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


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.


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


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:

Election 2005
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?

Wednesday 19 October 2005

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%.


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)

Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

A close-up:

Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Another close-up:

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.