Sunday 31 December 2006

Keep Scotland different

Quite late this morning I thought that Scotland on Sunday wasn't being published today because the website was still showing last Sunday. Perhaps there was a bit of early Hogmanay bevvying going on, I thought. But no, the paper has come out and I read it during my lunchtime bevvy. There is an excellent article by Gerald Warner on the subject of police recording of DNA:
Nothing could better illustrate this gulf than the announcement that the Scottish Labour Party will make a manifesto commitment at next May's Holyrood elections to change the law so that police can retain the DNA samples of persons who have been involved in investigations but have not been convicted.
But isn't that already the case? I had thought so.

But not here it seems because Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson says that:

...her objective is to bring Scottish DNA law into line with England.
And the usually anti-devolution Warner's response is:
Since when was that the function of a devolved administration?
Mr Warner goes on to say:
South of the Border, the DNA of 3.46 million people is stored in police records, the highest number in the world - more than in Putin's Russia. That is an embryonic police state.
I don't always agree with Mr Warner, but in today's article he gets it entirely correct.

Saturday 30 December 2006

Two novels

It's the time of the year when I add quite a few books to my collection. Some were presents from Mrs F&W and some bought with book tokens.

One I've already read is A Walk in the Dark by Italian author Gianrico Carofiglio whom I had heard speak at the Book Festival (scroll down) back in the summer. I hadn't realised that Bari, where the novels are set, is actually quite a large city and it is interesting to read a novel that gives a flavour of a part of Italy that is unknown to me.

From an Amazon review:

When Guido (NOT Mr Fawkes!) agrees to represent Martina, a young woman from a refuge centre who accuses her husband of brutal violence against her, he knows that the case could bring his career to a premature end. For the husband in question is the son of a powerful, influential local judge. No witnesses will testify in her favour, one lawyer after another refuses to represent her, and many of his friends tell Guido how hopeless the case is, how foolish he for taking it. But he cannot resists a hopeless, and just, cause.
It's quite safe to read Carofiglio's novels before going to sleep but that may be less advisable with my next book. The world of Glasgow based forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod is rather more gory and I'll probably read Lin Anderson's latest during daylight hours. Incidentally, Ms Anderson lives in Merchiston in Edinburgh near Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and JK Rowling. Rankin calls this neighbourhood the "Writers' Block"...

I've already enjoyed the two previous Lin Anderson books - Driftnet (after reading a favourable review by David McLetchie, the former Scottish Tory leader) and Torch in which the Glasgow scientist spends an amount of time in Edinburgh that would have horrified Jim Taggart.


Matthew Parris is one of the few English writers who get it.

Thursday 28 December 2006

Business rules, OK

Yesterday was the once-a-year occasion for buying new clothes. (A man's got to do what a man's got to do.) Following a trip here to buy a pair of trousers I went along to the local branch of the Zionist Entity. After selecting a couple of sweaters I moved to the huge queue at the cash tills. I counted 31 people in front of me and had started to worry nervously about my lunchtime pint. I was served in six minutes.

On a cold and foggy Christmas Eve we ordered a home delivery from the local branch of the Islamic Entity. It reached the front door in thirty minutes and was most enjoyable.

Isn't it wonderful when folks stick to capitalism?

Wednesday 27 December 2006

Correcting a mistake

I was never completely comfortable with my decision to add Councillor Kelly to my blogroll. You can read my "justification" here.

The other day I read this post by the wonderfully named J Arthur MacNumpty:

The reason that I keep him off my blogroll is that I prefer my readers to have access to coherent writing, that I might not always agree with but I can at least see where the writer is coming from. Councillor Kelly, on the other hand, has decided to throw reason out the window and his blog is little more than a series of rants about groups he doesn't like.
I've decided to remove Cllr. Kelly's site from my blogroll for exactly those reasons.

But there's also something a bit more personal. Back in November I wrote this:

When I was eighteen, my father's job took us from Scotland to London. For almost twenty years I lived on an average sort of wage and then decided to get myself a professional qualification. That took four years of study at night, at weekends and during my holidays. I continued working full time and never received a penny of subsidy from the taxpayer. As a result of this I was able to get a much more highly paid job, but, guess what, that meant working longer hours, going in at weekends, not taking full holiday allowance and lying awake at night worrying about how the company was going to meet its payroll. Quite normal in the wealth-creating sector. Later, I did another four years of evening study (at my own expense and while continuing to work full time) and obtained a first class honours degree. So, if I earned more than average, I EARNED IT ALL.
Cllr Kelly responded with his usual wit:
I really wish I was more up to speed with computing I've just read Mr. Ferrer's (sic) remarks in response to my web, you have to read them. I challenge anyone to read his heroic account of his struggles without wetting yourself laughing.
I let that go at the time. I'm an adult and there's no point in blogging if you can't cope with a bit of opposition.

But Cllr. Kelly isn't any just any commenter: he's an elected politician who represents the most deprived area in Scotland.

Have a read of this sad tale:

Those who try shouldn't be slapped down by a repressive State that permits millionaires to parade the world stage paying nil tax, while the likes of me pays 33% marginal rate of tax, end up with £600 a month, then are expected to keep my sick mother too.
And who's created this state of affairs? Councillor Kelly's own Labour party, that's who. Radical Scots used to encourage self help and that tradition contributed to our becoming one of the most prosperous countries on earth. But for today's politicians "wetting yourself laughing" is apparently the appropriate response to someone who tries to get ahead without the aid of the state. God help Scotland.

Sunday 24 December 2006

Merry Christmas to our politicians!

Time to give them a break. You see, there's been another row about yet more expenditure by the Scottish parliament:
TWO photographs of Scots politicians are to be taken at a cost of around £10,000 to the taxpayer, it has emerged - after parliament managers decided to fly in a world-famous photographer from America to do the job.

Holyrood officials agreed that they needed to have official photographic portraits taken of George Reid, the presiding officer and Sir David Steel, his predecessor.

But instead of employing a Scots-based photographer, they decided to bring in Harry Benson, the legendary news photographer who lives in New York.

At least we can be reasonably sure that Mr Benson won't end up charging us forty times the quoted price.

Let's assume that only one Scot in ten pays any tax at all. Divide £10,000 by 500,000 and I reckon that my share of Benson's fee is 2P and it's money well spent! Why? Because I'd quite forgotten to go to the Benson exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and it ends in a couple of weeks. I went along yesterday and what an excellent thing it is:

Merry Christmas
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

(UPDATE: here are some of Benson's famous photos.)

Friday 22 December 2006

Who's like us? Not many, and we don't like it.

I noticed this post over on Serf's site:
Why is it that Scottish & Welsh nationalists are Pro EU. How can it be better to be ruled from Brussels than from Westminster. If the Welsh and Scots feel that their voice is not heard in the UK how can it be heard in the EU with 7-8 times the population?
One commenter's explanation is this:
The nationalist movements are statists and the EU represents statist nirvana.

They're not looking for a voice, they're looking for a handout.

I don't think that's it.

The estimable James Higham writes:

I think you answered your own question. Anything is better than being ruled from Westminster, according to them.
Mr Higham is correct, but why?.

Everything would be much clearer if the SNP were known as the Scottish Normalcy Party instead of the Scottish National Party. Almost all Scots, nationalist or otherwise, get extremely upset about what I call The Presumption of the English Norm. For example, there are apparently several countries in which one can look up "British Embassy" in the local phone book (and in the local language) and find no entry. It's under "English Embassy", even when the language in question has a word for "British". And given that the Bank of "England" hasn't been renamed makes me think that Gordon Brown could be an SNP agent. I don't believe that our southern friends have any idea how annoying this kind of thing is, but imagine how they would feel if the rest of the world used the word "French" to mean "English".

If you visit the country where the locals speak Japanese, the government is known as the Japanese government, and the country is called - wait for it - "Japan". The country where folk speak French is ruled by the French government and it's called "France". It's the same almost everywhere. So it follows that the country where people speak English is ruled by the English government and is called "England", does it not? Well, no, it doesn't. But most of the world, including most English people, talks as if that were so. Well then, why does this happen?

I think that it's all to do with the language of Britain - the UK actually - being called "English" rather than "British". This would be less of an issue if it weren't for the fact that English is also the language of the world's most powerful nation, of science, of business, of finance and also of the Internet. That linguistic domination continuously reminds the rest of the world of the concept "England", while millions of Scots keep shouting: "You mean Britain."

Some of us like myself put up with this while still being annoyed and just accept that the UK is a very unusual country - one that is a multinational state. (Confusingly, the US is a multi-state nation.) But for many Scots this issue is all consuming, and more than anything else in politics they want to live in a "normal" country. So what's normal?

Back when the SNP was founded "normal" meant independent, like Norway or Switzerland today. But most countries in Europe are now members of the EU - that's the new norm, however much we may dislike it. And that's why the SNP wants Scotland to join the EU. It doesn't matter to them if it all leads to a federal superstate - or worse, a non-federal superstate - as long as Scotland has the same status as everywhere else. While Scotland remains an invisible part of a country known to most of the world as "England", membership of the EU is seen as a better option by members of the SNP - the Scottish Normalcy Party.

Well that's it then

The shortest day of the year has gone, the dreaded cold (or whatever it was) has also gone, so I can get back to doing some blogging.

Thursday 14 December 2006

Airport life

I'm sure that everyone's heard about this by now:
A job well done is worth celebrating, but Turkish Airlines say staff went too far when they sacrificed a camel.

To mark the last delivery of 100 aircraft, maintenance workers clubbed together to buy the beast - and then consume it.

Someone suggested that this sort of behaviour wouldn't help Turkey's plans to join the EU. I'm not so sure: what do you think the French do to any frogs or snails found in the vicinity of L'Aeroport Charles de Gaulle?

Here in Scotland we're more civilised. At Glasgow Airport, the eventual late departure of a NedAir charter to Benidorm was duly celebrated by tired staff. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a kerfuffle over whether to bow towards Ibrox or Parkhead before enjoying the gourmet meal of deep-fried Mars Bars washed down with Buckfast Tonic Wine. A good time was had by all.

At Edinburgh meanwhile, the morning's eighth departure of yet another plane full of pinstriped bankers to the London City Airport was marked by the Barbour-jacketed aircraft loaders enjoying some tea and scones that had been thoughtfully provided by the airport branch of Jenners.

Wednesday 13 December 2006

Highly Effective Scotland?

Brian Micklethwait has written about his meeting with Leon Louw, the prominent South African libertarian. Louw was one of the attendees at the recent Libertarian Alliance conference in London.

Brian has produced a series of excellent podcasts in which he interviews various libertarian luminaries. The Leon Louw podcast can be heard here with Louw discussing his new publication, Habits of Highly Effective Countries: Lessons for South Africa. Brian writes:

What came across most strongly was Leon’s absolute, fist clenched determination to distinguish between, on the one hand, what he would merely like to be true about what happens in well (and badly) governed countries, and, on the other hand, what he is actually able to report to be true about these places. As he said right at the start, what he is trying to do is to amass facts that are simply impossible to argue against. This is what successful countries do. This is what failed countries do. And so on.

For instance, he has discovered the incontrovertible fact that the mere level of taxation simply is not as important as we libertarians would have the world believe. (By the way, Leon Louw is an unswerving and utterly uncompromising libertarian and he said it very plainly in our talk.) What matters, it turns out, is how a government behaves, and how it spends its money. If it behaves in a predictable, rule-bound manner, that’s good. The “rule of law” is good, very good. If it behaves in an arbitrary, discretionary manner, even if the scale of its operations is a lot smaller, that’s bad.

As I listened to Brian and Leon talk it occurred to me that they were discussing something that's become a red-hot issue here in Scotland: a country's economic growth rate and how to improve it. Even some in the Labour Party are beginning to realise that the Scottish economy needs to speed up, to put it mildly. I thought that it would be useful to extract some quotes from Leon Louw's document so as we can have a think about how some of his ideas could help our own political class to move Scotland up the economic growth league, whether independent or not.

First, what about North Sea oil? Does it matter? And isn't Scotland too "remote" to be successful?

Neither resource abundance nor resource scarcity make much difference, resources being neither an automatic curse nor an automatic blessing. Size doesn’t matter, nor geography, not history.
Moreover, sending 50% of the population to university isn't a panacea:
There is a powerful notion, for instance, that natural resource endowment or substantial spending on education coincides with high economic growth. It is easy to assume that countries rich in natural resources outperform countries that lack resources and that the presence of natural resources may be a statistically significant non-policy factor in foreign exchange revenue, or that conducive climates ensure high agricultural yields. As already observed, the most important factors are government policies, which means that any country can achieve almost any policy goal by adopting the right policy mix.
Controversially, democracy isn't essential for economic growth, although it is usually preferable to the alternatives for other reasons:
Democracy does correlate with prosperity. Democracies without market economies are not prosperous, though they do seem to be somewhat more so than nondemocracies with similar economic policies. Economic policies and the integrity of the legal system are much more significant.
What about all those plans we hear about for a new Forth Bridge (or tunnel), bullet trains, trams, new motorways and airport expansion?
Government spending on infrastructure as a proportion of GDP does not correlate significantly with prosperity. The evidence does suggest that spending on certain kinds of infrastructure, especially transport infrastructure, contributes to growth. A priori, since government infrastructure spending entails removing more wealth from the economy than spending on infrastructure (after administration, expenses, etc), it will constitute a net gain only if that spending produces more wealth than would have been generated had the resources been left in the private sector.
So let's get on with the new bridge, but no more spending on new government buildings please.

Louw has this to say about the welfare state:

There is a curious argument to the effect that welfare statism promotes growth because it increases the buying power of the poor, which increases demand, promotes investment and so on. It overlooks the fact that welfare money given to A has to be taken from B, and that people from whom tax is extracted are more likely to spend (invest) money in ways that create rather than consume wealth. It is not a surprise therefore that welfare states under-perform on average, which could also be attributable to the fact that welfare statism tends to coincide with other policies which compromise growth – Sweden. The same German people in East and West Germany brought about disaster in the former GDR and the wirtschaftswunder in West Germany. Likewise North and South Korea, and Taiwan-Hong Kong versus China. However, Thomas Sowell, perhaps the leading authority on the economic significance of culture, has published at length on the subject, and concludes that culture is important and tenacious, but that the most significant factors are economic policy and the institutions of a free society.
So what the welfare-dependent parts of west-central Scotland need is a rigorous application of sound economic policies, not more dole money.

Again, it's the policies that matter most, not other factors often discussed by politicians:

Our analysis went beyond policies per se to establish the significance of such variables as natural resource endowment, climate, stage of development, demography, geography and constitutional orders. Fortunately for governments, none of these variables correlated nearly as significantly with good society indicators as policy variables. This means that a country’s fortunes are almost entirely within the power of government to determine.
High economic growth is up to us. There's nothing and no one else to blame.

Although Louw favours a small state on moral grounds (as do I), it's not necessary for developing a growing economy, although a "business-friendly" regime is essential:

Furthermore, there is a great deal of evidence to the effect that governments tend to use resources less efficiently than entrepreneurs. The most significant point is that what matters more than how much governments take in tax is what they do with it. The evidence suggests that governments are more likely to promote growth if they use their revenue primarily to: build infrastructure, especially transport infrastructure; provide services, rather than regulate economic activity; do things that don’t duplicate what the private sector can do, specifically that they do not compete with it; and increase efficiency by outsourcing and privatising. Though there is no significant correlation between aggregate tax and growth, the following graph shows a strong correlation between ‘business tax friendliness’ and growth. Tax friendliness measures the impact of tax complexity and incidence on business, and shows more growth in states with friendlier tax policies.
So, if Scotland does become independent, for God's sake don't let Gordon Brown near the tax system.

There is a message for those nationalists who constantly look to the Scandinavian countries as models for an independent Scotland:

It finds that efficient economies rely more on commonlaw than regulation, and that social democracies (like Denmark, Norway and Sweden) benefit from streamlined business regulation – they offset the burden of welfare by liberating productive market forces
I think the key quote is this:
The evidence suggests that there is not much governments can do to promote growth, but there is much they can do to curtail it. In other words, governments are best advised to do less rather than more because the downside risk of what they do is greater than the upside potential.
There's much food for thought here. Jack McConnell tells us that Scotland is the best small country in the world. Not yet, I fear. We could at least start by becoming highly effective.

Sunday 10 December 2006

Sick note

Like Iain Dale, "I seem to have got the dreaded cold lurgi with a vengeance". Blogging will resume as soon as possible.

Tuesday 5 December 2006

David Cameron: What about this?

Back in March I wrote about the arrival of the windmill.

And now it's gone.

No windmill
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

I noticed a few weeks ago that the windmill wasn't spinning quite as fast as before. Originally even a light breeze was enough to set it off but recently it needed quite a strong wind to produce any effect. A few days ago one of the vanes looked distinctly wonky and I thought that the pole was starting to vibrate dangerously. Yesterday Mrs F & W saw engineers remove the vanes and today I see that the whole device has gone. The engineers took photographs of the pole fittings on the gable end and I've read that vibration can cause serious damage to walls.

Bring back nukes.

Monday 4 December 2006

Oh my God...

... I sound like this! (the introduction.) The whole of the Libertarian Alliance conference can be heard here.

Saturday 2 December 2006

Fife rainbow

Fife rainbow
Originally uploaded by David Farrer.
Is your money in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow?

Quite probably: this one is damn near to Gordon Brown's house.

Doctor Doom

I've mentioned the Financial Sense Online website before. On Saturday mornings I like to listen to the online weekly broadcast, although it can be accessed anytime. This week much of the programme comes from the "San Francisco Hard Asset '06" show. Readers may well enjoy the discussion with Dr Marc Faber (Part 1). Faber produces the wonderfully named Gloom, Boom and Doom Report and sounds like a rather sinister James Bond villain. But he's on our side and lays into the fiat money crowd.

The myth of the "atomist" libertarian

I added a link to the new Paleo Blog a few days ago. Paleo has written an interesting rebuttal to the erroneous idea that libertarians are necessarily anti-social "atomists":
In response to this. It is the state that promotes “atomism”. Instead of looking to family, friends, neighbors, the community, the church; we look to the State. Government is anti-community.
Good stuff.

The presumption of the English norm

Recently there's been a great increase in debate on the question of Scottish independence and there'll be a lot more before the Holyrood election next May.

I particularly enjoyed these two posts from Mr Eugenides and Shuggy.

My own position remains as I stated back in July 2003:

The Freedom and Whisky constitutional plan is this:

Withdraw from the EU

Devolve all powers - except defence and foreign affairs - to the various national parliaments

Each parliament to be fiscally independent with contributions being made to the federal government in proportion to population

The federal government should be situated on the Isle of Man, which is not in any of the home countries but is equidistant from all four of them

The Irish Republic should be invited to unite with the North and rejoin the UK with Dublin taking its rightful place in the Anglosphere alongside Cardiff, Edinburgh and London

Mr E and Shuggy are respected members of the blogosphere and show a quality of writing that is often absent from the "mainstream" media.

This morning I noticed a piece on The Times website that was headed One UK legal system? Think again. It was about the creeping introduction of "minority and religious courts" into the UK. But like many Scottish readers my immediate reaction to the headline was: hang on a minute, there isn't "one UK legal system", is there? What's more, there never has been. It's this kind of thing that so antagonises people in Scotland. We can call it "The presumption of the English norm" and it may well destroy the UK.

Testing, testing

Martin Kelly has asked me to post a link to this. As you can see, Martin's main blog has gone blank for no apparent reason. I seem to recall reading on some other blogs that the Blogger system had gone down for several hours earlier this week. I hope that Martin's blog problem is resolved ASAP.

Tuesday 28 November 2006


... by our man over there somewhere.

10 things I’d never do:

1. Vote for Councillor Kelly.

2. Not get blotto when Kilmarnock win the Champions League.

3. Switch from Nikon to the dark side.

4. Immediately emigrate when Scotland becomes independent.

5. Fail to diversify my investments before number 4.

6. Stop reading books even though the invention of Bloglines makes reading books almost impossible.

7. Learn Chinese - but I'd like to.

8. Trust a politician who can't explain things using double entry bookkeeping.

9. Stop shopping at Valvona and Crolla.

10. Sell Prestwick Airport - after I get it.

Monday 27 November 2006

Libertarian Alliance Conference

Other photographs taken at the conference can be seen here.

New libertarian portal

I welcome the opening of Libertarian Home : aims to be the leading portal bringing together the libertarian movement. Published in London, its team keep readers up to date with the latest news and views. hopes to be the missing link between the millions of people who have libertarian-leaning views and the libertarian movement. Our aim is nothing short of a revival in libertarian thinking. recognises that libertarianism is a broad church. Whether David Hume is your cup of tea or you are a follower of Ayn Rand, this site is for you. The site is non-party and welcomes contributions from supporters of all parties, and those who take the view: "Don't vote - it only encourages them."

Back home

Mrs F&W and I have been away in London since last Wednesday. We were down there to attend the annual conference of the Libertarian Alliance as well as doing some tourist-type of things, not having lived in London since early in 2002.

On Wednesday evening we met up with our friend and fellow LA member David Ellams and went along to the Lamb for some Young's. We then realised that we were just round the corner from 18 Doughty Street, popped round there, and met Iain Dale. He invited me to appear on that night's show but I was far too tired to stay up late enough.

I must say that London seemed busier, noisier and more chaotic than I was expecting during this visit - my longest since moving to Edinburgh. We took a trip out to Ealing where we had lived for several years. The population out there seemed to be far more diverse than it was five years ago, with many more Asians and East Europeans. And the West End was very crowded on Thursday evening when we went to see The Mousetrap - how touristy is that?

Friday saw me going to the wonderful Grays of Westminster camera shop that specialises in Nikon equipment. It was time for a new flashgun in readiness for the start of the conference on Saturday.

At the conference, the Libertarian Alliance announced the opening of its own blog and we hope that many of the contributions will link to the vast number of publications that the LA has generated over the years.

Photos of the conference will follow.

Monday 20 November 2006

Open government

The Information Commissioner says that public bodies need to try harder:
"People are confident that more information will come into the public domain as a result and fewer believe public authorities can get round the act.

However people still remain to be convinced that Scottish public authorities are changing culture to become more open and accountable."

The real question is why we need an Information Commissioner in the first place. And the answer is that government is far too big. Instead of pretending that politicians and bureaucrats can somehow become "accountable", let's recognise that the whole state sector is unaccountable by its very nature. If we want accountability, turn things over to competitive suppliers serving paying customers who can take their business elsewhere. That's real accountability.

Sunday 19 November 2006

Where's my Learjet?

I have no idea what all this Blogshares stuff is about but this is interesting:
Freedom and Whisky was the subject of much speculation when analysts at several firms were heard to be very positive about it's recent performance. It's share price rose from B$4,320.14 to B$6,350.61. Much of the hype was said to originate from kiyotei 77 whose Power Suit (artefact) was said to be involved.

kiyotei 77 declined to comment on the recent speculation.

And what's a B$? Are we talking Bulgarian, Bolivian or Blog Dollars? And who is kiyotei 77? With a 47% share price increase I think that the incumbent management deserves a bonus.

It ain't necessarily so

Jim Mather is one of the most sensible people in the SNP, but this won't do:
Mr Mather said independence would make Scotland as successful as other small countries in Europe.

He said: "For the Western Isles that would mean over 1,000 more jobs and an economic boost over the next decade worth £2,800 for each and every person in the Western Isles."

Yes, there is an argument that independence could make Scotland more successful although that would only be the case if the Scottish government were to adopt pro-market policies. What we can't say is which particular businesses or parts of the country would do better or worse than now. No one can possibly know how many jobs will be created in any particular area or what the per-capita benefit would be. All we can say is that both an a priori and an empirical approach tell us that people in general will be better off under a free market economy.


I have added some new links to the blogroll.

First, there is the Paleo Blog, which is "Dedicated to the late Murray Rothbard". Murray wasn't right about everything, but I did once have the honour of chauffeuring him to the home of John Blundell, now head of the IEA. Murray was right about most things.

Next we have Cobbett Rides Again, whose title is self-explanatory.

Then there is Tartan Hero, an SNP blog from Glasgow.

Finally, I've included the now world famous Councillor Terry Kelly who for some extraordinary reason seems to think that I control the Devil!

Friday 17 November 2006

Not in my name

I've never owned a slave and I object to Tony Blair's "rush to apologise". Why doesn't he emphasise Britain's role in opposing the slave trade? That's what a real Prime Minister would be doing. All of this nonsense is coming from a man who makes us work for him for almost half of the year.

Thursday 16 November 2006

Milton Friedman RIP

It's very sad to read of the death of Milton Friedman.

There will be many tributes to this great man but I owe him a personal debt. I first met my wife at a dinner at which Friedman was the guest speaker.

(UPDATE: Here's the Milton Friedman Choir!)

Wednesday 15 November 2006


On this comment The Beekeeper writes:
Although the line between social and economic freedom is very blurred, those on the side of the economic libertarian may seek to curb civil liberties for economic growth (the argument deployed by certain Asian Tiger economies in the 1990's) or have a relatively tight social control with free enterprise being promoted.
But of course I use the term "libertarian" to mean someone who consistently supports liberty, both economic and personal. That would exclude those Asian countries. The problem is that many are now pinching the L word just as they previously pinched "Liberal".

Although some have described this test as a bit simplistic, I think it serves as a very useful device for getting away from the tired old left-right, one-dimensional spectrum.

Nor surprise as to my score:

("Liberal" is being used in the American sense here.)

An apology

On the way to work this morning I had a wee snack in a cafe and read their copy of the Daily Mail. One does this while listening to the non-stop commie propaganda on Radio 1, but the coffee's good. Anyway, I noticed a piece by Allan Massie in which he writes that Roseanna Cunningham MSP was misquoted the other day and doesn't favour the policing of fridges. Good.

A link

The Tin Drummer has mentioned the Councillor Kelly business.

(UPDATE: so has Mr Eugenides. As did James Higham, Martin Kelly and, last time round, Devil's Kitchen.)

Monday 13 November 2006

I am a "barking far right nutter"

Well, according to Councillor Terry Kelly, who writes:
When you write a political web page you expect feedback, some of it hostile, some supportive and some disturbing. I was told that some guy had written about me on his blog in a very uncomplimentary way, this complete eejit ( David Ferrens from memory ) writes very well which makes him even more sinister because he's a barking far right nutter. He uses Burns's phrase "whiskey & freedom gang the gither" as his title which I'm sure would have the second rate old Ayrshire plagiarist spinning in his grave, his views however and the views of the incestuous sycophants who write to him are capable of making your skin crawl. These people peddle very dangerous and disturbing views, they come across as being capable of almost anything which doesn't require courage, they describe themselves as libertarians of the right to which I have to say, I've never met or heard of a right wing libertarian who wasn't well off and self obsessed.
One of the useful things that this "complete eejit" learned at school in the county of Robert Burns (a "second rate old Ayrshire plagiarist") was that our national drink is whisky, not whiskey. I wonder which of my views are considered very dangerous and disturbing. Could one of them be my belief in the rule of law including those traditional liberties currently being trashed by Councillor Kelly's own party? Perhaps he objects to my supporting a free market economy without which there would be damned little wealth for the councillor to "redistribute".

Councillor Kelly describes folk like me as "libertarians of the right". I really don't know what he means. The traditional left/right political spectrum was intellectually demolished years ago. The issue is: are you a libertarian or an authoritarian? I'm a libertarian.

Apparently we libertarians are "well off and self obsessed". When I was eighteen, my father's job took us from Scotland to London. For almost twenty years I lived on an average sort of wage and then decided to get myself a professional qualification. That took four years of study at night, at weekends and during my holidays. I continued working full time and never received a penny of subsidy from the taxpayer. As a result of this I was able to get a much more highly paid job, but, guess what, that meant working longer hours, going in at weekends, not taking full holiday allowance and lying awake at night worrying about how the company was going to meet its payroll. Quite normal in the wealth-creating sector. Later, I did another four years of evening study (at my own expense and while continuing to work full time) and obtained a first class honours degree. So, if I earned more than average, I EARNED IT ALL.

As for other libertarians, I've known all of the most prominent ones in this country over the last thirty years or so. Very few of them are "well off". In fact, I would guess that the most active ones have had to struggle financially, precisely because they weren't "self obsessed" but had decided to devote their lives to the great struggle for human liberty.

Sunday 12 November 2006


Apparently that's what we should now call Kevin Federline after his separation from Britney Spears. In the Sunday Times Rod Liddle worries about whether Britney is a suitable role model. His answer:
You want role models for your daughter, then paper her bedroom with pictures of Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc, Rosa Luxemburg and Hazel Blears.
You can take the boy out of Radio 4 but you can't take Radio 4 out of the boy...

Nappies, rhymes and trampolines

The Burt Commission has suggested that Council Taxes in Scotland be replaced by a 1% annual levy on the value of one's house. This proposal hasn't exactly been appreciated by the tax-consuming class now that we're in the run-up to an election. And a few journalists have been asking some rather obvious questions.

In the Sunday Times Jenny Hjul writes:

It is not a solution to the tax problem that they should be reviewing, it is the problem itself.

Why do the councils need so much more money?

Every local newspaper carries evidence of local job creation schemes: just how many development workers, environmental wardens, “height awareness” officers, real nappy instructors, “professional assistants (trees)”, or “ walking co-ordinators” does Scotland need?

Most taxpayers would gladly forego the services of all of these in exchange for a cut in council taxes

Ah, but lots of voters don't pay any taxes.

Rather more robustly, we get Gerald Warner in Scotland on Sunday:

Where does the money go? On politically correct nonsense, is the answer. Clackmannanshire raised council tax by 4.9% this year. It now spends just 97p per meal in care homes, down from £1.05 last year. Yet the council is creating a post of "writer in residence" with a salary of £31,000. Last year it was looking for a "nappy officer" to crusade against disposable nappies.
It's no better up north:
Aberdeenshire council recently spent £35,000 employing two "nursery rhyme promoters"; two months ago it hired a "trampoline officer"
And as for the numpties themselves:
The latest proposal is to award Scottish councillors basic salaries of £15,452, rising to between £30,905 and £51,608 for council leaders.
Send them up chimneys, I say.

All very sensible stuff from the two writers, but there's always dear old Iain Macwhirter in the Sunday Herald who's very keen on a property tax. Those opposed are guilty of "greed". By the way Iain, Sir Peter Burt isn't "the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland"; he's the former Governor of the Bank of Scotland. We persons of greed know the difference.

Not to worry, Mr Macwhirter wins this year's prize for deep political understanding:

And what if prices fall? Well, then people would pay less – obviously.

Jon Snow

Drinking From Home catches out Jon Snow:
And here he is making another kind of statement - "Look at me, I’m a pretentious, cringe-inducing twat":
I had the misfortune of hearing Snow speak at the Edinburgh Book Festival when he replaced another speaker who was ill. DFH's description is spot on.

Wednesday 8 November 2006

Big Sister

Thanks to Sandy MacAlister for alerting me about this in today's Daily Mail (no link):
Wartime food rationing should be brought back as a way of beating the battle against obesity, a senior MSP has claimed.

Holyrood health committee convenor Roseanna Cunningham claims a return to austere wartime portions and recipes would be a radical way of trimming the nation’s waistline.

And this isn't just idle speculation on the part of the SNP politician:
But while Miss Cunningham admitted there would be uproar at the state controlling people’s food intake, she insisted the idea should be taken seriously.
And she does:
“You can’t go in and police people’s fridges and cupboards – not yet anyway,” she said.
Perhaps this is already happening. Maybe that's why the police never seem to have time to deal with - what was it called? - crime. Are they policing our fridges? Miss Cunningham's party claims to want independence for Scotland, but certainly not for its people. Scumbags.

(UPDATE: Apparently she was misquoted.)

US election result

Ron Paul has been re-elected. I believe that some statists were standing elsewhere in the country.

Saturday 4 November 2006

How to vote

I think that Urban Survival has a useful process for deciding how to vote:
When I go to the polls on Tuesday, I've distilled my politics down to a simple set of "rules":

If someone is an incumbent, I will vote against them.

If someone has held assortment of elective offices for more than 10-years, I will vote against them: They are "professional politicians" - and we don't need them around.

If there is no incumbent to vote against, but one or the other candidate is a lawyer, I will vote for the civilian who has no interest in creating phonebook sized law books. To my way of thinking, because lawyers are "officers of the Court" they should be barred from office anyway, because they are already working for the Judicial branch of government.

And finally, if I can find a race where there are two non-incumbents running, I'll be voting for the one that looks most like an old-time Republican - not the current batch of pretenders. That means:

Supports the Constitution
Supports small foreign entanglements
Supports a balanced budget
Is a State's Rights/small central government advocate
Believes all laws should simply and clearly written, including and especially the IRS Tax Code.

Is the Telegraph conservative?

Quite a few of my fellow bloggers have been mentioning the Dutch town that's abolished traffic lights. I couldn't help noticing this rather strange observation in the Telegraph's editorial:
...of course, no one is opposed to the regulation of traffic in principle; even the most swivel-eyed libertarian would not wish to see the Drachten experiment extended to, say, air traffic control
Whenever I read that sort of thing I can't help thinking that the writer really does believe that libertarians, swivel-eyed or otherwise, actually do want to do things like abolishing air traffic control. One would have thought that a conservative paper like the Telegraph would understand that casting doubt on the desirability of the state performing some function or another doesn't mean that the thing in question shouldn't be done at all. The state is not society. And perhaps the Telegraph isn't a conservative paper.

The people's dressing gown

Does the "First Minister's dressing gown" belong to the people? In a sense it does, given that Mr McConnell's income comes from the taxpayer. And now it's in the news:
The first minister has been left "very, very unhappy" after video footage showing one of his son's friends inside Bute House was posted on the internet.

The clips on the YouTube website show a young man dancing around in a bedroom wearing a dressing gown.

Like his father and mother, McConnell junior is working in the public sector so we've probably paid for the now famous gown somehow.

Inevitably, this amusing event has led to the usual cries of there ought to be a law against it:

THE issue of the invasion of privacy on the internet cannot be ignored and should be tested in court, a leading Scottish human rights lawyer said yesterday after videos of friends of Jack McConnell's son misbehaving at the First Minister's official residence were posted on the web.
A lawyer wanting another law! No conflict of interest here...

There are some good comments on the Scotsman site:

Given that citizens are continually spied on by government snoopers, the 'shock horror' exposure of a very unimportant persons son prancing around a taxpayer funded residence is a newsworthy item. If I had a copy I would post it on Youtube myself.
(Comment number 2. I also particularly like number 28)

Thursday 2 November 2006

The privatisation of Fife

In response to my recent writing about the privatisation of roads Doctorvee wrote:
Whether you would actually have to ask permission to cross the road or not is a different matter. But in this world, if people are guaranteed the ability to walk to the shops it is described as “compulsory opening”. The easy and obvious answer to this is the fact that if you were to ask people whether or not they wanted to live in such a world, almost everybody would say ‘no’.
I know that some people are worried about getting permission to cross the privatised road and I thought that it might be a good idea to do a bit of future history...

Our story starts in North East Fife. The internationally renowned hedge fund Campbell, Khatami & Windsor has bought South Street in St Andrews. And yes, you do now need a ticket to get in. You need a ticket to get out. And you even need a ticket to cross to the other side of the street. At first the money is flowing into the coffers of the street's new owners. One does notice though that most of the ticket sellers are retired Lothian Bus drivers and the cry of "exact change only" almost drowns out the screeching of the local seagulls. But, all in all, everything's ticking over nicely. There is, however, a cloud on the horizon.

Over in Dunfermline, the High Street gets purchased by Carnegie Pensions Inc. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For old times' sake, you understand. Now, these guys are a bit more streetwise, so to speak, than their rivals over on the coast. Doing business in the newly demunicipalised town centre requires only one ticket. It covers entry, exit and road crossing. Soon, Brian Soutar is bussing shoppers over from St Andrews in their thousands and the directors of Campbell, Khatami & Windsor are drowning their sorrows in the bar of the Old Course clubhouse. Well, two of them anyway - the third is understood to be abroad, having visited the town only rarely and he may well be teetotal. The Carnegie directors have realised that it's worth forgoing a little ticket income and making up for it by getting in those extra customers. But the Carnegie organisation also faces a cloud on its horizon.

Meanwhile, backed by a consortium of Scottish bloggers, the newly floated Doctor Vee PLC has acquired the High Street in Kirkcaldy. In an industry-shaking move, Doctor Vee allows free entry onto his street because, unlike the local MP, he knows his Adam Smith. As if guided by an invisible hand, Doctor Vee understands that by forgoing the cost of any entry ticket he can more than make up for the lost revenue as the former shoppers of St Andrews and Dunfermline flock to Kirkcaldy. There's even the occasional slightly superior person coming over from Edinburgh. Soon all rival shopping centres are forced to adopt Doctor Vee's radical innovation if they are to remain in business. Such is the power of the market.

And now Doctor Vee and his backers are about to retire from the business world and devote their energies to spreading the good news about private property. Who knows, this could even be the start of a new Scottish Enlightenment.

Wednesday 1 November 2006

More on Councillor Kelly

A bit of googling found this:
A PAISLEY councillor has launched an astonishing attack on the Mormon religion, dubbing its members "morons" and "buffoons."
It gets "better":
"Card carrying Mormon and SNP MSP Brian Adam has been instrumental in bringing these Moron students to work as "Interns" at Holyrood for SNP MSPs."

He adds: "The deeds that are done and the poison which is spread in the name of Christ drives me to despair.

I say to Mr Adam and the Moron religion, gentle Jesus would not touch you with a barge pole, I hope the Lord will visit a plague of boils and locusts on the lot of you.

"If you are black and gay the Moron Church will pray to have the warmest corner of hell saved for you."

What could be behind this hatred? Unlike (I suspect) Mr Kelly, I've actually been to Utah, the home of the Mormon HQ. The people there are very hard working and self-reliant. They're not the kind of folk who would vote for the likes of Mr Kelly. He claims to support "peace and the redistribution of wealth". The Mormons support peace and the creation of wealth.

Shot in the foot

Articles like this one are really annoying:
SCOTLAND must attract more "companies of scale" and get more listed firms on the London Stock Exchange or risk the gap between salaries here and the rest of the country continuing to rise.

That was the stark warning issued yesterday by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Scotland after new figures revealed that Scottish executive directors are paid around £61,650 per annum, compared with the UK average of £69,629, or about 12 per cent less.

I don't believe those figures for a moment. The last time I checked there were some 1.5 million companies in Britain and that would probably give us around 130,000 here in Scotland. Each one will have at least one director. The typical Scottish company is not the Royal Bank or Scottish & Newcastle, it's your local greengrocer or taxi company. I fully agree with the IoD in rejecting criticism of those who do earn over £60K per year but it does the business world no good at all when others are led to believe that the typical director is getting that sort of money.

Now it may be that I'm missing something here. If by "average" the IoD is using the mean, the results could be skewed by a few massively paid people at the top. After all, if Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and John (moron of the week) Kerry moved to Scotland, we'd get a pretty big "average". Better to use the median for this kind of survey. By the way, is it really such a bad deal for Scottish directors (however defined) to be earning around 18% less than those in London when we bear in mind the difference in living costs?

Is there a Karl McRove?

I've spotted a couple of blogs from Labour councillors.

In this one the leader of Edinburgh City Council has a go at defending a recent spending decision:

I was annoyed (mostly with myself for not seeing it coming), that we found ourselves in a stupid debate lasting 40 minutes at the Council meeting on 26th Oct over chairs for the council chamber! Every building needs to have furniture that meets its requirements. Ours is a historic building that needs furniture that reflects both is design and its role as a place of civic pride and decision-making. That costs more money than your average seat in your home or in a hall somewhere.
I'm no fan of Councillor Aitken, but he's making a reasonable point.

But (and there's always a but with the Labour party) consider the blog of Councillor Terry Kelly of Paisley:

My ward is Whitesbridge, Fischer, Baronscourt and Ferguslie. ( Ward 3 ) I'm a Socialist who believes in equality, peace and the redistribution of wealth, I oppose Racism, Sexism, Sectarianism, Nationalism and any kind of discrimination. Best wishes for a Socialist future.
What appears on this website are my personal views and opinions. Not those of the Labour Party, Renfrewshire Council or anyone else, mine only
This site is so full of comic book Marxism that I wonder whether it's the work another party. Perhaps the SNP has a Karl McRove writing this sort of thing:
So the SNP ! still in bed with the American Mormon bigots, supporting the Glasgow firemen homophobic bigots, attacking the gay and lesbian community on adoption and gay marriage. Let's get serious here, SNP MSP's Brian Adam, Roseanna Cunningham and Fergus Ewing, homophobes all, are still spinning around within the SNP. Why is Salmond so quite about this scandal ? my guess is that, just like his fear of the monarchy issue, he's a coward. Meanwhile the Cllrs. ousted by the SNP because of their commitment to independence Martin and Vassie continue to stand up to the Renfrewshier SNP bullies led by Cllr. MacKay, that's another Nat mess !
Or is the awful truth that many Labour councillors really are like that?

(UPDATE: Devil's Kitchen covers this too.)

May's a long way off

Today's Scotsman tells us that:
ALEX Salmond received a massive pre-election boost today with a new opinion poll showing a clear majority of Scots favour independence, and illustrating a significant swing from Labour to the SNP.

The Scotsman ICM poll found 51 per cent now favoured full independence with only 39 per cent against - the biggest level of support for separatism for eight years.

In a bizarre twist, the Scottish voting system could produce big gains for the SNP but those very gains could jeapardise Alex Salmond's own return to Holyrood!

But it's not all good news for the SNP:

Mr Salmond must be also wondering why his party's standing is no higher than 30 per cent, given more than half of Scots would, apparently, vote for independence in a referendum.
Presumably this is because many supporters of independence don't like the SNP's leftist policies. I've never understood why the Nationalists don't just campaign for independence rather than a particular set of policies. These polls are interesting, but the election isn't being held for another six months.

Saturday 28 October 2006

Providing for the serf-owning class

I've been reading Sir Humphrey's Legacy, a new book from the IEA.

Neil Record's argument is that:

Official estimates of public sector pension liabilities do not use sound accounting or actuarial methodology and, as such, they woefully underestimate the true liabilities that taxpayers owe to public sector workers in the form of future pensions.
Shockingly, Mr Record thinks that the real liability is £1,025 billion - £1,025,000,000,000 in real money. The government says that the liability is only (!) £530 billion.

This means that the employer's contribution to public sector pensions represents a far larger addition to the basic payroll cost than we would have expected:

When calculated correctly, the cost of pensions in the public sector varies from 35 per cent of salary for male teachers to 72 per cent of salary for policewomen.
In the book's commentary, Nick Silver, an actuary, thinks that even Mr Record has underestimated the costs when we make certain adjustments to do with tax rates. If you are a standard rate taxpayer, a typical civil servant's pension contribution is costing you 47.9 percent on top of the basic salary cost of your "servant". (36 percent using Mr Record's method.)

Mr Silver gives these figures for 2005:

Public Sector pensions

Liabilities £1,025 billion
Assets nil
Members (in millions) 6.7

Private Sector pensions

£1,070 billion
Assets £630 billion
Members (in millions) 14.9

The private sector is almost 60% "funded"; the public sector is unfunded.

The new FRS17 accounting standard now makes companies incorporate pension fund assets and liabilities into their balance sheets. That's why British Airways has been described as a dodgy pension scheme that also flies a few jets. Actually, it's now a dodgy Christophobic pension scheme that also flies a few jets! To be fair, this isn't entirely the fault of BA or of other companies with huge pension deficits. A big chunk of the problem is Gordon Brown's tax raid on pension funds made as soon as Labour came into office in 1997. Reversing that would fix most of the problem for the private sector.

But Gordon needs all that cash to pay for the massive public sector benefits. Look at Mr Silver's chart again. Divide £1,025 billion by 6.7 million. The average pension liability per "public" worker is £152,915. In the private sector it's £71,812. The public sector pension costs are so much higher because the benefits far exceed those typically found in the private sector.

Does any of this matter - apart from the damned unfairness of the whole thing? After all, the government can just pay future pensions at the time out of current taxation. I think it does matter. An aging population implies extraordinarily high levels of taxation in the future. We should be treated like adults and be told the true size of the liabilities that are being incurred. The private sector must disclose almost everything. Why won't the government?

Does Scotland need a commuting Czar?

Perhaps we do:
CAR commuting has reached its highest level since devolution despite efforts by the Scottish Executive to improve public transport, its own figures showed yesterday.
Then again, maybe it's none of the politicians' business how we get to work. In fact, I can't help thinking about the large Volvo that I see in Charlotte Square at around 9am when I walk past Bute House on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Yes, it's the one waiting (usually with engine running) to take Jack McConnell over to Holyrood. Why doesn't he take the Number 36 bus?

Four fishermen missing

This is very sad news:
HOPES of finding survivors from a Fife fishing boat which disappeared in the North Sea during a violent storm all but vanished last night.

Here are some photos taken in Anstruther and Pittenweem earlier this year. The fourth man is from Aberdeen.

Thursday 26 October 2006

There may be 503 folk called George Bush in the US...

... but only 34 David Farrers.
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

99.75% of Americans named "David" are male. How odd.

(UPDATE: as expected, there is one (and only one) Elvis Presley living in the US)

Monday 23 October 2006

Help ma Boab Bobbie, or whatever

James Higham is correct. We residents of the Jockosphere should have picked this one up:
But Glasgow City Council, whose senior figures include Lady Provost Liz Cameron and leisure director and First Minister's wife Bridget McConnell, is clear about the problem of oppressed women in its ranks.

The issue is laid out in "Language Matters: A Guide for Good Practice", which has been circulated to the council's staff and elected officials.

"Sexism continues to disadvantage women both as service users and employees. The use of sexist language, whether spoken or written, reinforces this discrimination," it declares. All staff, it orders, should now stop their sexist ways.

There are 331 comments so far on Scotland on Sunday.

Libertarianism (2)

If you'd asked me ten years ago what was the libertarian position on immigration I'd have answered something like this:

Just as the state shouldn't regulate imports and exports of goods, services and capital so it is wrong for the state to regulate immigration. The same principle is involved.

Of course I'd have made the usual caveats about the necessity of abolishing the welfare state before opening the borders, but opened they should be.

However, I'd have forgotten what had been written earlier by Murray Rothbard:

However, on rethinking immigration on the basis of the anarcho-capitalist model, it became clear to me that a totally privatized country would not have "open borders" at all. If every piece of land in a country were owned by some person, group, or corporation, this would mean that no immigrant could enter there unless invited to enter and allowed to rent, or purchase, property. A totally privatized country would be as "closed" as the particular inhabitants and property owners desire. It seems clear, then, that the regime of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors. Under total privatization, many local conflicts and "externality" problems-not merely the immigration problem-would be neatly settled. With every locale and neighborhood owned by private firms, corporations, or contractual communities, true diversity would reign, in accordance with the preferences of each community. Some neighborhoods would be ethnically or economically diverse, while others would be ethnically or economically homogeneous. Some localities would permit pornography or prostitution or drugs or abortions, others would prohibit any or all of them. The prohibitions would not be state imposed, but would simply be requirements for residence or use of some person's or community's land area.
This approach has been developed further by Hans-Hermann Hoppe here and here. Specifically, Hoppe denies that there is a similarity between movements of goods and movements of people:
Free trade and markets mean that private property owners may receive or send goods from and to other owners without government interference. The government stays inactive vis-à-vis the process of foreign and domestic trade, because a willing (paying) recipient exists for every good or service sent, and hence all locational changes, as the outcome of agreements between sender and receiver, must be deemed mutually beneficial. The government’s sole function is that of maintaining the trading process (by protecting citizen and domestic property). However, with respect to the movement of people, the same government will have to do more in order to fulfill its protective function than merely permit events to take their own course, because people, unlike products, possess a will and can migrate. Accordingly, population movements, unlike product shipments, are not per se mutually beneficial events because they are not always necessarily and invariably the result of an agreement between a specific receiver and sender.
Complete private ownership of property would have radical implications:
Clearly, in this kind of society, there is no such thing as freedom of immigration, or an immigrant’s right of way. What does exist is the freedom of independent private property owners to admit or exclude others from their own property in accordance with their own restricted or unrestricted property titles. Admission to some territories might be easy, while to others it might be nearly impossible. Moreover, admission to one party’s property does not imply the “freedom to move around,” unless other property owners have agreed to such movements.
In other words, under an anarcho-capitalist system the immigration question does not arise.

What about a society that does have a state, even a limited one?

Hoppe writes:

...if the government admits a person while there exists no domestic resident who wants to have this person on his property, the result is forced integration.
And his solution:
At all ports of entry and along its borders, the government, as trustee of its citizens, must check all newly arriving persons for an entrance ticket — a valid invitation by a domestic property owner — and everyone not in possession of such a ticket will have to be expelled at his own expense.
Hence, the admission implies negatively — similarly to the scenario of conditional free immigration — that the immigrant is excluded from all publicly funded welfare. Positively, it implies that the receiving party assumes legal responsibility for the actions of his invitee for the duration of his stay.
That's pretty radical isn't it? But only a little more so than DK's proposal:
I repeat, you are not blocking the borders, merely vetting the people coming in and only blocking those whom you consider undesirable, i.e. economically or socially damaging.

Libertarianism (1)

A fascinating debate is going on among my younger colleagues.

Devil's Kitchen started it off by mentioning my observation about libertarianism in the Scottish blogosphere (Scroll down).

Then Doctor Vee responded:

One of the most interesting things about libertarians is how quickly their devotion to free markets and capitalism disappear so quickly as soon as it involves those dirty foreigners getting a piece of the action.
Given that DK is such a “libertarian”, I am sure he will be familiar with the section of libertarian poster boy Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations dealing with protectionism (Book IV, Ch II). Smith might be talking about goods, but I cannot see any reason why what he says does not apply to labour as well. If anyone has any reasons I would love to hear them.
Next, Longrider joined in:
Libertarianism in its pure form is anarchy. If you are to have individual freedom, sooner or later you are going to need commonly accepted rules to govern the limits of that freedom. Put simply, all freedoms are limited to a greater or lesser degree. I do not profess to have the freedom to do as I please if it hurts others or impinges on their freedoms. The moment we accept this principle, we have stepped away from the brink of anarchy that is the absolute of libertarianism.

None of the libertarian bloggers I frequent appear to be offering anarchy as an alternative to what we have. This means that they recognise the need for some form of collective behaviour where individuals are unable to achieve their aims alone. We need government for foreign policy, policing, defence, local services, for example. Therefore, we accept (grudgingly) the need for general taxation to fund these activities. Depending on just how extreme is the individual will decide just how large that list is. So all of those libertarian bloggers are prepared to compromise. It doesn’t damage their libertarian credentials, though; it merely makes them pragmatists.

There's a rejoinder from DK, then a reply from the Doc and another response from DK. All of this has connections with this post of mine (Scroll down) and, in particular, my debate with Bernie Hughes.

It's wonderful to see that the word "libertarian" is now used so often. That certainly wasn't the case when I first got involved in the movement and so I thought that a bit of libertarian history might come in useful.

What most libertarians believe in is similar to what used to be known simply as liberalism before that word got stolen by its opponents. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the members of the liberal Austrian School were advocating a very purist form of laissez faire economics. One of the most prominent of these gentlemen was Ludwig von Mises. Knowing that the Nazis were fervently opposed to free markets (and their supporters), Mises fled Vienna following the Anschluss. After a period in Switzerland he moved to the US. Of course, America at that time was in the grip of Keynesianism, partly as a result of a complete misunderstanding of the cause of the Great Depression. Consequently, Mises, one the greatest minds of the century, had to operate on the fringes of America's leftist-dominated Academia.

Meanwhile the Russian-born American author Ayn Rand had produced novels that were turning millions in the direction of liberty. Ms Rand's favourite economist was Mises. Rand's inner circle included Alan Greenspan, later Chairman of the Fed, and another member was economist Murray Rothbard who had studied under Mises.

Doctor Vee wrote:

Since DK has revealed that in his opinion government intervention can be a force for good, he has become a utilitarian like the rest of us.
That's interesting. There's no question that some libertarians are utilitarians, but a very large number - possibly the majority - are not. Most libertarians that I'm aware of base their philosophy on natural rights, and in particular the non-aggression principle. That's to say, they favour liberty on principle and not specifically for its undoubtedly benevolent outcomes. Both Rand and Rothbard were natural rights libertarians although they fell out over what mechanism was required to protect those rights. According to Rand, the state was needed to protect citizens against aggression. In other words: the military to protect against external aggressors, the police to protect against internal aggressors, and the courts to judge those accused of aggression. AND NOTHING ELSE. No "public" schools, hospitals, roads or welfare.

Rothbard, on the other hand, claimed that the state itself should and could be replaced by what's known as anarcho-capitalism or market anarchism.

I note that Jarndyce (commenting on Doctor Vee's) says:

You’ve pinpointed the glaring hypocrisy of most people who call themselves libertarians. They’re usually nothing of the sort: more like “what I have, no matter how I got it, is mine”-ians.

Also worth noting: all those wonderful predictions of neoclassical economics… the optimality of free trade, the inefficiency of taxation, the macroeconomic burdens of regulation, all of them… only work in the presence of perfect or near-perfect labour mobility. So next time someone chucks “free markets are best” at you, you know what to ask them back…

But most libertarians, both the anarcho-capitalists and the limited statists, are followers of the Austrian School, they are not neo-classicists and specifically do not assume a world of perfect markets. Indeed, entrepreneurship is only possible when markets aren't "perfect".

There is a vast literature on anarcho-capitalist as well as limited state libertarianism. Almost every human activity has been and is being explored. Indeed, Mises' greatest book was titled Human Action. It is not possible to have a proper understanding of libertarianism without undertaking a considerable amount of study. In part 2 I shall explore the vexed question of libertarianism and immigration.

(UPDATE: more from Doctorvee and also from DK!)

Sunday 22 October 2006

It must be all those history books...

I am nerdier than 27% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

With thanks to hypernerd Andrew Ian Dodge.

(UPDATE: Mrs F & W thinks that I may have underestimated daily time on the computer...)

Thursday 19 October 2006

The Dear Leader

Ewan Aitken is the recently elected leader of the City of Edinburgh Council. The guy who takes £184.00 from me every month. I noticed this on his new blog:
I was very proud to see over 200 staff turn up on a cold morning to take part in the world record making stand up against poverty This campaign is calling on world leaders not to forget the commitments they made when they signed up to the UN Millennium Development goals to be achieved by 2015,
I wonder if the 200 misguided taxeaters were demonstrating in their own time. I think we should be told.

There was a wonderful Freudian slip on the same post:

Edinburgh is a creator of great wealth. We have amoral responsibility to share that wealth.
Oh dear.

Monday 16 October 2006

Ethiopia, Italy, Cuba and Russia

I was reading my copy of Airways Magazine this evening and came across this passage:
In Europe, the airline operates a daily service to Rome, six times a week to London, three times a week to Paris and Frankfurt, and twice weekly to Amsterdam and Stockholm.
The carrier in question is Ethiopian Airlines. Most African airlines fly to a similar range of cities, but I couldn't help noticing that the top destination was Rome, rather than the usual London, Paris or Frankfurt. So what's different about Ethiopia?

The difference is that Ethiopia was occupied by Italy in the 1930's. I'm not suggesting for a moment that Italy should have occupied Ethiopia but find it interesting that the two countries seem to be closely linked seventy years later. In 2076 will Cuba still be closely linked with Russia?

The rest are so 2005

I notice that today's ranking of Top Scottish Websites includes yours truly at Number 10. Devils Kitchen and Mr Eugenides are in the Top Ten too. So three of today's top ten Scottish sites deal with politics and all three are libertarian...

Sunday 15 October 2006

It's coming yet for a' that. Maybe.

Goodness me. A couple of weeks ago conservative historian Michael Fry (scroll down) came out for independence. Now Cardinal O'Brien says that he "would be "happy" if Scots wanted separation". Meanwhile multi-millionaire industrialist Tom Farmer who has recently given the SNP £100,000 to encourage more debate in next May's election is now supporting full independence. I'm beginning to think it may happen.

I don't believe that independence is the best solution however. The real answer was described on this very blog (scroll down) all of three years ago:

The Freedom and Whisky constitutional plan is this:

Withdraw from the EU

Devolve all powers - except defence and foreign affairs - to the various national parliaments

Each parliament to be fiscally independent with contributions being made to the federal government in proportion to population

The federal government should be situated on the Isle of Man, which is not in any of the home countries but is equidistant from all four of them

The Irish Republic should be invited to unite with the North and rejoin the UK with Dublin taking its rightful place in the Anglosphere alongside Cardiff, Edinburgh and London

However if Scotland is to become independent we should pay attention to David Watt of the Institute of Directors:

“Because of the culture we live in, Scots may not be naturally as competitive or as hungry for success as workers in other countries, in large part because of the wide availability of public sector jobs. Scotland is burdened with an oversized public sector which employs more than a third of the total workforce.”

He also claims that the lure of a job for life, a healthy wage and pension, draws people from the private sector, “ where they could have more impact by establishing and growing their own enterprises”. He claims this results in an aspiration for “safety and security rather than making a mark in the world”.

An independent Scotland will really need to do something about that excess of public sector jobs. Otherwise, nae chance.

Friday 13 October 2006

Hot air

Natalie Solent is (rightly) upset about climate change denialism:
The consensus convinces because there is no good reason to suppose that so many eminent scientists are lying or deceiving themselves when they say climate change is happening. But if you give me cause to believe that departure from the consensus gets a person ostracised, then there is a good reason.
I agree, but perhaps things aren't as bad as we may think. Natalie didn't want to get into the question of consensus in science but I think it's useful to remember the pioneering work of Thomas Kuhn and the idea of the paradigm:
Kuhn argued that science is not a steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge. Instead, science is "a series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions"
Now, consider this in connection with the climate change "debate":
Kuhn also maintained that, contrary to popular conception, typical scientists are not objective and independent thinkers. Rather, they are conservative individuals who accept what they have been taught and apply their knowledge to solving the problems that their theories dictate.
It seems to me that the "it's all mankind's fault" school is conservative in Kuhn's sense. The real radicals are those who stand out against the consensus, rather like libertarians in politics. So I suggest that we bear this in mind when despairing of the state of science or politics for that matter:
During periods of normal science, the primary task of scientists is to bring the accepted theory and fact into closer agreement. As a consequence, scientists tend to ignore research findings that might threaten the existing paradigm and trigger the development of a new and competing paradigm. For example, Ptolemy popularized the notion that the sun revolves around the earth, and this view was defended for centuries even in the face of conflicting evidence. In the pursuit of science, Kuhn observed, "novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation."
It wouldn't surprise me in the least if a new "novelty" (global cooling caused by mankind?) were to emerge when we least expect. As Ayn Rand used to say: "It's earlier than you think."

Sunday 8 October 2006

Piercing the veil

The great row has spread to Scotland:
The political storm over Jack Straw’s comments about Muslim women who choose to wear veils gathered pace last night, as SNP leader Alex Salmond stepped into the row to condemn the leader of the House of Commons and a second government minister wrote a comment piece supporting him.
Mr Salmond has written to the prime minister:
However, in his letter to Blair, Alex Salmond rejected the idea that the veil segregates communities. “In Scotland, we do not regard people’s distinctiveness as a threat to their Scottish identity, rather an enhancement of culture in today’s society,” he writes.
Other Scottish politicians are also speaking out:
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, said Straw is “the wrong person” to kick-start any debate about veils.

“Of course there are many different views among Muslim women about the veil and other forms of dress, but it is really a matter for them to decide, each on her own terms.

From the Tories:
“This issue is not the most pressing for Scotland, but should it arise here [Muslim constituents wearing veils at political surgeries] it is best dealt with quietly and calmly with community leaders.”
And from the Lib Dems:
there is “a civil liberties argument about freedom of choice – do you really want a politician telling you what you should wear?”
It seems to me that there is a great deal of confusion here. We libertarians are totally in favour of civil liberties, but I'm afraid that the Lib Dem spokesman quoted above needs to think a bit more deeply about this issue. In a fully libertarian society all property would be privately owned. That includes not only houses, shops and factories, but also schools, hospitals, roads, railways, airports and parks. And just as you or I can decide whom we allow into our houses - that's to say we discriminate - that same right should be held by all property owners. Just as there's no right to shout "fire" in a crowded theatre if the terms of entry preclude that right so any owner should be free to decide the terms of entry by others onto his property for any reason whatsoever.

It follows from this that just as the Bluewater Shopping Centre has the right to ban what it considers threatening clothing, equally anyone else must be free to discriminate when deciding whom to let onto their property. No one has the "civil right" to enter someone else's property other than on the terms set by the owner.

Now we turn to the question of burqas. First of all this is not a matter of race. Those who claim that it is are either ignorant or malicious. Most westerners would not know whether someone from the sub-continent was a Hindu or a Muslim by physical appearance alone. This is not about race; it's about Islam, which is a religion, that's to say a belief system that, unlike race, one may accept or reject. And the problem is that many Muslims living here do not accept the values of the western enlightenment that has created the very civilisation in which they have chosen to live. Moreover, some of them are actively trying to destroy those values and that civilisation. In these circumstances it is perfectly rational to discriminate against those whose clothing suggests that they may well come from that particular part of the Muslim community in exactly the same way as we may cross the street when seeing an approaching "hoodie" even though many of them are perfectly harmless.

So when Alex Salmond says that "we do not regard people’s distinctiveness as a threat to their Scottish identity, rather an enhancement of culture", it rather depends on what comprises that distinctiveness. Curries yes, Jihads no.

And when Mr Harvie tells us that "there are many different views among Muslim women about the veil and other forms of dress, but it is really a matter for them to decide, each on her own terms", I agree. But it's also a matter of the rest of us to decide how we react to something that seems to indicate an utter rejection of our views.

It's no great surprise that the new touchy-feely Tories say that it's all "best dealt with quietly and calmly with community leaders". The Conservatives actually make a judgment! Goodness me, no. Far better to confer with the "community".

At least the Lib Dems use the language of civil liberties, even if they don't have much of a clue about what the concept actually means.

If the west is to survive we need to be extremely robust in the defence of our values. Those include respect of life, liberty and property. The politicians, police and judiciary need to start defending the lives and liberties of the people and if they won't they need to be replaced. We also need to recognise the full rights of property owners including the absolute right to discriminate. All questions of wearing burqas, hoodies or indeed Savile Row suits can be peacefully resolved once property rights are respected. In the meantime, officials should treat people on "public" property as they would treat them on their own property. That's to say they should discriminate in favour of those who employ them.

Saturday 7 October 2006

Adieu Froggies

We send them homewards to think again!

Why Irish taxpayers aren't smiling

We're constantly hearing from our own nationalists how much better things are in the Irish Republic. You know, politicians will be oh, so much smarter, under independence.

But consider this. Over in Ireland Ryanair have made a bid for Aer Lingus and have offered €2.80 per share. The problem is that Aer Lingus was privatised by the Irish Government at €2.20 per share only last week. Embarrassment all round and the taxpayers aren't amused. Perhaps politicians - in Ireland, Scotland, or anywhere else - shouldn't be let near businesses in the first place.

The markets are booming

Or are they?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, adjusted for inflation, is down 17 percent from its all-time high on January 14, 2000.[1] It would need to rise another 2,378 points to set a new record, adjusted for inflation. It is only when no adjustment is made for inflation that the Dow can be said to have closed at a record high on October 3, 2006, as has been widely reported in the media.