Sunday 28 February 2010

Opinion Polls

Last week:

Conservatives: 39%
Labour: 33%
Liberal Democrats: 17%
Others: 11%


Conservatives: 37%
Labour: 35%
Liberal Democrats: 17%
Others: 11%

Next week:

Bond Market: 100%
Conservatives: 0%
Labour: 0%
Liberal Democrats: 0%
Others: 0%

Thursday 25 February 2010



My Twitter account has been hacked. Password being changed. Please ignore any strange messages.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

How should I vote?

I see that my good friend Sean Gabb is thinking of voting for the Tories.

This is quite a change for Sean and here's the key quote:

This being so, why do I propose to vote Conservative? The answer is that a Conservative Government would probably continue with most of the suicidal or simply demented policies of the Blair and Brown Governments. But, at the end of five years, it would then allow a free election as these things have been commonly understood in England. A re-elected labour Government would not.
I'm sure that Sean includes Scotland as well.

My own position on the forthcoming election is still in doubt.

Let's go back to when I first became interested in politics - back in the late 'sixties. After a brief leftist phase I discovered the IEA and learned quite a bit about economics. I was excited when Ted Heath won the 1970 election, but he rapidly abandoned his free market Selsdon principles and adopted interventionism. In 1972 I discovered libertarianism, joined the Libertarian Alliance (now directed by Sean), and read all the classic stuff by Mises, Hayek, Rand, Friedman and Rothbard.

Things got worse and worse during the rest of the 'seventies. Inflation was rampant and total economic collapse seemed possible. But as far as I can recall we libertarians didn't concern ourselves nearly so much with civil liberties as we do now. Not because civil liberties weren't important but rather because the Wilson/Callaghan Labour governments clearly wanted to nationalise the economy but didn't show anything like as much interest in nationalising our minds and bodies. Unlike their successors today.

This meant that British libertarians were quite supportive of the Thatcher regime as it gradually reduced the growth of the socialised part of the economy and brought inflation back under some sort of control. Sadly there was no serious attempt to tackle the welfare state but lots of us continued to vote for a Conservative party that was clearly better than the alternative.

Along came John Major - infinitely preferable to his Labour successors who enthusiastically supported the ill-fated ERM debacle. And then we got Blair. I for one wasn't fooled for a moment. Blair and Brown have almost destroyed our country. Not only have they ruined the economy, they have almost completely wiped out our civil liberties that have been won over such a long period. I think that fixing the economy will be an easier task than rebuilding civil society.

In 2005 I voted for the Tories but without too much enthusiasm. In 2007 I voted Tory for the Edinburgh City Council but SNP for Holyrood. This was partly a tactical anti-Labour vote and, thank God, Labour got the chop. But my support for the Nationalists wasn't entirely tactical. I do have a great deal of sympathy for the independence cause. My own background is both English and Scottish and I'm proud to say that I've visited every county in the United Kingdom. I also think that the UK has generally been a good thing.

But times change.

We are no longer a world power and it was the Empire that bound us together. Also, Britain is just about the most centralised country of its size - despite devolution. The dominance of London - largely the result of government policies, not of the free market - harms the rest of the country tremendously, especially those of us far from the capital. Scotland has an alternative identity that's not on offer to, say, Yorkshire. Everyone here, including unionists, has an alternate nationalism to the British one. I think that Scottish independence is likely at some time and I'd quite like to be around when it happens. I see no reason for an independent Scotland to be an economic failure - subject to adopting suitable economic policies. I've got the textbooks! And although some other libertarians may disagree, I think that Scotland's relative homogeneity may well be a most useful asset in the future.

But the SNP hasn't quite sealed the deal for me yet. Every time I decide that I'll abandon the Tories for the Westminster vote the SNP indulges in another bout of nanny-statism. Then I start thinking like Sean and lean back towards the Tories only for them to drop another clanger. I know several of the Scottish Conservative candidates and would probably vote for them out of a sense of loyalty were I to live in a relevant constituency. But fortunately perhaps I've never met the local candidate and so my own vote can't be influenced by friendship. Nor do I know the local SNP person. I have seen the Labour candidate on a couple of occasions. He seems to be slightly more knowledgeable about economics than does his boss. If only this Labour chappie would defect to the Libertarian Party my quest would be over. Oh yes, his name is Alistair Darling.

Open your mind

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Banking reform

I went to the David Hume Institute event last night.

The topic:

‘Narrow banking and all that – regulatory reform after the collapse of Scotland’s banks’

Speaker: John Kay

I'd guess that there were around 150 people there, with heavy representation from the banking world. Kay's argument was for the introduction of a regime of narrow banking.

Its purpose:

Their purpose is to ensure that taxpayers will never again be called upon to lay out unimaginably large sums of money to protect financial institutions, and to protect the real economy – non-financial businesses and users of financial services – from the consequences of mismanagement of financial services firms. The interests of the financial services sector itself are secondary to these primary objectives.
I think that Kay's plan is certainly better than what we have now. After the talk I asked Kay about the commodity-backed currency option and the role of fractional reserve banking. He thought that his narrow banking proposals were sufficient to mitigate the effect of the fractional reserve system. I'm not so sure, although I don't think that fractional reserve systems should be outlawed so long as everyone can see what the risks are.

An interesting anecdote. After leaving the University I walked down the road to a Lidl shop to get some milk. Ahead of me in the queue were around a dozen students. Every one of them paid for their purchases using plastic. I used a fiat currency note.

Monday 15 February 2010


Everyone's being going on about the Nicola Sturgeon letter. There's some good discussion over on SNP Tactical Voting.

Jeff writes:

So two former Labour leaders and a former Tory Cabinet Minister write character reference letters and/or involve themselves in court cases at the request of a constituent and it's ok. An SNP MSP does it and she faces "serious questions", calls to resign and a media grilling to within an inch of her political life.
Unsurprisingly, the unionist parties (and their media outlets) have attacked Sturgeon, and nationalists have supported her. But what no one has done is to ask the really obvious question: Why should the state operate a benefits system in the first place?

Obviously it shouldn't.

The non-aggression principle is at the heart of libertarianism. Some libertarians believe that a state is necessary to defend us against aggressors. Others believe that it's possible to do away with the state altogether. No one who accepts the non-aggression principle thinks that the state should take resources from some to give to others. The real scandal of Nicolagate is that all the politicians seem perfectly happy with the benefits culture that's bankrupting the country.

As for Mr Rauf himself, should he go to prison? No, I don't think so. Prison would mean that taxpayers would be funding him yet again. What should happen is that he is fined, say, ten times what he has stolen and that money be used towards cutting taxes.

Sunday 7 February 2010

Scottish wages must be cut

One of the biggest problems we face here in Scotland is over-dependence on public sector employment. And one of the causes of that over-dependence is that public sector wages are all too often set at a common UK level.

In Scotland the price of housing, both rented and owner-occupied, is considerably less than costs in the south of England. That's the result of a lower density of population. In a free market economy we would expect Scottish workers to accept wages less than those available down south and that in turn would encourage businesses to relocate up here.

But we don't have a free market economy, do we? In fact, Scotland has one of the largest state employment sectors in Europe. And as long as many of those government workers are paid the southeast-dominated UK rate this means that private Scottish companies have great difficulty in attracting suitably qualified workers. Why work in the private sector for lower wages, less holidays, less tolerance of time off "sick" and, especially, far less pension entitlement? And why bother to even think about starting your own business in these circumstances?

One of the attractions on an independent Scotland is that it would be forced to think seriously along these lines. An independent Scotland would have no reason to offer government workers rates geared to conditions in London.

I am posting an interesting video from Peter Schiff who is running for the US Senate.


The biggest industry in American Samoa was Tuna canning.

Socialist politicians in Washington legislated to have the US mainland minimum wage law applied to American Samoa.

After this, some of the canning plants closed down and moved to the US mainland and thousands of Samoans lost their jobs. At the mainland wage level it no longer made economic sense to process offshore where incidentally the cost of living for the workers was considerably less than on the mainland.

Ships that had previously taken the canned Tuna to the mainland had brought a large variety of other goods on the return journey from the US itself. Without the outgoing Tuna cargoes the incoming trips became uneconomic. So the Samoans lost their jobs and had their cost of living increased. Thanks government!

The Scottish economy suffers in exactly the same way.

Let the SNP speak out.

I'm still waiting...

Monday 1 February 2010

Scotblogs Awards

Thanks to everyone who voted in this.

Bastiat Alert

That old seen and unseen fallacy never quite goes away, does it?

Here's the latest outbreak:

ALMOST 800 jobs were safeguarded or created in the final quarter of 2009 after Scottish Enterprise paid out more than £7 million in regional selective assistance (RSA).
But how many other jobs were lost as a result of the taxes extracted to pay for the jobs favoured by Scottish Enterprise (sic)?

As the great Bastiat put it:

There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.