February 28, 2007

Crime and Punishment

A few items on this governments attitude to crime from the last week. Labour wants to punish the innocent for the crimes of their family members. If the 'war on crime' where a real war this kind of collective punishment would be a war crime. No mention of going after the actual criminals of course.

Harassing the innocent is not limited to those that haven't been involved in violent crime either, law abiding motorists can expect to get stopped to make up police quotas as well. That is if there where the traffic patrols to do it, luckily the old policy of lining the roads with revenue robots and tracking systems instead of people (with the resultant impact on real safety) means that there probably aren't.

Even feeding your children too well is now something that can get them taken away from you. Unlike, for example, tying them up in a shit filled bin liner while you systematically abuse them to death because of your stupid superstition. Do that and nobody will try to stop you.

This is little lot is surely a graphic demonstration of Labour's attitude to crime and punishment. There does not have to be a crime to be a punishment, so long as it makes them look tough. However if there is a crime there is much less likely to be a punishment as actually securing it really is tough, unlike harassing the innocent.

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Community work

Gordon Brown appears to be taking lessons from the stupid party as he wants immigrants to take part in community work. Doesn't he realise that there is no need for them to be forced to do extra government approved labour to help the communities they live in. Most of them are already doing good things for these communities, jobs that the other people in the communities think so important that they are willing to pay for directly out of their own pockets. Forced labour like this is not part of modern British culture, the culture that we should be hoping that they will embrace. So maybe this is one of the Britishness tests that they talked about. Immigrants have to learn to tell the officious busy bodies in charge to fuck off before they can get their passports. However probably not, more likely the problem is that the important work already done by immigrants is allocated by the market rather than government dictat. This is probably what Gordon really objects to and wants to change.

February 25, 2007

Road Pricing

Back from holiday and what would I find waiting but the governments rather lame 'fuck off' letter about road pricing. They could at least not lie quite as blatantly.
Of course it would be ten years or more before any national scheme was technologically, never mind politically, feasible.
Because the EU has specified that all national road charging systems should be interoperable with ones that use the Gallileo GPS, and that will not be up and running until then. Ten years will not however have made any change to the civil liberties infringements that this will entail.
That is the backdrop to this issue. As my response makes clear, this is not about imposing "stealth taxes" or introducing "Big Brother" surveillance.
However it will impose "stealth taxes" and introducing "Big Brother" surveillance, no matter what the stated intentions are.
This is a complex subject, which cannot be resolved without a thorough investigation of all the options, combined with a full and frank debate about the choices we face at a local and national level.
Which is why the preparations for the road pricing scheme have already begun, and the revenues raised already factored into local government spending in these areas. But of course it is not about raising more money.
But let me be clear straight away: we have not made any decision about national road pricing.
The EU on the other hand has, so it doesn't really matter what Westminster says.
any technology used would have to give definite guarantees about privacy being protected - as it should be. Existing technologies, such as mobile phones and pay-as-you-drive insurance schemes, may well be able to play a role here, by ensuring that the Government doesn't hold information about where vehicles have been.
So are you going to scrap the Automatic Number Plate Recognition system that already lets the government track people's travel movements? No? I didn't think so.
Our aim is to relieve traffic jams, not create a "Big Brother" society.
With the explosion in CCTV coverage, the ANPR system, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act letting basically anybody that works for the state get a phone tap on anybody else, effectively banning encryption, curfews and electronic tagging based on hearsay evidence, house arrest without trial, shoot to kill policing, and the coming ID Cards the actions of this government say otherwise.
I know many people's biggest worry about road pricing is that it will be a "stealth tax" on motorists. It won't. Road pricing is about tackling congestion.
Pull the other one, it's got bells on. The government is out of money and needs new sources of revenue, everything else has been used as a not-so-stealth tax why should we be expected to believe that this won't.
Clearly if we decided to move towards a system of national road pricing, there could be a case for moving away from the current system of motoring taxation.
Yes there are, chances of it actually happening? Zero. Road Pricing money is being spent locally on other transport schemes (that is if it raises more than it costs to administer). They could manipulate the grants that the local councils get, but that would have to go on spending as the government is out of money.
This could mean that those who use their car less, or can travel at less congested times, in less congested areas, for example in rural areas, would benefit from lower motoring costs overall.
Note the use of could, a nice weasel word because it won't.
But those are decisions for the future.
At which point they will decide that all the old taxes have to stay. They cannot afford to get rid of them as government is already out of money.
At this stage, when no firm decision has been taken as to whether we will move towards a national scheme, stories about possible costs are simply not credible, since they depend on so many variables yet to be investigated, never mind decided.
Or rather, don't believe anything you have heard about how much it is going to cost as when it goes national. It is going to cost far far more than you imagined. But buying some stock in Capita might be a good idea.
Before we take any decisions about a national pricing scheme, we know that we have to have a system that works. A system that respects our privacy as individuals. A system that is fair.
Note in the first sentence of this bit "we know that we have to have a system that works", how can they if as has been lied about stated before nothing has been decided yet? Maybe a typo, but this is an email that is being sent out to 1.8 million people. If they cannot check a short email for meaning what they want it to mean how exactly can we expect them not to mess up an extremely complex and difficult project with some serious possible pitfalls in terms of cost and civil liberties? Or maybe it is a truth that slipped though and it means exactly what it says. They think the scheme that they have already selected will work, be fair, and respect people's privacy. It won't of course.
Before we take any decisions there would be further consultations.
Which will be ignored. Or, like the consultation about the governments new porn thought crimes due to be brought before the house in April, distorted till it gives the answer it wants.
The public will, of course, have their say, as will Parliament.
So long as they can be expected to give the correct answer. If not both can be safely ignored as the legislation for road pricing has already gone through in the form of the Transport Act 2000. The government could change this act to allow the revenues raised to be passed back to the national level, but this is unlikely. If they want to use road charging as a revenue raiser for central government they will do it indirectly by reducing the grants they give to local government and expect them to use road pricing (which will quickly become a hated tax on work) to fill the gap. Central government gets the money, local government gets the blame.

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February 15, 2007

EU Imperialism

Fearful that the world financial markets are going to migrate, like many young Germans, to enjoy the clean alpine air, and low regulation and taxes, of Zurich the EU wants the swiss to change their constitution to one that is more to the EU's liking. That this will stifle the local democracy (which includes the Cantons being able to set some of their own tax rates) that makes Switzerland what it is does not seem to bother those lovers of democracy in the EU Commission. Rather like their the reaction when the serfs decide to reject it's decisions as the Danes did over the Maastrich Treaty (and where made to vote again), or the Irish did over the Nice Treaty (and where made to vote again), or the Dutch and French did in rejecting the EU constitution (who are unlikely to be given the option of voting again, but the contents of treaty will be implemented anyway). Nor sovereignty like the right of a sovereign country to set whatever tax rates it chooses, but then the entire point of the supranational structures of the EU was to curtail the sovereignty of the countries that formed it so extending this to countries that are not part of it and have voted repeatedly not to become part of it is hardly much of a leap.

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February 14, 2007

Road pricing: the principle

Stumbling and Mumbling is asking why the 'right' is not in favour of road pricing, here are my reasons even though it will not effect me much personally since I have set up my life to minimize the amount I have to drive, and as a nasty righty I can of course just spread my leathery wings and fly should need arise.

Road pricing is just yet another tax it is not creating a market for road space. Markets react to fluctuations in supply and demand, but the price of the road charge will be fixed and centrally controlled. Should a period become less popular the price for using it will not go down until an equilibrium is reached spreading demand in the optimum way, it will just be another fixed cost forcing those for whom driving is already marginal, that is the poor, off the roads and possibly out of work, while not changing the demand distribution at all.

Saying that there is already a market for road space, just an informal one not based on money into Gordon Brown's pocket but on connivence and frustration. People will attempt to travel at the most convenient time for them, if this is the same as many other people all have to pay the price in frustrating queues. When the frustration of certain times outweighs the connivence of traveling at them people will change their travel plans to a more optimal time. So supply and demand will reach the optimum levels. Road pricing is not a pigrouvian tax as there is no externality, congestion is not something created by them that effects you. It is created by us equally and its effects borne by us equally.

Nor will this tax have a good effect on the market between transport systems. Road users already pay more through the various taxes than is spent on the roads while trains and buses already receive large subsidies. So by adding yet another burden to the roads it is further distorting the market in favour of the government sponsored market losers. Where the market undistorted it is a pretty safe bet that public transport would be even less used than it is now compared to private as public transport is overall simply less useful than private. As can be shown easily using Metcalfe's Law (in either of its forms), the number of nodes in the road network for private transport vastly outnumbering the number of nodes for any public transport system.

So road pricing is restricting for free markets and free movement. So even without mentioning the huge lost of privacy that will be incurred as it tracks every single journey on the road network, and the enormous cost that will be incurred when labour make a complete hash of setting it up, no wonder it has no support in the 'right'. Not that we would be very likely to support any new taxes on anything.

February 09, 2007

Some good some bad, but in the end technology will save us

First some good news, a large scale trial of a possible HIV vacine. Should it work this will be the best thing to happen to Africa for a long time.

Then some bad, Robert Zubrin hits the myths about hydrogen as a replacement for hydrocarbons as a fuel source. Current technology simply means that it is just moving the production of the C02 from the car to a hydrogen factory, with some very steep efficiency losses along the way. Of course if Mr Worstall is correct and it is possible to produce hydrogen at home using solar energy and Titanium Oxide catalyst panels then that will get rid of much of the energy costs of production (or at least shift it to the production of the panels. But as catalysts they should pay for themselves, energy wise, over time) and transportation to consumer. The need for either a very high preasure or cryogenic fuel tank would still remain though.

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February 08, 2007

A taxing petition

After a bit of searching there is an even better petition to sign than the one to abolish the Death Tax, this rather neglected one seeks to remove the low paid from tax altogether. Personally I wish it where phrased differently to link the income tax threshold with the rate of relative poverty rather than the politically manipulatable minimum wage, but beggars can't be choosers. I would urge everybody to sign it.

If that gets you in the mood for some tax cutting there are also some others around such as removing income tax on pensions and savings or replacing the council tax with a local income tax.

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February 06, 2007

Bible Quiz

Via the Pub Philosopher another of those self test thingies that I can't resist, this one on the Bible:

You know the Bible 90%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

Which is why I'm an Atheist.

February 05, 2007

The Death Tax

The Daily Express have a petition asking the Prime minister to abolish the death tax, and as somebody of a fairly Libertarian bent the abolition of any tax is a good thing since it means the government stealing less from us. On the other hand there are some arguments for an inheritance tax. It be seen as a tax on a transfer from the dead to the living rather than on wealth (and in other ways not), and it could be argued that it reduces the advantages given by the lottery of life so that everybody has to succeed on your own merits.

But it is also bullying the bereaved so as to steal from the dead. It's legal grave robbing. It's bureaucratic tomb raiding. It's Sir humphrey, in hot pants.

Please go and sign it.

Tories warn on ID card contracts

After all the bad news about the Conservative party here is a little ray of sunshine. They have warned all the possible contractors that should they be elected the Conservatives will cancel ID card contracts. So there can be no wiggle room about them not knowing about it when it happens.