Monday 21 May 2018

My interview on Mises UK

The other day I was interviewed by Andy Duncan on the Mises UK website about "Freedom, Whisky, Scotland, & Secession". I am the Scottish spokesman of Mises UK.

And here it is.


Friday 18 May 2018

Scottish referendum in 2014

The day after the referendum I was interviewed by Jeff Deist of the Mises Institute. Here is a link to the interview in which we discuss the referendum from a libertarian angle.

Nikon virtue signalling

I've used Nikon cameras for over thirty years and am currently considering a new camera purchase. For the time being I'm holding off to see what Nikon brings to the mirrorless market later in the year.

But then I read over on Nikon Rumors that Nikon have decided to withdraw from this years National Rifle Association event.

On of the top commenters on Nikon Rumors writes:

I agree, however there are many of us who would like an explanation of why they choose this stance. I have invested some 50k plus in Nikon camera equipment and believe in the company. I also invest in the NRA to the sum of about 100 bucks a year. Clearly Nikon gets much more of my money than the NRA. If it's due to political correctness in order to some how think that we can destroy the NRA then Nikon is no better than a terrorist group that seeks to silence. The NRA does so much for the good of the people we will never hear about

When Delta Airlines cancelled a discount scheme for NRA members (that had only ever been used 13 times!) the airline's home state of Georgia retaliated by cutting a tax break worth $40 million to Delta.

I wonder who on earth made this decision. Was it Nikon in Japan? Nikon's top management in the US or some virtue signalling fool lower down in the hierarchy?

The Second Amendment is supported by a majority of Americans and I'd guess that the kind of folk who buy expensive camera equipment are likely to fall into that group. Nikon, like Canon, are falling behind in the new mirrorless camera world. Pissing off your customers is not exactly a winning strategy.

Sunday 13 May 2018

Recently read

The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England

A fascinating history of the territory that was once neither English nor Scottish but was Britain's wild west. I was born very close to the Debatable Land, in Annan, Dumfriesshire - my mother's home town. My father came from just over the border in Cumbria. I can recall my maternal grandfather telling me about the rescue of the Border reiver Kinmont Willie from Carlisle Castle in 1596. The chief rescuer was the then Duke of Buccleuch. The current Duke is an upright member of the British establishment! In four hundred years or so I expect that most members of the upper house will be libertarians.

Who Built Scotland: A History of the Nation in Twenty-Five Buildings

Good stuff here from Alexander McCall Smith,  Alistair Moffat (a fellow borderer), James Crawford, James Roberston and Kathleen Jamie. There's lot more here than  Edinburgh Castle although, inevitably, it's mentioned.

The Railway Detective

Edward Marston has written a series of these books set in the classic period of Victorian railways. I've read eight of the books so far and can thoroughly recommend them. We have the usual set-up: the inspector in charge of the case and the trusty sergeant side-kick. Just as with Rebus, Morse and so many others. Inspector Colbeck is more a Morse man than a Rebus. The inspector was educated at Oxford, became  a barrister, and then joined Scotland Yard. To catch criminals rather than prosecuting them, but always with the help of Victor Leeming, the tough London sergeant. I detected a touch of the Atlas Shrugged in these books: the great sense of optimism in the railway world with an understanding of those who have Skin in the Game as opposed to those in the predator class. Plus ├ža change.

Tuesday 1 May 2018

My talk at Glasgow University

Back in January I was asked by Keir Martland, of Mises UK, to give a talk to a Glasgow University student group. Here are the notes that I used for my speech:

Austrian Economics and Libertarianism

David Farrer. University of Glasgow 31stJanuary 2018.

Quiz: I buy a pair of shoes for £50. How much are they worth?

Both parties (and society) benefit otherwise there would be no trade.

Personal Introduction.

Trigger Warning: I am not an academic!

Born in Dumfriesshire, grew up in Ayrshire. Five Highers from Ayr Academy.

Moved to London because of father’s job. Worked in insurance, then advertising.

The 1960’s – “Swinging London”. Social freedoms beginning to emerge. 1968: student demonstrations, Vietnam, Kent State, Paris, Grosvenor Square. Started reading newspapers and books. The IEA. Ted Heath and the Selsdon Group.

Qualified as a Chartered Secretary while working full time. Headhunted by GGK (Swiss ad agency) and became Company Secretary and then Finance Director.

Later I obtained a First in History and Economics from the OU while working full time. No sympathy for student subsidies!

In 1970s became the eighth member of the Libertarian Alliance and also its treasurer. Read widely including the Austrian School.

Met Hayek, Friedman and Rothbard at the Alternative Bookshop.

Saw my LA Hayek photo on wall of San Francisco bookshop! According to Chris Tame I had the largest collection of libertarian books in the UK.

Eventually moved to Edinburgh. Wrote the Freedom and Whisky blog. Scottish spokesman of Mises UK. Tuesday Club treasurer.


Positive and Negative liberties. Problems with these terms.

Show the Nolan Chart. Positions for Con, Lab, LibDem, Communist and Nazi. Show Libertarian position (not left or right). SNP – new chart or where on main chart?

17th Century. James VI and I. Charles I. Jenny Geddes 1637 and National Covenant. England and taxation. War of the Three Kingdoms. Cromwell. Puritanism and social restrictions. Restoration and Charles II. Puritans to Massachusetts.

(Hillary Clinton is Oliver Cromwell and Donald Trump is Charles II.)

James VII and II. All goes wrong again. King Billy! Still relevant here in Glasgow: Rangers and Celtic!

Bill of Rights 1689. Separation of powers and freedom of speech. Keep and Bear arms.

1775, 1776, 1783 and 1787. No taxation without representation. First and Second amendments. Separation of Church and State. Separation of Economy and State. US originally more or less libertarian in limited state form.

Non-Aggression Principle. It’s wrong to initiate force or fraud.

How to deal with those who breach the NAP?

First libertarian solution proposed is to form a special institution for that purpose and for that purpose only. It’s called the State.

This is defined as a “Limited State”.

Typically, the State has the police to protect us from domestic force and fraud initiators, the military to protect us from foreign force initiators, and a court system to decide whether someone has or has not aggressed, and, if so, what to do about it. Restitution and reimbursement of costs is to be preferred whenever possible.

But, say other libertarians: this “State” is financed by taxation and is itself a force initiator. Some limited statists (Ayn Rand) have suggested possible ways round this.

The second suggestion is anarcho-capitalism, which means the privatisation of all government functions.

A priori and empirical approaches to AnCap.

Mention Murray Rothbard and Man Economy and State. Power and Market.


Adam Smith (from the Boston Review) John Paul Rollert

When he wrote The Wealth of Nations, he devoted an unusually large amount of space to accounting for the superiority of the Scottish system—and the inferiority of the English.

Universities such as Oxford guaranteed “large salaries” to professors, rendering them “altogether independent of the diligence and success in their professions.”

If a professor is paid regardless of whether he discharges his duty as a teacher, he will tend “to neglect it altogether” or, if he is subject to some higher power, to “perform it in as careless and slovenly a manner as that authority will permit.”

In contrast, at Scottish universities the salaries were fairly small, and professors depended on course subscriptions for the majority of their income. At Glasgow, students paid tuition to gain access to the university, but they also paid honoraria to their particular professors. The fees were small, but taken together, they provided a substantial part of a professor’s income, giving him a strong incentive to become a superior teacher.

So, the question tonight is this. Should all professors at Glasgow University publish their lectures on YouTube, like the blessed Jordan Peterson, and on these professorial websites should there be a “Donate Button” and should a substantial part of a professor’s income be earned in that manner?

On to Austrian Economics.

Fifteenth Century. Followers of St Thomas Aquinas at Salamanca University. These were the Late Scholastics. Economic laws were much like other natural laws. Supply and demand, exchange rates, causes of inflation. Advocates of property rights, freedom of contract. They opposed excessive taxation, price controls and other regulations. Moral Theologians. Tell governments what they cannot do.

Richard Cantillon. Thought experiments. To explain economics. (1730). The market as an entrepreneurial process. Austrian theory of money creation. Enters the economy step-by-step. The Cantillon effect. Now, with added QE!

Turgot, Say and Bastiat. No over or underproduction in a free market (Say). Broken Window Fallacy (Bastiat).

Labour value theory held in Britain leading to Marxism.

Carl MengerPrinciple of Economics1871 founder of Austrian School, continuing on from the earlier folk. Jevons and Walras at same time.

Subjective basis of economic value and theory of marginal utility.

Money emerges in the free market as the most marketable commodity. What about Bitcoin?

Science of Human Action.

Historical School. Berlin. Nazis.

Freddy von Wieser. Eugen Bohm-Bawerk (Positive Theory of Capital) – normal rate of profit is the interest rate.

Ludwig von Mises.

Theory of Money and Credit. Marginal Utility applies to money. The regression Theorem.

Human Action.

Economic truths derived from self-evident axioms. Cannot be empirically tested.

Austrian theory of the business cycle.

Impossibility of calculation under socialism because it has no private capital nor a market in capital goods. No way of knowing what to make. The end of civilisation.

That’s why Corbynism can’t work.

See the Soviet Union. 120 million dead.

Mises to Switzerland then USA. Rothbard and others. Man, Economy and State.

Rand and the libertarian movement.

Hayek. Road to Serfdom. IEA. Anthony Fisher. Harris and Seldon.

Ludwig Erhard.

Mises Institute. Lew Rockwell. Jeff Deist (interviewed me after Scottish referendum). Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

The institute is not in the beltway.

Science of Economics

Only individuals choose. Not groups.

The study of the market order is fundamentally about exchange behaviour and the institutions within which exchanges take place.

The “facts” of the social sciences are what people believe and think.

Utility and costs are subjective.

The price system economises on the information that people need to process in making their decisions.

Private property in the means of production is a necessary condition for rational economic calculation.

The competitive market is a process of entrepreneurial discovery.

Money is non-neutral. Prices do not adjust instantaneously throughout the system (Cantillon effect). QE. Inflation is socially harmful. It steals from the productive. Arrest Mark Carney now!

Capital Structure consists of heterogeneous goods that have multispecific tasks.

Social Institutions often the result of human action but not of human design. E.g the market economy and the price system.

Any questions?

Friday 27 April 2018

Count Dankula and the Scottish press

I posted a link to my Monday Airdrie photos and now wish to give some observations on the whole Dankula affair. 

What was particularly fascinating was the reporting and commentary in the Scottish media.

Take for example this piece in the Herald.

Haggerty acknowledges that she is "leaning more favourably towards the free speech side" but that "context is everything". She goes on to discuss the "far right" but gives no definition of that term. She states that legacy publications like the Herald "understand the need to balance freedom of speech with responsibility" and compares that process to how things are done on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, their processes supposedly allowing the "far right" to dominate the digital space

What's completely missing here is any acknowledgement that the big digital platforms are dominated by cultural Marxists who hate not just the "far right" (however defined) but also traditional conservatives, classical liberals and libertarians. That's why so many on the "right" have had their digital platforms removed without further ado. How many leftists have been similarly targeted? Not many.

The idea that Trump became President by using social media "in the darkest way that we have ever seen" is bizarre in the extreme. He became President by campaigning strongly in the key swing states that determine the outcome in the electoral college. Hillary Clinton ignored those states and even referred to their inhabitants as "deplorables". That one word probably cost her the election. Simply put, she was a terrible candidate despite having overwhelming support from the legacy media in the US and indeed over here in the UK. The Herald itself loved Hillary and still does.

Haggerty misses out a hugely important point. Mark Meechan (Dankula) used to have a picture of Lenin on his wall. Meechan was a communist, not a nazi, and communists murdered many more folk than even the nazis. We libertarians are opposed to both international socialists like Lenin and national socialists like Hitler. Why can't the press distinguish between freedom and tyranny? Using terms like "left" and "right" is so last week...

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Rules of the road

Last week I attended an event in Edinburgh. After dinner there was discussion about prisons and their role in society. One of our number suggested that unnecessary drug laws were responsible for many folk ending up in prison. I agreed and also made the point that the state was far too intrusive generally. For example, pub owners should be allowed to decide whether smoking should (or should not) be allowed in their premises.

I was asked whether it should be compulsory to wear seat belts and I replied in the negative. Afterwards I realised that I’m far too used to discussing such matters with fellow libertarians. I would have elaborated further had there been more time.

The correct answer is, of course, that it should be up to the owner of the road to decide.

A farmer who has a private road running to his farm should be free to make the rules for that road, including whether or not someone should be obliged to wear a seat belt.

Similarly, the private owners of Silverstone allow Grand Prix drivers to go at rather more than the “national” speed limit of 70 mph. I don’t think that any of those drivers get speeding tickets.

My questioner was no doubt thinking about state owned roads. As always, the owner gets to set the rules. Including when the owner is the state. Whether or not the state should own roads is quite another question…

If I owned the M8 or Lothian Road I’d set rules for users. Those rules may well include the use of seat belts and speed limits. In fact, they probably would.

We libertarians must remember that not everyone spends all day studying the finer points of our philosophy.

Count Dankula

You can see my photographs taken at the Count Dankula sentencing over here:

Starting again..

I've decided that it's time to restart this blog.

The very first post in 2002 started as follows:

Welcome to this new blog. The title Freedom and Whisky links the two themes of this blog: libertarianism and Scotland. The libertarianism will, however, sometimes extend beyond events in Scotland and I shall also be covering non-political news of interest to me north of the border.

There's really nothing to add to that. 

Freedom and Whisky will continue just as before.

So why the long gap?

In the lead up to the 2014 referendum I had entered into semi-retirement and was able to spend a vast amount of time following the national debate. Like most Scottish libertarians whom I know I voted for Scottish independence as the more decentralist option. Similarly I voted for Brexit, also the decentralist position. Needless to say this doesn't mean that I support the current extraordinarily authoritarian Scottish government nor indeed the utterly incompetent UK one. After the Scottish referendum I'd just become totally "blogged out", and since then have spent far too much time reading other folks' online pronouncements.

Now mine will start again...

Sunday 22 April 2018