Monday, 19 October 2009

The state marches on

This is so depressing:
In her closing speech to conference in Inverness, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sounded the death knell of the "right-to-buy", the emblematic policy of the Thatcher revolution, which allowed council tenants to buy their homes.

She also revealed that Stracathro hospital, which the previous Labour-Liberal executive had handed over to an independent operator, would now be returning to full NHS control.

The government should have nothing to do with housing provision. Nor should it provide health services. The only legitimate function of the state is to protect us against aggressors.

I've more or less decided to vote SNP at the next election as I did at the European one but this kind of thing will make folk like me think seriously about voting otherwise.

I think that it's fairly likely that the English will eventually expel Scotland from the Union. The English establishment won't be happy about that - they understand that an independent England would be less likely to have a seat in the UN Security Council, would be outvoted in the EU by France and Italy and would face considerable resource shortages that the Union makes less dangerous.

But plenty of English rank and file voters think that Scotland is a socialist basket case that they'd be well shot of. This SNP decision will do nothing to alter that widely held opinion. I can only presume that the SNP are deliberately encouraging anti-Scottish views down south. God help us if the SNP really does believe in this statist nonsense.


David Farrer said...

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hye there,care to exchange link ?? Blogger Tips | Tricks | SEO

8 November 2009, 08:54:18 GMT
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"An independent Scotland is coming. Lets make it a compassionate one." 
There is no reason why Scotland as a whole can't be compassionate without state provision of everything. People are perfectly free to be compassionate. 
In the future independent Scotland if our competiveness were weakned sufficiently and we didn't make vast amounts from oil, do we continue to provide services for people and build large ammounts of debt or do we cut our cloth?

26 October 2009, 16:35:50 GMT
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When you take the financial sector, the state started to wither away when Thatcher turned greed into an aspiration. As the banks increased in strength and power, they made mincemeat of government attempts to limit their size. They claimed UK plc would become a bit player on the global financial stage if they weren't allowed to get bigger. And now they've become too big to fail, and everyone suffers except them. They've become like the mafia.  
It's an extreme example, perhaps, but nevertheless a clear - and real - one, of what happens when the state is diminished without very careful consideration. 
I am all for finding new ways to distribute public money and do not by any stretch think state delivery is an efficient means of that distribution, but I would counsel real caution and care when considering the role of the state - or absence of it - in protecting (which includes housing!) the most vulnerable in our society.  
An independent Scotland is coming. Lets make it a compassionate one.

25 October 2009, 14:51:03 GMT
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Neil Craig
"Look where "less state" got us economically." 
?? Perhaps you could explain exactly when it was we saw the withering away of the state. I seem to have missed it. As for how houses would be provided without the state you refer you to my previous comment.

25 October 2009, 12:02:00 GMT
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"The government should have nothing to do with housing provision. Nor should it provide health services. The only legitimate function of the state is to protect us against aggressors." 
I'm appalled at this naivete, or is it something more sinister? 
Look where "less state" got us economically. Or is unrestrained greed and the desperate and brutal inequality it leads to merely an unfortunate bi-product of your philosophy? 
Similarly, without social housing, where do people suffering disadvantage for any number of reasons live?  
For the sake of us all, get a grip.

24 October 2009, 23:57:26 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

Neil Craig
House prices are 4 times what they would be without state intervention (over the last century they have gone up 4 times faster than the RPI). Without the state there would be no real housing problem & similar things apply in many areas.  
I don't agree with David about the complete disappearance of the state but it should certainly be shrunk to 10-20% of GNP rather than the current 50%+ & virtually everybody would be much better off (& freer).

22 October 2009, 18:32:05 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer
See here:

21 October 2009, 15:14:56 GMT+01:00
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Andrew Duffin
The people who might buy their council houses are largely people who've been living in them for a while and are probably enjoying a relatively stable existence. 
If they didn't buy, they'd stay put. 
So then they are enjoying subsidised housing, the taxpayer is paying for all their maintenance and repairs, and the house is not (ever) going to be available for another tenant. 
How exactly is this worse than letting them buy?  
It reduces the stock of cheap housing available for those who need it, just the same. 
The real objection NuLab have is that if people buy their houses they are (a) no longer beholden to petty local officials and (b) less likely to vote Labour.

21 October 2009, 15:03:51 GMT+01:00
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Bill (Scotland)
I don't support separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK on principle (because I consider myself British first, then Scottish - does this make me a bad person, lol? ). However, even if this were not so, the fact that the actual SNP is certainly a pretty left-of-centre outfit that seems to believe that the bigger State is a 'good thing' (and the statement of SNP policy on 'right to buy' is not really a surprise to me in this context) has always made me somewhat antipathetic to its general poolitical stance, quite apart from its principal aim of taking Scotland out of the UK. I have been and remain curious about why a 'libertarian' could ever have supported SNP polcies in the light of its underlying political aims as there always seemed to me to be a basic conflict, but there you go - I'm a simple fellow.

21 October 2009, 00:09:59 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

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Thanks for the reply david. I think that it therefore does come down to axioms. I am an anti-foundationalist, I don't think that we can prescribe, describe or otherwise distill perfectly simple axiomatic rules that should underly society. 
The axiom of "the use of force" being always wrong is therefore not one I would agree with. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't, life is complex. (incidentally this is why common law courts are so much superior to roman or napoleonic ones!). 
Given that it will never be possible to have every human being believe in any one axiom, and given that most human beings don't in fact agree with the axioms underlying anarcho-capitalism (especially the property one of course), I don't think an anarcho-capitalist society will ever exist when people have a free choice about entering it. 
So I don't think it is reasonable to appeal to such axioms when arguing about the SNP right to buy policy given that there's not much reason to think them true, or to think that most people agree with them. There's no real *evidence* for their validity, just some diverting books tossing around interesting ideas like Human Action or whatever. 
So, we have to dance with the devil that brung us. I suppose you could say I am fairly centrist. In fact I am a sometime member of the SNP even as I seem to agree with them on many things (in fact my wife works for one of their MSPs too). 
I would agree that courts can achieve many things, possibly even a huge body of case law to guide restaurant & food preparation standards if given long enough, but I also think a good regulatory body can create a better framework and do so *before* all the thousands of cases of food poisoning needed to hammer out good case law.

20 October 2009, 22:24:41 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

David Farrer
Back in the days when I studied a bit of law I was always impressed with all those 18th and 19th Century cases involving common or garden matters in which the courts came up with the obviously just solutions. I don’t recall a case about adulterated sausages but the courts of old could certainly have dealt with it satisfactorily under principles acceptable to libertarians.  
Libertarians are against the initiation of force and fraud. I ignored fraud for simplicity’s sake – a mistake, I think. 
Making dodgy sausages is a fraud and should be dealt with by the legal system - private or public. We don’t need special sausage laws for that. 
I note that you mention anarcho-capitalism. Many Brownie points for that! I didn’t mention it for it usually necessitates referring to several 500-page plus books for folks to know what one is talking about. But I do accept the anarcho-capitalist argument, unlike Hayek, Friedman and Rand, the first two of whom I’ve met. I prefer the writings of Mises (teacher of Hayek) and Rothbard (student of Mises). I believe that Rothbard’s anarcho-capitalism is essentially the same as Mises’ “limited state” argument that says that any property owner should be free to secede from the state and set up his own.

20 October 2009, 20:55:29 GMT+01:00
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Actually David as I am sure you know the state is heavily involved in food production. For one, it regulates it, in theory to stop mad cow disease but also to make sure our sausages aren't sold with sawdust in them, or jam isn't sold bulked up with shards of glass. 
In fact, food sold in the classically liberal victorian era was much more dangerous then food today because the free-wheeling free market thought nothing of packing sawdust into sausages on a large scale. This is why regulations and standards agencies were originally conceived. 
So I would think there is indeed a fair case for stating that people would be harmed if the world of agriculture and food delivery was radically deregulated and de-statised. 
The only arguments I have heard in opposition to this sound rather axiomatic and dogmatic really. Take some axioms ("humans should not use force against other humans" as basis of criminal law, and "humans should abide by their word" as basis of civil law, say) and state that they represent an absolute moral good and any violation of them is evil. Thus we must all live in a perfect anarcho-capitalist utopia and any unjustness that may appear to occur as a result are actually just outcomes almost mechanically necessitated from the premises the society is based on. 
Which is nonsense, the real world isn't as dogmatic and perfect as that - its the same disease as inflicts the heads of the far left (marx, hegel) except on the right (hayeck, friedman, rand). 
Of course, if you are a libertarian then you can't have an axiomatic outlook like that - for any state to have a monopoly on the use of force, for any state to even exist, you have to accept the violation of the "use of force" axiom and rationalise it for the greater good. If you believe even a minimal state must exist, then this is what you must believe. 
And once you have done that, it is just a question of degree. You've accepted the use of force for the greater good once, so the question is, how often can you do so? 
There is certainly a good case that "social housing" is one such business. The mechanics of how it is provided - state built housing, vouchers, whatever, are up for argument, but the state has far greater buying power than the individual and can take advantage of scale, so I should think that it is much more cost-effective to collectively bargain or build state housing, than to have each unfortunate a voucher-wielding empire unto himself.

20 October 2009, 14:46:54 GMT+01:00
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David Farrer said...

David Farrer
I had a sleepless night worrying about all those who'll starve in Scotland this winter. 
You see, I'd quite forgotten that we don't have a National Food Service. 
Seriously, if you think that the state (the taxpayer, in reality) should subsidise people's housing or health (or education for that matter) the best way to do so is by issuing them with vouchers. The worst thing is for the state itself to be a provider of those services. 
Of course, I'm a libertarian and therefore don't think that taxpayers should be forced to subsidise others. Libertarians believe that the initiation of force is wrong - and taxation involves force. The only exception that (some) libertarians allow is the financing of the state's sole legitimate purpose - that of protecting us from aggressors. In other words, the provision of police, military and courts.  
A thriving ultra-low tax economy is the best way of helping the poor in society. Let's create that here in Scotland.

20 October 2009, 12:15:32 GMT+01:00
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I'm of a similar opinion to bc on this David. Abolishing the right to buy for council tenants isn't a socialist left wing policy. It's to the taxpayer's advantage. After all the taxpayer built the house so why should they subsidise the purchase of it by the tenant? 
As for providing government housing you'll be well aware that Scotland has done so for generations. That would certainly be a hard nut to crack but it would be worthy of debate. Why not email Scotsvoices and do a post there on it? 
As for Stracathro, what she's doing is cutting out the middle man. I've used Stracathro services recently and they're of good quality as many are within Scotland's NHS. Why pay more when you can provide it cheaper and just as efficiently yourself? 
Although I fervently support Scottish independence I would like to see a heathcare system similar to Germany, Austria or Switzerland. I'm sure the Scandanavian countries have good systems also but I'm not so acquainted with them.

20 October 2009, 00:11:43 GMT+01:00
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How is abolishing right to buy going to make any difference to the state being in the business of housing? Right now, councils build houses, people move into them, and then they buy them well below market rates. 
So effectively there's a subsidy from taxpayers directly into the pocket of the people buying the house. 
Oh, and then the state has to go and build yet more social housing to keep stocks up. 
So the only difference when right to buy is abolished is that social housing stocks can be maintained and there's less direct subsidy from one taxpayers to the socially housed. Taxpayers provide the destitute with housing, but don't give them houses. 
So it is LESS profligate of the state, not more. 
Now, I agree that right to buy was a good idea in the 80s when state housing was at stalinist levels in Scotland. We had to get rid of that. But now we could do with building up social housing stocks again. We're not in a stalinistic housing situation anymore thankfully.