Friday 29 April 2005
Some will be upset about his suggestion that Social Security could be means tested, and understandably so, since if that proposal were enacted, the people who pay the most into the Social Security program will get the least out of it. Frankly, however, I think some kind of means test is inevitable. More than twenty years ago, I began retirement planning on the assumption that all of my Social Security payments have been a complete waste, and I will never get a nickel out of the program. I'm willing to accept that outcome, in exchange for a system in which everyone, not just upper-income workers, can save money and accumulate wealth instead of retiring onto the dole.
(NB "Social Security" in the US means the old age pension.)
I presume that none of my readers are relying on collecting a pension from the British state, although you might get something if you actually
work for are employed by Leviathan. Yes folks, it's coming here too. If you have any private savings (you evil, capitalist exploiter), you can plan to kiss your state pension goodbye.
(UPDATE: As soon as I had finished posting this I received a letter from that nice Mr Darling. He tells me: "There is massive investment in local schools and hospitals - along with more for pensioners and hard working families." Phew; everything's OK then.)
(I presume that there's been no "investment" in Glasgow schools - see above)
Thursday 28 April 2005
Wednesday 27 April 2005
A WEALTHY Scots industrialist promised yesterday to invest millions of pounds in a new political party in an attempt to break the main parties’ grip on British politics.Some of the party's policies are OK-ish:
Robert Durward, who bankrolls the New Party, said he intended to stand candidates at the next Holyrood election in 2007 and his aim was to put up a "full fleet" of candidates for the next general election.
such as a flat rate of tax at 22 per cent (Why not 10%?) on all earnings over £12,000; restructuring the entire welfare state; ending state benefitsSadly, it turns that "state benefits" are merely to be rebranded:
... giving everyone a share of the country’s wealth which they would then use to fund health, education and pensions throughout their lives."The country's wealth." Oh dear.
I really can't see this party achieving any kind of breakthrough. No doubt Stuart will tell me again that I should be standing for election as a libertarian (especially since his recent discovery!), but as Ayn Rand said: "It's earlier than you think." The intellectual change has to occur before we'll see any meaningful libertarian political advance. I'd guess that this sort of thing is more significant than the rebirth of the New Party.
Monday 25 April 2005
The pro-independence Scottish Standard newspaper has folded just seven weeks after its first hit the stands.Some people just don't get it though:
Fellow Standard contributor and Scottish Socialist Party leader Colin Fox added: "The Scottish Standard provided a much needed radical edge to Scottish newspapers and its closure is deeply regrettable.It may well be that Scotland needs newspapers with a "radical edge", but the Standard was yet another establishment paper: in favour of big state, big tax, big regulation and big boredom.
What we do share with the United States is a big fiscal deficit of more than three per cent of GDP. This is much more serious. For the government is the biggest participant in markets. Governments have large financing needs, both in terms of taxation and borrowing. They therefore set the tone. And a panic over the government's ability to finance itself can pretty soon erupt into a generalised loss of confidence.Unfortunately, no participants in the General Election are talking about the excessive size of the UK state, although:
Mr Volcker (former Chairman of the Fed) says: "America cannot go on spending more than it earns for ever. I don't know whether the change will come with a bang or with a whimper, whether sooner or later. But as things stand, it is more likely than not that it will be financial crises rather than policy foresight that will force change."
Behind the scenes, many Conservatives are angry at the timidity of the party's approach to economic reform, which they believe has neutered the election strategy. They are right about that.I just don't understand the Conservative election strategy unless they really do want ZaNu-Labour to be in power when the crunch comes. As George Trefgarne puts it:
The Tories may lose this election, but, if the Volcker view is correct, a fiscal crisis will propel them into office next time.
Sunday 24 April 2005
The BBC was last night plunged into a damaging general election row after it admitted equipping three hecklers with microphones and sending them into a campaign meeting addressed by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader.I do think that the Conservative response is far too mild. If I were Michael Howard I'd announce that no Tory would appear on any BBC programme or answer questions from any BBC journalist until after the election. Would the BBC be legally allowed to cover other candidates in such circumstances?
Saturday 23 April 2005
When I reached the front door of the tax office yesterday I noticed a man standing outside having a quick smoke. One of the staff, I assumed. Not so. The automatic door opened as I approached and an Inland Revenue “worker” held up his hand and pronounced: “Because of Health & Safety Regulations you can’t come in until some other “clients” leave.” I explained that I merely wanted to collect some forms and he agreed to take my list inside but I wasn’t allowed to enter.
After a while another “client” left and the smoker was allowed into the building, telling me: “This is what we pay our taxes for.” I observed that the “Health & Safety Regulations” had resulted in his having an extra cigarette! Eventually I was allowed into the hallowed premises and was given the P14 forms. The P11D(b) form proffered was for the 2003/04 tax year and I was told: “Just alter the date and it “should” be OK.” I expressed doubt and was then asked: “Have you ever used the Internet? You can download this year’s form.” Off I went only to find that the advice was wrong. The Revenue website still only allows access to the out-of-date form. The P35 and P14 forms have now gone off in time to meet the 19th May deadline and I await postal delivery of the P11D(b), which must go back by early July. I confidently expect to fulfil my historic role as the last private sector employer and employee in Britain.
Friday 22 April 2005
While the creation of jobs in locations away from the central belt has been welcomed by many, especially in rural areas, the policy has proved controversial among the workers themselves and the unions representing them.What nobody ever seems to ask is why all of these jobs are in Edinburgh in the first place. The reason is straightforward: it's because they are public sector jobs, and Edinburgh is the seat of government. The same applies on a UK-wide basis with London being the beneficiary. Once pensions, the environment, housing, health, the arts, sport and education are liberated from the dead hand of the state, normal market forces will quickly decentralise economic activity to the great benefit of "other parts of Scotland".
Thursday 21 April 2005
May I take this opportunity to introduce myself? I am the Finance Minister of a major oil-producing nation in West
Africa Europe, and I have a problem that I am sure you can help me solve. Rumours are sweeping my country that there may be an attempted coup d’etat early next month. Although I am formally entitled Finance Minister, in reality I successfully run the country in its entirety. The nominal leader of the government is merely a figurehead. The problem is, Dear Sir, that the nominal leader is expected to make a bid for total power on 5th May. If successful, he would install one of his henchmen in my place to the detriment of the peasants and toiling masses of our beloved nation. And so, Dear Sir, I ask for your help.
Would you kindly send, by return, full details of your bank account and I shall immediately wire you the sum of $1 trillion. Once the coup has been defeated you may send the cash back to me keeping a 10% commission for your help in this matter. I can assure you, Dear Sir, that your commission will be free of any income tax, national insurance, council tax, VAT, corporation tax, excise duty, inheritance tax or any other such deduction that has temporarily escaped my mind.
I look forward to receiving your most speedy reply.
With my best wishes,
Flight Lieutenant Gordon Brown, DFC & Public Bar.
Wednesday 20 April 2005
THE number of pupils in Scotland’s independent schools has fallen in the past year - but by a much smaller proportion than the state sector.and:
Class sizes in the private sector have also stayed the same at a time when they are increasing in state schoolsSo the private schools are doing proportionately better than the state ones. Why am I not surprised?
Note that Mr Schofield refers to the state behemoths as "publicly funded schools". All schools are funded by the public, although purchasers of private education get to "fund" two types of school. Needless to say no candidates in the election are calling for the privatisation of education system.
The Standard’s initial print run was 50,000, but one insider claimed that had dropped "to below 20,000".and
An insider said: "The atmosphere is bad and everyone is looking around for other jobs.I really wished the Standard well: the independence movement is large enough to have at least one newspaper on its side. But what a sad offering it
I bought the first three issues of the Standard and I'm afraid that what I wrote here wasn't restricted to the first one:
Yes we had the SNP leader calling for a cut in corporation tax but the rest of the paper could have been written by an off-the-shelf, first-year-undergraduate, leftist cliche generator. If Scotland is to become independent the bills will be paid by the mass of middle class folk who work in the private sector. They're unlikely to be convinced by the first issue of this new paper.The Standard is full of the depressing socialist nonsense that is so harmful to Scotland. Yes I know that the Herald is almost as bad, but at least we can read Jack McLean on Saturdays. Jack is clearly a libertarian who has yet to come out of the closet.
Monday 18 April 2005
The TSA operative was intrigued by the coins that had also affected his machine. My friend pointed out that some of them were from his collection of genuine silver US coins and that these were made of sterner stuff than today's government counterfeits. The security man was happy with that explanation and said: "It's a good idea to have some of those at hand - you never know what a future government might do. I've bought some gold coins for my own children."
So at least one lowly member of the US public sector understands basic economics. Perhaps he should be made Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Amicus, the largest energy union, is worried Scottish power stations will be unable to cope with demand from homes and industry.The union isn't blaming "capitalism" as one might expect:
Amicus blames several factors including European directives which will reduce the lives of power stations, the end of the nuclear power programme and an increasing reliance on gas supplies from abroad.I realise that these guys are primarily interested in their own members' jobs - and nothing wrong with that - but it's good to see a concern about what EU regulations can do to those jobs as well as understanding the danger of winding down our nuclear programme.
Sunday 17 April 2005
TOP Scottish tourist destinations are being protected from al-Qaeda attack by anti-terror police disguised as tramps.I do wonder though whether the intelligence services have noticed some highly suspicious characters whom I suspect are using disguises themselves.
For a start, what about this chap who claims to be some sort of "Liberal". We can all see through his disguise.
Then there's someone disguising himself as a conservative for no apparent reason. On second thoughts, I suppose that he does plan to conserve the tax policies of Tony Blair.
Who's Tony Blair you might ask. You could ask this gentleman who may remember young Tony from the old days when the two of them successfully disguised themselves as allies.
On Saturday 9th my route was:
The next day I made the following journey:
Yesterday's trip was:
I'd never been to the Loch Tay area before and it's certainly somewhere for a repeat visit. Quite a few foreign registered cars were noticed, as is often the case in the more scenic parts of Scotland. However, I didn't see any evidence of this sort of thing:
TENS of thousands of Chinese tourists are travelling to Germany to drive powerful cars at up to 150mph on the autobahns, despite fears by road safety groups that the trend will end in disaster.Inside lanes, hard shoulders and traffic lights are rare in rural Perthshire. Perhaps that's just as well:
Chinese drivers, who have one of the worst road safety records in the world, have been spotted overtaking on inside lanes and reversing up hard shoulders when they miss their exits. Venturing on to ordinary roads for overnight stops, they often ignore traffic lightsThe German travel industry doesn't see too much of a problem:
“Sometimes there are teething problems, like the Chinese not understanding that they are not permitted to stop on a roundabout, or pulling on to the hard shoulder to make tea and let the children run around, but nothing serious.”I spotted a Chinese restaurant in Crieff but that's not quite the same thing unless their food is exceedingly fast.
In my younger days I did speed along the autobahns on the odd occasion but I now prefer to meander along Scotland's more tranquil roads. The scenery's better too.
(Update: On the way home I was close to the wonderfully named village of Crook of Devon. Apparently, someone once added this graffiti to the village sign: Twinned with Thief of Baghdad.)
Friday 15 April 2005
Over on my photo-blog I've posted eight photographs that I took on the way to work on Wednesday.
Here's a sample:
Wednesday 13 April 2005
It turned out to be a fire alarm…
I took the test with this result:
Who should I vote for?
|Liberal Democrat -50|
|UK Independence Party 46|
You should vote: Conservative
The Conservative Party is strongly against joining the Euro and against greater use of taxation to fund public services. The party broadly supported the Iraq war and backs greater policing and ID cards. The Tories are against increasing the minimum wage above the rate of inflation, and have committed to abolishing university tuition fees. They support 'virtual vouchers' for private education.
Take the test at Who Should You Vote For
I imagine the strong showing for the Greens is the result of my supporting road pricing, being against ID cards and in favour of drug liberalisation. The high UKIP score is self-explanatory and the Conservative percentage is presumably driven by EU and tax considerations. The test confirms that the "Liberal" Democrats are not exactly liberal: no surprise there. Stuart will be unhappy at the absence of an SNP option but support for independence is compatible with all combinations of the policy options offered.
Tuesday 12 April 2005
At first, the “Four” thought that they had got away with their dastardly plot. But when some voices in the BBC cast doubt on the 2005 election result the game was up. It had gradually dawned on the great and the good that an election in which every single vote went to the Labour party just might be a tad suspicious. Even the editor of the Guardian started to wonder a bit when both of his chauffeurs insisted that they had voted Tory.
And so the general strike that followed the 2005 election result led to the arrest, trial and imprisonment of the Birmingham Four.
Blair, Brown, Straw and Campbell: the British people will never forget that stolen election.
Have a moratorium on the commercial planting of genetically modified crops.And the very next item:
Repeal all laws and regulations of no proven worth.Er, what's the point of the first pledge if it's going to be immediately repealed by the second?
Monday 11 April 2005
Irrelevant UKIP attacks Scotland - what a surprise!I was intrigued to find out how exactly UKIP had "attacked Scotland". This seems to be what Joe is worried about:
Mr Neilson told the party’s Scottish conference that Scotland’s 59 first-past-the-post MPs would sit for only two days a week at Westminster, where they could vote solely on UK, and not English or Welsh legislation.I fail to see how this plan is an "attack" on Scotland.
For the rest of the week they would sit in Edinburgh, where they would be joined by 59 MSPs elected by proportional representation, all attending to Scottish legislation.
Unlike many of my fellow libertarians I was never opposed to devolution. Given Scotland's separate legal identity it is entirely appropriate that domestic legislation be debated and decided here and not in London. Of course once the size of the state is reduced to a more tolerable level the Scottish legislature will only need to meet a few days per year and can be staffed by unpaid, part-time politicians holding real jobs elsewhere in the economy.
The UKIP plan seems perfectly sensible, although in my scenario the "two days a week at Westminster" and "the rest of the week ... in Edinburgh" would occur on very rare occasions indeed.
Unlike Joe, I see a reduction of Scotland's political class as a distinct benefit to the rest of us. That may be portrayed as an "attack" on our ruling class but it certainly doesn't constitute an attack on anyone else.
Most people in Scotland want higher spending on schools, hospitals and pensions and would pay more tax to finance it, a BBC Scotland poll says.Unsurprisingly, the BBC hasn't mentioned the key point: most people in Scotland don't pay tax. When we strip out welfare recipients and employees of state organisations (including the BBC itself), we are left with a minority of the electorate. Did the Beeb restrict its polling to actual, real taxpayers? I bet it didn't. And I bet that they didn't point out to those who "call for an equitable share of wealth" that such an outcome would necessitate the elimination of all redistributive forms of taxation.
I have doubts about this too:
three quarters of those questioned said they would have no qualms about the introduction of ID cards as a safety measureI wonder what the response would be if they were asked about the introduction of ID cards as a "state control of the citizenry measure".
Saturday 9 April 2005
Friday 8 April 2005
My own approach to the election is simple. I want Labour to lose, and I do not want the Conservatives to win.On why Labour should lose:
My objection to Labour is its leadership of a cultural revolution that is obviously directed at stripping us of our liberties. It is not, of course, a revolution that began in 1997. It has been a project for at least the past half century of our entire ruling class, which I will define – yet again – as the sum of political, administrative, educational, legal media and business interests that gain status and income from an enlarged and active state: perhaps we can also call this the Enemy Class by virtue of its object.As for the Tories:
The whole Conservative strategy since 1997 has been nothing but a competing set of Quisling Right deceptions. The Conservatives have – and have had – no intention of rolling back the cultural revolution. Rather than discuss the nature of Enemy Class control of the administration, of the media and of education, and show how this is being used to destroy both individual freedom and national identity, and consider how best to restore liberal democracy, they have given themselves to fraudulent gestures.Why don't we read this sort of thing in the newspapers? It's simple really: they're part of the Enemy Class too.
Tuesday 5 April 2005
I confessed that I had voted that way in the past but was now in a quandary. The Conservatives had supported ID cards and I am against them. That mystified him somewhat: surely a "right-winger" would favour them? I complained that the Tories had failed to propose a modest reduction in state spending such as, for starters, abolishing the NHS and privatising schools. He was now in need of another pint or something stronger. On the other hand, I confessed that the prospect of a hitherto unexpected Labour defeat meant that I could be tempted to vote Tory after all. But then I drew his attention to the coming bankruptcy of state pension schemes, a likely crash in house prices (perhaps triggered off by the liquidation of General Motors), an inevitable firing of masses of government workers (sic), the reduction of the Scottish block grant and all sorts of events every one of which would be blamed on whomever was in power at the time even if they all happened the day after the election. So maybe it would be best if Tony and/or Gordon got back in. I think that at least one Labour canvasser is now thoroughly confused.
(* What's the point in being a Banana Republic without the hot weather?)
Monday 4 April 2005
The IB is potentially education’s Gold Standard, whose value is constant both between different countries, and, equally important, from one decade to the next. Like the original Gold Standard, we are likely to find that it has irresistible advantages.It suffers from the all too common conflation of England with Britain but the general message applies here too unfortunately.
ONLY ONE patient amongst 1000 offered treatment at Dundee’s private hospital to cut NHS queues has declined to attend Fernbrae.The vast majority of the local electorate votes for socialist politicians of various parties, but when it comes to experiencing "up to two years on the waiting list" there seems to be little objection to "going private". Of course, I'm only talking about "going private" in a limited sense - the taxpayer still meets the bill. As a good libertarian I don't think that there's any reason for the state to be involved in health matters whatsoever, whether by employing doctors, operating hospitals or financing either. (See here.)
As long as the majority believes (erroneously) that taxpayers should be coerced into paying for health care I concede that a second-best solution would be to have health vouchers. At least the state wouldn't be operating the health system. It's often claimed that Scots insist on state provision of health and welfare as well as state financing. I'm not so sure:
While very small numbers of local patients have been diverted to Fernbrae for treatment paid for by the NHS in the past, nobody knew how the public would respond to such a large number of patients and a significant sum of cash being taken out of the NHS.It rather looks like almost everyone is perfectly willing to use private health facilities, so let's privatise the lot. That odd one person in 1,000 can emigrate to Cuba.
Friday 1 April 2005
As he states later, since our total corporation tax receipts are £2.1 billion, a cut of one-third would be £700 million. Scottish Enterprise already costs us £500 million, for less obvious effect, and Holyrood has regularly had an underspend of £500 million. This is, therefore, clearly affordable.Neil's writing about the SNP's proposals for cutting corporation tax in Scotland.
Tories Conservatives have their own tax cutting plans as Peter MacMahon observes today:
Monteith and McLetchie would privatise Scottish Water, move schools spending to the centre to cut council taxes, slash £250 million from Scottish Enterprise, abandon community schools and set up state-funded academies. And they would, they say, be able to give pensioners a council-tax discount, cut the business rate, employ more police and fill some more of the many pot-holes in Scotland’s appalling road system. THERE are flaws in the plan. First, it assumes that the Executive’s promise of £745 million in "efficiency gains" by 2007/08 can be met - an assumption that many Labour MSPs privately doubt. Unlike the Executive, though, Monteith is prepared to say that his plans would involve getting rid of some 1,000 civil servants, which would certainly go some way towards meeting the efficiency target.But a couple of weeks ago Mr MacMahon wrote this:
Mr McLetchie clearly believes in moving slowly. The danger of that is that he could be over-taken. The Scottish National Party is beginning to move towards the centre and beyond by looking not just at low business taxes but at low personal taxes. Serious people in the SNP are beginning to think about the benefits of small government. It may not be long before the SNP, like other nationalist parties across Europe, continues formally to support "independence" but pragmatically aims for office based on running a low-tax, pro-enterprise Scotland with greater devolved powers. And that could put the Scottish Tories out of business.I'm still not convinced that there's enough support among the SNP's membership and elected politicians to push through a tax cutting agenda at Holyrood. There again, the
EUROPEAN bureaucrats will push forward legislation today to force the Scottish Executive to change place-names that offend or discriminate on the grounds of race and gender.I'm afraid that it's no joke. At least, that's what First Minister Jack'n'Jill McConnell told me.