Saturday, 31 December 2005

Diets for capitalists

It's no accident - as the Marxists would say - that the Financial Times is printed on pink paper. The FT's endless advocacy of economic interventionism and its love affair with the Effeminate Union mean that I rarely buy a copy during the week. But on Saturdays I make an exception.

It's very enjoyable to pop down to Ryries and enjoy a pint or two while reading the weekend section of the FT. But even with this bit of the paper, there's a problem. Usually the Saturday edition carries an interview with some celebrity that takes place over a meal. The thing is, though, these meals are, how shall I put it, somewhat wimpish. Typically the "meal" goes something like this: two pieces of broccoli, three lettuce leaves, one-and-a half bottles of non-sparkling water and two cups of herb tea. Price £85. Good grief! I want my capitalists to be red in tooth and claw.

And today I got my wish:

Daitoen, Fukuoka, western Japan

Menu

3 plates of top quality salty tongue
3 plates of boneless short rib
3 plates of sirloin
2 plates of marinated intestines
1 plate of minced raw beef
1 plate of raw liver
1 x seaweed soup
1 x tail soup
1 x tomato salad
Kimchee pickles
3 x large rice
Ulon tea

Price: Y19,220 (£94)

On second thoughts, perhaps this is slightly over-the-top, but the guy was a sumo wrestler.

Just what's wrong with that little place in the back streets of Nice, a wee bit west of the Avenue Jean Medecin? The place that my wife and I went to quite a few times when we were in town a few years ago and where we consumed many helpings of steak au poivre with pommes frites, accompanied by lots of cheap but good red wine? About a fiver to you, Monsieur.

Here's the deal. The FT can fly us out to Nice on EasyJet, conduct the interview in that back street restaurant, and fly us back to Edinburgh for around the same price as one of those stick-insect meals. What could be fairer than that?

Friday, 30 December 2005

Is it still the Torygraph?

Many folk in the blogosphere have been lamenting a perceived leftward drift in the pages of the Daily Telegraph. I don't buy the dead-tree version myself, but usually have a quick daily scan of the paper's website. I guess this story in today's paper is the kind of thing that people have in mind:
Redistribution has traditionally been seen as a socialist objective, even though Tony Blair has consistently refused to go that far and has not reversed the cuts in the top rate of income tax introduced by Margaret Thatcher.
"Refused to go that far"! Give us a break, Mr Jones.

Are the rises in National Insurance figments of my imagination? Doesn't the local Labour administration raise my council tax every year? Didn't Gordon Brown mug my pension, but not his own of course? It seems to me that the entire period of the Blair government has been one continuous redistribution of my hard-earned wealth (not to mention my civil liberties) into the pockets of the Guardian-reading classes, as described so well elsewhere in today's Telegraph. No wonder readers are getting worried.

Don't mention the war

Edinburgh is full of tourists at this time of the year. And we've got to make them feel welcome:
A group of travelling actors is taking centre stage in an effort to show those in the tourist industry how to improve their hospitality skills.

They are using a series of Basil Fawlty-style scenes in which holidaymakers are faced with rude and apathetic hotel staff.

The courses are targeted at hoteliers and leisure staff in Scotland.

But would the course help when faced with this situation?

(UPDATE: It occurs to me that it was a bit remiss of the Consul to have been in Scotland for 14 months without having visited a pub. Aren’t these guys meant to get to know the local culture? Of course, I could never be a diplomat in Tokyo. Raw fish! Ugh.)

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

First they came for the microwave

We know how ZaNu Lab likes to criminalise the weapon instead of the perpetrator. You know the sort of thing: make guns illegal so as only criminals have guns.

But I was rather shocked at what happened after the unfortunate demise of a feline from the north east of England:

No arrests were made but a microwave was seized from the house in Middlesbrough.

Will the last person to leave Dumfries please turn out the lights?

I keep a little spreadsheet at home that estimates my income and expenditure month by month for the coming year. This document gets updated every few days. At the moment, it shows a council tax payment of £180 per month (excluding the February and March break). From April I had increased the forecast payment to £185 - an extra 2.78%. It looks like I had under budgeted:
HOUSEHOLDERS face the prospect of two years of above-inflation council tax rises and cuts in services unless the Scottish Executive steps in to fill a £1 billion "black hole" in local authority funding.
This morning I upped the amount to £190 per month - a 5.56% increase. Hopefully that'll be enough.

But it wouldn't be in the county of my birth:

Last night, senior local government sources claimed that, faced with these increased burdens, at least one council - understood to be Dumfries and Galloway - was considering a council tax rise of up to 17 per cent.
Seventeen percent! To think that my late grandfather was a Dumfriesshire councillor.

The councils' spokesman says:

the only answer was more money from the Executive
The Executive blames the councils.

I note that the Dumfries Council is:

a Coalition of Independent, Liberal Democrat and SNP Councillors.
and that the local Conservatives
... have reached a common understanding with the Administration about Priorities, Projects and Principles and look to our contribution in Business Review and Performance activities and the scrutiny of service delivery at area level.
Well, I hope that David Cameron is watching Dumfries to see how the local Tories "scrutinise" the proposed 17% tax rise. Perhaps our David will have to send Bob Geldof to Dumfries to help the poor taxpayers. He'll need a map of the local lampposts and a good supply of rope.

Walking tax

Well, not quite:
Walkers using the West Highland Way could be asked to pay £1 a day to help fund improvements to the popular route.
Note that "asked". It's not the usual ZaNu Lab "We're asking (sic) [some of] you to contribute (sic) more to public (sic) services (sic) by paying a bit (sic) more in tax". They really mean it this time - the proposal is to ask people to pay a voluntary contribution towards the upkeep of the walkway. And what's wrong with that?

Here it comes:

However, the Ramblers' Association Scotland has expressed concern at the proposal saying such a scheme could undermine the principles of Scotland's land reform legislation.
As far as I'm concerned, anything that undermines the "license to trespass" legislation is to be welcomed.

And what about this comment:

"I think it should be funded as it's a tourist attraction. Plenty of people along the way get lots of revenue from it."
That "funded" is the giveaway. It's the weasel word par excellence. What is meant is this: tax any private business in the area, whether it's got anything to do with tourism or not, but for God's sake don't ask the LibDem rambling classes to pay a penny.

The state is not your friend

And neither is the EU. No surprise there of course, but that truth keeps popping up almost everywhere.

Consider the latest publication from the Institute of Economic Affairs. (No link yet to the actual book.) Richard Teather of Bournemouth University has written The Benefits of Tax Competition and in Chapter 8 he discusses the EU Savings Tax Directive. Never mind the boring details, just think about this:

Even for EU investors, however, the directive is full of holes and should be easily avoidable; indeed, the Swiss have dubbed it the "fools' tax" because only those who do not take proper advice will be harmed by it.
For around ten years I was the Finance Director of the UK subsidiary of a Swiss-owned company. And guess what? Such advice is indeed available AND IS BLOODY EXPENSIVE! So we have a situation in which the left-leaning EU administration is getting brownie points for soaking the rich but is doing so in a way that can be easily avoided by those who really are rich and can afford the right advice while the man on the Clapham, Copenhagen or Cologne omnibus gets stuffed.

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Unusual event in Glasgow

I don't suppose that this sort of thing happens too often:
Police were hunting a man who staged an armed robbery at an amusement arcade while dressed in a bright pink dress and brown wig.
On the other hand, over here in Edinburgh I've seen an extraordinarily large number of elderly, bearded gentlemen wearing garish red cloaks.

What's Jack Straw doing about this?

Thanks to the full-metal-kilt-wearing Andrew Ian Dodge for reminding me of this story:
Kilt ban gets people uppitty..inc this Anglo-Norman.

And 9000 people have so far signed the petition to get an apology for a High School student who was banned from wearing his Clan kilt to a ball.

It seems clear to me that the Principal of Jackson High School must have been the victim of an extremely traumatic experience. How else can one explain his kiltophobia? Then it struck me: Mr McClard must have visited Paisley recently - and there's a town that would normally welcome a member of the Clan Lard - and the poor chap must have been forced to remove his baseball hat. (Scroll down if necessary.) A citizen of the good State of Missouri would indeed have been traumatised by such an event. And now he's got his revenge. In the good old days we'd have sent a gunboat. Clyde-built of course.

(UPDATE. Should the Royal Navy wish to do its duty - using HMS Edinburgh perhaps - here's the plan:

Take a south westerly route from the UK. Call in at Key West for some Rest 'n' Recreation. (Kilt wearing is optional.) Proceed to New Orleans. Sail north on Ol' Man River as far as Cape Girardeau. Turn guns to the north west. Range about ten miles. Fire. Goodbye Jackson High School. Then invite the local Southern Belles to an onboard party. Kilt wearing is now compulsory.)

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Tell me it's April 1st

Surely it must be. But no, I'm afraid that this is what we've come to expect:
Ministers have told councils, health boards and social work departments that they should compile a "smokers' map" of Scotland, focusing on those who regularly receive visits from officials and carers. This would identify individual households where a smoker is resident.

The smokers would then be sent letters asking them not to smoke for one hour before a council worker or health worker called round.

And isn't this hilarious:
Mike Rumbles, a Liberal Democrat MSP on the parliament's health committee, said: "This is politically correct nonsense, it is political correctness gone mad. We have a good law to prevent passive smoking harming people by banning smoking in enclosed public places. Public places, not private spaces. What is the Executive doing getting involved in people's homes?"
Mike old chap, this is not an example of "political correctness gone mad". This is exactly what political correctness is all about: the deliberate destruction of all of our traditional liberties and the imposition of the values of the enemy class. And guess what? Mike's own "Liberal" party has been at the forefront of that destruction. That's hardly surprising given that the Liberal Democrats are now merely the political wing of unionised town hall apparatchiks and have almost nothing to do with liberty.

Monday, 19 December 2005

The hat blogger

Last week I saw a man in Shandwick Place who was wearing a bowler hat. My late father used to wear one at the time when I was discovering Swinging London. How time flies. Anyway, now it seems that hats are a threat:
Shoppers in Paisley have been banned from entering some retail outlets wearing hoods and baseball caps.
And it's not just in Paisley:
Baseball caps have been banned from a chain of internet cafes in two Scottish cities, it has emerged.

Easyinternetcafes - owned by Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of low cost airline Easyjet - claims the headgear is linked with "deviant" behaviour.

The ban on wearing caps is to be piloted at the chain's branches in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Why just Edinburgh and Glasgow - at least to begin with? The customers in the Manchester Easyinternetcafe looked pretty scary when I was last there, but that may have been because the Championship Final was being played at Old Trafford the next evening.

Although I fully support the right of property owners to set the rules for entering their shops I am rather tempted to go to Paisley wearing this snazzy little number:



Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Or I could even try "blogging while hatted" at the Easyinternetcafe in Rose Street just like I did before I had broadband installed in the West Wing of the Bloghouse.

Damn, Damn, Damn

I'd always planned to do this myself.

But it's too late:

The Barclay brothers have agreed to sell The Scotsman newspaper and other titles to Johnston Press in a deal worth £160m
Now I'll have to acquire the whole Johnston Press empire. I remember thinking a few years ago that the Johnston shares were a "buy" but I didn't follow up. Perhaps Freedom and Whisky should make a shares-only bid for Johnston. Think of the synergy.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

Summoned by Big Brother

Have you ever wondered why so few Scots want to become entrepreneurs, at least here in Scotland itself?

Think no more:

Alex Neil, convener of the enterprise and culture committee, has backed a demand by SNP culture spokesman Michael Matheson that Scottish Television and Grampian explain their actions to the parliament. Neil said that the committee should investigate in the context of the recent closure of the Scottish Daily Mirror, job losses at the Scotsman Publications group and the predicted 300 job cuts at BBC Scotland.
Imagine risking everything to start a business. You give up a regularly paid job. Perhaps you borrow against the equity of your home. Amazingly, even the endless stream of red tape doesn't stop you from chasing your dream. And then, very likely because of the actions of spendthrift politicians, you have to cut back and fire some of your employees. Then what? Those very same politicians have the nerve to haul you into their presence and "explain your actions". To hell with them.

1984 1994

We were having a bit of a clearout of old files today and came across a cutting from the Telegraph of 6th September 1994. The headline was:
Science finds the missing link between baboons and civil servants.
Apparently:
Being at the bottom of the pile created stress, leading to physiological damage.
Hmm. Now who was in power back in 1994? Oh yes: the wicked old Tories. No wonder there was inequality and stress for animal and civil servant alike. Fortunately a Labour government was elected in 1997, thus bringing about an age of equality, albeit one in which some are more equal than others.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Blogging

Posts will continue to be few and far between for the next week or so. This has been caused by an unexpected increase in demand for my paid services. Got to keep that cash flowing in ready for the next tax rise.

(I have in mind this sort of thing.)

Monday, 12 December 2005

Confusion in class

I've written about this before but the confusion never seems to go away.

According to Scotland on Sunday

... Scots in their 30s and 40s - more than a million people - are far less likely than their parents to improve their social standing. It also establishes that the nation's poor are less likely than ever to break out of their working-class origins.

The comprehensive education system was last night seized upon as a key factor in reducing the chances of Scots born between 1967 and 1976 bettering themselves.

The problem with this report - as with so many others - is its unthinking use of the term "class".

In Britain people in the "working class" are manual labourers, "middle class" folk work in offices, and members of the "upper class" drive around their estates shooting the odd stag or grouse. We libertarians consider these definitions to be totally useless, and have done for a hell of a long time:

It's such a treat to read Oppenheimer because he always focuses on the key issues. For instance: "There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one's own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others."
So there are actually only two classes - those who work and those who appropriate. By "work", we mean providing goods and services that are voluntarily purchased by others in the marketplace. And contrary to what Mr Marx thought, "work" includes that most valuable of functions - the allocation of capital to its most productive use. By "appropriate", we mean stealing from workers, either directly, or more insidiously, through the state:
Oppenheimer nails the state as a parasite. For example: "The State is an organization of the political means. No State, therefore, can come into being until the economic means [private sector] has created a definite number of objects for the satisfaction of needs, which objects may be taken away or appropriated by warlike robbery."
So when the report talks about "upward mobility" and "downward mobility", it's using "class" in the traditional but useless sense. Listen to "working class" entrepreneur Mike Donnelly:
But Donnelly, who is married with four daughters, is not convinced that tomorrow's workforce has the same opportunities, or the same drive to climb the social ladder. He said: "People don't want to get their hands dirty any more and it has led to a shortage of skilled labour - it has to be imported now. Less people want to take a risk and set up on their own."
I believe that Mike's wrong in thinking that the opportunities aren't there, although he's spot-on about the lack of drive. But sadly the drive to which Mike is referring is one that (like the report) considers an office job to be superior to a manual one. It isn't. What matters is whether the person concerned really is a "worker" in the libertarian sense. The problem today is that all too many people would rather hold "middle class" office jobs with the state. These appropriators would be far more admirable were they to become real productive workers like Mike Donnelly.

A question

Is Struan Stevenson
who paints himself as a Eurosceptic so as to ensure a high placement on the Tory list in Scotland
really a sceptic? Perhaps not.

Seasonal Greetings

Thanks to Chris Tame of the Libertarian Alliance for this:

THE TWELVE POLITICALLY CORRECT DAYS OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE HOLIDAY

"On the 12th day of the Eurocentrically imposed midwinter festival, my potential-acquaintance-abuse-survivor gave to me:

Twelve males reclaiming their inner warrior through ritual drumming,

Eleven pipers piping (plus the 18-member pit orchestra made up of members in good standing of the Musicians Equity Union as called for in their union contract even though they will not be asked to play a note...);

Ten melanin-deprived testosterone-poisoned scions of the patriarchal ruling class system leaping;

Nine persons engaged in rhythmic self-expression;

Eight economically disadvantaged but still virginal Gyno-Americans stealing milk products from enslaved Bovine-Americans;

Seven endangered swans swimming on federally protected wetlands;

Six enslaved fowl-Americans producing stolen nonhuman animal products;

Five golden symbols of culturally sanctioned enforced domestic incarceration; (Note: after a member of the Animal Liberation Front threatened to throw red paint at my computer, the calling birds, French hens and partridge have been reintroduced to their native habitat. To avoid further animal-American enslavement, the remaining gift package has been revised).

Four hours of recorded whale songs,

Three deconstructionist poets;

Two Sierra Club calendars printed on recycled processed tree carcasses;

And a spotted owl activist chained to an old-growth pear tree."

Friday, 9 December 2005

Nanny strikes again

The taxpayer-funded Air Transport Users Council wants to "correct" what it sees as a market failure:
AIRLINES are being urged to show all-inclusive fares on their websites, following concern that passengers booking online may be paying more than they intended.

The official passenger watchdog wants carriers to follow British Airways' example in showing inclusive fares, rather than listing add-on taxes, fees and charges separately.

Is there really a problem here? Not that I can see, and as is so often the case Mr O'Leary's airline gives a suitably robust response:
Ryanair, which sells 98 per cent of its seats online, said showing its fares separately from add-ons enabled passengers to see which charges were imposed by airports, governments and the airline.
Why doesn't the ATUC tell British London Airways to change its website and let us see the full extent of taxation imposed on the traveller? And a comparison of airport charges might lead us to ask why the BAA airports were privatised as a non-competitive block rather than separately. At least the Ryanair and easyJet websites work properly, unlike some. Come to think of it, wouldn't it be a good idea for all prices to be shown before and after taxes?

Sunday, 4 December 2005

More sport

EUROPEAN CUP

First leg

At the Waterloo Stadium, Brussels
Kickoff 1815

GOOD GUYS 2, BAD GUYS 0

(Wellington, Blucher (during extra time))

Second Leg

At the Parc des Voleurs, Brussels
Kickoff 2005

BAD GUYS 2, GOOD GUYS 0

(Chirac, Blair (own goal))

Sport

When I was enjoying my lunchtime beverage today I was half reading the newspaper and half watching the Aberdeen v Celtic match on the pub TV. I do go to see a live game now and again - about every five years - but I have a couple of questions about what I saw on the box.

(1) How long ago did the police stop watching the football and start videoing the crowd?

(2) Were the inflatable sheep being waved by good-natured, self-mocking Aberdonians or by politically incorrect visitors from the big city?

OK, but what's your solution?

Dani Caravelli doesn't seem too impressed with the introduction of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders in Mid Calder:
The way children are perceived is often a self-fulfilling prophecy: they tend to live up or down to our expectations. If we persist in demonising young people - portraying them as trouble-makers who need to be kept off our streets - we shouldn't be surprised if some of them, at least, turn out to be demons.
I've read elsewhere that many in the political classes think that the ned problem is caused by "deprivation". Is that so? The unemployment rate in West Lothian is 2%, falling to a mere 1% in Mid Calder itself.

There's something much more fundamental going on here. The "ned" problem is, I believe, an inevitable consequence of Britain's welfare state. It's worse here because we adopted mass welfarism before other places and, unlike elsewhere in Europe, our elites hate their own country, its history and its values.

(For further evidence of our intellectual bankrupty, read here:

And author and campaigner George Monbiot said: “When you step into a superstore, you are faced with a choice of two crimes: joining the poor in stealing from the rich, or helping the rich to steal from the poor.

“Both are wrong, but one crime is surely more heinous than the other.”)

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Port Glasgow

I noticed this gushing story at the weekend:
Port Glasgow is taking a leaf out of New York’s book, where buyers adore the character of industrial buildings converted into apartments. Rhiannon Batten reports
Yes, I'm glad that the Gourock Ropeworks Building is being preserved and converted into flats. The views over the Clyde to the hills beyond will be wonderful, but I have a nagging feeling that living over there would be slightly different from here in central Edinburgh. Now, what could it be?

Here's a clue:

Robert Street is a five-minute walk from the prestigious loft-living soon to be offered in the Ropeworks.

Nine years ago, the street was named by the Scottish Office as among the worst 10% in Scotland for deprivation. Little has changed.

The site remains one of the cheapest and most deprived streets in the country, with house prices having fallen by about two-thirds in 15 years.

In June, a one-bedroom flat sold for £6000; the year before, a similar home went for £2000 less. The average price of 14 properties sold in the past two years is £11,110.

With nearly half of the street's 420 flats empty, about 40% of those occupied are in the private rented sector. There are about seven main landlords; one has about 50 properties, two or three each have 20 to 30. Nearly all flats are in a poor state of repair. The stair lighting in many has been wired illegally to provide electricity for flats.

Most tenants claim housing benefit, and many suffer from drug or alcohol addictions.

And Right for Scotland tells us about a little incident involving some of the local welfare recipients:
These people have no vested interest in improving themselves as they have become comfortable on state handouts. They have a house that allows them to deal drugs out of the rain and they can afford to keep dogs to beat. They can have as much casual sex as they like secure in the knowledge that the government will keep their bastard offspring in the manner they have become accustomed to so that in 20 years time my children can witness their children bottling someone in the Vango sale queue.
I think that I'll say "no" to the Ropeworks lifestyle. Good luck to those who do purchase flats in that wonderful building, but I fear that they may be in for a quick lesson in how the welfare state has corrupted large parts of Britain.

Such a pity: the views will be fantastic.

Headline


Headline
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

OK, but it would be a good start.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

I saw him once

And I think that it was on 2nd October 1971.

Attendance 51,735.
Result: Manchester United 2, Sheffield United 0
Scorers: Best & Gowling.

I had recently passed my driving test and went up for a weekend in Leicester to visit my parents who lived there at the time. Borrowing my mother's Mini, I decided that it was time I drove on a motorway. I entered the M1 and drove on the inside lane for a while. Eventually I built up enough confidence to overtake a lorry or two. The time passed so quickly and soon I saw a sign for Sheffield. The radio was going on about that afternoon's Manchester United v Sheffield United game. I decided to keep heading north all the way to Manchester and ended up at Old Trafford for what was my first and only visit. In those days parking near the ground was easy. I still remember the result and seeing George Best score. RIP.

Friday, 25 November 2005

A tale of two charts

Five years of General Motors:

Five years of Gold:

London and its colonies

I've reported on this a couple of times before. From my copy of a UK professional journal received today I have analysed the job vacancies by location.

In percentage terms we get:

London 43
Home Counties 38
Midlands 6
Southwest 4
Northwest 3
Scotland 3
Overseas 3

So, 83% of the UK jobs are in London and the "Home" Counties. Home to whom, we may ask.

As it happens, I noted another fascinating item in the book that I mentioned on Tuesday. According to Chris Carter of the British Property Foundation: "The UK is unique among the world's major economies in the degree of control exercised by central government, which receives over 95% of all taxation." I reiterate my contention that the unhealthy domination of the UK by the southeast is not the result of market forces but is caused by the centralising policies of politicians.

Unbelievable

There's an extraordinary post over on the Campaign for an English Parliament site.

According to Terry White of the Labour Party "Communications" Unit:

England, as opposed to Britain, has an unfortunate history around the world and within the British Isles and please do not say that it is all past.
As one of the commenters puts it:
This just goes to show how ignorant and bloody stupid the Labour Party is. Don't they know the Empire was always the BRITISH Empire and not just England's? There were probably more Scots involved in the running and defending of it, as a proportion of Scotland' far smaller population when compared with England's, than there were English!
Absolutely correct, Matt. Hasn't anyone in the Labour Party read this or this? Can anyone in the Labour Party read at all?

It will damn well serve Labour right if our English friends say that they've had enough of this nonsense and declare independence, sending Brown and co. homeward to think again. Hopefully, we'll lock 'em up when they get to Gretna.

A snowy day in Edinburgh town


Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Stalinism in the countryside

I was pleasantly surprised to read that some of the locals are speaking out against the proposals to restrict property rights in the Cairngorms National Park:
But Chris Sangster, chairman of the Association of Scottish Self-Caterers (ASSC), said banning outsiders from buying second homes in the Cairngorms would damage the local economy.
By coincidence, I am currently reading The New Rural Economy, the latest publication from the Institute of Economic Affairs. The title of Chapter 4 (by John Meadowcroft) is: "Locals-Only" Housing: The March Of The New Totalitarians.

Among Meadowcroft's points are:

(1) Similar policies lasting many years haven't prevented house prices in the Channel Islands from being higher than on the mainland.

(2) The main cause of high house prices in rural areas is the planning regime and not incoming buyers.

(3) The demand for housing is partly fuelled by the inflationary policies of governments.

(4) "Locals-only" policies can lead to the economic decline of the communities concerned because incomers usually spend more than others in local businesses and are far more likely to start new businesses.

(5) "Locals-only" policies prevent locals from realising the true market value of their homes when they wish to move. He gives the example of a widow in Wales who was prevented from selling her house to an English couple willing to pay £240,000 and who had found no other (local) buyer a year later.

As Meadowcroft says: discrimination against outsiders is generally regarded as immoral in a free society. I agree.

Monday, 21 November 2005

How to become famous

I like to see this sort of thing in the mainstream press:
THE Bank of England has been accused this weekend of incompetence, mental paralysis and disgraceful sloppiness in an extraordinary critique by a top economic consultancy.
Here's the key part:
“This report includes little if any analysis of recent monetary and credit growth. It provides absolutely no analysis of sector financial surpluses and deficits. In sum, it is a disgrace.”
This truly is an extraordinary state of affairs. If the Bank of England doesn't know about monetary growth, who does? There again, perhaps the Bank's directors understand full well that if they were "more decisive in fighting inflation" they'd be out of a job. Central banks exist to create inflation and to keep their political masters in power by the use of smoke and mirrors. If one of the directors would admit this in public, he'd go down in history and have his statues erected across the land by a grateful public.

Give and take

It's quite natural for people to seek more control at work. Indeed, how could anyone manage without having control? According to this report:
Education Minister Peter Peacock has said he wants headteachers to be given more powers, allowing them to make their own decisions.
And:
His words were met with a round of applause by secondary heads at their annual conference in Edinburgh.
The BBC seems to think that some headteachers already have a considerable degree of "control" over their schools:
South Ayrshire Council gives its heads most control, at more than 90%.
I don't believe that for a moment, do you? Can the headmaster of Ayr Academy decide to make a takeover bid for Marr College? Would he be allowed to insist on Latin for all pupils, or be free to expel all those who don't reach certain academic targets? How about refusing to employ teachers who are union members?

The truth is that headteachers will never have any meaningful degree of control over their schools so long as they (the schools and the headteachers) are owned by the state. Take control - go private.

Friday, 18 November 2005

Tough on crime, tough on the perpetrators of crime

It goes without saying that the division between criminal and civil law will disappear once the day of the great libertarian revolution dawns.

If there's no victim, there's no crime. And if there is a victim the legal system should be geared to having the criminal compensate the victim and not "society". The criminal should certainly pay the cost of his apprehension and trial but the primary aim of the legal system must be to fully compensate the victim in so far as that is possible.

So when I read this:

Gary Craig, 42, lashed out at John Black in a brawl in Dunbar High Street last October, smashing his beer tumbler over his victim's head, permanently scarring him across his eye and neck.

An X-ray taken later at Edinburgh's Royal Infirmary revealed that a piece of glass was embedded in Mr Black's neck.

The wound was so deep that Accident and Emergency medics refused to remove the shard in case they hit a major artery.

Instead, Mr Black was sent to the Western General Hospital for an operation

I get very annoyed to discover that the criminal was faced with "a £600 compensation order". £600! I'd have thought that 60 Grand was more in order.

Rather surprisingly, the BBC posted this from Amanda Morton a few days ago:

Has the world gone barking mad?

Why am I, Johnny Working-Taxpayer, paying for their crimes?

Why don't offenders have to pay the actual cost of the crime they've committed?

And the comments are generally supportive.

Are they reading The Times in the West End police station?

Perhaps they are.

Before today I'd only ever seen one policeman from my window, and he was on his way back to the nick with a takeaway from Greggs. But this morning I spotted an officer having a close look at some cars across the street, although I don't imagine that the police will ever do anything about the scum who park on the private spaces that we residents have paid for. That would be a civil matter.

And why The Times? Benedict Le Vay (third letter down) knows what the public want.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

What’s good for the country is good for General Motors, and vice versa

So said Charles E. Wilson when president of General Motors.

At the time of writing, the stock market valuation of GM is $11.89 billion. Ninety minutes ago it was $12.08 BN. So the value of America's leading car manufacturer has dropped by $190 million since I logged on. Let's say 6,000 Cadillacs! GM's value is down around 10% so far this week.

I note that the Royal Bank of Scotland is worth $91 billion tonight. Somehow, I think that things are out of balance.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

The EUrinal

Thanks to Kirk Elder for letting us know that, sometimes, the Beeb does get it right.

Gavin Strang MP doesn't quite get it

Amazingly enough, the word "affordable" only makes one appearance in this article, but we get the same tired old arguments in favour of the status quo in council housing:
EDINBURGH East Labour MP Gavin Strang has launched a scathing attack against the city's controversial stock transfer plan, branding it "privatisation" of the Capital's council houses.
Mr Strang seems to think that Edinburgh's council housing "belong(s) to all its citizens." Really? When something "belongs" to me I am able to dispose of that asset however and whenever I see fit. Is that the case with council housing, or even with my "share" of it? Hardly, and Mr Strang wants to keep things just that way. In fact the nature of my "ownership" of these houses is bizarre in the extreme. There's to be a vote on their future status not by the real owners - we the council taxpayers of Edinburgh - but by the tenants, many of whom have their council tax subsidised by the non-tenants. It's also amusing to note the concern that these houses might come under the control of a "huge business empire". The City Council itself is by far the largest employer in Edinburgh, although I concede that it wouldn't be quite right to call it a "business".

Can we afford these politicians?

At first sight this would seem to be good news:
THE biggest-ever housing project for Skye will be launched today by the Scottish Executive in an attempt to tackle the severe shortage of affordable homes on the island.
But then I note the dreaded words "Scottish Executive". Sure enough, this is another of those futile attempts by government to solve the very problem that they themselves have created.

As Neil Craig wrote:

"Affordable housing" one of the mantras of our government is a cruel lie - it actually means more taxpayer subsidies to allow the state (via housing associations) to build outdated homes which get filled only because of their monopoly position. This allows the state to keep people dependent. Truly affordable houses are entirely attainable - all that is required is that the politicians stop preventing builders building.
Note that "affordable" is used nine times in the article - the word is becoming as common and as meaningless as "sustainable" or "community".

If politicians would just get out of the way we wouldn't need all of these plans for "affordable" housing. By the way, aren't all houses that get sold "affordable" to someone?

Sunday, 13 November 2005

E-mails

If anyone has been trying to contact me on my "other" e-mail account please use the Hotmail one listed on this blog. The other account is being upgraded at the moment.

(UPDATE: Other e-mail address now OK.)

Saturday, 12 November 2005

Why people drive

Last Saturday I took a railway trip to Annan, the town of my birth. Indeed, I went for a little stroll to 32 Port Street, in which house I made my very first appearance. Unaccountably, the blue plaque seems to have been taken away for renovation...


32 Port Street, Annan
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.


Sometimes though, travelling by train is anything but relaxing:

Linda Groves (56), of Whitfield, was a passenger on the 13.07 train from Carlisle to Glasgow Central at the end of September when she was physically and verbally attacked by the man.
Especially upsetting for Ms Groves was this:
To her disbelief, while the onslaught continued, train staff stood and watched the man attack Ms Groves and did nothing to assist her.
And then:
She has written a letter of complaint to First ScotRail and the reply from the firm stated that they advise staff not to put themselves in any danger.
But First ScotRail later said:
“Passenger safety is our top priority. We would like to apologise to Ms Groves for what was obviously a distressing experience for her,” said the spokeswoman.
So which is it? If passenger safety is the "first priority" surely railway staff should come to the aid of a passenger under attack. I expect that First ScotRail has told its staff to turn a blind eye to this sort of thing for fear of legal consequences in the event of one of their employees being injured. If that's the case please cut out the PR-speak about passenger safety being the first priority.

Of course, a lot of these problems would be solved if the police actually went out catching criminals instead of canvassing for the ZaNu-Lab party.

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Are the Conservatives the Heart of Midlothian of Scottish politics?

The goings-on of the Scottish Tories are rivalling those of Heart of Midlothian, and that takes some doing.

It occurred to me that we might see David McLetchie - a well-known Jambo - end up as chairman of Hearts. But of course that would be too obvious. If Mr Romanov wanted a politician as chairman, he would surely stun us all by appointing Brian Monteith - a Hibee!

New Tory leader

So now it's official:
Sole nominee Annabel Goldie has been confirmed as the leader of the Scottish Conservatives.
Of course, as I wrote here, none of this trouble would have happened if MSPs had followed the Farrer plan and accepted neither salary nor expenses!

On Monday the Hack had this to say:

As if the Tories don’t have enough problems in Scotland they use his role in plotting against the taxi man to force out Brian Monteith, one of their best operators. Monteith merely suggested what other Tories had been thinking all along – it was time for the Letch to go because the taxi saga was destroying whatever credibility the party had left. His biggest mistake was committing his thoughts to email and sending it anywhere near Barclay Towers and the editor of Scotland on Sunday. Most journalists I know would have been happy to use their sources anonymously and not splash their contents right across their rags. Ethics is word not generally used or understood at the SoS, or so it seems.
Unsurprisingly, other politicians deplore the leaking of Brian Monteith's e-mails:
Even some Labour MSPs felt sympathy for Mr Monteith, concern for themselves and astonishment about what the newspaper had done with confidential exchanges between the MSP and an editor.

..."It just means people will go back to the quiet telephone conversation or a furtive word behind the back of the hand," was how one party aide put it.

Such a pity that Labour is outlawing smoke-filled rooms.

Tin ears

I am currently reading Bringing the Jobs Home by Todd Buchholz.

According to Mr Buchholz, outsourcing of US jobs is not caused by evil, anti-American capitalists, but is a natural reaction to the state of affairs in the US itself.

He:

"reveals the truth behind outsourcing: the U.S. needs massive reform in education, immigration, litigation and taxation --or else American workers will be even less attractive to employers."
I largely agree with what I've read in the book so far. However, I did read one chapter out of order. It's entitled Culture and Hollywood's Tin Ear, and in it Mr Buchholz complains about the entertainment industry being "tone deaf to foreign cultures" and consequently losing sales abroad. No doubt true.

But imagine my surprise when I turned back to Chapter 3, which deals with Education.

Mr Buchholz tells us that:

During the 1950s and early 1960s, teen movies and songs dominated the world.
Fair enough. Then, writing about the Beach Boys:
Why was this scene just as exiting to non-Americans as to those who attended Beverly Hills High? An unbelievably simple answer: only the United States had high schools!
Really? I must have been conned, for I have a document that states that I was once a pupil of something called "Prestwick High School". Guess what - it's not in the USA. And, just like our American counterparts, we used to listen to the same music. Hell, we even had Elvis come to town! I'm afraid that even folk like Mr Buchholz - a former White House director of economic policy - can have "tin ears" when it comes to foreign cultures.

Cock-up or conspiracy?

I have always tended to accept Sir Bernard Ingham's interpretation of political events:
Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.
Now, I'm beginning to have my doubts. Consider this news:
A radical review of the curriculum could see history disappear as a separate subject to avoid "overloading" pupils in the early secondary years.

Education Minister Peter Peacock favours teaching history as part of other subjects such as modern studies.

Opponents said the proposals could be a "national cultural disaster".

This proposal would only be a "national cultural disaster" if one thought that youngsters should know, for example, that the Scottish Enlightenment helped spread western values throughout the world, and that those values are good. Or, if one was sufficiently reactionary to believe in concepts like individual rights, the rule of law, the presumption of innocence, trial by jury and limited government, then the downgrading of history might be seen as a cultural disaster. But if one actually wanted to bring those western values into disrepute, to blank out any knowledge of them in the minds of future generations, and to instigate a regime that would track our every movement and control our every thought, then an attack on history would make very good sense.

Think again, Sir Bernard.

Friday, 4 November 2005

Economic and social freedom

Ragnar asked me:
"If you had to choose, would you go with economic freedom (capitalism) or social freedom (indevidualism)?"
My friend and fellow Libertarian Alliance member Nigel Meek has reminded me of his excellent paper that he wrote on this very subject.

Nigel's conclusion (using "civil" rather than "social") reads:

We end by arguing that we have demonstrated that the two sorts of freedoms here discussed – economic and civil – do indeed ‘go together’. They are not inextricably linked by some iron law of human society, but the relative absence of one usually indicates the relative absence of the other. The implication that we are probably entitled to draw from this is that that those who – again accepting for the moment good faith – argue for the diminution of one to shore up the other are making a dangerous and inhumane mistake.

In addition, we have also provided evidence for the claim that - assuming that satisfaction of material wants is an underlying aim of all more-or-less coherent political belief systems that wish to be taken seriously – that free markets are relatively more important than free speech.

I used to wonder why traditional conservatives support (sort of) economic freedom, but not (too much) social freedom with traditional social democrats being the other way round. Shouldn't people be consistent? Preferably consistently in favour of both freedoms like libertarians of course, although we can acknowledge the consistency of those who are nastily against both sorts of freedom like the communists and fascists.

I concluded that the conservatives favour economic freedom because they tend to work in the business world, often being entrepreneurs in their own right. Social freedoms perhaps don't seem to be as important to such folk because running a business takes up almost all of one's time, and besides, those who are pro social freedom are often anti-business, so why support them? Conversely, the social democrats are predominant in the arts, media and education. Free speech is understandably a high value to such people. But the social democratic workplace is all too often funded by the state. In my experience, taxpayer-funded employees have no conception of how difficult it is to run a profitable company - so why support them?

So which freedom is more important to me? Almost all of my working life has been spent in the private sector and so my first reaction would be so say that economic freedom is more important - thus agreeing with Nigel's conclusion. I am though tempted to conclude the opposite.

Economic freedom has been achieved or recovered quite speedily in certain circumstances. Think of the creation of Hong Kong, the recovery of the British economy following Thatcher's reforms and the success of West Germany after WWII. On the other hand, the loss of social freedom - especially free speech - would bring about a new dark age for all of us.

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Open government? Well, open expenses.

Holyrood is acting to prevent any more "distrust":
A MAJOR overhaul of MSPs' expense claims will see every receipt and invoice published on the internet in an attempt to restore the public's battered confidence in the Scottish Parliament.
It will be fascinating to see whether taxi claims by MSPs

(a) go up,
(b) go down,
(c) remain unchanged.

Joke of the day: Will Westminster follow suit?

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Fallen on his sword

So, David McLetchie has gone. I can't say that I'm surprised. It seems that the "Taxigate" row has been going on forever and McLetchie's position had become untenable. I met McLetchie a couple of times and he seemed to be a very trustworthy and decent man. What he should have said many months ago was: "OK, I personally will pay for a firm of top-level accountants to audit my expenses and diaries and publish the results to Parliament and the media." If some minor errors had arisen he could have apologised, paid them back, and challenged other MSPs to get their expenses audited.

I must confess that I had thought of running for election to Holyrood back in 1999. Naturally, I would have been standing on a 100% purist libertarian ticket that would have advocated a state so small that politicians would only be required to work on a part-time basis - let's say two days a year! Needless to say I held no delusions that I would actually get elected on such a programme, but it might have been a fun campaign. The one thing that probably would have attracted public attention would have been my pledge to work without accepting any parliamentary salary or expenses. And if by some miracle I had been elected I don't doubt that quite a few folk would now be saying: "I don't agree with that Farrer's politics - he probably wants to send children up chimneys - but I've got to admit that he's the only honest bastard there."

(I'm not suggesting that any MSPs are dishonest!)

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Reply to Shuggy

In response to this post Shuggy commented as follows:
if we feel that the taxpayer should still be (wrongly) forced to pay for education. Oh, come off it. Have you forgotten the 'no free lunches' dictum? If education was privatised, the 'taxpayer' - i.e. the citizen - would pay through the nose for it directly. And the people who can't afford education - what are they supposed to do? This is, in any event, groundhog day; I asked you, or one of your ideological soulmates, for an example of a country that has mass, compulsory education provided by the private sector. I'm still waiting..... Shuggy | Email | Homepage | 10.27.05 - 9:30 am | #
I'm replying in this new posting because a few days have passed since the 27th.

First, I haven't forgotten the "no free lunches" dictum. All it says is this:

Simply put, it means that one cannot get something for nothing. Even if something appears to be free, there is always a catch.
I'm not arguing that education could somehow be "free" but that it shouldn't be financed through taxation - that's to say by coercion. The only citizens who should pay for education are those who choose so to do. One would expect parents to pay for most pre-university education but anyone is free to contribute voluntarily to educational charities just as has happened throughout history.

Why should people need to pay "through the nose" for private education? Already, state education costs just about the same as the fees charged by some private schools. If private schools had the whole market to themselves, costs and fees would fall considerably and all kinds of innovative alternatives would come into existence.

I really don't believe that many parents couldn't afford to pay for private education in a mass market. Naturally we'd have to end the welfare mentality that's so blighted Shuggy's own city of Glasgow - a place of which I am very fond. In a book that I've just finished Michael Barone writes about the welfare reforms pioneered in Wisconsin:

When Thompson left the governorship to become secretary of Health and Human Services in 2001, the welfare rolls in Wisconsin had been reduced by more than 90 percent.
Where had they all gone?
In Fond du Lac County, I saw women walk out the door when the five-year-limit was explained to them: better not to use up the benefits now, but to save them up for when they might really be needed, and go out and get a job.
Shuggy asked "you, or one of your ideological soulmates, for an example of a country that has mass, compulsory education provided by the private sector." I probably can't. But if you want an example of mass, non-compulsory education provided by the private sector, why not have a look at this:
According to a government survey 95% of children in 1860 had between five and seven years education.
The government in question was British.

95% seems pretty a reasonable achievement for the private sector in 1860. Finally, why on earth would my ideological soulmates or I favour compulsion?

You know it's good for you

Here's another example of what invariably happens when politicians interfere with markets:
The only problem was that the west coast langoustines to be used on the menu that night were decidedly off. In fact, they were dead, even though they had been landed nearby on the Ayrshire coast.

Astonished staff at the five-star resort discovered that, as a result of new European Union food safety rules, the shellfish had been on a 900-mile round trip.

Isn't it sad to read this response from the Turnberry Hotel?
We are very happy to comply with the regulations
Perhaps they're scared to offend the powers that be. The correct response would be: Mind tour own goddamn business.

Of course, it's still possible to get fresh supplies:

The only remaining way to buy shellfish direct from a boat is nightmarishly bureaucratic. The buyer will have to register with the Scottish Executive. Every time a purchase is made - daily in the case of most seafood restaurants to guarantee freshness - forms will have to be filled in: logging who it was bought from, at what time and how it is going to be kept.
The Scottish Executive constantly tells us that it's now pro-business. Let them prove it by firing the spokeswomen who said this:
She added it was the Executive's view that the regulations would not cause any substantial changes to current business practices for buying shellfish directly from fishing boats.
Couldn't she do something useful? Like gutting fish.

Auld and New Edinburgh

On a little stroll round town yesterday I suddenly realised that this familiar sight will probably disappear shortly. Scottish and Newcastle have closed the brewery and the area is to be redeveloped



(Some other shots have been added to the Scottish Clouds blog.)

Back again

First, belated thanks to David Terron for alerting me to what "Freedom" and "Whisky" mean to MPs.

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Photos

Over on the other blog I've published a few taken in Edinburgh this morning.


Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Where's my commission?

As soon as I point out the anachronistic nature of the Herald's website they go and fix it!

Harry Potter and the Politician's Stone

There seemed to be yet another photograph of the youthful David Cameron on the front page of my paper this morning. Imagine my shock when I read the caption only to discover that I was actually looking at Daniel Radcliffe, the sixteen-year-old Harry Potter star.

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

Not even the pretence of independence

Following on my previous post comes this piece of news:
Many parents in Scotland feel disengaged from politics and deprived of responsibility, a study has found. The group Parenting in Scotland (Pas) said its findings showed parents wanted to become more involved in the decisions affecting their children.
But this report talks about "influencing politicians", "accessible information", "telephone advice lines". How very exciting. There's no whisper of anything along the lines of school "independence" - however limited - that's now being discussed in England.

But:

Parents also want to be more involved in their child's education and to have greater influence over what goes on in school.
We are told that:
"It is worrying that so many parents feel they are not well informed about changes that affect them and do not know how to go about making their views known.

"There is an unhealthy gap between the people making decisions about family life and families themselves.

Well, duh! That "unhealthy gap" is called politics. If parents want to control their children's education it can't be done by tinkering with an intellectually bankrupt and politically motivated state system. Privatise the whole thing - with vouchers if we feel that the taxpayer should still be (wrongly) forced to pay for education.

State schools "to be independent"...

... says the headline. But when we read the small print we find that this announcement refers to English schools only. Fair enough - power over state schools in Scotland is devolved to Holyrood, so Ruth Kelly has no responsibility for schools up here. But when the legislation is put to MPs at Westminster it may well be decided by the votes of Members from the non-English parts of the UK. What has shadow education secretary David ("Dave") Cameron got to say about that? He should let us know - not simply because of his education role (in England) but because he could well become prime minister of the whole of the UK.

I also note that:

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem education spokesman, said schools needed freedom from Whitehall
Again we're talking about the Lib Dem education spokesman for England, not for the UK. Has Mr Davey told his colleagues in Scotland that it might be a good idea to give our schools "freedom" from Holyrood? Needless to say the English state schools aren't to be given any real independence. For that they and their financing would need to be removed from the hands of the state completely.

Private and public

There's a reply today to my recent letter in the Scotsman.

Mr Arbuckle writes:

... anyone limiting themselves to newspapers in their search for employment in the private sector should move with the times and sign up with several agencies instead
Point (1): Is the writer not implying that the public sector isn't moving with the times?

Point (2): Since moving back to Scotland I have had one (continuing) part-time job in the private sector and two part-time jobs in the non-profit-but-state-subsidised sector. I was also offered two other jobs in the state subsidised sector but was unable to take them up because of other commitments. The private sector job was advertised in the Scotsman. All of the state-subsidised jobs were via employment agencies.

Sunday, 23 October 2005

LIBERTY 2005

I would like to draw your attention to LIBERTY 2005, the annual conference of the Libertarian Alliance. See you there!

Ferry cross the North Sea

It's rather sad to read that Scotland's ferry link with Belgium will now be using one vessel instead of two. I've not used the service but have heard good reports from those who have.
It saves passengers and truckers having to drive via Hull or the English Channel ports.

Each ferry can carry more than 1,000 passengers, 120 cars and 100 commercial vehicles.

Figures contained in the 2004 annual report of parent company Attica Group show passenger numbers slipped from 196,000 in 2003 to 192,400 last year.

But freight traffic grew significantly during the same period, with the total number of units being shipped rising from 32,500 in 2003 to 40,300.

Opposition politicians are demanding that "something must be done". Actually, I agree, but my solution is probably not one that would appeal to the Scottish National Party. What we need is a complete privatisation of the road network and a proper system of road pricing. I have read that the government uses different methods of cost benefit analysis for road and rail projects, to the detriment of rail. Let's privatise the lot. We can't find out until after the event, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a free market in transport would not only be good for the railway industry but also benefit long distance ferries.

Did Tony get re-elected?

I've often thought that leftists aren't just mistaken about politics but tend to be incompetent generally. Consider Scotland's two main newspapers. The Scotsman is fairly sound on politics and economics although there are some columnists with whom I rarely agree. Its website is excellent despite readers having to pay for access to some sections. The Glasgow Herald on the other hand is almost entirely written by collectivists who display absolutely no understanding of the basic facts of economics. Rather like Glasgow's politicians, come to think of it.

Does this explain why the Herald's website still displays the following options:

Home
News
Election 2005
Sport
Business
Politics
Features
Going Out

Election 2005! Correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't the election held way back in May? If the folk at the Herald give me access to their site I'll remove the offending link (which doesn't go anywhere anyway). My fee will be reasonably affordable.

Saturday, 22 October 2005

Spies in the City

OK, so I've been offline for a few days so let's start with something rather serious. Readers will no doubt be aware that F&W maintains a office in my modest penthouse overlooking Central Park and, consequently, yours truly now has an American driving license. Imagine my shock when I discovered that details of US licenses are now available online. It's all to do with "security" apparently. Simply enter: David; Farrer; New York (state) and New York (city). Then click. Shocking, isn't it?

Monday, 17 October 2005

Andrew Duffin ...

... has a letter in today's Scotsman.

A reader's birthday

Three years ago today Craig Murray made this speech.

He started with this observation:

I am most happy to be here today to join in Freedom House's Open House. This is a welcome addition to the resources available to the community which is working to improve basic human rights here in Uzbekistan. The organisers are to be congratulated on the initiative, as are the US government for their assistance with finance.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a Scot, and proud of my race. Our national poet, Robert Burns, notes in his great poem "The De'il's awa' wi' the Exciseman" that "Whisky and Liberty gang the gither", which for those whose Scots is a wee bit rusty means "Whisky and Liberty go together". Well we all know how difficult it is to find real whisky in Tashkent. It does exist, but mostly on diplomatic premises. There is still a lot of wisdom in old Robert.

I hope that Craig enjoys a dram or two on his birthday today.

(I imagine that he'd have been fully familiar with this sort of thing during his former employment.)

Saturday, 15 October 2005

Facing the abyss

David has written about Scotland's amazingly high dependence on state spending.

I decided to conduct a little survey of my own using last Friday's Scotsman, which contains the regular weekly recruitment supplement. As far as I could tell the paper was advertising 62 private sector vacancies, 25 with "charities" and 102 in the public sector. Sometimes it's not completely clear exactly how many jobs are on offer by each organisation but I think that my analysis is pretty accurate. I know that many if not most of the "charities" are predominantly financed by the taxpayer and should probably be included with other public sector jobs. Even if we discount that, only 38% of the advertised jobs are with private companies. We should also note that about half of the private sector opportunities are in low-paying roles like bar work, catering, cleaning and hair styling. No doubt the government jobs come complete with guaranteed, inflation-linked pensions and the adverts often state working hours down to the nearest 30 minutes!

We should also note that the Lothian area (the heartland of the Scotsman's circulation) is the second lowest in terms of dependency on the public sector scoring a mere 39%.

Whereas:

In Argyll and Clyde, 76% of the economy is generated from the state.
So while 39% of Lothian's current economic activity is in the state sector, only 38% of the jobs being advertised are not with the government. The percentage of advertised private vacancies is probably even less when we consider all those so-called charity jobs.

I am forced to conclude that the outlook is exceedingly bleak. God knows what the percentages would be in somewhere like Argyll and Clyde. Clearly this can't continue. The only question is whether a future government will cut off the funding before complete bankruptcy sets in.

Friday, 14 October 2005

The wonders of capitalism

I received this information by e-mail a few minutes ago:
Tracking summary Current Status With delivery courier. Get delivery notification Sign up for shipment notification Tracking history Help Date and Time Status Location 10/14/2005 8:10 am With delivery courier. Edinburgh, United Kingdom 10/13/2005 11:21 pm In transit. East Midlands, United Kingdom 10:22 pm Clearance processing complete. East Midlands, United Kingdom 9:53 pm On Hand. East Midlands, United Kingdom 9:30 am In transit. Wilmington, OH 7:48 am Transit through sort facility. Wilmington, OH 10/12/2005 6:18 pm Departing origin. Little Rock, AR 5:30 pm Picked Up by DHL. Shipper's Door Ship From: Ship To: Shipment Information: LAISSEZ FAIRE BOOKS Ship date: 10/12/2005 Little Rock, AR 722093187 Pieces: United States Total weight: 24 lbs Ship Type: Package Attention: Attention: Shipment Reference: LAISSEZ FAIRE BOOKS Service: International Express Special Service: Description: BOOKS Tracking detail provided by DHL: 10/14/2005, 12:45:57 am pt. Track new shipment Track new shipment
Wouldn't the government be able to organise this sort of thing more efficiently?

Thursday, 13 October 2005

Adam Smith

Today's Scotsman contains a letter from Ellis Thorpe replying to an earlier one from Professor Gavin Kennedy:
Although no-one is suggesting the specific economic policies of the Reagan and Thatcher governments can be found in a classical text of the late 18th century, can it be denied that the drive to restore free market, nationally and internationally, to deregulate capital, labour and financial markets, to roll back the state, to privatise, cut public expenditure and taxes, is not justified by reference to Adam Smith?
I can only agree. Surely there is some link between the ideas of Adam Smith and the policies of Mr Reagan and Mrs Thatcher. That's not to say that those two leaders were fully consistent Smithites or that I agree with Mr Thorpe's apparent Marxism.

Professor Kennedy on the other hand is correct to criticise those students at Adam Smith College whose decision has made them an international laughing stock.

Now if the "Jennie Lee Students' Association" had based their objection to Adam Smith on this argument:

Adam Smith, contrary to general belief, was not the founder of modern economics. His defense of a labor theory of value, modified and continued by his Ricardian successors, shunted economics onto the wrong path,
thus leading to Marx's economics, I would have been highly impressed.

A tax-consumer speaks

How do these people ever get appointed?
A SENIOR education official last night hit out at plans to name and shame youngsters who are served with anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs).

Councillor the Rev Ewan Aitken, education spokesman for the local authority umbrella group COSLA, said any attempts to replicate such moves in Scotland would "demonise" young people and do nothing to improve the behaviour of those who break the law.

Councillor, it's not the ASBOs that "demonise" the recipients but their own actions. Not only that, people, old or young, who make the lives of others miserable should be stigmatised. As indeed should their misguided defenders.

Monday, 10 October 2005

On Peebles Bridge

We're all led to believe that roads and their related infrastructure must be provided by the state, aren't we? It wasn't always so as these photographs taken on the Tweed Bridge at Peebles demonstrate:

I'm rich!

How do I cash it all in?

Can I get paid in gold?
(Sorry, no General Motors shares accepted)



My blog is worth $107,827.14.
How much is your blog worth?

Saturday, 8 October 2005

Students: don't you just love them?

I posted this in answer to DK's complaint about students and the Council Tax.

"…the fact that students pay no Council Tax”

Not true, DK. Some students pay no Council Tax.

A number of years after I moved to London I decided to study to become a Company Secretary. That’s a four-year course leading to one becoming somewhat like a mixture of accountant and lawyer. Guess what? I paid Council Tax throughout my study period because I was working at the same time. Getting up at 5.30 in the morning, studying at home, studying on the tube, studying during lunchtime, studying on the tube again, studying at home and, finally, going out for a pint or two, often accompanied by a law book. And I paid the cost of the course and the revision classes taken during my holidays. Some years later I decided to get the degree that I’d always wanted. By this time I was Finance Director of an ad agency and certainly couldn’t afford to give up the day job. So, again, I studied for four years at my own expense and in my spare time and eventually graduated with a First. Naturally I continued to pay Council Tax throughout this period as well as vast amounts of income tax to subsidise all those whingeing fulltime students.

I’ll probably have the last laugh. The more personable of today’s “students” may manage to get jobs as nannies or butlers for Shanghai entrepreneurs, but most of the others will be totally unemployable.

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Just say "no" to the oil

I came across an article by Doug Casey in the October issue of Liberty.

Casey writes:

In any country, the level of prosperity is determined by things like the level of personal freedom, respect for property rights, integrity of civil institutions, and cultural attitudes in general. Contrary to popular opinion, a country's geography and resources have almost nothing to do with how wealthy it is. If anything, they tend to be counterproductive, acting more as inducements to theft and lethargy rather than enterprise and hard work.
I wrote along similar lines last month:
Owning lots of oil isn't necessarily a recipe for prosperity. Far more important is a culture that respects property rights and whose people admire and wish to emulate entrepreneurs. Sadly, that doesn't sound like Scotland, does it? Better to say, proudly, "It's Scotland's Adam Smith", rather than "It's Scotland's oil".
I want to consider the question of how a fiscally independent Scotland would structure its tax policy, a subject that may no longer be entirely hypothetical given that the traditionally unionist Scottish Conservatives and some media commenters are now openly advocating what's become known as "full fiscal freedom":
THE Scottish Tories are secretly exploring radical plans to give Holyrood control over a range of UK taxes, including stamp duty, excise duty and VAT, The Scotsman has learned.
Let's go back to those "resources" mentioned by Mr Casey.

I've never understood why so many people think that the UK government is entitled to tax North Sea oil but that a Scottish government wouldn't have the same right in the event of either complete national independence or under "full fiscal freedom" in a UK context. It's fairly straightforward really: the oil's in Scottish waters, even with the recent redrawing of the maritime boundary that only makes sense if you think that Dundee is in East Anglia. And if, under "full fiscal freedom", it wouldn't be "Scotland's Oil", whose would it be? Norway's?

But if we go back to Mr Casey's point, possession of "resources" could make a country worse off. So perhaps a radical Scottish government shouldn't want to lay claim to North Sea oil. Not only that, giving it to England, or Norway or even the Faeroe Islands could, under a Caseyian analysis, be considered a hostile act!

So who should get the oil? It's quite simple really. I contend that oil in the North Sea doesn't belong to any government - Scottish, English, British or Norwegian - and that no one has the right to tax it. The oil belongs to those who discovered it and mixed their labour with it. In other words, it's Shell's oil, and BP's oil, and Exxon's oil.

If the Tories want to be really radical they should announce that a fiscally independent Scotland would give the oil back to its rightful owners and finance what little state expenditure that they could justify (if any) with a low flat tax, preferably on sales rather than income. Such a policy would make Scotland the most prosperous place in the world.

Tuesday, 4 October 2005

As requested by Andrew Duffin

View of the main collection:

(CLICK to enlarge)


Books
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

A close-up:


Books
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Another close-up:


Books
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

This last one was uploaded from my Desktop without being first posted on to Flickr.

Monday, 3 October 2005

Vote Jenkins

I wrote a similar piece about this some while ago but haven’t yet found the link. The latest copy of a UK-wide professional journal arrived today and I’ve done another audit of the advertised vacancies. There are 65 altogether. Of these, 40 are in London and a further 15 are elsewhere in the Home Counties. Four are in the Bristol/Bath area and two are in Birmingham. One is in the “Northwest”, and I expect that means Manchester and not Sutherland. If you want to avoid contributing to the Za-NuLabour regime you may consider the jobs in Bermuda, Kuwait or the Cayman Islands.

So, some 89% of the UK vacancies are in the London area and 95% of them are in southern England. All are in the southern half of Britain. I submit that this would not be the situation in any comparable country.

I also submit that this state of affairs is the great secret of British public life. And I say “public” because I don’t believe for a moment that this southern concentration of jobs – almost all in the private sector – is the result of market forces. As far as I know the only mainstream journalists who have written about this are George Kerevan of the Scotsman and Simon Jenkins in the Times.

So, if this concentration of highly paid positions in one small part of the country isn’t to do with market forces, what’s going on here? I believe that we must never lose sight of the amazing concentration of government power in the British capital that is unparalleled elsewhere in the western world. In an economy that is so much influenced by government decisions, depredations and regulations, it’s only natural for almost all of the head offices of our largest companies to be near to the seat of power. This results in an overheated southeast with much of the rest of the country relying on state handouts.

The solution of course is to privatise almost all functions of government thus removing any incentive for companies to locate near the capital city.

In the meantime though I believe that Simon Jenkins has seen the way forward and I thoroughly recommend this article in which he proposes a plan that would sweep the Conservatives back into power. As long as they don’t mention social justice of course.

Sunday, 2 October 2005

The West Wing of the Blog House

Bill Cameron has asked to see this, so here it is:

May I suggest that we see Arthur's and also David's?

Saturday, 1 October 2005

Bring on the next idiot

On the way to New Lanark I heard the news reports on the Conservative leadership campaign. Naively I had hoped that David Davis might have something to offer. Within seconds of speaking he was going on about something called "social justice". Good grief. Hasn't the man read any Hayek?

The sheeple have spoken

And I had guessed correctly.

On Thursday I went on another little tour to test my new digital SLR. I headed west to Livingston, half expecting to get a world exclusive photograph of Mr Devine being strung up by an angry mob. Surely no one would vote Labour on the day that all the newspapers were full of the Walter Wolfgang affair. But I saw no sign of any revolutionary gatherings and, sadly, Livingston (and Cathcart) voted Labour yet again. Eventually I ended up at New Lanark, which seemed much larger than I remember from my previous visit many years ago.

(CLICK photos to enlarge)


The quality of conservation at the site is extremely impressive:


David Dale and Robert Owen created something at New Lanark that was widely admired in the Labour movement but I think that those gentlemen would have been shocked and outraged had they been able to see the party rally in Brighton.

Some time ago I said that the British police had become "the paramilitary wing of the Guardian newspaper". I meant that they were more interested in imposing political correctness than in catching actual criminals. Now it's far worse. The police increasingly look like the paramilitary wing of the Labour party. God help us all: Europe has seen this sort of thing before.

Thursday, 29 September 2005

You couldn't make it up (part 9,497)

I have worked in the advertising and public relations industries and just can't imagine this sort of thing being tolerated by a private client:
IT WAS meant to be a showcase for all that is good and worthy in the Scottish Parliament, but Holyrood's glossy annual report became the subject of ridicule when it was published yesterday - because it prominently features two former MSPs who have left the parliament in disgrace.

Embarrassed officials were forced to explain why they printed pictures of Lord Watson of Invergowrie and Keith Raffan, both of whom left the parliament following scandals.

It's not as if there wasn't enough time to avoid this stupidity:
The annual report was printed over the summer, a considerable time after Mr Raffan had left and at least six months after Watson had been charged with wilful fire-raising at a political awards dinner.

But officials saw no need to alter their plans and produced the report regardless.

The "officials" who have written the report say that they don't want to "air-brush history". There's absolutely no danger of the Scottish people forgetting about the two politicians concerned. But an annual report is normally designed to promote the good news about the organisation in question. Can one imagine a PR company proposing a report that included a photograph of an ex-employee now serving time for fire-raising at a hotel that had been occupied by his colleagues? The officials in question should meet the same fate as would have rapidly overtaken a private PR company that acted in this way.

Incidentally, why are around 29% of the reports being published in Gaelic, a language spoken by about 1% of the population?

Historical fashion

My wife and I are attending the first session of this course tonight.

I was wondering if we should wear T-shirts carrying this message.

Sunday, 25 September 2005

The weekend (Part 2)

Zooming in on the last of the Muirkirk signs we see this:


Muirkirk - 24 September 2005
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Over three hundred years ago people in Scotland were giving their lives for "... the Independence of Parliament from the excessive and arbitrary power of Kings". The problem we face now isn't to be found in the Monarchy. It's in the excessive and arbitrary power of Parliament itself, or rather in an Executive that ignores our rights and is in the hands of a Gramscian enemy class that the Covenanters would have understood only too well. What would they make of those sheeple today who don't give a damn for their rights as long as the benefits keep flowing?

On Sunday morning's drive I passed through the constituency of the late Robin Cook. The only signs of electioneering were posters from the Greens and the Labour party. No doubt Mr Devine will be sent to Westminster by a mindless public that doesn't understand that "There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch."

Unless you're a gull of course: