Tuesday 30 July 2002

The state or the market?

Apparently, most people are quite relaxed about Alan Duncan's self-outing
A snap poll for Sky News found that a majority of those who responded (54 per cent) did not believe that Mr Duncan’s sexuality should be an issue.
So why is this a public issue? It's because the public sector (including getting elected) is one in which winner takes all. If a majority in Rutland and Melton doesn't approve of Duncan's lifestyle, he's out of a job.

The private sector allows a choice. If you don't like your boss/shopkeeper/mate-in-the-pub being a Friend of Blair/Tory/gay, you can go elsewhere. The state doesn't offer that freedom. It's all the difference in the world.

The Scotsman - Business - Exodus of Scottish landowners feared

Fields of Dreams

It is not surprising that the Scottish Executive's attack on land ownership is having the inevitable effect.

Monday 29 July 2002

Who is right and who is left?

Jimmy Reid is the court intellectual of the Scottish left.

In his column in today's Scotsman, he writes:

What about the broad swathe of social democratic opinion infuriated by the Thatcherite policies of New Labour? Here, the SNP should be the beneficiary; it isn’t. It should be seen as a left of centre alternative to New Labour. It isn’t. SNP leaders should have identified with local government workers protesting at scandalously low wages. They didn’t. They were arguing about whether to bring out a weekly newspaper during the next election campaign. Why?
This is vintage Jimmy. But over on The Herald, John MacLeod takes a different view:
Meanwhile, we might seize the Scottish imagination with a credible opposition: an alternative to the careerist, self-serving love-in of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, whose soft-left privileges the system might be built to perpetuate.

Change will come, at length, when the Nationalists grow up, stop posturing, get over the eighties, dethrone the idol of a meddlesome, state-fashioned, oil-funded Utopia, and start building serious politics with the Conservative party.

That's more like it. The Tories and the SNP traditionally don't see eye to eye but together they could blast the Labour/Illiberal Democrat junta out of the water.

.....and an apology to Tony Blair

The events of February 2019 will mean that you will enjoy your recently increased tax-funded pension for only 9 months. To think that we thought you were ripping us off. Note, however, that your next door neighbour will enjoy his for three years. Figures, doesn't it?

An open letter to Standard Life, Norwich Union etc

Given that the earth will be wiped out on 1st February 2019, your pension liabilities are now much smaller than previously thought. Justice demands that annuity rates be raised immediately to reflect this unexpected boost to your balance sheets.

The Scottish airports saga

As with anything involving Edinburgh and Glasgow, the question of which city will get any new airport development is generating more heat than light. This posting from the Edinburgh airport newsgroup is a good summation of the pro-Edinburgh case. Both airports lie to the west of their respective cities. As the writer says, Glasgow airport is on the wrong side of the city to properly serve central Scotland as a whole. Edinburgh is close to main motorway and rail links which can easily be upgraded to serve a larger airport. It is not necessary for a country's airport to be sited at its largest city. After the war, Frankfurt became Germany's main airport despite being smaller than Munich or Hamburg. It is however much more centrally located than the two larger rivals. A message here for Scotland, perhaps?

Saturday 27 July 2002

The politics of folk music

Gary North has written a fascinating article on the Lew Rockwell site. The title: Join the Union, and Other Quaint Recommendations

According to North:

So, attendees at Celtic festivals (in the USA) are mainly successful Scots in business and the professions, who come to hear songs about lower-class losers and their lost causes, and middle-class Irish, who come to hear songs about how tough things were before the Brits were booted out. They celebrate, side by side, by drinking a lot of Guinness (British).

Commenting on singer Brian McNeill, North says:

When a movement relies on state-funded urban folk singers to carry its message to the masses, and when the masses are upper-middle-class people at a music concert, that movement has moved into the dustbin of history. It's right down there with Bonnie Prince Charlie's revolt against King George II. McNeill knows that the Bonnie Prince's rebellion was a lost cause for losers, but he hasn't figured out that Arthur Scargill's cause is just as lost.

Friday 26 July 2002

Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Some years ago, I was walking down Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco when I was approached by a street person. "You're Ted Turner, aren't you? Can you give me a dollar?", he said. I explained in a proper British accent that I wasn't Ted - after all, I didn't have Hanoi Jane with me. He wasn't convinced, it was getting dark, I gave him a dollar. Sadly, it now appears that Ted has lost 89% of his wealth. I hope that the street person spent my buck on drink and didn't invest in CNN, the Commie News Network.

You couldn't make it up

The Spectator demolishes political correctness. I particularly like their new acronym : WOGS - Workers On Government Service.

Thursday 25 July 2002

The return of real education

It looks as though some teachers are beginning to realise what they have been doing wrong for so long. About time too.

More illiberalism from the "Liberal" Democrats

I wonder if Jim Wallace has studied what the results of this kind of policy have been in the United States. Legislating about what people do to their own bodies is not what liberalism should be about and it stops the police from dealing with crimes which have actual victims.

The return of reality

So, all those years of studying the Austrian School of Economics are now being vindicated. The events in the world's stock markets are no surprise to some of us. I met and photographed Hayek and once drove Murray Rothbard to a meeting at the home of John Blundell, now head of the Institute of Ecomomic Affairs. I suspect that the political classes will make all the usual errors when what is needed is a radical reduction of state power and spending and, above all, a return to a real monetary system not based on paper.

Tuesday 23 July 2002

Edinburgh or Glasgow

It looks as if the government will have to decide which airport will become dominant in Central Scotland. This will be a difficult one for Transport Secretary Alistair Darling. He is the MP for Edinburgh Central and people here are very keen on our airport's expansion. But can he pick Edinburgh without being accused of favouritism or even electoral self-interest? On the other hand, his constituency may well disappear in the proposed parliamentary reorganisation. He would then need the goodwill of the Labour party establishment to find a new safe seat. Labour's support in Scotland is stongest in Glasgow! Edinburgh airport is more centrally located for Scotland as a whole and the economy here is booming and population is growing rapidly. Glasgow is still the larger city but not as successful as Edinburgh. I suspect that no decision will be taken before the Scottish elections next May.

A good idea

By 14th August, the bosses of large US companies have to confirm in writing that their accounts are correct and face the consequences if they are not. Why not get George Bush to certify that the government's own accounts are OK says the New York Post. An excellent idea. Of course, he won't because he knows perfectly well that government accounting makes Enron and WorldCom look like minor errors in the petty cash.

Here is an opportunity for the Tories. Challenge Tony Blair as Chief Executive and Gordon Brown as Finance Director to certify the accuracy of the UK government's accounting procedures. Why shouldn't the two of them be asked to repay half their salaries and pension benefits if the books have been cooked? They wouldn't run away from such a challenge, would they?

Monday 22 July 2002

The politician giveth but first he taketh away

Now it is alleged that Scotland's former first minister, Henry McLeish, has repaid the £38,500 which he wrongly obtained from the taxpayers as "expenses" by getting the same taxpayers to give him another £30,000 which he had previously promised not to take!

The Barnett Formula.....

.....is designed to bring "gradual convergence in spending levels between Scotland and England." Former Tory Scottish Secretary, Ian Lang, says here that:
Scotland should have a fuller role in the overall economic decision-making process in the UK and in the Chancellor's annual budget decisions.
But the economy is not a devolved matter. It is dealt with at the UK level - as it happens at the moment by a Scottish Chancellor. If Mr. Lang wants a specifically Scottish input on economic matters, he should be calling for full fiscal freedom - that is for all taxes paid by Scots to be levied and collected by the Scottish parliament with suitable sums being sent to London for defence and any other non-devolved matters. Only then will Scottish politicians be made to act responsibly.

Friday 19 July 2002

He still doesn't get it

Gavin Esler is a regular contributor to the Scotsman. I don't think he's ever written anything I agree with. He's wrong here too.

The anger mounts

These two letters are, I believe, just the beginning. Most people now see politicians as self-serving good-for-nothings. Will they still claim to represent us when election turnouts drop below 50%?

Thursday 18 July 2002

Happy hour!

It looks as if the control freaks who want to regulate pubs even more may have had their comeuppance. For once, the law may be on our side!

Another mugging

Yesterday, it was local council workers. Today, it's MPs. It looks like the entire public sector is rushing to upgrade their pensions before the public gets too angry. Well, lots of us are angry now. Apparently, Iain Duncan Smith said that he wouldn't take the additional pension because it "would send the wrong signal." Never mind "signals"; why not just say that the increase is wrong?

Wednesday 17 July 2002

Here we go again

So Gordon Brown piles regulation after regulation on business, creates a nightmare welfare state described as "the last throw in the politics of central control" and increases taxation on pension funds by £5 billion per year. No surprise, then, that the stock market is in free fall. Companies understandably respond by closing defined-benefit pension schemes - the alternative for many would be bankruptcy. People with personal pensions find that their funds are declining along with annuity rates. There's no such problem for the fat cats in local government. They will keep their final salary, early retirement, inflation linked pensions - financed by the rest of us. Recent declines in their pension funds will be made up by council-tax payers. This is outrageous. As the Scotsman editorial rightly says:
If local authority workers want parity in wages, they may have to accept parity in pensions.
Why are the oppositon parties not raising hell about this?

Tuesday 16 July 2002

We have ways of making you smile!

I recently saw the Lord Provost of Edinburgh in my local pub. He was grinning broadly and living it up like, well, a politician. Sadly, it now seems that his smile may be illegal!

The debate continues.....

between Bruce Crichton and John Rogerson.

The people speak

The latest ITV opinion poll asked people if they supported Jack Straw's plan to share sovereignty of Gibraltar with Spain. The result:
Yes 5%
No 95%

Monday 15 July 2002

The return of Old Labour

Gordon Brown increases spending by £93 billion and the stock market responds by losing more than 5% of its value in one day (a loss of £54 billion). It's back to the 1970s folks. Who will be the new Thatcher?

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing - big brother is watching you!

On a day in which the Daily Mail tells us that Gordon Brown spends 2% of the world's annual income - more than the Spanish or Canadian economies - it is surely reassuring to read that our masters in Brussels use the latest technology to save taxpayers the huge sum of £0.39.

The beautiful game

I drove past Muirfield on Saturday on the way to the airshow at East Fortune and saw the preparations being made for the Open. I hope that the golfing establishment continues to reject the politically correct nonsense coming from the "sports minister."

Peter Dawson, secretary of the Royal and Ancient, says robustly:

We do believe in rights of assembly and feel there's a place for all-male clubs and all-women clubs.
And Gillian Stewart, winner of the 1984 Women's Euro Open, says:
I have absolutely nothing against men-only clubs, and think it would be very wrong if they were forced into accepting women members merely to be politically correct. If I had the wherewithal to start a club of my own and decided I wanted to have a women-only club, why should I not be allowed to do so?
Absolutely correct. What the Royal and Ancient should tell the government is that they won't hold the Open ever again should they be forced into accepting mixed-sex golf clubs. Let the politicians then explain the loss of "£80 million in the long term to the local economy".

Friday 12 July 2002

Scotland's shame

There is an extraordinary article in the Edinburgh Evening News today.

John Law was a pioneer of the art of creating money out of thin air. But the article puts it like this:

He alone among his contemporaries fully grasped the notions of credit and the potential of paper money. It was not until 1931 that Britain left the gold standard - yet Law had realised that reserves of a precious metal do not serve the needs of trade as early as 1705...
But the News goes on to say:

It was a massive bull market to make the 1980's yuppie era look like pocket money day for five year olds. The shares started at 500 livres each, quickly doubled, and then marched from 1,000 to 10,000 livres before the inevitable collapse.
Indeed so. But the article continues:
Yet Law's economic theories, despite his French disaster, are vindicated today. We not only use paper money but also plastic too. Law would have understood, as he said himself that money is "a functional medium with no intrinsic value..."
"Vindicated today!" The recent stock market and housing booms - both here and in the US - are the consequences of the creation of huge amounts of unbacked money by central banks. We are now seeing the beginnings of the inevitable collapse which always follows such governmental speculation. Unfortunately, millions of ordinary people will be wiped out financially - the politicians who caused this tragedy will, as always, blame others.

New job for Margo?

Tory MSP Brian Monteith suggests that Margo MacDonald would make a good Lord Provost of Edinburgh.

What is the SNP for?

The ongoing campaign by the Scottish Nationalists against Margo MacDonald, their most popular MSP, continues. I am tempted to think that the SNP may be a cunning plot by the British establishment to prevent Scottish independence. Of course, the SNP doesn't actually offer independence - it wants Scotland to be a province of the Holy Belgian Empire. The trading standards authorities should make the SNP call itself The Northwest European Unionist Party.

Crime and punishment

On the day the government issues its new crime figures, I draw your attention to an article by fellow Edinburgh blogger Roland Watson.

Thursday 11 July 2002

Liberty debate

Here's another letter in the ongoing debate between Bruce Crichton and John Rogerson. I'm with Bruce.

Wednesday 10 July 2002

The fourth estate

Headline in the Daily Mail:

The black community hailed IDS.

Headline in The Scotsman:

Duncan Smith fails to score on streets of Brixton with Tories' anti-drug message.

Supporting freedom makes you younger!

From EU Observer 10.07.2002 - 09:38 CET

Milton Friedman: EU to collapse within 10 years The EU and its single currency euro will exist for some 5-10 years and then will just breakup, according to 86-year old Prof Milton Friedman, one of the leading libertarian economists. As reasons for such an EU disintegration, the Nobel Laureate points to linguistic and cultural differences as well as external economic factors, the Izvestia reports. According to the US economist, giving up national monetary policy in eurozone countries leads to a higher unemployment rate as an immediate result of economic problems. Its is the "Achilles' heel" of the euro, Mr Friedman believes. If the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB) is correct for a country like Ireland, for Germany it is absolutely not positive, he points out. Press Articles Novosti Izvestia Written by Marcin Frydrych Edited by Honor Mahony

This report is interesting in two ways:

First, the coming collapse of the EU is excellent news.

Secondly, given that Milton Friedman was 89 years old earlier this month and is now apparently 86, supporting freedom makes you younger!

Tuesday 9 July 2002

The new Scottish parliament building

This letter from David Black casts more light on the extraordinary saga of the construction of the new Scottish parliament building. Mr Black has written an excellent book about this sorry tale. As he points out in the letter:
The cost of the Prime Minister's decision to veto Calton Hill, in Edinburgh, which is what Holyrood has been all about....

It is not generally realised in England that almost everyone up here assumed that the Scottish parliament would be located in the former Royal High School building on Calton Hill which already contains a suitable debating chamber. Well before the first Scottish parliamentary elections were held, the Westminster cabinet decided that a new building would be constructed in Edinburgh. This was imposed on us because it was thought that the Calton Hill site was a "nationalist shibboleth" - there had been a twenty year vigil by Scottish Nationalists outside the Royal High School building since the failure of the first devolution referendum in 1979. So, Tony Blair in London has imposed a £300 million cost on Scottish taxpayers rather than let us use an existing and more centrally located building - all because he wrongly thought that Scots associated Calton Hill with a particular political party.

Taxes on business

Yesterday, I drew attention to the theory that taxes on business are more harmful than taxes on wages. A letter in today's Scotsman from new labour supporter Judith Begg shows no such understanding:
Corporation tax cannot be treated in isolation. It is the overall tax burden, rather than any specific element that is likely to have an impact on the health of our economy..

Well, I certainly think that the overall tax burden is far too high, but I also concur with Professor Reismann's view on the particular harm caused by taxes on business.

Monday 8 July 2002

A good read

I am gradually re-reading the enormous (1,000 double sized pages with small print!) Capitalism by George Reismann, Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University.

Today, I came across this passage:

What has enabled Sweden to have one of the world's highest burdens of taxation and, at the same time, to remain a modern country, more or less advancing, is the fact that the tax burden in Sweden falls far more heavily on the average Swedish wage earner than it does on Swedish business.........If Swedish business had to bear the burden of taxation borne by Swedish wage earners, the Swedish economy would long since have been in ruins.

Reismann's point is that taxation on capital and profits is far more harmful in the long run even for the wage earners because ultimately wages depend on capital formation and expansion. It occurred to me that Ireland has been adopting a similar policy of taxing wage earners relatively more than business. Some in the SNP seem to be arguing for a similar policy in Scotland. I wonder if they have been reading Reismann!

Accounting problems

According to economist Walter Williams, the total federal debt in the USA is $35 trillion which works out at $120,000 per man, woman and child. Apparently, politicians say that the debt is at the most $6 trillion because they exclude the big items like social security (old age pensions in the UK). This under-reporting certainly puts Enron and WorldCom in the shade. I wonder what the real UK government debt is per capita. Even more intersting would be the total UK debt if we were to join the Euro and assume our share of the unfunded continental pension schemes.

Sunday 7 July 2002

More on the ID cards row

As I suggested on Thursday, this has great potential for creating division in Scottish politics. It is already causing trouble for the Labour/Illiberal Democrat alliance.

Labour MSPs refused to comment on Blunkett's statement, saying the issue of ID cards was a reserved (to Westminster) matter.

But Mike Rumbles, the Illiberal Democrat MSP for West Aberdeenshire is actually showing signs of liberalism:

This is not about Scotland not wanting to combat fraud, this is about Scots knowing that ID cards will not work. I think that David Blunkett has forgotten all about devolution.

If they are supposed to be voluntary, then why is it an issue that Scots might not have them? One minute we are told it is an inoffensive and voluntary scheme, then we are told we must all have them so as to fight terror.

With the SNP and Tories also making anti-ID card noises, there could be a majority in the Scottish parliament against their introduction.

Friday 5 July 2002

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

According to the business section of today's Herald, Ryanair is:
growing its market share on the key Prestwick to London route

Well, no it isn't. Ryanair's market share of the Prestwick to London route is 100% for the simple reason that it's the only operator. No doubt it is growing market share on the overall Glasgow (both airports) to London routes but that's not the same thing. I always have a little laugh when I read in the press about plans for possible "third" runway at Heathrow - yes, there are three there already. And what about a possible "second" runway at Edinburgh which is regularly discussed by the media? I landed on Edinburgh's existing second runway quite recently.

I happen to notice these stories because I have an interest in aviation, but how much else is wrong in newspapers?

African gold standard?

Those of us concerned about the stockmarket bubble created by the fiat money system may be thinking about the attractions of hard assets. But this shows that politicians can be a threat anywhere:
Mbeki and Mlambo-Ngcuka will have to work exceptionally hard and cleverly to assure investors that the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Bill is not the beginning of another stereotypical African slippery slope.

It looks like one to me.

Thursday 4 July 2002

A modest proposal

Reader David Ellams has sent me the following:

Instructions for the disposal of the Blunkett (dis-)Benefit Card

Equipment Required:

1 One work bench with a vice
2 One clamp
3 One hammer (the heavier the better)
4 One electric drill
5 One Tungsten Carbide by 1/2" drill bit (warning do not use metric "equivalent" size)
6 One centre punch
9 One poker
10 one fire
11 One piece of writing paper
12 One personal computer with a word processing programme
13 One computer printer
14 One see-through plastic envelope
15 one second class stamp

Execute the following actions:

1, Place the card face up on the work bench
2. Clamp the card with the clamp so that it will not move
3. Taking the hammer in your right hand strike the card in the area of the embedded chip as hard as you can twenty five times
4. If the embedded chip has not thinned and spread out enough take the red-hot poker and apply it to the chip until it becomes red hot.
"SAFETY WARNING" No 1– do not allow the plastic to catch fire as it will not doubt exude noxious fumes and you will end up thigh deep in Health and Safety busybodies!
"SAFETY WARNING" No 2 – have a 5 gallon bucket of cold water standing by adjacent to your workbench
5. Repeat action number 3
6. Drop the card in the bucket of water to cool it down
7. By now the chip should be sufficiently thin for the next operation
8. Take the card out of the bucket of water and lay it down face up on a block of wood that is approximately 4" thick and 2" wider than the card all round
9. Place the block of wood in the vice so that the card is trapped, with the front facing you
10. With the centre punch and hammer punch the centre of the chip – one blow should be sufficient
11. Fit the ½" tungsten carbide drill bit into the chuck of the drill and tighten it up
12. Plug in the drill to the mains socket outlet and switch on the drill
13. Using the centre you have just punched, drill right through the card in the area of the chip
14. Make sure that you remove all of the chip and leave a nice neat hole, if necessary re-drill with a ¾" tungsten carbide drill bit (warning do not use metric "equivalent" size)
15. Also make sure that your name and photograph are still clearly visible on the front of the card
16. Retire from your workshop to your word processor
17. Place the card in the see-through plastic envelope, and include the following letter

Mr Blunkett,
The Secretary of State for Home Affairs,
The Home Office,
Queen Annes Mansions,
Petty France,
London SW1


Please find enclosed one modified and redundant Blunkett (Dis-) Benefit card, which is

1. Prima Facie evidence of an act of Treason on your part (and be advised that as required by law, I have notified the local magistrates accordingly),
2. A gross violation of the rights of the individual,
3. Contrary to the common law of both England and Scotland,
4. Contrary to Magna Carta,
5. Contrary to the Bill of Rights (1689),
6. Prima Facie evidence that you are one of Moscow’s most exalted cadre called "Lenin’s Useful Idiots".

Yours sincerely

18 Seal the envelope, apply the second class stamp, and pop it in the post.

Will Scotland say "no" to Identity Cards?

According to the Edinburgh Evening News, Scotland may reject ID cards, or at least some of their functions:
It added that if the card related to reserved matters such as immigration, national security or social security, it would apply right across the UK.

But if the scheme was to cover devolved policy areas, such as health or transport, Scotland would make its own decision.

The potential for friction between Westminster and Holyrood is immense and could give anti-ID card parties a useful advantage at the coming Holyrood elections. Serves Labour right.

Imprisoned minds

According to this article, Scottish taxpayers will have to pay out an extra £700 million if the three proposed new prisons are built and operated by the public sector rather than by private companies. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if MSPs vote to spend the extra money rather than be tainted by privatisation.

But do we actually need any new prisons? What is really needed is a complete rethink of how to deal with criminals. All “genuine” crimes have victims. The role of the state should be to catch criminals and make them fully compensate the victim as well as paying for the relevant police and court costs. That would be a proper system of justice and I suspect one which would need fewer prisons, private or public.

Wednesday 3 July 2002

Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer

Tony Blair treats the Rik Mayall portrayal of Hitler in an anti-Euro ad as a "joke." But Mayall is surely correct in telling us that the Euro would lead to one country with one leader. Of course Mr Blair hopes to be "the one". Perhaps the comparison with Hitler is a bit overdone - Blair would never introduce Identity Cards, would he?
How can they not know?

An editorial in Business AM today says:

The pro-euro campaign needs to find some direction and dedication. Not because it is necessarily right - it is too early to make a judgment on what is best for Britain - but to ensure that there is a fair and informed debate on the issue.
This is truly extraordinary. Surely everyone understands that the Euro is a political project which is designed to create a new country - Europe. How can it be "too early to make a judgment" on whether we should abolish the UK? If you don't know now, you never will.

Monday 1 July 2002

Big Brother - evict Tony Blair!

I am pleased to note that voices are being raised against the proposed introduction of Identity Cards. The Scottish Human Rights Centre and Scotsman writer George Kerevan have both spoken out today.

Does Eric Joyce MP really believe that: "the government is going to make it clear that there will be no plan for people to carry cards compulsorily"? Pull the other one.

Rural affairs

A big difference living in Edinburgh compared with London is the ability to see the hills of the countryside from the city centre. Now and again I actually read the farming sections in the newspapers. This piece is interesting. Note the following:
What I would like to see is fair play from the UK government through taking steps to reduce the bureaucracy and red tape that's strangling our industry, and removing the competition restrictions which prevent dairy co-operatives from coming together to form larger, more powerful lobbying and negotiating organisations to deal with major milk buyers, including the supermarket chains.

Once again, it's the government that causes problems when it trys to "help."