Sunday 27 February 2005

Glasgow: sexism still a problem

The gentleman in front of me asked for a day return to Glasgow Exhibition Centre. The young lady at Haymarket station seemed surprised when I asked for a similar ticket.

After an hour or so, as my train approached the Exhibition Centre station, I noticed that well over half of the passengers were female, not to mention young. Praise the Lord, I thought: the Leader of All Progressive Humanity (Copyright: Gerald Warner) has expunged the curse of sexism from Scotland's largest city. How wonderful it is to live in the 21st Century, one in which all of those young ladies were also on their way to the Model Rail Scotland show!

Alas, no.

As the visitors entered the SECC there was a parting of the ways. A 95% male group charged towards the waiting model trains, including ones with live steam, while a 99% female crowd surged into the adjacent hall in which they would find the Scottish Wedding Show. Sexual stereotypes live on in Glasgow it seems. There ought to be a law against it.

He still doesn't get it

Jack McConnell knows how to save the Scottish economy!

And how is this to be achieved? Are we going to get low taxes and a smaller government? Not quite:

The building blocks are in place for the Scottish public sector to help the Scottish economy to take an important step forward, according to First Minister Jack McConnell.
We've already got Europe's largest state sector and it's not producing the goods.

More international flights and an increased number of entrepreneurial immigrants are all very well, but they'll come here automatically if economic conditions are appropriate for businesses. We've been trying to create prosperity through state spending for far too long. It's time to try the alternative.

Friday 25 February 2005

Incomers and entrepreneurship

Thanks to John Band of Shot by Both Sides for directing me to this.

A question

Does anyone know what this is:

The gathering storm

At last the scandal of public-sector pension provision is getting the attention it deserves:
DURING the next 30 years, Britain faces the prospect of civil war. At issue is the growing disparity between private and public pensions: a gulf that could easily set disadvantaged private sector workers against what they see - rightly or wrongly - as public employees with pensions funded by the taxpayer.
And it's not just the leader writers who are concerned. Look at this letter in today's Scotsman:
Of course, there is as much chance of government action as there is of the end of taxation itself. Political parties don’t get elected by being responsible and doing the right thing, but by trying to outbid each other in buying the affection of the electorate.
Mr McCulloch notes that one in four workers (sic) are now employed in the public sector and they're hardly likely to support pension justice. But that leaves the rest of us - the other 75%. I've heard some Conservatives say that they daren't antagonise the public-sector vote. But how many of them would vote Tory anyway? Surely we need some politicians willing to act on behalf of the majority who are being exploited by an army of unproductive government employees.

For starters why not sort out the scandal of early retirement? If a 55-year-old with a personal pension retires early his annual annuity will be less than it would have been at 60 because (a) he will be expected to live for more years and (b) his fund will be that much less as it will have benefited from fewer years' contributions and investment growth. Not so for some in the public sector. A 55-year-old retiring government worker may well have his share of the pension fund augmented as if he were still working to 60! Augmented, that is, by the rest of us. That should be outlawed immediately.


I think that I've managed to switch on the trackback system. This feature wasn't available on pre-2003 blog templates like mine but hopefully its now been added successfully.

Wednesday 23 February 2005

The people say "No"; elitists astounded

By a margin of 3 to 1 Edinburgh has rejected the council's road toll scheme:
The scale of the defeat was a crushing blow to the Labour council, which has spent £8 million developing its plans for the world’s most ambitious congestion-charging scheme, encircling the whole of the Capital. Having insisted that tolls were the only way of tackling congestion in the city, the council now faces having to draw up a completely new strategy.
I can't say that I'm surprised, although some are. The news was given to me by a senior, green-oriented gentleman who lives fairly close to the centre of the city. He was shocked by the result and didn't seem to understand why the people had voted "the wrong way". But a more junior lady in the same organisation confessed quietly to me that she had voted "No". You see, like most people in Edinburgh, she doesn't live in the world-famous city centre but out in the suburbs where use of a car is more of a necessity than a luxury.

I have no problem with improving public transport - preferably privately operated. For a start, I wonder why we don't reintroduce bus conductors, at least on buses in the city centre. Every evening one sees convoys of buses at each stop slowly waiting their turn to load and unload while the leading driver collects the fares. And who can doubt that we'll still be debating the reopening of the south suburban railway line to passengers in fifty years time? But this needs road tolls to cover the costs, we'll be told. Maybe, maybe not. But a properly thought out plan will have to be sold to the population as a whole including the majority who live outside the city centre. The council's plan failed because it was inadequately thought out and it didn't answer the justifiable concerns of city centre small businesses and suburban residents. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if many voters were swayed by the Yes campaign's widespread use of tax-financed illegal posters on virtually every main-road lamppost.

Monday 21 February 2005

Here's tae us...

There's an ancient Scottish tradition of comparing ourselves with other countries, especially the big one that lies to the south. Here's today's statistic: with 8.5% of the UK population Scotland has 20% of the largest blogs! Yeah, I know that my friends at Samizdata aren't included in the survey but I was pleasantly surprised by this news.

The big bang

So the residents of Cumbernauld want the whole place blown up, and I can't say that I'm surprised. It's been quite a while since I visited Cumbernauld but this certainly rings a bell:
The town centre was described as "a rabbit warren on stilts, a sprawling, angular concrete complex that is soulless, inaccessible, like something from Eastern Europe".
When I read this piece I immediately thought of blogging about Cumbernauld being a perfect example of the kind of disaster that we get when the state gets involved in housing. The Scotsman's George Kerevan beat me to it:
Then it all went pear-shaped after the Second World War. The mood of the time was state intervention, state planning and direction from the top down. Architects were out, planners were in. The age of the megastructure had arrived. Adam Smith was replaced by Karl Marx. Even worse, Robert Adam was replaced by Geoffrey Copcutt.
And ideas have consequences:
The big idea of the planners was to dismantle Glasgow, the Second City of the Empire, and decamp its citizens to concrete camps in the countryside, called new towns. Pol Pot later adopted the same plan in Cambodia. In due course, through the 1950s, one third of Glasgow’s population was moved out of the city. Of course, with the fall in population, Glasgow’s economy imploded. But as socialist planners have noted from time immemorial, you can’t make a utopian omelette without breaking a few human eggs.
Kerevan thinks that Cumbernauld should be converted into some kind of architectural museum as warning to others.

No, the residents are correct: blow it up. And while we're at it let's blow up East Kilbride as well. I got trapped there yesterday in its endless system of roundabouts and inadequately signed junctions.

Where's Howard Roark when you need him?

Friday 18 February 2005

Does anyone still want ID cards?

Over on Time Bomb 2000 Gary North writes about the recent security breach in a US database company. The implications are horrendous. One of TB2K's readers has a modest proposal:
I saw this on CNN. These people should get the "heck" sued out of them. All of their possesions sold at auction and the proceeds going to the victims of their company. The employees, their wives and children should be sold as slaves.

The company should be shut down, the building and all contents burned and nuked and the ashes ground up and mixed with toxic radioactive waste and launched into outer space.

That would be a good start.

That's telling them! I sometimes have similar thoughts about dealing with some of the members of the Scottish political class.

The precautionary principle

I noticed the following announcement in today’s paper:
Despite rigorous quality controls, ASDA has been made aware of a production fault with its Play & Learn Wooden Fruit & Veg Play Set. ... ASDA has decided to take the precautionary measure of withdrawing this product…
Well I can't say that I'm surprised.

"Wooden Fruit & Veg"! Some of us suspected that all that green propaganda wasn't to be believed. It's probably wise to stick to a diet of Deep Fried Mars Bars.

Thursday 17 February 2005

Good grief

One day and counting!

Whenever I hear the word rights, I reach for my revolver

And I've just been given another "right":
Air passengers who are unable to board their flights because of overbooking, cancellations or flight delays can now demand greater compensation.
Tim Worstall understands what's wrong with this right, so to speak:
There’s the problem. The compensation rates are fixed, fixed at a level which makes sense only in light of the charges made by the legacy airlines for their full price seats. If you’ve bought a 10 pound ticket on Ryan Air (motto, "No fu**ing refunds, what part of that don’t you understand?") why on earth should you get 300 quid compensation if they’ve over booked it? You knew, when you bought the ticket, what you were getting as chips travel with lower service levels and less reliability than the full service airlines.
The outcome of this is obvious: the low-cost airlines will have to increase their fares to compensate them for this new "right". Will British politicians be up in arms about this? I don't expect too many of them will be coming to the aid of Ryanair or EasyJet, not to mention their passengers. Well, they should - especially those here in Scotland. According to today's Herald tourist visitors to Scotland are increasing.

And why?

"European figures were helped by the rapid growth of low-cost flights to Britain from Europe, especially from new EU countries."
So when you B&B goes bust or your local pub closes down you can thank the EU. But at least nobody here on the edge of Europe will be "profiting" from travellers.

Wednesday 16 February 2005

A sign of the times

An economically literate Edinburgh bus traveller protests against the anti-capitalist mercantilist policies of the world's richest nations:

Tuesday 15 February 2005


I must thank Andrew Duffin for pointing out this wonderful observation in today's Scotsman:
Ironically, Mr Blair has made fighting climate change a key theme of Britain’s presidency of the G8 major industrialised nations this year, and is a major greenhouse gas that many scientists blame for causing global warming.
Indeed he is, although perhaps not as much as his wife. And I am sure that the good folk at the Scotsman have noticed that a large amount of gas emits from one of the buildings further down Holyrood Road.

Monday 14 February 2005

Caledonian Culture

There's a very Scottish row going on about comments made by broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove:
A LEADING broadcaster and cultural commentator drew heavy criticism last night after he accused the Scots of being an unimaginative and inward-looking race who like to celebrate failure and poverty.
At the heart of Cosgrove's argument is this:
Referring to films such as Trainspotting and Small Faces, he said: "There is hardly one film made in Scotland by a Scot that is not cast in some dreary, awful, urban, deprived social landscape. I think this is a failure of the imagination. This self-loathing, inward-looking obsession has damaged Scotland. It doesn't capture the joie de vivre or the celebratory attitude of the Scots. It announces to the world that we are a backwater, poor and deprived, when we are not. We are one of the richest nations in the world, yet love to represent ourselves not to be."
Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects are up in arms:
However, leading Scots last night rejected this view and said the country was a prosperous place, full of talent, self-confidence, determination and entrepreneurialism.
I'm with Mr Cosgrove on this. He didn't say that Scotland was unsuccessful - his argument is that our intellectuals portray the country in a negative way. They do.

There's more about this over on the Herald (although their link may not work for long). Some of the comments there bear out Cosgrove's own views perfectly:

Kevin Williamson, founder of Rebel Inc, which published self-proclaimed anti-establishment authors such as Irvine Welsh in the 1990s, said: "What happened in Scotland under 18 years of Tory rule was appalling. Working-class people were totally disenfranchised.
Disenfranchised! So Glasgow went Conservative in the 'eighties? I must have missed that.

And what about this from writer A L Kennedy:

Scots are not obsessed with poverty because they want to be. They don't have extraordinary corrupt local government because they want to.
I suppose that Margaret Thatcher imposed all those Labour councillors on us. No. Scots voted for the Town Hall numpties who deride ideas of self-improvement and entrepreneurialism. And I have little doubt that part of the reason is that Scotland's intellectual class worships the concept of the "working class" and thus influences the electorate. Of course, the intelligentsia doesn't mean people who actually work. Most workers in Scotland, like elsewhere in the West, are middle class in so far as they work in offices, own their own homes, holiday abroad and expect - subject to the depredations of Gordon Brown - to enjoy a reasonable retirement. The country would be far more prosperous if Scots intellectuals recognised that the folk to be admired are those who pay their way, not the legions of welfare recipients who are wrongly portrayed as admirable.

Saturday 12 February 2005

Another one bites the dust

For details, look here.

I believe that the USS Neverdock has actually docked here in Scotland!

Hopping mad

I don't think that I've noticed any British observations on the Hans-Hermann Hoppe affair that is attracting so much attention in the United States:
This brings us to the current situation involving charges against libertarian Hans-Hermann Hoppe, who teaches economics at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. In a lecture on time preference during the fall of 2003, Hoppe said that homosexuals in general would have lower time preferences because some of them engage in very risky sexual practices, and that homosexuals tend not to have children. He also noted that John Maynard Keynes, who put short time preferences into near-holy status, was a homosexual and that certain economists have speculated that Keynes’ sexual proclivities may have influenced his thinking.

It is important to remember that Hoppe’s economic concepts are thoroughly Misesian, in that they are grounded in a priori logic. If the premises are true and the logical mechanisms that use those premises are correctly put into place, then the conclusion a priori is true as well. The reason that this is important is because Hoppe was reaching an academic conclusion, not expressing a statement of belief in opposition to homosexual behavior.

Hoppe’s s remarks did not sit well with one student, who filed a complaint with the university, with the current result being the "punishment" of a letter of reprimand and the docking of pay.

One despairs for the future of the West at times like this. Where are the political voices supporting Professor Hoppe and academic freedom? I hope that any large private financial contributors to UNLV are tearing up their cheques right now, but few businessmen support capitalism and freedom on principle.

I have my own little fantasy about the ideal outcome for this ridiculous situation:

And here is next week’s news:

BEIJING, February 18th.

In a surprise development late last night the Chinese government announced the appointment of Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe as Chief Economic Advisor.

Professor Hoppe resigned two days ago from his position at UNLV.

In his first public statement Professor Hoppe shocked the world’s financial community by revealing his plan for an immediate decoupling of the Chinese and US currencies. In future, the Renminbi will be 100% backed by gold and in Far East markets overnight the dollar has lost 30% of its value. Reports are coming in of US-bound oil tankers turning back in mid-ocean.

Professor Hoppe told bemused western reporters: “Countries that tie their currencies to gold tend to be more forward looking than those that don’t.”

Friday 11 February 2005

Private schools

Andrew Duffin has drawn my attention to this letter from LibDem MSP Donald Gorrie.

Andrew comments:

In other words, back-door nationalisation via bullying. This is a common NuLab way of working - they can't actually afford the political and financial costs of taking over peoples' businesses, but they sure can regulate and nanny them to death.

Private schools MUST have the courage to get out of this mess before they find they have lost all control over their assets and ways of working.

So yes, there is a plot to remove charitable status from private schools that don't bend the knee to the God of "inclusivity". MSPs like Mr Gorrie clearly don't consider ensuring that at least some Scots children get a decent education to be a public benefit.

Wednesday 9 February 2005

Should local councillors get £25K?

The taxpayers of Dundee don't think so:
THE DUNDEE-BASED Council Tax Payers’ Association last night said that proposed 250% salary increases for councillors are “beyond belief”.
Not true, I'm afraid. It's all too believable. I really would be surprised if there's anyone left who doesn't realise that the whole point of Labour governments - yes even one headed by the saintly Tony Blair - is to fleece the taxpayer.

The "beyond belief" comment was obviously a bit of hyperbole. As the Taxpayers' spokesman says:

“This ridiculous announcement clearly identifies the priorities of our local/national politicians.

“In the private sector salaries are performance related. Obviously this does not apply to the public sector decision makers. It would be difficult to stand up and justify a 250% increase for any councillor.”

The Tories agree that councillors should get more but that the rise should be paid for by reducing the number of councillors. I suppose that's a start - private companies with council-sized turnover make do with modestly-sized boards of directors.

The most shocking proposal is that retiring councillors should get a "golden goodbye of £30,000". A golden bullet, more likely. Generally speaking, local councillors are incompetent, especially where our money is concerned. Why don't they stop the early retirement racket under which clockwatching bureaucrats get leaving packages that the rest of us could only dream about?

Monday 7 February 2005

What's wrong with the Scottish economy?

The Federation of Small Businesses report on the Scottish Economy has been receiving a lot of attention recently. Stuart Dickson gives us an SNP perspective over on the Independence blog.

In his regular Scotsman column today, former SNP MSP Duncan Hamilton also says that national independence is essential if our economy is to improve:

That frustration, anger and resentment at the current state of Scottish life and the burning desire to see things change is what makes me a Scottish Nationalist.
No real surprise there, coming from a member of the SNP. But Mr Hamilton went on to say:
PART of the absence of entrepreneurial thinking in Scotland must be linked to our failure to tackle the core question for national governments in the 21st century. The unthinking maintenance of the traditional relationship between the state and the individual has embedded a particular model of government responsibility and individual dependency. That is not to say all benefits must be slashed and all state aid removed. But it is, emphatically, to support a fundamental reappraisal of what individuals should legitimately expect from government and what level of personal responsibility and risk they should adopt.
Bravo, Mr Hamilton. Nationalist politicians spend a huge amount of time examining the relationship between Scotland and Britain but don't ever seem to notice the importance of the relationship between the individual and The State, whatever its nationality. Many of us think that that second relationship is more important than the first. All entrepreneurs worry deeply about that second relationship and if the nationalists are really concerned about the economy we should be hearing more from the likes of Mr Hamilton and less from the "it's all the fault of the English" brigade.

The politically motivated attack on education

The proposed new charities' law will have a profound effect on Scotland's private schools
Frank Gerstenberg, former principal of Scotland’s biggest independent school, George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, said an end to charitable status would drive up fees and threaten bursaries, preventing some children from less privileged backgrounds from going to private schools.

He also claimed some MSPs were motivated by "politics" rather than economic or educational considerations in driving through changes to the charitable status of private schools.

Of course politicians are motivated by politics - what else? I have little doubt that the "combination of MSPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP" would like nothing better than to kill off private schools completely. As long as private education exists it shows up the deplorably low standards of the state sector.

Note this:

The new definition of charity would require all charities to provide a "public benefit", and MSPs on the communities committee, which is considering the bill, believe this would rule out most, if not all, the private schools in Scotland.
I would argue the opposite: If politicians were to restrict the state to its proper functions (if any) the question of tax-relief for charities wouldn't arise in the first place. In the meantime, ensuring that at least some Scots children get a decent education is a "public benefit" of the highest order.

Friday 4 February 2005

Frank Field has a Scottish clone!

It's about time that this became a hot political issue:
MORE than two-thirds of Scots deemed too sick to work in the last year have come straight off the jobless register - undermining Labour’s claims to have stopped using the sick list to conceal unemployment.
That's not news to everyone. Some people already understand that:
the welfare system is already bankrolling social failure in inner-city constituencies.
Probably from Civitas, wouldn't you think?

And how about this:

"Every problem the Scottish Executive and local authorities deal with - education, crime, antisocial behaviour - can be traced to the underclass living in Scotland today,"
I'd guess the Social Affairs Unit for that one.

And could this be the Scottish Conservative Party speaking up for the poor old taxpayer:

the price of Westminster’s failure to tackle the problem will also be paid by council tax payers who must foot the bill for social services. This problem is especially acute in Glasgow where council tax is the highest in Britain.
No, that's a bit too radical for our local Tories I'm afraid.

The shocking truth is that those three quotes reflect the thinking of a Scottish Labour MP, who was, unsurprisingly, "speaking on condition of anonymity". Please, whoever you are, throw away the cloak of anonymity and start off a real debate about Scotland's future.

A rigged referendum

I favour private ownership of roads and that implies that we have some sort of road pricing regime. Originally I had an open mind on Edinburgh's proposed introduction of tolls but have come to believe that the Labour proposal is merely a tax-raising device.

I can't vote in the referendum and I'm rather upset about that. Because it's not an official election the full electoral roll isn't being used: those who had ticked off the "privacy" box on the annual electoral form can't vote without making a special application to the city council. When I read about this I e-mailed the council and they eventually sent back an application form that reached me on the day after it had to be returned!

Looking around the city I have noticed many pro-toll posters that have been placed illegally:

PRO-TOLL campaigners were ordered last night to take down thousands of posters put up across the city at the weekend after the city council ruled they were illegal.
The illegal pro-council posters have not been removed. I have yet to see any pro-toll adverts on private property. Here's one of the illegal posters:

On the other hand, a walk around the northern New Town and into Stockbridge revealed many anti-toll posters on the windows of flats and probably on the majority of small businesses. Here's one of them:

In a battle in which one side uses illegal, tax-funded posters and an opposition that appears to have the backing of private property owners and small businesses, I know which one gets my support.

Wednesday 2 February 2005

Yesterday was April 1st

That's what I thought when I read about this:
THE unique Edinburgh landmark of Salisbury Crags could be under threat from a plan to set up a wind farm.
There's no way this will be allowed unless the world is even more bonkers than I think:
A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: "I can confirm that Historic Scotland has formally objected to this proposal, because of the adverse impact on part of the royal park and on the setting of a category-A listed building, the Palace of Holyroodhouse."
Actually, this proposal is good news: it makes clear just how mad the enemies of the earth have become.