guardian's Comment is Free section. For example;

I can guarantee you: No little old lady is too sweet, no pregnant momma too rotund for me to trample them down on the run to the exits.

Progressives and their love of their fellow man, eh?

Actually that's rather a cheap shot and I should be ashamed of myself. In fairness, many others at Comment is Free make sensible and even noble points. Still it's educational to watch other Guardianisti try to fit this story, like every other, into their tired ideological templates. The trouble with making 'society' to blame for everything, it seems, is that you risk making excuses for anyone who fails to take personal responsibility. Rather like the progressives at work in our justice system, perhaps.

For myself, I am upset about a member of his crew comparing Captain Schettino's personal style of navigation to a 'Ferrari driver'. Harumph.


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.