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 :

LibertarianHome.com 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.

LibertarianHome.com 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.

LibertarianHome.com 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.