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

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THINK - The Economics of Change | Institute of Economic Affairs

THINK - The Economics of Change | Institute of Economic Affairs.

I thought some of you might like to watch in full the talk at the IEA's "Think" conference last year that was referenced in my previous post. Dr Stephen Davis, the IEA's Director of Education, talks about driverless cars, 800 year life-spans and (which I forgot to mention, but is fascinating in its own right) "vertical farming".  

Apparently, and here's a fact to confuse a libertarian, the war on drugs has led to advances in horticulture. Driven underground, those cultivating illegal drugs have developed techniques that could lead, if more widely applied, to mankind feeding itself using 10% of the land currently being farmed. Great areas of the planet could be returned to prairie, steppe or forest. Of course it's also possible that we will simply feed ten times the number of humans from the same land and/or (I suppose, deviating imaginatively from Dr Davis's script) use these techniques to colonise other planets.

Libertarians foxed by the idea that suppressing an activity can enhance its efficiency will take cheer from the fact that these advances have only become available because several US states have legalised cannabis – at least as "medical marijuana". As the marijuana farms become public, other growers can both marvel at and copy the innovations the former criminals made in secret. 



How far are we from the bottom of this slippery slope?

Child taken from womb by social services - Telegraph.

A pregnant Italian has a panic attack while on a training course in Britain organised by her employers. Her unborn daughter is ripped untimely from her womb by Essex Social Services. She is first put into care and then given up for adoption in Britain. All this is sanctioned by the Court of Protection despite the mother's court appearance in a stabilised condition at which she "impressed" the judge. Maybe it's because I am an ex-lawyer but the most sinister words to me are
she was deemed to have had no "capacity" to instruct lawyers
I have never heard of a fellow human more in need of a specialist lawyer than her. Anna Raccoon, a great campaigning blogger now lost to us often told horrifying tales of the secretive Court of Protection. Having spent my career as a business lawyer, I found them hard to believe. My own experience of our courts was of the bumbling, pompous, self-regarding inefficiency one must expect of any state monopoly, but never of malice or cruelty.
Is our law so dumb it can't infer a woman about to be assaulted in this manner might want a lawyer? Could one not have been appointed on that assumption? When back on her meds and able to appear sensibly in court, did our laws really give the state the power to take her child away permanently on the basis she 'might' have a relapse? After all, every mother 'might' develop a mental illness. Even an adoptive one hand-picked for compliance with state norms. 
Can anyone really disagree with her lawyers' mild assertion that 
...even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.
For that matter, her family might have been better-placed to look after the child. Nowadays that doesn't even seem to occur to our servants turned masters. Our social services didn't even contact them. If there is a family member willing to accept responsibility, the involvement of social services should end. They need (if they are needed at all) to be reduced to the status of an emergency service, not regarded - as they now seem to be in Soviet Britain - as the default guardians of every child.
What kind of employer does this poor woman have that management even allowed social services to get near her? Why didn't they get her back to her family and the doctor treating her condition in Italy? If that was impracticable, did they feel no moral obligation to get her a British doctor who could sort out her meds? If that was impracticable, why did they not get her a lawyer? I think they should be named because I want to boycott them.
The victim of this miscarriage of British justice is bi-polar, but living normally with the aid of her meds. It could happen to any of us. Mental illness doesn't mean you cease to exist as a person. It doesn't mean you cease to have rights. It doesn't mean you cease to love your children. It doesn't mean you won't have a long life of grief if your baby is taken from you against your will and put forever beyond your reach. It does means you need protection, which is why the "Court of Protection" has that name. Sadly it seems to be a Newspeak name, if ever there was one.
A friend having shared some of his divorce paperwork with me recently I begin to fear that our Family Courts are worse than merely incompetent. Another friend, a judge specialising in immigration matters, told me her court was packed with leftists under the last government and that she was subjected to compulsory indoctrination. Still, I am reluctant to accept that any part of our judicial system is this heartlessly, brutally statist. I need to believe in the independence and neutrality of judges for without the Rule of Law we are lost. I could not expend so much effort on blogging if I had no hope.
One final, relatively minor, thought. Our society pretends to go to enormous lengths to respect and protect different cultures. How come this child can be denied her Italian heritage?

These laughable, cryable NHS reforms

Following the government's response to the Francis Report on Comrade Sir David Nicholson's performance in mid-Staffs is discouraging. Listening to a newsreader brightly announce that patients will in future be told the name of the consultant and nurse responsible for their care or that medics with a history of catastrophic failure will be blacklisted so they can't simply move to another hospital, I watched her eyes. She seemed to think it was a jolly good idea. So did I. Unlike her I was horrified it had ever been otherwise.

As a lawyer, I was never able to consign clients to the care of anonymous assistants. And I took up references on new hires to ensure I did not get my competitor's defective cast-offs. If my team failed them, the buck obviously stopped with me as the responsible partner. Who would expect otherwise?

Everyone is talking as if "our NHS" went wrong. It didn't. It came wrong. It is in the nature of Socialist enterprise to break the customer/provider nexus and elevate the workers to primacy. It's not a bug, it's a feature. Even the bugs first grown in NHS hospitals - MRSA and C. Diff - are features. Did any other health care provider in history send patients out with new diseases of its own creation?

More than any other political slogan I hate "people before profit". It's not merely a false dichotomy it is to truth as anti-matter is to matter. Market mechanisms are not perfect in operation because they act upon the inputs of an imperfect species. But they connect humans to their duty to their fellow men more effectively than the most extreme violence. This, the vile history of the Soviet Union should prove to even the thickest clod in our national meadow. Markets are moral, at least by comparison to Socialist command and control.

It may be your NHS, but it's damned well not mine.

It's not a bug, it's a feature

NHS hospital death rates among worst, new study finds - Channel 4 News.

It's a good job I am unlikely to reach my maximum age in this country, because I don't think I could stand many more years of listening to the bureaucrats in Britain's soviet healthcare system. 

Here they are again, expressing surprise about its performance comparing badly with other countries. They pause for a second to sound shocked, promise to do better in future and then return to platitudes about 'our NHS' and how it is admired (no it bloody isn't) 'all over the world'. Within a minute they are using whatever horrors have been exposed to justify extorting more money from taxpayers to improve their own working conditions, pay and pensions.

Any service funded by force does not need to satisfy its customers to survive. Many of its employees will rapidly cease to care about them, because they don't need to. It's not a bug, it's a feature. Whatever pieties the politicians and bureaucrats may recite such an organisation - in practice - is not there to serve the patients, but the staff.

As witness the career of Sir David Nicholson, poly history and politics grad (odd qualification to run a health service) and 'tankie' member of the British Communist Party until the shamefully late date of 1983 (ah, there's the qualification). He presided over mass deaths (compared to the performance of other countries' systems) and yet will retire next year a rich man. If he had faced the downside as well as the upside of a soviet aparatchik's life - the sort of management a 'tankie' might be expected to approve of - he would have been shot or spent serious time in the gulag. Under Britain's softer socialist state, it was reported in 2011 that he enjoyed benefits of £37,000 and claimed expenses of almost £60,000 on top of his salary of £200,000+.

Interestingly, the monster expenses were for a London flat. He was required to work in the capital, though his main office is in Leeds. However his home is in Broome, Worcestershire. By Google Maps calculations his 124 mile commute to London was therefore an improvement on that to Leeds! And let's not dwell on the happy coincidence that the NHS found a high-paid and no doubt better-pensioned job as head of Birmingham Childrens' Hospital for the woman for whom he left his wife.

It's a tough life being a British aparatchik, isn't it?

As for why the American system these mandarins despise so much kills so many fewer patients, the answer is simple enough. The medics there answer to patients, not bureaucrats. And the truth about any failures of care is available for them to learn from, not suppressed by aparatchiks to flatter the politicians and bamboozle the proles.

Research links children's psychological problems to prolonged screen time. Oh yeah?

Research links children's psychological problems to prolonged screen time | Society | The Guardian.

Busybodies always seem to assume that, if forbidden to do the things they don't like, you will do the things they favour. As that's an obvious fallacy they will move from ban to ban until everything of which they disapprove is forbidden and we have the totalitarian society they crave.

If the "prolonged screen time" of which "Public Health England" is so disapproving were in front of a Kindle for example, reading with the intensity that I read when a young boy, would that be a problem? I managed to spend many more hours a week reading than modern children spend watching television, chatting on Facebook and playing video games combined. Yet I got exercise too because I walked or rode everywhere on my bike, was bought a season ticket to the local swimming pool as my birthday present every year and - most importantly - was allowed out on my own from a young age. I took all my exercise unsupervised, not just going to the swimming pool every night on my way home from school, but out and about on the streets and in the fields and woods with my friends.

Modern children are not the problem. Modern parents - with their imagined terror of what might happen if their children were free range - are the problem. Children are not getting enough exercise because many respectable parents are too busy to take it with them and too paranoid to let them take it on their own. Is it any wonder they spend a lot of time with electronic entertainments? Those, after all, are available in the home, without parents making a ludicrous fuss. Is it any wonder they chat with their friends online, when they are not allowed to be with them?

There may even be a positive side to all this. I suspect, for example, that one could correlate the decrease in violent street crime with the increased popularity of computer games. I happened to wander into a video games store in my home town on a working day and was amazed by its pale denizens who looked as though they lived under a stone. They reminded me of the local youths of my day who used to get a lot of healthy exercise chasing and offering violence to respectable, studious young people. I am sure their parents have no more heard of "play dates" than their grandparents had, so without the efforts of Electronic Arts et al., they would certainly be out unsupervised. Maybe they are not better off spreading their waistlines and satisfying their lust for violence in front of a monitor, but the rest of us are. If respectable, paranoid parents allowed their children out unsupervised, they would probably be safer now than in the "good old days" because the nasty kids would still be indoors - killing each other online. If only the computer industry could make cyber sex as satisfying as cyber violence, maybe those families would also stop breeding?

More seriously, if this now falls under the definition of "public health" in Britain, there is no hope of freedom. The state took its public health powers in order to clean up the disease-ridden slums and restrict the activities of the likes of Typhoid Mary - because those were external threats. No-one could reasonably object to such powers but, as always, the people to whom they are granted never stop trying to expand them. They do so in their own financial self-interest and because the people attracted to such jobs are those who like to boss others about. However sad it may be that children are getting fat because their parents don't let them get enough exercise, it's not a threat to anyone but themselves. Therefore it's not the state's business. A country that has the resources to employ expensive professionals to carry out studies of what its children do with their recreation time does not know the meaning either of "austerity" or "common sense".

Compare and contrast

Sir David Nicholson admits failings over Mid Staffs but refuses to resign - Telegraph.
Sir David Nicholson, were our society organised as the defunct British Communist Party to which he once belonged might desire, would now be put up against a wall and shot. In our wet British version of Soviet Healthcare, however, he avoids all responsibility for the NHS's lethal failures. After all, there are plenty more patients where those came from.

Compare and contrast with one Andrew Mason, who wrote to his staff before leaving;
After four-and-a-half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding, I was fired today ... As CEO I'm accountable.
I rather suspect that Mason has put more efficient and vigorous effort into the success of Groupon than Nicholson has to that of the NHS. Yet he was held accountable by his board on behalf of his shareholders and accepted it with grace. Good for him. He failed this time, but with an attitude like that, I am sure he will yet do great things. I would hire him, if I owned a suitable company. I wouldn't employ Nicholson to clean my boots.

So is the success or failure of a company that organises online discounts more important than that of a whole nation's healthcare system? Should the bosses of an internet start-up be stricter with their CEO than Parliament is with the head of the NHS? What other conclusion, exactly, could a man from Mars infer from these two items of news?

Incidentally, Nicholson claimed expenses of over £50,000 a year on top of a basic salary of £200,000 and benefits in kind of £37,600 at a time when he was in charge of health service "cuts". His current wife, twenty years his junior and a former graduate intern in his office, is the £155,000 a year chief executive of Birmingham Children's Hospital. He wrote references for her during her meteoric rise through the NHS management ranks. Ain't life grand in the public service?

The NHS may not have adopted the iron discipline of the Soviet system, but it seems to have all the other elements. Generally, I prefer gentler market systems of accountability, but for aparatchiks like Nicholson, I could make an exception.

Our uncaring, selfish and cruel NHS

Stafford scandal: Let’s face the truth about our uncaring, selfish and cruel NHS - Telegraph.

For once, one of Britain's mainstream journalists did his job. Years ago I incredulously watched a consultant at our local hospital, asked politely by me to give my sick father some information on his condition, do so at the top of his voice in the middle of Nightingale ward full of similarly anxious families. He neither moved, nor even glanced, towards him to do so. He never looked up from his notes. The only concern he showed was for my impudence in daring to ask. Ever since then, I have seen the "envy of the world" line for the crock that it is.

The Conservative Party has betrayed so many of its key principles that we can now be surprised at nothing David Cameron says to justify his portrait one day hanging on the Downing Street stairs. But can anyone doubt the depth and permanence of his betrayal when they read the words (my emphasis);
In retaining his power, Sir David, who is a former member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, had already been endorsed by our political leaders. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, publicly backed him. David Cameron, in the House of Commons, expressed every confidence in the great man. 
Had the revolution come in the way the CPGB originally planned, there would at least have been a way to deal with Sir David Nicholson. The families of thousands slaughtered on his watch might have had the grim satisfaction of hearing that gunshot.

All they will hear under this miserable Frankfurt School communism by stealth is the sound of a political class that will no more submit to a bog-standard NHS hospital than they would send their children to a bog-standard comp., murmuring platitudes as they cover each others backs.

The British welfare state has created more invalids than the Great War


The video is a little ropey but please persist and view the whole thing. As ever, Dr Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple) is both interesting and darkly amusing.

He reports that, under a threat of violence (50% of doctors have been assaulted in the last 12 months) most general practitioners in Britain are routinely filling out fraudulent certificates enabling fit individuals to go "on the sick" where benefits are 60% higher than for unemployment and there is no need to pretend to seek work. More than 2.5 million people have such certificates and he claims that "the great majority of them are fraudulent or at least untruthful." More than a million people have them for "depression and anxiety" alone. He comments wrily that it is an achievement of the British welfare state that it has "created more invalids than the First World War".

Another achievement of the British welfare state is an enormous growth in heroin use. In the 1950s, when heroin addicts were registered with the Home Office, there were known to be about 60 in the whole country. It is now thought that there are about 300,000. He describes an official ideology that heroin addiction is a sickness beyond the addicts' control, which renders them unable to work and drives them to crime. An ideology he says is "completely and obviously wrong."

Every user chose freely to take heroin the first time and most use it intermittently for up to a year before beginning to take it regularly. Most users live in a sub-culture in which the consequences of taking heroin are far better known, as he puts it, than "the dates of the Second World War".

He says it's untrue that medical or other support is necessary to give up heroin. He jokingly calls Mao Zedong "the greatest drug therapist in history" because he told China's heroin addicts that if they didn't give it up he would shoot them. 20 million duly did. Without recommending such a radical approach, he points out that this clearly proves a "conceptual difference between, say, rheumatoid arthritis and drug addiction." Mao's approach, after all, would not have "cured" the former.

For so long as users don't give up heroin he says that's no reason for them not to work. Research shows that in the fifties most American addicts worked normally and indeed most of our own users now lead very active working lives - except that their "work" is burglary.

The growth in heroin use is therefore driven, he seems to suggest, by the needs of the "bureaucracy of care" serving the addicts. Its members need a passive population that takes no personal responsibility in order to secure their jobs. He believes that "at some level" these public employees know full well that they are playing games. In his words;

I would say the addiction services need the addicts more than the addicts need the services.

That's a more shocking critique of welfarism from an insider that I would ever have dared to offer from the outside. To suggest that an army of "carers" has, in effect, steadily built heroin use from 60 to 300,000 to give themselves jobs seems so wicked as to be scarcely believable. But then who would have thought the learned members of our medical profession could be recruited to knowing, if not willing, participation in frauds worth billions of pounds?

For all that its servants justify their jobs by droning on about the supposed immorality and greed of their bogeymen in business, only the state, ladies and gentlemen, can corrupt on such a massive scale.

Doctors out of their boxes

Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: The dictatorship of public health.

I am not quite sure how I missed the linked article back in September but I am glad I found it via Chris Snowdon's review of the year at his excellent blog, Velvet Glove, Iron Fist. The authoritarians of the medical establishment are in many ways our best hope for liberty. This may seem paradoxical, but bear with me.

The greater the State becomes, the more authoritarians it attracts. Wormtongue types are drawn, as so many of them already have been, by the chance to subvert legitimate authority to their own ends while living on the state's plunder. The more they succeed, the more arrogant they become. They see no legitimate boundaries to their control of their fellow men. Our corrupt political class will offer no defence against these parasites unless and until popular resistance threatens their own power. We cannot count on their principles, if indeed they have any. We can rely entirely, however, on their self-interest.

 Where, however, is this resistance to come from? State education, state broadcasting and the generally emasculating effect of the Welfare State have much weakened the yeoman spirit that made England, for most of its history, delightfully ungovernable. The unthinking majority of voters will never rebel - until it's far too late - against threats to freedom of thought. Attacks on their lifestyle however are another matter. Cromwell fell not because the Monarchy won a rematch of its debate with republicanism, but because, having weakened his appeal by forbidding dancing, aleing and Christmas, his hypocrisy in having his son succeed him (just like a King) tipped the scales of popular feeling.

The state can beat up as many anti-statist intellectuals as it likes and no-one will protest. Let it beat up the smokers, drinkers and pie-fans however and popular resistance can be expected - even from those usually too idle to move further than to the nearest Greggs. Doctors with God complexes may therefore be our best hope. Perhaps as we enter the final phase of end-of-year excess, we should be campaigning for votes to be proportionate to BMI, units of alcohol per week or fags per day?

All organisations funded by force are immoral - Part 2: the NHS

The lethal medical arrogance behind the Liverpool Care Pathway | Melanie Phillips.

Melanie Phillips, not my favourite journalist, has been writing about the "Liverpool Care Pathway." Something Goebbelish about the name of this route to death is enough to make decent people suspicious, but that's modern Britain for you; all marketing mouth and no trousers.

My point is not about the "pathway" itself, but the response from the medical profession to Phillips' criticism of how it is sometimes misused. The arrogance is disturbing but unsurprising. During 20 years of living abroad, Mrs P and I had occasion to use the services of doctors from time to time. We were always pleasantly struck by the difference in their approach to that of their colleagues in Britain. They did not give "orders", they discussed our issues. They looked at us while they did so. They gave us time and treated us with respect. They did not dish out government propaganda and were not subject to government incentive schemes to adopt particular approaches. In short, they treated us like I treated my clients.

At the French-run Moscow clinic we used for a while, an NHS trained doctor came to work. She lasted a few weeks before being dismissed at the request of patients. She treated patients as so much meat, did not give them time or listen properly to what they had to say. Worst of all (and inexplicable to patients with no experience of Britain's Soviet-style healthcare) she reached for some kind of NHS manual for guidance as to approved treatment. Her patients expected more than that. They wanted to see the exercise of intelligent, professional judgement based on reasoned discussion. They didn't want judgements handed down from Mount Olympus by a self-appointed god. 

The NHS is a state monopoly enterprise. As such things will, it has steadily morphed into a worker's co-operative. The interests of staff take precedence over those of the customers-with-no-choice and the attitude to said customers tends to the dismissive. That's inevitable, because of the moral darkness at its heart; it is funded by force. The good opinion of patients is therefore not required. Promotion within the organisation depends upon contribution to its own goals, not those of the sick people it exists to serve. They are indeed routinely and insultingly described by NHS aparatchiks as a "cost" to the NHS, though they - collectively - pay for it.

There's nothing wrong with these medics that would not be fixed by exposure to competition and the humility it brings. You may say that they already have competition from the private health care industry but that's not really true. The doctors in private hospitals are overwhelmingly NHS consultants earning a bit on the side. Their primary source of income - and pension - is the state monopoly. They are with few exceptions trained by that monopoly and imbued with its stale ethic. If the system were fully private, they would have to provide A&E services, but instead they just offer a luxury add-on. I am fully privately-insured, but if I have an accident I will end up in the NHS's tender care. There is no way out of that in Britain.

It is indeed "our NHS" as the Tories feebly insist. I wish it bloody wasn't.