Thursday 30 July 2009


She shouldn't have been trying to be first on the beach!

Wednesday 29 July 2009


I've just added a Twibbon to my Twitter profile. The Twibbon demonstrates your support for an existing Twibbon cause or for a new one that you can create and gets added to your Twitter avatar.

I urge all Libertarian Alliance supporters to adopt the LA Twibbon.

The Twibbon was invented 12 days ago by Storm Ideas Ltd, which is connected with Edinburgh web design company Storm ID Ltd. So far some 88,000 users have signed up.

(Disclosure: I do Storm's accounts!)

Tuesday 28 July 2009

What a load of rubbish

The refuse collection problem in Edinburgh continues:
Some collections of household rubbish are running four weeks behind schedule in a dispute involving refuse collectors, according to a report.

Refuse collectors in Edinburgh have been working-to-rule for several weeks in protest at plans to change the way they are paid.

The local Tories have set up a facebook group about the awful mess the city's in just as the Festival season is starting. Fair enough, but what's the real problem here?

The real problem is ownership, or rather lack of it. The technology of keeping our streets clean isn't terribly difficult. I ask this: Just how many Edinburgh houses are rubbish-strewn inside? Not too many I suspect, especially the ones that are privately owned. And that gives a clue as to the answer. If the streets of Edinburgh were owned by hundreds or indeed thousands of competing private organisations, would not those profit-seeking owners have sorted out the mess earlier? The economic incentives under political ownership rarely work.

Monday 27 July 2009

The Big One

Liberty 2009

The Annual Conference of the Libertarian Alliance. In association with the Libertarian International.

National Liberal Club, One Whitehall Place, Westminster, London, SW1A 2HE

Saturday 24 October 2009

09.00am - 10.00am Registration and Refreshments

10.00am – 10.05am Introduction

Dr. Sean Gabb (Director, Libertarian Alliance)

10.05am – 10.45am

Session 1: The UK Libertarian Party: A Showcase Presentation

• Speaker: Chris Mounsey (Communications Director, UK Libertarian Party; Blogger, The Devils Kitchen)

• Moderator: Dr. Tim Evans (President, Libertarian Alliance)

10.45am – 11.15am Coffee Break

11.15am – 12.15pm Session 2: Thoughts on Objectivism and the Philosophy of Ayn Rand

• Speaker: Professor Tibor Machan (Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Auburn University; Research Fellow, Hoover Institution at Stanford University; Adjunct Scholar at the CATO Institute)

• Moderator: Dr. Sean Gabb (Director, Libertarian Alliance)

12.15pm – 2.00pm Free time for Lunch in the local area

2.00pm – 2.45pm Session 3 The State the Treasury is Now In:The Urgent Need for a Rediscovery of the Private Supply of Public Goods

• Speaker: Dr. Richard Wellings (Deputy Editorial Director, Institute of Economic Affairs)

• Moderator: David Farrer (Financial Director, Libertarian Alliance)

2.45pm – 3.30pm Session 4 A Libertarian Critique of the European Union

• Speaker: Josie Appleton (Convenor, Manifesto Club)

• Moderator: Christian Michel (European Director, Libertarian Alliance; President, Libertarian International)

3.30pm – 4.00pm Coffee Break

4.00pm – 5.00pm Session 5 A Libertarian Critique of Karl Popper • Speakers: Dr. Jan Lester (Libertarian Alliance)

• Moderator: Patrick Crozier (Transport Spokesman, Libertarian Alliance)

5.00pm – 7.30pm Free Time and Cash Bar

7.30pm – 10.30pm 2008 LA Annual Dinner and Awards

• Award 1 LA Liberty In Action Award 2009 • Award 2 LA Liberty in Theory Award 2009 • After Dinner Speaker

Sunday 25 October 2008

09.30am - 10.00am Refreshments

10.00am – 10.45am Session 6 A Classical Liberal Perspective on International Relations

• Speaker: Dr. Razeen Sally (Senior Lecturer, International Relations Department, London School of Economics) TBC

• Moderator: David Carr (Legal Affairs Spokesman, Libertarian Alliance)

10.45am – 11.30am Session 7 Thoughts of a Libertarian Muslim

• Speakers: Babek Farrahi (London Correspondent, Diplomatic Courier Magazine)

• Moderator: David McDonagh (Libertarian Alliance)

11.30am – 12.00pm Coffee Break

12.00pm - 12.45pm Session 8 A Personal Story: A Libertarian Perspective on Being Home Educated

• Speakers: Sophie Robbins (Home Educated Student; blogger, ValleyForge)

• Moderator: Nigel Meek (Editorial and Subscription Director, Libertarian Alliance)

12.45pm-2.15pm Free-Time for Lunch in the Local Area

2.15pm – 3.00pm Session 9 Tories and the Liberal Democrats: Prospects for a Classical Liberal Agenda

• Speakers: Shane Frith (Director, Progressive Vision)

Mark Littlewood (Campaign Director, Progressive Vision; Blogger, Liberal Vision)

• Moderator: David Davis (LA Blogmaster, Libertarian Alliance)

3.00pm – 3.45pm Session 10 Banking, Honest Money and the Free Market

• Speaker: Dr. Anthony J. Evans (Assistant Professor of Economics and Course Director, MEB London, ESCP Europe Business School; Academic Director, The Cobden Centre)

• Moderator: Christian Michel (European Director, Libertarian Alliance; President, Libertarian International)

3.45pm - 5.00pm Drinks Reception


Rejected by the English

The proposed merger between the Scottish and English actuarial bodies has failed
But while the 73.5% of faculty votes comfortably beat the 66% threshold needed for change, only 71.6% of votes in the far bigger institute backed the proposal, short of the 75% needed.
I'm pleased with this result. Scotland benefits tremendously from having its own civil society, including separate professional bodies.

What's particularly interesting is that the plan failed because the English body rejected the proposed merger whereas the Scottish body was in favour. It's not entirely fanciful to think that this outcome may portend similar developments in the wider political sphere...

Expert opinions

I see that some "experts" have written to the Queen after she had wondered, "why nobody had predicted the credit crunch":
The letter ends: "In summary the failure to foresee the timing, extent and severity of the crisis and to head it off, while it had many causes, was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole."
But plenty of bright people had understood the risks and many of their followers had structured our investments accordingly.

The real question is this: Is it significant that the LSE experts are financed by the taxpayer and have a vested interest in the system that failed whereas the Mises chaps aren't and don't?

(Incidentally, I wonder which brand of expert will be appearing at George Watson's.)

Saturday 18 July 2009

Top ten blogs

Any votes for this site will be much appreciated. See to the left.

You'll have had your tea...

Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Stands Scotland where it did?

And now one of those stories that get the cybernats worked up no end. (See the comments.)
Lindsay Paterson, professor of educational policy at Edinburgh University, described the idea of Scotland having the best education system was "one of the great education myths".

He said: "Unintentionally, a vast experiment that tests some of these claims has been conducted since 1997 as policies in the four nations have diverged since devolution.

"What is little realised, and never celebrated, is that the clear winner in this is the much- disdained England."

I always thought that Professor Paterson was one of Scottish education's useful idiots, but it seems like he's seen the light.

The problem with English education is not that it's too fragmented compared with what's available in Scotland but that it's not fragmented enough. And the same is therefore even more true up here. There is absolutely no reason why the state should be running any schools. If it must finance education, let it be by means of vouchers, although personally I don't think that the state should even go that far.

I'm quite favourable to the idea of independence, but Scotland does seem to have an inordinate number of foolish people when it comes to education. I'm glad to note that Professor Paterson may not be one of them.

Scottish Enlightenment: RIP

Here's another one of those "political correctness gone mad" stories:
A PRIMARY school has been told it has to pay for a professional joiner to hang children's artwork on the wall – because of health and safety fears.

Pirniehall Primary in Pilton has been landed with the £350 bill after parents were warned it was against the rules to put up the pictures themselves

What's particularly amusing is the response of a local Green Party councillor:
She said: "Nobody wants to expose children to unnecessary risks but this is taking things too far."
Unnecessary risks! This is the same "Green" party that's so irresolutely opposed to clean nuclear energy and that wants to cover the country with spinning death traps.

Thursday 16 July 2009


I've been away for a family gathering in the Lake District.

Here are some colour photos.

Originally uploaded by David Farrer

And some in black and white.

Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Sunday 5 July 2009

Johnnie Walker - born 1820, no longer going strong

Johnnie Walker is leaving Kilmarnock, the town where he was born:
LIKE THE square bottle and the slanting label, the Striding Man logo has helped make Johnnie Walker one of the world's most iconic drinks. The image of the cane-toting dandy struts above the factory where the whisky is bottled, a building that dominates Kilmarnock physically, emotionally and economically.

Last Wednesday the Striding Man lost his confident swagger. Diageo, the world's biggest drinks manufacturer, announced it was closing the plant with the loss of 700 jobs.

After almost 200 years, Johnnie Walker is striding away from his Ayrshire roots."

There's a great deal of anger in the town:
"I think the area is finished once they've gone. Unemployment is bad enough without this adding to it. What's Kilmarnock going to be like in two or three years? A ghost town."

Outside, 67-year-old Sam Anderson, the head barman, and Andrew Davidson, his 74-year-old customer, go through the litany of the town's industrial dead. "Massey Fergusson, Saxone - gone," chants Sam.

"You used to be able to leave your job one day and walk into a new one the next. Now there's no jobs," says Andrew

I have Kilmarnock connections.

My late father used to work for Saxone, mentioned above. He joined Saxone after leaving the army and we lived in Stewarton, a few miles to the north. That's where I started school. When I was six a transfer took us to Leeds for three years. A move back to the shoe company's HQ led to us renting in Kilmarnock for a few months before buying a house in Prestwick where I lived until I was eighteen. Then another transfer took us down to London.

My memories of Kilmarnock are a bit hazy. I do remember my father taking to a few games at the nearby Rugby Park and I still look out for Killie's results every week during the football season. As a director of a prominent local company my father got to know Willie Ross, the town's MP and later Secretary of State for Scotland. Despite being a staunch Tory my father used to enjoy a dram or two on the London sleeper with the hardline socialist politician. Naturally, they drank Johnnie Walker. And now it's gone.

I read an editorial somewhere that pointed out that the Diageo-owned Guinness HQ is Ireland's number one tourist destination and why not try the same thing in Kilmarnock? A good question.

But there are deeper issues.

For as long as I can remember Scotland has suffered from the departure or downsizing of well-known companies. Up here, we all know the importance of having locally-based employers. If Johnnie Walker had still been locally-owned would it have left Kilmarnock? Probably not.

But all those folk who are moaning about profit being put before people are missing the point. Profit is about people. Without profit there won't be any jobs, something hundreds of thousands of "public" sector workers will shortly find out.

The key to long-term prosperity is a well-educated population, free trade, respect for property rights, and the rule of law. That's the only way to build up a critical mass of home-based companies. Another thing needed is to strip away all that red tape that gives an artificial advantage to big companies like Diageo. Few Scottish politicians understand this, or if they do they're afraid to say so.

What Kilmarnock needs is an outward-looking population that's as well-educated as any in the world. Somehow I think that my father and Willie Ross might have agreed on that.

Friday 3 July 2009

Photos from last weekend







Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Are you being served?

I wrote recently about my recent Demon and Barclaycard problems. The Demon tech guy told me that I would get a free new router because the two-year-old one had only stopped working as a result of Demon's "upgraded" service. Demon HQ told me that it would only be free if I re-subscribed for another year. I did so, and yes, I got an invoice for £25.00 today.

Some people are much easier to deal with. I bought a new Hyundai Getz in September 2004 and it's been an excellent purchase. However, we had a bit of a scare last Sunday evening at Kyle of Lochalsh. I couldn't get the petrol cover to open. The garage attendant, another motorist and Mrs F&W had a go and eventually Mrs F&W succeeded. I filled the car right up to the top and we got back home on Monday with the tank more than half full but with the cover out of order again. At 8.30 this morning I took the car into Archer's of Edinburgh, the local Hyundai dealership. I was pleasantly surprised to be told that the work would be done immediately and that I may as well wait. Sure enough, by 9.30 the car was returned to me in full working order. Here's the non-Demon bit: there was no charge as it was covered by Hyundai's 5 year warranty policy and the car had been washed.

Way to go.

(UPDATE: Demon is refunding the £25 router cost plus £35 in respect of phone calls)