26 August 2011

What went wrong on council estates?

An interesting programme on BBC 4 last night largely lauded the massive expansion in local government owned housing in the UK in much of the 20th century, driven partly by socialist beliefs that the state could supply people with better housing than they had, to the point where eventually 60% of the population lived in council housing.

However, it brought out some rather interesting points that showed both the dark side of the spread of council housing, but also what went wrong.

The dark side was how it was an excuse for slum clearances.  Large swathes of cities, populated by people in poverty, but living on otherwise empty land or in very cheap rental accommodation, were bulldozed to put in housing estates - for other people.  They were not built for the homeless or the needy, but were built for the employed, for couples and families and people had to pay rent sufficient to keep the place maintained.   

To get council housing, people needed to be vetted.  They needed letters of reference from their employer to prove that Mr. X was a fit and proper person, didn't have any criminal convictions and earned enough money to pay the rent.  Those on welfare alone, those without work and those who had committed crimes were not going to get homes provided by the state.  Indeed, their homes could be swept aside with aplomb so that the aspiring working classes could get homes.

The result was that even when the grotesque Corbusier style housing estates started popping up around the UK (many built by private investors with extensive state subsidies), their first generation of residents were proud aspirational people on relatively low to middling incomes.  

They were almost entirely couple or families.  Intact families, not single parent families.  They were almost entirely employed and as they were all people who aspired for a better life, instilled the work ethic they had into their children.  They lived as a community together, and instilled the same ethic in each others' children.  Most of all, because they had to be able to afford to pay rent, they treated these communal areas as their own, with some pride.  When a family gained such a flat, they had it until they wanted to leave as long as they paid up.  If they stayed, their children could inherit the right to remain tenants.

To a non-socialist it sounds absurd, the state providing permanent housing, but it was the state effectively providing housing on a similar basis to the private sector.  By renting to people who aspired, to people who gave a damn, and who had a stake in their new rental homes, it meant the social structure was of people who were not an underclass of criminal parasites, who did not vandalise and terrorise, and who did act as a community of voluntary interacting adults (and children).

What changed?

Some on the left would blame Thatcher and mass unemployment, because it left many families struggling and men in particular lacking "purpose" and motivation.   However, the change happened in the decade or so before Thatcher.

Some on the right would blame mass immigration.  Yet it was pointed out that quite a few residents of these estates WERE Afro-Caribbean or South Asian families, with the same aspiration and work ethic as the indigenous British.   Some would blame a change in the traditional family, as women did not stay at home to look after their children, but went out working.

One factor is certainly the social change in the 1960s and 1970s that saw the rise of divorce and single parent families.  Included with that is the cultural change from families that were tight knit, well disciplined and bound by a Judeo-Christian code of ethics that had hardened during the war, to a moral relativist attitude of "do what you like".   The breakdown of traditional families hit both indigenous British and Afro-Caribbean families the most, as migrants from India and Pakistan tended to retain close family ties.

However, the single biggest factor, explained by the programme, was the removal of vetting for council housing.  It was deemed "discriminatory" for people to be vetted based on income, so council housing was there for the poor, regardless of employment or indeed criminal history.  Council estates became the places were people went to live when they got out of prison, it became the place to live when you couldn't afford anything else or private landlords wouldn't rent to you.   The culture of hard work and aspiration was eroded by a culture of violence, thieving, vandalism and disregard for the property and lives of others.

It was exacerbated by the expansion of the welfare state into supporting single parents who had never been married, or de facto couples, into paying more for every child, and so rewarding fecklessness. 

Council estates moved from being places were having a home was a privilege, earned by meeting minimum standards set by the owner (the council) and paid for, to places where anyone could go.  The result was that they became the breeding grounds for the parasitical entitlement led mob that recently went on a rampage.  

It is what happens when you reward fecklessness and bad behaviour, whilst penalising frugality and hard work.  Consider that the British government is currently printing money and producing ultra low interest credit on a scale that means the average bank account owner LOSES 5% of his money every year, but still insists on adjusting welfare to that inflation (although few working in the private sector are having pay rises to match inflation).   

Consider that there is a debate only now about whether to deny convicted rioters and looters welfare, or to evict them from council housing (and of course the shrill cries from the left about how "unfair" it is and it will just make them do it again - as if their policies stopped it).

The socialism of the 1960s and 1970s saw council estates in the UK sink into the abyss of squalor, bad behaviour and welfarism, as the end of full employment, the breakdown of traditional families, the rewards of unconditional free money and housing, and the end of vetting council tenancies saw the worst of society being hothoused in what one old council tenant described as "holes".

It has failed.  It is time to sell out these estates, to stop building new ones, and to let the criminals, the feckless and the anti-social try their luck with charity.   Of course those who claim to give a damn about all of them rarely think it is right that they pay out of their own pocket voluntarily, for a charity to help house rapists, thieves and child abusers - but they want you to be forced to do so.

Annoy the Greens - support a road

OK, so this may be a bit of mischief making, but given that the Greens use public consultation processes as a chance to lobby and gain publicity, I figured that a few of you might want to respond in kind.  Especially since the Greens are telling enormous porkies in their anti-road campaign.

Now this project basically involves completing the four laning of Wellington Road and Ruahine Street to a second Mt Victoria Tunnel, and a flyover from the existing tunnel to Buckle St so through traffic bypassing the city can bypass the crowded Basin Reserve roundabout.   The section to be fixed is the only remaining major bottleneck between the city and the airport, given half of the route has been a four lane 70km/h highway since the airport opened.  At the city end the one-way system the Greens were prepared to stand in front of bulldozers to stop, feeds the traffic to and from the motorway to the north of the region. 

All of the land involved in this project was designated for road widening or the tunnel duplication over 40 years ago, and much of it is held by the NZTA for this purpose. None of it should be news as it was envisaged by the De Leuw Cather report on Wellington transport in the early 1960s that proposed the Wellington Urban Motorway (fully built as far as Bowen St, half built to Vivian St then unbuilt) and an underground railway extension to Courtenay Place. However, the Greens (and its ginger group Campaign for Better Transport) are opposing it, because it is a road, and trucks and cars will use it.  They would prefer those going by car to catch the bus, or to spend a fortune of other people's money on their favourite totem - a rail scheme, which of course would lose a lot of money, to be paid for by other people's money, and wouldn't meet the needs of most of the road users.  

There is already a limited stop commercially viable bus service running every 15 minutes that bypasses the congestion from the airport to the city and the Hutt, with free wifi - so there isn't a lack of public transport.

Now you’d expect the Greens to focus their efforts on the most expensive (and permanent) part of the plan and to oppose the second tunnel because it will remove a major bottleneck that slows down car and truck traffic from the airport and eastern suburbs. The effect will be for buses to be less competitive, because many use a parallel one-way bus only tunnel to bypass the congestion. On top of that it doesn’t have a positive benefit/cost ratio, an argument used to oppose extending Auckland’s Northern Motorway to Wellsford, but curiously ignored whenever the Greens advocate rail based projects (unless the results are gerrymandered to suit the outcome sought).

However, the Greens aren’t opposing a second Mt Victoria Tunnel, not loudly anyway. They are opposing the Basin Reserve flyover – because it is a flyover.

The flyover is the part of the project with the best economic return and it will have the most positive impact on pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. Why? Because reducing about a third of the traffic flow around the Basin will allow for longer crossing phases for pedestrians, and for cycle lanes to be established along with bus lanes. Buses coming from Adelaide Road towards the city wont face queues backing up from Buckle St. However, these facts get in the way of the ideological tunnel-vision of the anti-car, anti-road lobby.   The bridge is "ugly" and part of an “outdated vision” because apparently nowhere else in the world are cities building new roads – except everywhere of course. A few hundred metres of two lane one way road over a roundabout wouldn’t get people excited in Melbourne, Oslo, Vancouver or Paris, but it’s a road, so it’s evil.

Some are pushing for an alternative plan, which doesn't work because it rules out two current major movements (between Adelaide Rd and Mt Victoria Tunnel).

So if you want to show your support for the people who pay for state highways (the whole project is fully fundable from fuel taxes and road user charges), then put in a quick submission in support.  You can be sure the Greens will have rounded up a few thousand to oppose it - because it's a road.

There is an online form here.  So support a decent highway from Wellington airport to the city, indeed from the growing media and film sector based in Miramar to the city.

Oh and the deadline is today.

UPDATE:  See the Greens are already seeking you support their groupthink agitprop.

Some of the nonsense written by Gareth Hughes:

"Wellington needs urgent investment in public transport and safer cycling and walking".

Really? Beyond the hundreds of millions spent on brand new trains, extending electrification to Waikanae, upgrading the Johnsonville line for new trains, upgraded stations, new rail infrastructure, new trolley buses?  What's unsafe with cycling and walking? Missing a footpath? 

"It certainly doesn’t need an 8 metre high flyover that will deface much of Wellington’s heritage precinct including the war memorial, the Mother Aubert crèche and the Basin Reserve."

Much? You mean between Buckle Street and Mt Victoria Tunnel?  That's "much" of the heritage precinct? Deface by having a bridge skirt the northern side?  Hyperbole again.

"In particular, we support light rail from the CBD out to the airport."

Of course you do.  You have a religious passion for light rail.  Forget it would cost hundreds of millions, lose money, not relieve congestion, put a privately run commercial unsubsidised bus service out of business, and not meet the needs of freight or people travelling from outside the CBD to the airport - it's light rail, bow down and get excited, it's cool man.

"Wellingtonians do not need an uneconomic urban motorway that will take out dozens of homes, depreciate land value, reduce the town belt and increase air and noise pollution."

It isn't an urban motorway.  The homes are either state owned or on land long designated for road widening.  The effect on the town belt is derisory, and there isn't evidence it will increase pollution.

"Cities such as Seoul and Seattle regretted building flyovers in their cities and have replaced them with attractive and spacious urban design."

One in Seoul, plenty more remain.  In Seattle it was weakened by an earthquake and it is now being replaced with a tolled bored tunnel highway - exactly the type of bypass for Wellington you all opposed.   Such a conspicuous lie.

"There is no evidence to suggest there is a need for such a costly and imposing roading project." Several kilometre long traffic queues for 1.5 hours every morning from Mt Victoria Tunnel, and the same around Oriental Bay.  No, no evidence at all.  Long evening queues southbound towards the Basin holding up all traffic, including buses heading for Newtown.  No evidence.

"demand for better public transport is sky-rocketing".  Which is why the airport bus frequencies have improved.  More fare revenue, but then you don't really approve of anyone making money from transport.

"In the short-term, better traffic signalling and bus priority measures would largely mitigate congestion around the Basin at a fraction of the cost."

Says who? The architects who developed a "solution" that prohibits traffic movement between the tunnel and Newtown?  How would this mitigate the queue from Mt Victoria Tunnel

"Light rail through the CBD out to the airport is a cheaper and more sustainable option that would  alleviate congestion and offer commuters an affordable option in the face of future oil price rises."

Cheaper?  How?  Don't have a price do you?  Loses how much money?  Where in the world have new light rail schemes alleviated congestion?  How is it an option for freight, or people going to/from the airport from the rest of the region?  How is it affordable when you need to increase rates or other taxes to pay for it?

Just loads of empty vacuous spin, worshipping the altar of new subsidised railways, freight is invisible, as are any people not travelling to and from the CBD.

They are even so backwards in thinking that they don't push congestion charging, bit too much "user pays" and high tech for a party that loves trams?

What's really pathetic is that the Greens have stopped arguing against new roads because of them not being economic, but chooses to lie about what they will do and the basis for them.

24 August 2011

Democracy is not freedom

I'm not as pessimistic as Peter Cresswell over Libya, because the country has never itself been a hotbed of Islamism, and there has been only scant evidence of Islamist involvement in the rebel movement.  Indeed, the loudest claims about Islamists have come from the Gaddafi regime, keen to scare its erstwhile Western friends into supporting Gaddafi.  Libya has had over 40 years of a regime that embraced Islam, but also pushed a secularist agenda based on Gaddafi's erratic Green Book.   Libya neither has the history of Islamism that Egypt has had, nor the poverty and sectarianism that have bolstered Islamism elsewhere.  Of course, I hope I am not wrong, yet there is a window of hope for Libya emerging.

I believe Libya will have a better future without Gaddafi, but let's not pretend that "liberation" of Libya means Libyans will be free - they will simply be less oppressed and have some freedoms that were denied them under Gaddafi.  For the oft-repeated statement "the Libyan people will now be in control of their destiny" or "the Libyan people will not determine their future" has been said in some form or another by the likes of Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy and others.

However what does that mean?

At best what they mean is that Libyan can become a democracy, and that Libyans can then vote for their government.  

However, ticking a box on a ballot is not being in control of your destiny.

A functioning liberal democracy (bear in mind that in the Arab world only Iraq can be said to come close to this) has to have certain core freedoms to function.  Freedom of assembly and association, so that political parties can be formed and operate, and for people to organise politically outside parties, are rather essential.   Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are essential for a proper contest of ideas to occur.   Almost as important are for the core functions of the state to operate objectively, so that when laws are enforced they do not target based on political belief, or when elections are held, the counting or management is not subject to corruption.

It would be a bold presumption to say that Libya is about to get all of that.  For even some ostensibly liberal democracies in Europe have struggled to manage this 20 years after the end of the communist bloc.

However, even if Libya appeared to have all of that, would Libyans really have control of their own destiny?

Unless Libya's future government is constitutionally constrained to protect Libyan's individual freedom, then all democracy will do is put their destiny in the hands of the largest number of hands.   You don't have control of your destiny, when your rights are up for a vote.

For example, will Libya protect apostasy?  It hasn't been a crime so far, but it is a serious criminal offence in much of the Muslim world, including Egypt (with the death penalty in many countries).

Will Libyan private property rights be protected?  Human rights advocates rarely care at all about this, yet it is about protecting the products of people's minds, which is essential for survival.

Will Libyans be entitled to live their lives in peace as long as they respect the rights of other Libyans to do the same?  Or will they face restrictions based on politics or religion?

The only way Libyans will have control over their own destiny, is when the word "they" means "each and every individual independently deciding how to live their lives" in peace with each other.

That could only come if Libya gained a government that existed not to initiate force against them, but to protect them from the initiation of force.   To ensure that under a liberal democracy, it would need a constitution to protect that.   I doubt that in the wildest dreams of most of the rebels that such an idea is in the minds of many.

Eliminating a totalitarian dictatorship, particularly one that was so outwardly aggressive towards other countries (though funnily enough you rarely heard the so-called "peace" movement decrying Libyan imperialism), is positive.  It is likely Libyans will have more freedom than they have had for a long time, but let's not pretend that they will have "control of their destiny".  

At best they will have a very small say in the government that will control their destiny.   It is like asking the slaves to vote on who will be their master.

23 August 2011

Keynesians steal from the aspiring middle classes

You might have noticed the price of gold skyrocketing in the past year or so.  You might wonder if this is a bubble that is going to pop, spectacularly.  Well, it might, but there is a reason why gold (and to a lesser extent silver and platinum) are becoming preferred investments, it is because of fears about the alternatives.  Those fears are because of the abject failure of the Keynesians to deal with a financial crisis that started with a fiat money fueled credit bubble, exacerbated by perpetual government deficits and "saved" by printing money.

You see the real bubble which is being manufacted is inflation.  Central bankers and governments invented the euphemism "quantitative easing" to hide what they are really doing - because most kids at school learnt in economics why printing money doesn't make any sense.  However, quantitative easing is printing money.  It is the easy solution of dictators who don't know how to pay their soldiers, civil servants and the like.  Now it is the easy solution of elected governments who are afraid to let prices collapse in those parts of their economies subject to the credit bubbles, and who are afraid of being forced with the full reality that they have been engaging in fiscal child abuse for decades.   The French government for example, started running deficits in the mid 1970s, so it was borrowing off of people who are now in their 30s and facing either higher taxes or less "benefits", so that their parents and grandparents could have an easier life.

Investors are moving into gold because inflation mean that a whole host of typically "safe" investments no longer are.  Conventional bank deposits (even ignoring the risk of some banks that face sovereign debt risks)
will now not pay enough to cover inflation.  Furthermore, government bonds are now seen as significantly riskier than they once were because of the default of Greece and the near defaults of many others.  Those without such risks are paying such low rates of interest (for demand is so high), they are insufficient to compensate for inflation, so investors diversify their "safe" investments.

Of course what this means is that the vast bulk of the population, who put their savings in "the bank" in some form or another, are losing their money.   In effect, their government is stealing from them by printing money in order to avoid the consequences of others facing devaluations in their businesses, property or other assets.

To put it simply, the Keynesians, who can be seen in both government and opposition in most major governments, are stealing from the vast bulk of the population, by stealth, in order to avoid the fallout of letting some selected businesses and assets from collapsing in value to correct the years of the credit bubbles.   Who does that hurt?  It hurts the young and those on relatively lower incomes who do not have property or do not have any other savings mechanisms.   Don't expect the politicians on the centre-right to have an answer, because they'd rather stay in power, like those on the centre-left.  Those on the far-left want to put their heads in the sand completely, and pretend inflation isn't an issue.

It is - the evidence is seen in gold.

One alternative to gold are to buy shares, which of course many have been doing, although the sheer volatility and complexity of it means that it works well for larger investors and institutional investors who have the in-house expertise to spread risk and seek opportunities for bargains, particularly looking at more robust foreign shareholdings.  The other is property, which of course has been the source of part of the problem in the first place.

The property conundrum is that there have clearly been significant property bubbles in many countries facing the crisis, such as Ireland, Spain, the US and the UK.  Australia has a bubble, but that is commensurate to its own commodity led economic buoyancy.  New Zealand's one is more volatile.   However, we may yet see the spectre of property prices easing up as investors see less risk of losing value in property than in inflation.

Now Central Bank governors and governments may claim that if inflation takes off (we are talking around 5% now, so it's hardly dead) then interest rates will be increased, and the usual monetarist solution to inflation will be applied.  Except, of course, what happens with stagflation?  Will the Keynesians insist that when economic growth is nascent that there should be more and more money printed, and forget inflation?  In which case, batten down the hatches for that battle wont be won.  Or will the monetarists tighten the screws on credit and interest rates, and strangle what little growth there is to kill off the bubble of inflation created by the Keynesians?

For Barack Obama, David Cameron or indeed John Key, the hope is that this doesn't come to pass.   None would swallow what they would have to do to ride things out, which is to give up on printing money, let a significant correction in asset prices occur (including a major slump in property prices and share prices), stop deficit spending and begin the long slow road towards economic recovery based on setting businesses free.

Instead for all of their weasel words, they will continue to steal from the vast bulk of the public by creating inflation, devaluing their own public debt, and creating cheap credit to save themselves from facing voters with the reality of many years of boom and bust economics based on fiat money.

Keynesianism failed before, and it is failing now.  It is about time that both it, and monetarism were consigned to history and a serious investigation begin as to how to reform monetary policy with free banking.   If you think that sounds absurd or frightening, then reflect on the past three years and give a better solution.

22 August 2011

Bye bye Gaddafi, well done rebels and NATO

From the reports overnight, it appears that the Gaddafi regime is either in tatters or on the verge of engaging a final bloody battle. I wouldn’t put it past Gaddafi to do the latter, for the one thing that can be certain of the last 40 years of his regime, it is his willingness to lie incessantly and to react murderously on a whim.

There is, of course, great reason to celebrate the end of Gaddafi. He has spent his whole career following a megalomaniacal path of personality cult and self-aggrandisement, considering himself to be leader of Africa (and getting a semi-polite muted response from most of the rest of Africa, mainly because it looked forward to gaining some of his oil wealth in exchange for his friendship) and supporter of umpteen terrorist causes from around the world. He has over that period aided, funded and armed plenty from the IRA to the 1970s Marxist terrorist gangs in the West, such as the Red Army Faction and Red Brigades in West Germany and Italy. He supported communist insurgents in the Philippines, and often declared his solidarity with the Palestinians, though was not exactly a friend of the PLO. Of course he will be most well known in the West for the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 and the bombing of a West Berlin disco in 1986.   He also provided extensive funds to the Ceausescu regime in its development of a weapons industry (Gaddafi and Ceausescu were particularly warm with each other), whilst Romanian spies stole intellectual property from Western firms, and both countries developed chemical weapons.

Perhaps the one odd thing about Gaddafi is that you can almost always predict that he would be on the side of the dictatorial, the fascist, the murdering and the anti-Western. He supported Idi Amin in his fight against Tanzania, and granted the murderous brute asylum when he was overthrown. He supported the Iranian revolution and has long maintained warm relations with the Iranian Islamist regime.

He waged war against his dirt poor southern neighbour of Chad, and bombed a French airliner in retaliation for French intervention to protect Chad. All the time having warm relations with the USSR, and gaining Soviet arms. He pursued development of chemical weapons although has never used them. More recently, Libya sought to improve relations with the rest of the world, but notably provided cheap oil to Zimbabwe in solidarity with Robert Mugabe. He also supported the now fallen Tunisian dictatorship of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

Domestically, he ran an economy almost entirely dependent on oil wealth that would rise and fall according to the price of oil. In the 1970s he embarked on a socialist programme that included at one point free supermarkets, but this all collapsed in the 1980s as oil prices dropped and economic sanctions from the West tightened up markets for Libya. The more recent rises in oil prices have helped, along with his sudden willingness to co-operate with the West following the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime. This, of course, saw him courting plenty willing to turn a blind eye to his past, from Prince Andrew to the London School of Economics.

Meanwhile, he ran a regime that was heavily focused on his own personality cult and the worship of his incoherent body of ranting called the Green Book. In this he mixes Islam, socialism and a disdain for free speech and liberal democracy in the style of an unhinged man. He would be funny, if he were not so lethal. Gaddafi was always ruthless towards political opponents or those suspected of plotting against the regime. Like any such regime he ran a ruthless secret police force, and Libya was never ever a haven for human rights.

Anyone with a smidgeon of belief in freedom will celebrate his overthrow, although it is unclear what will follow, it is difficult to imagine it could be worse. Certainly, the risk of an Islamist revolution seems slight in Libya. As a curious footnote, it might be worthwhile to find those in New Zealand who were once acolytes of Gaddafi. Like veteran Maori radical Mike Smith, the late communist radical Syd Jackson felt warm about Gaddafi’s regime. New Zealand’s media is all incredibly forgiving of those who were friends with mass murderers, but then again what can you expect from those who don't check their facts to justify an editorial line.

Meanwhile, keep an eye out for the fifth columnists in the West who will denounce all of this, who will claim that all along they opposed Gaddafi, but also opposed NATO’s intervention to protect the rebels and civilians from Gaddafi’s own war against his own people.   People like Andrew Murray, a noted sympathiser of the Kim Jong Il hereditary nepotocracy, who not long ago was damning the whole thing in the Guardian.  The ones who would rather sit on the fence and impale their moral reputation than accept that a people have overthrown a militarist dictatorship, that was more than willing to use its own army to crush opposition. For you see, for the leftist apologists of Gaddafi to accept that, they would have to accept that NATO did GOOD, that the UK and France (let’s not pretend the Obama Administration led this, or did more than come in behind) acted morally and justifiably against this murderous tyrant. Watch now as they point at Syria and say it is hypocritical not to intervene there, yet these very same people would oppose such a move. Watch as they deftly ignore Castro and Chavez's warm support for Gaddafi, brothers in blood spilling.  Dare a NZ journalist ask Hone Harawira's view on any of this?  Maybe someone might seek to go to Tripoli to do some research on the regime's archives and see how many lowlives worldwide were paid off by this regime?

Watch also as Obama, suddenly come out of his shell, to proclaim a kind of victory months after he was the do-nothing President.  

This is a victory by ordinary Libyans, who watched their neighbours in Tunisia and Egypt reject tyranny.  It was supported by NATO, but only because Cameron and Sarkozy were determined to prevent a bloodbath on their doorstep (and had a degree of guilt for how UK and French governments had appeased the regime in recent years).  Italy and Germany were obstructive, the USA tagged on behind.

Now is a chance to rebuild, for Libya to be a friend and for the truths of Gaddafi's decades of waging war on the outside world and tyranny on his own people, to come out.

UPDATEThe New Statesman reminds us of some of Gaddafi's erstwhile friends.  Remember the one career where you can be feted internationally, at the expense of foreign taxpayers, whilst maintaining a record of mass murder, is to be a politician.  Yet so many people still like politicians to make decisions for them.

Professor Juan Cole writes top ten myths of the war in Libya.  It includes the perpetual (and vile) claim that it is all about oil.

16 August 2011

Ed Miliband's scapegoat for looters

It is the mainstream view in the UK that the riots reflect, in part, a breakdown of morals. Politicians across the spectrum have said this, even Labour Leader "Red" Ed Miliband said the riots were "inexcusable". He knew that taking the line of Ken Livingstone that the riots were because of cuts, would have ended his political career as Labour would have been sidelined, even by its loyal sycophants - the BBC and the Guardian - as being on the fringes. So he waited, now it is a moral breakdown, but not one that is the responsibility of the people who rioted or their parents.

The problem is not the systematic failure of the welfare state, education system and a fundamental breakdown of ethics among hundreds of thousands, it is “greed, selfishness and gross irresponsibility” he is reported as saying by the Daily Telegraph. He accused David Cameron of a “shallow and superficial response”. He ought to know, he is the master of it.

On the face of it, most would agree with such a phrase, but within it lies something far more pernicious.

For he deflects blame from those who actually committed the crimes, or those who negligently don't police their children (or even encourage them) to say:

The bankers who took millions while destroying people's savings: greedy, selfish, and immoral; the MPs who fiddled their expenses: greedy, selfish, and immoral; the people who hacked phones at the expense of victims: greedy, selfish and immoral

The moral relativism comes out once again, but most disturbing is how he can't see the underlying contradiction in his empty argument.

MPs' expenses are an easy target, not one anyone will disagree with. He included it because it looks “introspective” for an MP to blame “his own”. However, it is curious that it took a Conservative leaning newspaper – the Daily Telegraph – to “out” all of this, and it “outed” MPs from all parties. It wasn’t Ed Miliband who did it. Of course the qualitative difference between MPs who get legitimate expenses paid and those who got more is rather insignificant, although Ed will claim it is material. It is OK for MPs to be paid for by taxpayers, who have no choice to pay them, not OK if the MPs get more by committing fraud and lying about it - noting that obfuscation of the truth, and telling half stories is the stock and trade of being an MP.  Ignoring his acquiescence during this entire period, and his full participation in the last government is a demonstration of that. 

He raises the phone hacking case, because it is part of Labour's vendetta against News Corp for turning on it, when they had been getting on so well when Blair led the party.  The phone hacking cases are under investigation. They are alleged cases of trespass into people’s voicemail accounts. Certainly a serious concern, but then again it is not quite the same as destroying someone’s home, or business, or murdering them, or raping them. Is it Ed? However, this is part of Ed’s monologue that you can point fingers at “big business” or in this case privately owned media that isn’t slavishly sycophantic to his view of the world, or he himself. Phone hacking is an initiation of force, but is different dramatically in terms of degree of impact and consequences to the riots.  Yes it is a criminal case, but why not raise the spectre of the students who looted the Conservative Party headquarters, or the shootings and knivings in low income areas?  That would be shifting blame to the perpetrators you see.

However, note how he put his enemy number one in the sights.  Labour has a new scapegoat to blame for the economy, the deficit and now social breakdown and disorder.  

He said that the looters were acting like the legendary “bankers who took millions while destroying people’s savings”. Who were they Ed? Doesn’t matter, as it has become part of Labour folklore that the recession is entirely because of bankers, and the budget deficit is because of bankers. What people’s savings were destroyed Ed, when the government guarantees up to £85,000 in personal bank deposits? Who did bankers “take” from? Their employers? Since when is being paid your salary and bonus, but making bad business decisions “taking” something like committing arson, murder, rape, vandalism or thieving? Yes some banks made out loans to people who couldn’t pay them, but these were decisions made by consent. The more fundamental problems were around those who invested too heavily in property in some locations, when moral hazards weren't identified and monetary policy that offered fiat money as unearned credit.  The financial crisis was a series of errors and mistakes, largely by people who took decisions that were legal and unsustainable, including politicians.  Bank bailouts should never have happened, but does Miliband truly think people who make monumental catastrophic business and public policy errors are like criminals?  By what measure does he rank himself, his own colleagues, and his former leader Gordon Brown as being a part of all of this?

Many of the looters – especially the younger ones – would have had no idea that MPs abused their expenses. Britain’s dispossessed minority does not watch the news or read papers; many are functionally illiterate, having been let down by sink schools, collapsed families, terrible neighbourhoods and gang culture. The vast majority are so far from the mainstream of the economy that they don’t understand what investment bankers do. The only rich people they are properly aware of are footballers, entertainers or local gang leaders. There is no empirical link between the crisis of 2008, the subsequent bailouts and the looting of 2011.

The moral bankruptcy of his moral relativism is astonishing. Ed was happy being part of a Labour government with billions of tax revenue fed from banks and their staff, to pay for its generous welfare state, Leninist style health system and overexuberant capital expenditure. However, now he treats them as “the enemy”. Fine Ed, close the City of London, see how much of the UK’s GDP disappears when you treat an entire sector of the economy as if they were feral youth who do nothing but destroy.

After all Ed, when have you EVER created wealth? You’ve never created a business in your life. You’ve never really worked for the private sector, for the people who pay taxes. You’ve spent your life living in a very exclusive part of London, absent of poverty and those you claim to give a damn about. Raised on Marxism, you’ve never seriously questioned what you were weaned on, and now you want power, and you damn thousands of people who bring income into the country and live lifestyles that are NOT criminal (but pay buckets of tax that you and your colleagues live off of).

Think for a few moments about the moral equivalency Ed Miliband has put together.

Bankers who made poor judgments about investments that bankrupted their employers, (but not the politicians who used taxpayers' money without consent to rescue the banks) are the same as the:

- Driver of the car that mowed down three young men on the footpath in Birmingham;
- The boy who beat an old man into a coma for complaining about a fire lit in front of his home;
- The men who stole from the student who already had a broken jaw;
- The man who set fire to a shop just to watch it burn down;
- The groups who lined up in a queue to steal from shops.

Ed Miliband doesn’t pick on the people who raise feral children, doesn’t pick on the ASBO laden chavs who have hounded pensioners into early graves, doesn’t pick on the multi-billion pound deficits his government created that the next generation of children and grandchildren have to pay back, doesn’t pick on the unionists who constantly want more money from struggling taxpayers.  He doesn't think they are selfish.  Not the salaried medical staff in the NHS who have absorbed much of the doubling in real health expenditure in the last government.

No, you see Ed Miliband is the politician for the looters, the dependents, the people who have jobs paid for by the effort and entrepreneurship of others.  Ed is the politician for the welfare beneficiaries, who aren’t grateful for the taxes that others paid for them to be housed, fed, clothed or for their kids to be raised, educated etc. Ed is there to demand that even MORE money be borrowed from future generations, that even MORE taxes be taken from the peaceful, productive, hard working and entrepreneurial, and that it is because if you don’t, the feral underclass will riot – and it is because there are bankers who make bad decisions.  Ed is there for the public sector workers, the people who get paid, on average, more than the private sector.  The people who get more generous pensions, more pay rises and who are all carried by the private sector.

He should be an easy target for the Conservative Party, but it is a zone of philosophical vacuousness, as is seen by the disgusting Louise Mensch who in a matter of days has both embraced statist authoritarianism in suggesting the government “shut down” social networking sites at times of crisis, and in accusing History Professor David Starkey of racism, because he clumsily claimed there were many youths of the white underclass who now talk the language of the black underclass. 

The Conservative Party is incapable of fighting the cultural battleground in favour of individual liberty, personal responsibility, respect for property rights and disrespect for those who seek to promote violence as a way of life. It is palpable in its unwillingness to defend bankers in public as a sector, because mindless populism overrides principle, which is the norm in the party of people who believed they were born to rule.

Miliband's call for responsibility is achingly hypocritical, when he evades any responsibility for his part in a government that created the economic conditions for the financial crisis, for its part in overspending every year after Labour's first term, for its part in creating a client-voter sector of welfare dependents, suckling off of the state tit, with Labour's endless "programmes" to help them into work, whilst never letting Nanny State ever really take away the milk.  Never confronting the client-funders, like the teaching unions, who resist pay or conditions that reflect performance. 

The people who take responsibility in Britain the most, are the people he is least interested in.  Those are the entrepreneurs, the business people, the employers, the families who raise children at their own expense, the people who aren't dependent on the state.   He preaches wholesale abdication of responsibility in his embrace of the Leninist NHS, which has a philosophy of people not having to ever take responsibility for their health, for the state will pay.  He preaches the same with state pensions - don't save for retirement (a chance to tax you), the state should pay.  He preaches the same with housing - if you buy a home, pay a tax on the transaction, if you don't buy a home or pay private rent, the state will pay.

His philosophy is bankrupt, his approach to public policy has palpably failed, and now he shifts blame on the perpetrators to bankers, MPs and the news media.  

He has no answers, and through his disgusting moral relativism, has shown his own moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

15 August 2011

A prescription for the UK

It has been a week since thousands of mostly young people across London decided it was time to steal, destroy, assault, abuse and ultimately murder others, in a decadent frenzy of Anthony Burgess style amorality.  The responses have been extremely varied, but the overwhelming one has been concern about the need to restore law and order.  Two main concerns have driven the discussion, one has been the importance of adequate policing, the other has been discussions as to "why".

Once one takes away the vile ambulance chasing point scoring of many on the left (and the Green Party in NZ has disgustingly decided to take advantage of the suffering of others to advance its own agenda of "give 'em more money and make some jobs for 'em"), and the undertones of racist anti-immigration and calls for serious violent intervention from some on the right, there must be an acknowledgement of a whole series of government policies which can be said to have failed to address the creation of what is at best, a feral, parasitical underclass of people with no hope, little aspiration beyond hedonistic whim worshipping and with substantial "chips on their shoulders".

The ridiculous argument that this was about racism is shown up for its absurdity in the overwhelming diversity of those arrested and filmed participating.   However, there is certainly an element of distrust of police in areas dominated by, in particular, the Afro-Caribbean community.   Yet the same is true of the "chavtowns" filled with neanderthals.

The link with poverty has more substance, but it is not real poverty in the sense of starvation, homelessness or no access to education or healthcare, but poverty of aspiration, concentration and determination.   However, this doesn't answer why the roll call of people turning up in courts are from backgrounds of being in middle class employment, or university graduates, or even upper class schoolkids.  These "individual examples you can pick out" as one leftwing commentator claimed, are inconvenient, for they don't fit the race-poverty classification that fits the philosophy.

So what should be done?  As I wrote before, I naturally resist "throwing money at the problem", the idea that more government welfare and manufactured government jobs (which takes money from others who create jobs) is a solution is simply absurd, for there has never been this much welfare, and making people less independent and less successful by making them clients of the state even more, is not going to change attitudes of esteem and expecting others to solve their problems.

Furthermore, simply adopting an authoritarian kneejerk approach to policing, including the notion that the state should shut down social networks at times of crisis, is simply too late, as well as sacrificing the freedom of the law abiding on a grand scale, to address the criminality of a small number. 

So my approach is to look at the stages of life of a typical member of the underclass, and to pinpoint the failures of public policy in all of them.  The key is that the government is not the solution, but changes in public policy should make a difference.  However, there is no quick fix unless one wants to take an authoritarian eliminationist approach that would permanently deprive any criminals of freedom, and have the state police parenting on a terrifying scale.  That could eliminate a feral underclass by creating a feral police state. 

The areas that matter are, in summary:
- Welfare policy should not reward breeding by people unable or otherwise unwilling to be parents;
- Welfare policy should not remove responsibility for raising children or paying for children from both parents;
- Welfare policy should not reward additional breeding by people already on welfare;
- State and council owned Corbusier style hothouses for crime demolished and the land sold.  One of the grimmest failures of social engineers has been putting large numbers of underachievers together in close proximity;
- People on low incomes should not pay income tax;
- Parents, teachers, police and others in loco parentis should not fear disciplining their children using reasonable force for restraint or to protect themselves, others or their property;
- Serious violent and sexual criminals should never be permitted to reside in the same household as anyone under the age of 16;
- Schools should no longer be funded based on politically specified criteria, but on whether parents send their children to a school (or do not);
- Governance of schools, including curriculum, rules and philosophy of education should be driven by those with the greatest vested interest in its success, parents of children at the school;
- Schools should have freedom to pay good teachers what it takes to attract and retain them, and the means to incentivise better performance by poor teachers, or remove them;
- The criminal justice system should be focused on protecting the public from the acts of criminals, particularly recividists;
- The criminal justice system should offer one chance for rehabilitation for first time offenders that are not a danger to the public;
- Parents of underage offenders should be presumed to have civil liability for the acts of their offspring, and criminal liability for incitement to commit crimes;
- The justice system should not spend time and money on victimless crimes;
- The state should not fund culture, music, television or other media that may be implicated in promoting a sub-culture of violence, hate and misogyny;
-  Tax and economic policy should allow people to keep the fruits of their efforts, and not be seeking taxpayer money;
-  Laws and regulations should positively support private property rights and welcome entrepreneurship that respects this, and not welcome those who seek to restrain such rights to protect their own businesses and homes from competition;
-  Laws and regulations should not make it difficult to hire people at pay and terms and conditions they are willing to accept, nor to remove them if they fail to meet the terms and conditions of the contract;
-  Politicians and bureaucrats founds guilty of theft from taxpayers or corruption should be subject to the full force of the criminal justice system;
- The state should not bail out businesses that fail, nor those who invest in them.

None of that is detailed, but it is in recognition that decades of welfarism and "we know best" interventions by politicians have failed.  They have nurtured an underclass that is willing to attack and destroy those that pay for its very existence.  They have nurtured an education system on the wistful hope that everyone will be equal, but which rewards poor quality teachers and starves funding to pay excellent teachers well.  They have promoted a culture of entitlement and dependency whereby large numbers of people expect they have "a right" to the money of others, and fear having to fend for themselves.  They have promoted a culture of blame and bigotry by the underclasses towards anyone but themselves.  Never blame those who didn't study at school, never blame those who bred with little thought of the consequences, never blame those who don't turn up to job interviews, never blame those who vandalise, steal and assault, always blame those who set up businesses and "didn't put anything back into the community" (one excuse I heard in the past week), always blame "the rich", the so-called "lucky", the "racists", the police, the council, the government.

For decades now, the Western world has been beset by this corrosive philosophy of:
- You have rights, you should always assert rights, many of those rights are over other people to give you what you demand;
- You can't get anywhere unless other people "give you opportunities", you're implicitly unable to take care of yourself without the government, the council or other people giving you "respect";
- You have a right to express yourself, however you wish, to whoever you like, and they have to give you that right, and after you've abused them, and even vandalised their property, they STILL should give you a job, paying you what you want, to work when you want, how you want, dressing how you like, turning up when you feel like at, because "it's your right";
- It isn't your fault if you do anything wrong, it's because of "society" or "the government" or any other group you care to feel aggrieved by;
- You're not responsible for your life, other people are responsible for giving you what you need to stop you attacking them;
- If you do something wrong, it's ok, because "everyone else does it" and because "some people don't respect you" and because "the system doesn't fit people like you".  

It is ALL that.  That is why there were riots in the UK, it is why some parts of the UK are feral no-go areas for anyone who look half respectable.  It is why a significant minority of children leave school functionally illiterate, innumerate and socially inept, and then go on to do the one thing humans are good at, breeding, because they get rewarded for it.   It is the culture and philosophy of post-modernist, moral relativism, it has a Marxist thread running through it, and it is de riguer in universities, local authorities, teachers' training colleges and all left wing political parties, and more than a few in right wing parties.

It is bankrupt, and the vast bulk of the population knows it is so.  The empty calls for "more jobs", and "understanding" are wrapped in demands to effectively pay protection money for those who have failed.

The road out of this cesspool is going to be long.  It requires fundamental welfare, housing and education reform at the root and branch.  It requires a change of approach to the criminal justice system.  However, more than anything it requires a long term cultural and philosophical change in attitudes towards the family, communities and the individual.

I'll write more about these policy areas in due course, and the fundamental philosophical changes that are needed.  This is not a call to go back to times when women were treated as second class citizens, or when one set of religious teachings were to be imposed on all, nor to return to the patronising bigotry towards people because of race, sex or sexuality, but it is about recognising an age when people did respect others, had consideration for the lives and property of others, and took responsibility for their own lives and actions.

It is, most of all, about removing the state funded safety blanket for anyone whenever they do anything harmful to themselves or others, bearing in mind that nothing stops people choosing to provide whatever they want to others on whatever terms they wish.

14 August 2011

Libertarianz in 2011

Libertarianz members are having their annual conference this weekend.   I've been a member of the party for 14 years, so it is hardly surprising that I have supported it every election since.   However,  as I get old it raises some fairly fundamental issues about my participation in politics and my desire to change the terms of the political debate in New Zealand, and change New Zealand public policy.

The first time I was ever able to vote was 1990.  I voted Labour.  Why?  Because for months beforehand I watched National oppose the privatisation of Telecom, with Jim Anderton.  Because for the years before I watched Roger Douglas transform the economy, largely in a rational and extraordinarily courageous manner - for little he did was popular or for short term gain or popularity.  I was less than comfortable with the new bureaucracies for "Women's Affairs", "Youth Affairs", the reintroduction of compulsory unionism, and the new leftwing racism and subjectivist mysticism seen in the creation of the Treaty of Waitangi industry, but I grew up under Rob Muldoon.  I saw National as the party not of free markets, but of kneejerk resistance to change.

Yet in 1993 I voted National, for I saw the same courage in Ruth Richardson.  I despised National's embrace of an authoritarian feminist agenda for censorship, the sellout on education and Jim Bolger's ridiculous embrace of electoral reform, but the big political push at the time was from the authoritarian thieves of the Alliance, and the bottom feeder Winston Peters and his personality cult of followers.   Of course, Bolger sacrificed Richardson on the altar of pragmatism.

In 1996 I voted ACT, because I hoped that following Roger Douglas's first act, there could be hope of a National-ACT coalition implementing further reforms, especially exposing the health and education sectors to competition, and choice.  However, ACT was profoundly disappointing.  From talking of abolishing income tax, to flat tax, to lower tax.  More fundamentally, I had moved on philosophically.  I had read Hayek some years before, but had now read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand and became an objectivist.

My philosophical position became clear.  I had long been an atheist, but as an objectivist I had a rational grounding for not only believing in small government, but also an ethical basis for capitalism and for life.   I joined Libertarianz.

Of course it isn't very hard to become disheartened belonging to a small political party that has not come close to being elected.  However, there has been influence, with terms like Nanny State being used more and more, and political discourse starting to talk about government not being the solution to everything, but it would be fair to say it hasn't met expectations.

The alternatives have not been promising either.  ACT under first Richard Prebble and then Rodney Hide, was all very well talking about economic freedom, but personal freedom was uncomfortable.  Simple libertarian points like questioning the war on drugs or censorship were not where ACT could go - for it had more than a few fundamentally conservative backers.

Of course there was also Don Brash and the National Party in 2005, campaigning in part to end the leftwing racism that had the state privilege Maori above others, regardless of their need and personal position.  However, that campaign was ruined by the mainstream of National, which like Bolger in 1996, prostitute it all to try to win elections, and which is conservative in the small "c" sense.  As in do as little as possible to change.

So the issue has been and remain simple.

Do I remain pure and honest and principled, and continue to put my full New Zealand effort into Libertarianz, or do I compromise and put efforts into ACT, or even National to influence those that do have entrees into actual political power?  Are they in conflict?

This election, libertarians nearly faced an obvious answer.   Rodney Hide's performance in ACT has been roundly disappointing.  He's been little different from a National Minister, with his great performance being in largely implementing Labour's local government policy.   The only crowning success will be Roger Douglas abolishing the compulsory membership of the University branches of the Labour and Green Parties known as student unions.

Don Brash led ACT looks like it could be different.  Despite the blunderings of some who are incapable of being truly racially colourblind AND wise to how others can portray it,  it may be different.
As I get older, I get impatient, and I want change to happen sooner rather than later.  I have priorities for change which are focused around education, reform of the welfare state and protection of property rights, as well as a fundamental shift of the criminal justice system away from victimless crimes, but being focused on deterrence and protection of the public from the violence of others.

I also want a cultural change, a philosophical change that embraces the celebration of creativity, producers, innovators, science and reason.  One that embraces self-esteem and personal responsibility.  One that resists the post-modernist cultural meme that everything is ok, that all cultures are equal, that no values are more important than others.  One that celebrates life, that treats the inviolability of the bodies and property of others as sacrosanct, that embraces honesty, good will and benevolence in human relations.  Not the nihilist claims over the property of others, demand for rights that are actually demands on other people to be forced to surrender their bodies and property.  Most of all rejection of the racism, sexism and collectivist bigotry of the left, as well as of the far-right. 

In politics, I am keeping an open mind.  Beyond that, there must be other means and other ways to change the terms of debate.  However, my hope is that Libertarianz knows it is more than a party, but as a touchstone for those who believe government should only exist to protect people from the initiation of force by others, whether internal or external to a country - and that it is a monumental job to change a culture where it is considered absolutely normal for government to initiate force, and there is a preponderance of political parties who embrace MORE state violence.  The Greens, for example, are a party that positively embraces ever more state violence, in the warm, smiling shrouds of "fairness and equality".  

So I wish Libertarianz well.  It is the party I am most likely to vote for in 2011.  Yet I am keeping an open mind.  I would not be unhappy if there was a National-ACT coalition that saw substantive changes in education policy alone, to break the back of the dominant state sector, or which torn up the RMA in favour of private property rights or another major step towards more freedom.  However, I am yet to be convinced that there is enough substance for me to positively support ACT.  

Even if I did, it does not mean Libertarianz does not have a role.  However, it does have to be more clever about its messages and it needs to remember that the mass media only understands easy concepts.   For me, it is less government, more freedom.  It is about consistently believing that government shouldn't spend other people's money taken by force to give to others.  It is about believing laws should only exist to protect people's bodies and property from force or fraud, and that human relations should always be voluntary.

13 August 2011

Left has the most to lose from the riots

Whilst leftwing commentators and the Green Party in New Zealand feel safe blaming the riots in the UK on “neo-liberalism”, UK Labour politicians have tried to be more careful. Whilst Ken Livingstone came out on automatic saying it was about spending cuts, Harriet Harman was cornered into saying she condemned it all, “but” and Ed Miliband more wisely has simply condemned the violence, with there being “no excuse” for it. This, of course, goes against his political instincts, for the bog standard Marxist/socialist point of view is that riots are related to class and race. Labour politicians wished they could parrot a “told you so” view that would say “this is inevitable”, much like the NZ Marxists have, but they can’t do so without alienating the vast majority of voters, including their own supporters.

For a start, few believe there has been such a massive turnaround in economic or social conditions in the just over one year since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition took over. All to easy for Conservatives to say “you were in power for 13 years, what did you do about it”. A reasonable point for reasonable people. Now the true Marxist would claim Blair and Brown were the Tories in slow-mode, but when so many Labour MPs and candidates came from that era, it doesn’t wash well either. Ken Livingstone being the clear example of one who figured he could get away with it.

Secondly, the victims of the rioting are mostly people in Labour voting areas, who are either small business owners, their staff, or people whose homes have been destroyed or trashed. They live in the more dangerous, crime ridden, poorer parts of town, but they didn’t riot. In fact they hate crime as much as anyone, because they are more likely to be victims of it. You see, despite the identity politics of the left, the poor/dispossessed (if they ever did possess) attack their own, they rarely go elsewhere, and the majority of them do have morals, don’t steal, don’t vandalise. They have aspirations for themselves and their families like anyone else, which is why when anyone achieves it, they would tend to leave the rest behind and move to a nicer part of town.

Thirdly, whilst calling someone racist or making people even fear being accused of being racist has been their stock in trade in debate for decades, again so many victims are of racial minorities. South Asian Muslim or Sikh voters aren’t going to tolerate the claim that Afro-Caribbeans find it hard in British society, when they just get on with working or owning businesses, and ensure their kids get a good education. There are more than a few Afro-Caribbeans disgusted by this behaviour as well. The “race consciousness” that once tied is awfully frayed when people turn on their own.

Fourthly, many people have found it rather hard during the recession. Those who have had pay cuts, lost jobs, found it harder to make ends meet don’t tolerate the notion that when people are poor, they become criminals. Most people have self-discipline, and don’t have the “class consciousness” that the left so disgustingly implies those in poverty as having. In short, the racial and wealth stereotypes are as appalling inaccurate for the left as are the more banal ones on the far-right.

Finally, most want criminals to be punished and kept out of harm’s way. It is natural, human benevolence to feel pity and sorrow for those who have lost everything to deliberate vandalism, left and arson, and anger at those who did so to get luxury goods, or pieces of tat, or just to have a good time. It is immoral, and that sense of outrage and distress is what keeps civilisation together. People want a hard line against those who commit crimes, they don’t accept excuses because most people work hard for what they have and would do all they could to defend their families. They regard the rioters to be the enemy of all they have, and they’d be right.

The answers the left will offer will also fail to inspire. Of all the talk about poverty and compassion, and addressing the causes of crime, they have two answers:
- Give poor people more money (in one form or another) for doing nothing;
- Hire more bureaucrats to help poor people.

The bribery with welfare has already been tried, and Labour knows with the country nearly bankrupt, it can’t promise more money with any credibility (even Labour would have halved the budget deficit, albeit by simply cutting the growth of spending and increasing taxes). However, the far left (read, Green Party of England and Wales)will argue for more money for better housing, better state schools and more benefits so people don’t feel “desperate”, or in their own words “creating employment and training opportunities, advice, youth centres, and community services”. “Creating jobs” by taking money from those who actually create jobs by generating wealth, and building more youth centres and state services.  It isn't about producing anything, it is about using the wealth of others, taken by force, to keep people busy.

The language always used is the royal “we” by making everyone responsible. You’re not responsible for yourself, your family, your kids, your business alone, but for everyone else, including the feckless, the “breed without consequences” mob and those who are “alienated” – those same kids who bully your kids. You are responsible for them. This justifies this sort of statement:

we need to create a society where youth are not so extremely alienated in the first place

Not the parents, not the state schools who they are put through like widgets, but “we”, which means “give us more of your money so we can spend it”.

The thing is that taxpayers don’t want to do that. Even setting aside my libertarian hat, the majority view is not to increase taxes or welfare benefits. The far left couldn’t care less of course, because it will just keep saying “if you want this to stop, you need to pay more”, but democracy (which they putatively respect) says people don’t want that. They don’t vote for it. The British Labour Party tried selling that to voters in 1983, 1987 and 1992 and they didn’t say yes.

The UK is a liberal democracy. Most people believe people should get a fair go, that people shouldn’t be homeless, but also that if they wreck that home or make their neighbours’ lives a hell, they should lose the home they are given. Most people believe kids should all get an education, but if they waste it, or wreck the education of others, they shouldn’t be there. Most people believe people should work for a living, but if they are idle on welfare, don’t bother and then attack those who do work, they should lose their benefits.

Even if the public did vote for spectacular increases in taxes and welfare, it would be incapable of delivering. As thousands of entrepreneurs either arranged their affairs to avoid tax, or simply left, the purported revenue would not appear. In addition, the membership of the EU would guarantee growth in welfare tourism, ensuring the UK faced a sovereign debt crisis due to declining tax revenue and increasing welfare claims. Of course true socialists would leave the EU to put up trade barriers, so would chase away more businesses that don’t want to be excluded from their markets. Ultimately, the spiral of decline and stagnation would see the flight of more of the brightest and wealthiest, which could only be stopped by either reversing policies, or making it difficult to leave with ones’ money and assets. The latter would ensure the UK was abandoned even more rapidly as it would look more like east Berlin, where a wall was built explicitly to keep people from leaving.

In short, most people believe in people having opportunities, but if they ignore them, abuse them, or at worst turn on the people who took advantage of them to work hard to earn a living, they want little mercy. They don’t want their taxes spent on criminals, and don’t want them getting endless chances, following numerous offences for stealing, vandalism or assault. They want their homes, businesses and families safe, and don’t want to pay more taxes for people who aren’t grateful for what they get from others, and who will act parasitically towards them.

The answers so many on the left offer involve taking more money from employers, from people who strive for themselves and their families, and giving it to people who expect to be handed money, homes and jobs with no obligation, or paying for more people to be “employed” by the government in pseudo-jobs that don’t need doing anyway.

Add these carefully shrouded demands to throw money at potential rioters to the hand-wringing slogans of “racism” and “poverty causes crime”, and it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the vast majority. Most taxpayers are not rich, by definition the majority of them are around the average in income and wealth, they consider vandalism and theft to be wrong, especially when the victims of that are people who are themselves not wealthy, or who have clearly strived to make something of their lives from little. They don’t think the way to solve the problems of immoral behaviour is to pay people to not be bad. In fact they are far more likely to demand that they no longer pay people who are!

It is why the British Labour Party has, by and large, been avoiding talking about anything other than the need for a tough approach to law and order.

12 August 2011

The organised thieves

Whilst most UK media attention has been paid to the underclass and not so underclass of amoral parasites who turned on their fellow citizens, the most organised thieves of all - governments, have been trying to evade reality in Europe some more.

The sovereign debt crisis of Ireland was purely due to the foolish 100% guarantee of Irish banks given by the previous Irish government (trying to outdo the £85,000 limit in the UK) - it eliminated risk for banks, transferring it onto taxpayers.  It had a property bubble fueled by easy low interest credit in Euros, driven by the buoyant German economy, which bust.  Now Irish taxpayers are paying for bank guarantees made by politicians on their behalf.  Irish politicians promised to steal from taxpayers to support the profligacy of banks.

The sovereign debt crisis of Greece is pure state socialist profligacy.  A generation and a half of continuous budget deficits, fiddled accounts and lies about the national budgets, mass tax evasion, a welfare state that rewarded people for non-jobs and to retire in their 50s.  It was only extended when Greece joined the Euro, as budget deficits were "cheap" with low interest credit.  In addition, Greece was propped up by years of subsidies from the EU to its poorest members, of which Greece no longer largely qualifies since the accession of the former Soviet satellite states. Now Greek residents are learning to pay tax and learning that the socialist state has run out of cash.  Greek politicians promised to steal from future taxpayers to pay for the "jobs" and benefits of many of the current ones.

The sovereign debt crisis of Portugal is similar to Greece, without the fiddled accounts, with a bit less debt, but a smaller GDP to bear it.   Again a long period of cheap credit and Portugal enjoyed much EU largesse before the EU turned to funding infrastructure in the former communist bloc countries.  Portuguese politicians promised to steal from future taxpayers to pay for the lthe "jobs" and benefits of many of the current ones.

Spain's sovereign debt crisis has some parallels with Portugal, but was also exacerbated by a property bubble ala Ireland, where the economy was propped up by massive private borrowing for property, which went into construction.  Now Spain has a crisis of lower tax revenue and an overly generous state sector and welfare state.  Spanish politicians were hoping to keep stealing from future taxpayers and current property speculators and construction companies to pay for the the "jobs" and benefits of many of the current ones.

Italy's sovereign debt crisis is government led, as Italians have tended to be wary of credit, but Italian governments been profligate about buying votes with government jobs and social services.  Decades of short coalition governments that have favoured special interests now see Italy with sovereign debt of over 118% of GDP.  Italian governments have long promised to steal from future taxpayers to pay for the the "jobs" and benefits of many of the current ones.

Cyprus's sovereign debt crisis is less about government spending and more about fear of bailing out banks that loaned to the Greek government, and the slow in GDP due to losing half of its electricity generation capacity due to an explosion.  Cyprus's government has promised to steal from current and future taxpayers to pay for the profligacy of banks who loaned to another profligate government.

Belgium is small, but it too has sovereign debt of around 100% of GDP.   It too has had a generous welfare state, but has run more sedate budget deficits, although it saved itself from a crisis a decade ago by running surpluses for eight years, getting public debt below 100% of GDP.  It is now facing a similar crisis, but its overspending has been trimmed.  Still it too promised to steal from future taxpayers to pay for the job and benefits of current ones.

Now there is France.  It has public debt of over 80% of GDP, but has run budget deficits consistently for decades.  The trick has been to run deficits smaller than growth of GDP in some years, which has simply meant that the debt burden has been pushed out again and again.  Now it faces risks around its banks, which the French government is fully expected to bail out (large businesses in France often never really go bankrupt) banks that loaned to the profligate countries named above.

So the ban on short selling, is France's way of trying to stop the reality of the risk of French debt being devalued.  France can continue to borrow from the children and grandchildren of future taxpayers only if France's economy grows faster than the rate of borrowing.

You see governments throughout the Western world have been engaging in theft, on a grand scale, from future taxpayers.

Now as a libertarian I see all taxation as theft, because if private individuals or governments acted as government did, they would be treated as criminals.

However, even if you accept the absurd democratic-socialist model of government, that people vote for governments that institute taxes, and so somehow consent to it (essentially the majority impose their will on all), then this fails to apply to governments running budget deficits for current spending.

For when governments borrow, they are borrowing from future taxpayers.  Whilst many are current taxpayers, in 10-15-20 years time, some of those will be dead, and most current children will be taxpayers, and some as yet unborn ones will be.   None of them voted to pay the taxes to pay the debts of people who wanted unfunded pensions, who wanted subsidised businesses, who wanted unfunded healthcare.

It is intergenerational theft, and it can most easily be seen in the PAYGO pensions and health care systems in place in the USA, UK and yes, New Zealand.  Ponzi schemes that pay people on current pensions and health users (most of whom are elderly) out of the taxes of currently trading businesses and individuals.  By no stretch of the imagine are the benefits these people are getting paid for by them, for their taxes paid for the last lot, and there aren't enough new taxpayers to pay for this insecure intergenerational mandatory deal that statist politicians bribed people with.

So whilst there is righteous anger and disgust at the actions of looters, vandals and others who have demonstrated they are little more than parasites and destructive to humanity and life, there also should be anger at the political classes, who have continued to peddle their borrow and hope mentality, with their regular advance auction of stolen goods, so they get power.

It is true whether the party concerned is called Republican, Democrat, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, National, Greens or Maori Party.   All are guilty, all gain power and seek to borrow from people who don't have a vote, who have no choice but to pay for what current politicians want to spend money on.

The Tea Party in the US has, in part, represented resistance to this profligacy, and whilst it has attracted a colourful range of characters, it has also attracted approbium and abuse for wanting to end this mortgaging of childrens' futures.  In the UK, only think tanks and lobby groups represent that attitude, and in New Zealand perhaps only now ACT, and of course Libertarianz.
Don't believe me?  Simply ask your next politician why your children and grandchildren should be forced to pay back debts so that people who currently live off the state, get benefits from the state or get their businesses supported by the state, don't have to pay for it themselves?

11 August 2011

NZ Herald disgraces itself

As if to prove my long held view that finding proper journalists in New Zealand is quite difficult, Graham Baker of the NZ Herald comes along and spins absolute nonsense about the criminal violence that beset England since Saturday, and which has thankfully largely dissipated. It has dissipated in part because of the enormous increase in Police presence, but also the rain. You see people who “can’t be arsed” turning up for a job interview, or getting out of bed before 11am, or working are incredibly resistant to getting wet and cold. For that reason alone I hope it rains every night through the next few days and especially the weekend.

Baker is the NZ Herald’s news editor and is from the UK. Maybe he left because he couldn’t earn a living writing for the Morning Star, for I suspect the Guardian is not left wing enough for him, nor is Ed Miliband.

A journalist is meant to report on events, investigate and provide insights into the news. Baker didn’t do that, he interviewed his laptop. In this age when anyone can read for free most major UK serious papers such as the Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, the Independent and the Guardian, as well as the numerous tabloids, why would one even bother reading the NZ Herald for news about the UK, when it puts out an article that could have come from the Marxist-Leninist (pro-USSR) Morning Star. The NZ Herald may a well have reprinted this, to help keep the ailing Morning Star from collapsing.

So what did he say? Consider it a rant worthy of Matt McCarten, and indeed it was embraced by my good buddy Russel Norman.

Baker claimed:

British politicians have espoused neo-liberal dogma for the best part of 30 years. A dogma based on consumerism and selfish individualism over shared responsibility.

Really Graham? Find a single speech by the current PM, Deputy PM, or indeed the past four PMs which has exemplified what you have claimed. Did the welfare state get dismantled, because I’ve watched it grow to the point where people on above average incomes get benefits for breeding, where people get up to £400 a week in housing benefit to have a four bedroom home (after the cuts!), and where pregnant teenagers are handed a free flat by councils. Yes, I’ve noticed health spending go through the roof in the world’s most centrally planned health service. I’ve noticed a top marginal tax rate of effectively 42% (now 52%). Most tax collected is on people in the top third of income earnings, but don’t let facts get in the way of your neo-Marxist dogma.

He goes on, expecting that a one year old government might have worked wonders...

Cameron's nebulous ideal of "Big Society" - that communities are stronger than the government in sorting problems out - has yetto prove of worth. (sic)

So government is the solution Graham. No shared responsibility in that, and funnily enough I thought the large numbers of people who turned out to clean up the town centres that had been vandalised might actually prove communities ARE stronger, but you ignored that, doesn’t fit your neo-Marxist love of “government can sort problems out”. 

Then he makes the riots a cause and effect of the recession...

in a time of austerity and a global recession lasting years, when people see their opportunities narrowing, services cut and the disappearance of the things they have for decades been told to expect, this is what happens

Most people have seen opportunities narrow for now, but spending cuts are largely just a reduction in the growth of spending. The government is spending more this year than last year. However, what’s this “things they have for decades been told to expect”? How many decades do teenagers expect things? Yet so what? Shared responsibility which Graham embraces doesn’t mean not having any of your own? This actually isn’t what happens Graham – all of Eastern Europe had its economies turned upside down, with mass layoffs and expectations of free social services and guaranteed jobs abolished when the mass of the population overthrew the dictatorships the Morning Star had lauded as examples. 

He asks plaintively (of a place he left to find a future)...

Where does one find a future? There are 400-odd unemployed people for every job advertised in Tottenham, many of those part-time shop or cleaning work for minimum wage.

Funnily enough Graham, London is bigger than Tottenham and one can catch a bus anywhere for £1.20 each way. How about the tens of thousands of immigrants from far poorer countries who come with next to nothing and set up small businesses, working seven days a week to scratch out a living? Of course they are displaying “selfish individualism” and so are part of the problem, right Graham? Is concern about your future a reason to mow down three young men on a footpath, or beat up a young man till his jaw is broken, or indeed just set fire to a store to watch it burn?

Then comes a mistake or a deliberate misrepresentation...

It now costs about $24,000 a year just to study at university in England.

No Graham. That’s complete nonsense. You have misrepresented it in three ways. First, the figure you quote is false. The MAXIMUM a university can charge is £9,000. That’s NZ$17,900 at today’s exchange rates, but far better to put it over NZ$20k, good for your “story” right? Secondly, it is a maximum. Quite a few charge less than that. Most importantly, nobody has to cough up that amount upfront. Student loans are available to cover the entire tuition fee that do not have to be repaid until the graduate starts earning above the average wage, and then only in increments. Guess the full story doesn’t fit your agenda does it Graham?

He then refers to someone the Guardian talked to who said:

“University fees have gone up, education costs money. And there's no jobs. This is them sending out a message."

One point ably made by Allister Heath of City AM is that a significant number of those rioting probably could never have got into university because they would have performed so badly at school. The three reasons this happens tend to be negligent parents, poor quality schools and the corrosive culture of criminality that pervades many areas. Free university education doesn’t address this issues in Scotland, so why would it in England?

However, then he talks about circumstances as if they are all about luck. 

My generation was lucky. University was affordable, social mobility was a reality, and just over a decade ago I entered an economy that worked. The situation young people find themselves in today is the very antithesis of the word "lucky".

Well actually many young people are “lucky”, many work damned hard to do well at school, go to university, or find employment and make a life for themselves. Most of them don’t vandalise and steal. Graham might have reflected that decades of overspending by governments and promising unaffordable pensions for older generations have proven to be unsustainable, but we don't get anything about solutions from him.

Does he have a solution? No, of course not, in fact almost none of the leftwing commentators do, all they do is blame past politicians. He says:

It is no irony that a country which has pursued consumerism and social nihilism has been blighted by people who - when it all goes wrong - believe in and respect nothing except consumer goods.

Did it suddenly go wrong? No. The social nihilism Graham damns is actually because of the breakdown of families, and the embrace of moral relativism and post-modern theories of power and identity politics that teach and disseminate the view that nothing is ever your fault. They claim everything is stacked against Afro-Caribbean youth because of “racism”, and everything is stacked against those on low incomes because of the view that wealthier people are just “lucky”, and that it has nothing to do with hard work and discipline. In fact the word discipline has been eschewed as “self expression” has been embraced. It is an embrace of a perverse individualism that demands the right to do whatever they like, whatever they consequences, and demand what they want, and to complain if you don’t give it to them. This corrosive culture has been catalysed by a subculture of gangsterism, embracing the “music” and attitudes that celebrate violence, misogyny and expectations that education and hard work are for fools, and that easy money is what matters. This isn’t about capitalism or even individualism, it is parasitism.

What really happened Graham is that a handful of people decided to take on the Police in Tottenham Hale, and the Police were overwhelmed and outnumbered. This was seen by criminal gangsters and the underclass of feral youth (the ones that parents and teachers are scared to discipline for fear the kids will call Social Services, and who will complain about their rights whenever anyone tells them off for breaking laws or being obnoxious) as a weakness, and so they networked loosely and went out on a spree. They were laughing, joking and boasting about what they did. They weren’t on a political demonstration, they weren’t complaining about racism (most of the rioters up North were white), they weren’t looting for food or essentials, indeed many times they didn’t even loot, but just destroyed. Not that far removed from the Sex Pistol’s in “Anarchy in the UK”, which was written in the 1970s, before Graham’s “neo liberal” revolution.

Graham doesn’t have an answer. Maybe because he doesn’t know it, or because if he said he wanted taxes to go up, and more to be spent on welfare, education and state subsidised jobs, his economic illiteracy should show.

So I urge those who think this sort of journalism is not worthy for New Zealand to give up buying or subscribing to the NZ Herald.  If this is what passes as professional journalism in that newspaper, then it's worthless.  A mixture of half truths, complete falsehoods, and agit-prop dressed up as analysis, without any answers.  You'll get more sense from the centre-left Independent.

UPDATE:  Seems the Greens have swallowed it all hook, line and sinker, and continue to be barren in their answers.