May 31, 2007

Cash for commissions

Gordon Brown always likes the more complex financial options. This can be seen from his love of Tax credits and the transformation of the tax code into a monster even worse than the Indian one. So it should not really be a surprise that when Tony Blair required an upfront cash payment for honours Gordon Brown would create a try before you buy scheme.

May 30, 2007

EU scare stories

It looks like the Netherlands might be having a referedum over the
mini-Constitution because the dutch political class are starting to crank up the fear about it:
If the Dutch again vote no to a European constitution, the Netherlands may have to leave the EU, according to junior foreign affairs minister Frans Timmermans
Exactly the same things, and worse, where said before the Netherlands' first rejection of the EU Constitution, and what happened? Nothing. The Netherlands is still in the EU with exactly the same position as before (that is as the largest per capita net contributor). The EU wouldn't let such a juicy prize slip out of it's grip so easily. If the EU is so good why don't they make a positive case for it rather than relying on emotional appeals about avoiding rejection or not getting some, never specified, future good. Why not make a positive case based on what the EU actually does, such as the CAP and CFP (which account for the majority of the budget)? Oh, there isn't one.

May 28, 2007

Because I had to ...

Pickled Politics has possibly the most bazaar Marxist tirade I have ever read. Now lets ignore any discusion about how CD Comics made sure that Bruce Wayne was actually whiter than white when it came to philanthropy because that it was obviously a joke (well I hope it is), but it does give me an excuse for swiping a bunch of innuendo filled pictures from superdickery. So when Kulvinder insists that Bruce Wayne was:
A billionaire industrialist and playboy he makes his money by exploiting the working class before sleeping with as many rich ‘it girl’ whores as he can.
What I can say is, 'It girl' whores. Hmmm ... are you sure about that?

Lord Reith

Just wondered if anybody else noticed how much Lord Reith looked like Jim Carrey as Count Olaf?

May 27, 2007

One form of liberty

From Cato Unbound:
Traditionally, liberty has meant the absence of coercion. ...

“positive liberty” is not enlightened semantics. It is useful, really, toward one end alone (an end I deem unenlightened): Diluting and confusing the classical-liberal meaning of liberty. “Positive liberty” is effective as a subversion of the focalness and general comprehension of the idea of classical-liberal liberty.
Positive Liberty is rather like Relative Poverty, trying to argue for one thing by trying to get it confused with something else. If you want state gifted rights, then argue for them, just not under the name of liberty. If you think that inequality is a bad thing then say so, just don't confuse it with poverty which does not exist in this country but kills millions in poorer countries where it actually does.

May 25, 2007

alternative energy car

This is interesting, instead of using batteries of hydrogen to store potential energy use a bottle of compressed air instead. The statistics givern are impressive as well:
The $12,700 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units;
The advantages of battery power without the huge costs of batteries and enviromental problems of disposing the batteries once their working life is over. Good for the enviroment, keeps all the advantages of personal transport, and cheap looks like this could do well. And remember this inovation was brought to you by Capitalism.

Labour wants paid informers

VAT fraud has been out of control for a while[1], and the government is loosing billions because of it.

Instead of getting rid of this overcomplicated fraud magnet of a tax, because they can't it being an EU requirement, varrious means have been thought up to try and reduce the amount of fraud. The latest idea is to pay informers to spy on their neighbours. Of course this is not the first time Labour have floated the idea of creating an army of informers to spy on their fellow citizens but before it was under state compultion rather than this more mercinary approach.

The informer gets a percentage of the assets seized. Asset recovery was supposed to be a money spinner for the state but due to the governments incompitence even when it comes to this simplist form of legalised robbery it to costs more to run the operation than it actually steals. This new power is unlikely to be anybetter used than the old one so it will effectively mean that the creation of a tax payer funded network of informers the length and breadth of country under the control of the Home Secretary's private police force.

This is not to say that these people will not find people to accuse of fraud. This is going to be a boon for the police in their need to make up crimes to detect in order to meet government targets. People respond to incentives after all, just as people always have. Let us not forget that the scale of the witch mania of the middle ages was not just because of pyscopaths driven by religious ferver, they where psycopaths driven by religious ferver and a lust for stealing other peoples property. Accusing somebody of being a Witch allowed them to do just that by:
the confiscation of the victim's property. Usually the confiscated property was divided three ways: by the Inquisition members, the church officials, and the state treasury. ... Even the dead were not safe. If a suspicion aroused that a dead person may have been a heretic the body could be dug up and burned. His property was then confiscated.
Labour being modern and forward thinking have simply dropped the church's cut.

May 21, 2007

religion is stupid

How about this for religion making you think crazy things mum blames devil, not dad for microwaving kid, see even wants him to be able to look after them again. Why? Still a bit too rare?

Letter from Hanoi

You can find good things in the strangest places, take this letter from Bob Piper in Hanoi. One of his observations is that:
"It is every man, woman, motor cycle or bicycle for themselves, and as for pedestrians... take your chance. The incredible thing is we haven't seen a single accident in two days."
It seems in Hanoi the rules of the road have emerged naturally through human interaction for the benefit of everybody, without the need for a set of rules imposed from on high. Now if Bob could just realise what he has actually seen. That people can get along just fine without the state creating their own rules as they go along which, while they look chaotic and unintelligible for anybody outside the system, are extremely efficient at getting everybody what they really want.

May 20, 2007

Freedom of Information Act Petition

Via the Quaequam Blog and it's fairly vicious fisking of Tom Watson's defence of excepting MPs from the Freedom of Information Act there is a petition for the government to ignore asking for this bill to be repealed.

Owen Barber

I'd just like to add my, small, voice to the chorus against the daily hate mails character assassination of Owen Barber. I might not agree with him that often, but having countervailing views is important. Only when ideas are challenged and tested can the best ones be found. To the cunts at the daily hate mail, fuck off and die. The purpose of the press is to promote discourse, not suppress it.

Cameron on Crime

After that rather embarassing moment of madness praising David Cameron (was it good for you Dave?) I also had a look at David Cameron's speach to The Police Federation. To avoid becoming all embarasingly positive again I'm going to boil it down to just a few key points to try and sum it up such as this:
This top-down approach is completely, damagingly, one hundred and eighty degrees wrong and it's got to change.
Remember Oliver Letwin's appalling speech? He took an entire article to say just this:
I mean a social policy revolution as far-reaching and lasting in its positive effects as the economic revolution the Conservative Party led in the 1980s.

It is necessary because social breakdown is the great challenge of our times, just as rescuing our economy was the great challenge of two decades ago.
Letwin said it very very badly, but I guess he had a set number of column inches to fill. Or he really is the kind of wanker that thinks post-modern lit-crit has anything useful to say to the world.
You accept that responsibility when you choose to become police officers, and I believe it's time for reform to set you free to do the job you want to do and to give you the full professional responsibility you deserve.
Give responsibility back to the proffesionals to use their judgement, rather than forcing them to comply with centrally imposed rules and targets. I can see why the media has been protecting us from crazy talk that this. He'd better not mention that to Polly and her Big Norse Warrior, their heads would explode.
So a key part of our reforms to the criminal justice system will be to replace the Human Rights Act with something that works.
Finally something I can disagree with. Not that the Human Rights Act has not been twisted by the Human Rights Industry into a mockery of itself. Rather I want to keep it (maybe in a reformed form) because it is better than nothing. Especially as there is the prospect of the current fascist cunts getting back into power someday should Cameron turf them out and be able to implement this.

A longer quote now because it is important as it, finally, spells out something Cameron is planning to do. We've been waiting quite a while for some actual policy wo here it is:
And at the heart of our plans for police reform is my commitment to bring common sense to the law and to policing.

Restoring discretion to officers.

Sweeping away the arbitrary national targets that skew performance, leading to police officers going for easy detections of minor crimes
Now what can I complain about with that? Erm ... you shouldn't start a sentence with a conjucture? Which I do all the time, Damn.

On to another slab of policy meat:
we plan to replace them with directly elected commissioners - commissioners, not police chiefs - who will answer to their communities.

In doing so, we will of course protect the operational independence of forces.

We have a vital duty to prevent the politicisation of policing.
Hear that Rambo Reid? "We have a vital duty to prevent the politicisation of policing", at least somebody gets it. The police should enforce the law (which includes the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925) and prevent crime and disorder, without fear or favour. Not try to create soundbites and statistics to satisfy a Home Secretaries need for headlines.

Now we get into some stuff that I can finally disagree with.
That either means forces collaborating more effectively, or a national Serious Crime Force to do the job.

Either way, the era of forty three fiefdoms is over
Local police forces have to be small to continue to be locally accountable. The SOCA is even worse being effectively the Home Secretaries private police force, which he had already stated is something that it is vital to avoid creating.

When you look at antiquated IT systems that aren't joined up when you look at processes and paperwork that a modern business would streamline
Just no, hasn't he learnt from all the Labour years that whenever the government gets involved in a big IT system it ends up a disaster that is often worse than the system it replaces.

Overall, again, a lot of good stuff. Lots of good noises about reducing state interference and letting people get on with it. I disagree with a few of the policies but it is rather nice to actually see some for a change. He points out that many of the problems we are seeing are due to social changes and will not be fixed without correcting these social changes. It is just a shame that he does not go further and actually say what it was that caused these social changes and what needs to be done to correct them. We must get rid of the Welfare State.

Cameron on Education

In view of what I think that David Cameron is really up to I'm going to have a look at David Cameron's article on education to see if it fits with my analysis of what he is up to. All the emphasis is mine.

First, we will introduce a policy of zero tolerance of bad behaviour and bad language in every school in the country. This is not something that requires central imposition: in fact it is centralisation that today stands in the way of the right approach. As I found from my two days teaching at a secondary school in Hull last week, teachers are in despair at their inability to impose discipline. We will make sure that in every school, the headteacher is the absolute captain of the ship. He or she will be able to maintain discipline and exclude poorly behaving pupils without being second-guessed or penalised for doing it.

There it is anti-centralisation, giving power back from government to the people that are actually in a position to weild it correctly. The centralised overbearing state is the problem and the solution is to get rid of it.

Second, we will take the keys to educational success - often found in private and grammar schools - and apply them everywhere, in every school. Today, because of the way that league tables and inspections work, there is far too much teaching to the test and teaching to get children from D to C instead of stretching the brightest to get A and A star. That's why we will reform the curriculum, exams and testing, and that's why we want to see aggressive setting by ability - in effect, a 'grammar stream' in every subject, in every school.

Hear that D.K.? Looks like he has been reading your blog.

Third, we need to create more good school places rather than argue abut how to divide up the ones we have. The fact is, we don't have enough and we need more. How do we do it? Not by dividing existing schools up into a thousand grammar schools and two thousand secondary moderns, but by a massive liberalisation of the supply-side of education, with open enrolment and money following the pupil.

Looks like he is suggesting to allow parents to try and get their children into whichever school they think suits their needs best, whereever it may be. Nolonger will people be trapped into having to send their children to the local sink comprehensive just because it is local. They will be able to send them anywhere with the funding following the pupils, allowing good school to expand and forcing bad ones to reform. This is better than pledging to build more grammar schools, this is pledging to set up a framework by which parents will be able to find whatever type of school best suits their childrens needs, be it a grammar school, sec. modern, comprehensive, Steiner School, or whatever and send them to it without having to worry to much about the costs.

We need more 'independent state schools.' City Academies - themselves the diluted successor of the City Technology Colleges set up by the last Conservative government - offer a structure which can be usefully developed. We will go further, by radically dismantling the barriers to entry so that small organisations can gain the capital funding and revenues to establish and run schools. City Academies should not require a millionaire to make the initial investment. They should not have to undergo the restrictive inspection and regulatory regime which stifles the creativity of heads and teachers.

And we will make it easier for anyone to set up a school. Any individual, company, charity, church, community group, teacher or parent co-operative who wants to set up and run a school - providing they meet certain minimal standards - will be able to, without requiring permission from an LEA. That's the way countries like Sweden and Holland have transformed their education systems, and that's what we will do here.

Get rid of the money leaching LEAs! Get the state out of deciding what systems to try! Let teachers and people that actually work with kids, and so have a clue what they are doing, open their own schools based on their own experience! Even more types of school, and even easier to create new types with different methods to see if they work! Those mimimum standards might end up covering rather more than I would like but Damn it David, I wanted to eviscerate you not publicly fellate you. Oh well, sluuuuurrrrp.

Tidal Power

Tidal power is one of the few of the renewable sources of energy that is also reliable (along with hydro, geo-thermal, and nuclear). The tides run like clockwork and can be reliably predicted years, even centuries, in advance. The UK is uniquely positioned to be able to take advantage of tidal power like no other county, thanks to both our long coastline and some of the strongest tidal currents in the world.

One method of harnessing this power would be to build a barrage across the bristol channel forcing all the water to flow though a set of turbines. This has some significant problems. One is the fact that the area around Bristol is still a major shipping destination and so the barrage (a huge, and hugely expensive, feat of engineering in itself) would need lock gates in it capable of taking a container ship. Another is that by the way it would distort the tides cause a large environmental impact on an already sensitive region. Which is why the EU has banned it.

Luckily a barrage is not needed. Turbines powered by the enormous tidal currents available would work almost as well, there is currently a tidal generator of this type already in operation at Lynmouth built by Bristol based Marine Current Turbines, without the environmental impact. Also since tidal turbines are more scaleable than a barrage. With a barrage you have to build the entire thing before you can get any power out. With an array of turbines you get power as soon as the first turbine is in operation. Should it then look like you chose the wrong spot for whatever reason you can stop at that point and choose another one, saving massive amounts in money and environmental damage. SeaGen the next the prototype that is scheduled to flow the SeaFow device at Lynmouth is already in construction and planned to be installed this summer. The one megawatt of power that this machine will generate will be feed into the grid.

May 18, 2007

Nuclear power keeps getting better

Maybe not hot news in the sense of being fresh, but certainly hot in the sense of being about the core of a fission reactor.

1. A simple change to the shape of the fuel pellets gives a 50% fuel efficiency improvement[1]
2. A simple additive to the coolant water gives a 50% increase in energy carrying capacity[2]

Nuclear is already the most reliable source of cheap clean energy there is and when these improvements start to work their way into production reactors it will get even better. The environmentalists can take their windmills and shove them up their arses, if you want to go green and not destroy industrial civilisation, because that would kill millions, then nuclear is the only game in town.

Kill Bill, part 2

They thought they had killed it, but it's back[1]. The private members bill by David Maclean (the 134th most expensive MP in 2004/2005) to exempt MP's from freedom of information requests has been resurrected by a quirk of procedure and now Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker is going to have to kill it all over again. May I recommend a stake through the heart and holy water?


Bugger. He fought the good fight but Norman Baker (and so the country at large) lost.

May 17, 2007

Boiling frogs

I might have been a bit hasty about Two Brains plan for education, because I read the headlines and not the words. Wat Tyler read the words and like Oliver Letwin's earlier speech the ideas that it contains are very good. One badly written speech full of good ideas is just a mistake, and everybody makes them, but two in a couple of weeks? Is there something more to this? I've actually noticed this pattern before; a leading Conservative gives a speech, the headlines look like they are doing some kind of major change to conservative thinking, the traditional conservative voters read the headlines and explode. But if you read the words not the headlines the words tell a different story, often a tale of how goals normally associated with government interference can actually be achieved by less government and a greater role for individual choices.

Could this be part of the Cameron strategy? A long game to rehabilitate the concept of individual freedom after decades of attack from authoritarians on both sides of the left/right split. First he uses these deliberately obscure speeches to provoke outrage from the conservatives traditional supporters, making people see him as different from what went before and therefore somebody that should actually be listened to. Over time the speeches will become less obscure, slowly acclimatizing the media (particularly the leftists at the BBC) to the idea of personal freedom. Had he come strait out as saying that he wanted to shrink the role of the state, because big government is simply not very good at doing anything, you can bet any money you like the BBC would already be in full demonisation mode shouting about how he wanted to force tiny babies to work in sweatshops. By increasing the rhetoric slowly while always maintaining the same ideas, he delays this moment when they realise what he is up to and allows time for these ideas to percolate outwards and get people thinking that there might be an alternative to the state as the cure for everything. Much like method for boiling frogs, if you just dropped them in water at full temperature they would just jump out, but raise the temperature slowly and they don't.

If I am right then stage one of project Cameron is already working. He is getting noisy decent from his traditional supporters making him look like a break from the past, and he is getting personal popularity so that people might actually listen to these supposedly new ideas. Stage two will be slowly making his rhetoric clearer and simpler over the next couple of years, but still not putting enough pressure on Gordon Brown so as to stop him from swinging left to try and show that he, Gordon, is a break from his predecessor in Number 10. Cameron will want this because of the inevitable result of left wing policies, economic collapse. The fact that he has kept the economy ticking over for such a long time is Gordon Brown's single greatest electoral advantage. When he loses that there won't be much left that he can call on and people will be willing to go for a radical change to get them out of the fix they are in. If the collapse can be associated with increases in state spending and interference, compared to Gordon's successful early years when he followed prudent Conservative policy, then all the better since it will get people thinking about alternatives that involve less state interference. Alternatives that Cameron will have been quietly laying the ground work for for several years.

I am convinced that Cameron knows that he has three years before he can start his election campaign and intends to use them to the full to try and set the groundwork for calling for a smaller state, rather than coming out all guns blazing now when he has nothing to win from it. He can leave it to UKIP to argue for a smaller state directly knowing that come election time many attracted by the UKIP arguments will still end up voting for him as there is nobody else with a hope of enacting even his minor curtailments of the state. His position will also look more centrist (and therefore electable) in comparison to UKIP by limiting his anti-statist rhetoric to be less than them, where before it without them it would have looked extreme compared to all the other parties with their varying degrees of statism.

Criminally irresponsible think tank

Another stupid think tank with yet more unworkable suggestions the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies wants the age of criminal responsibility raised form it's current level possibly as high as 18. Well this is one way of reducing the crime figures, arbitrarily declare that any crime committed by somebody up to the middle of the period of peak criminality is in fact not a crime. Brilliant! This will help that statistics no end, just a shame about the people being mugged.

They also recommend getting rid of ASBOs. I agree that ASBOs should be got rid of, but because people should not be able to be thrown into prison due to gossip about things which aren't a crime. Not because some of the people that they are used against happen to be below a certain age. Having removed the societies penalties for anti-social behaviour there has to be some other penalty or there are no disincentives to it at all. The real solution would be not more central control but letting society once again deal with anti-social behaviour and the Police, as Peel put it,
at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence
which might allow the Police to do what they are supposed to:
The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder

rather than their modern mission to raise the maximum money for government while placating the the public with some soundbites and headlines about crime occasionally.

Source: Criminal careers up to age 50 and life success up to age 48: new findings from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development


Pommygranate has a summary of what Richard Garside and the the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies are really about
, concluding that he is is the kind of person that has had no real job but loves to see his name in print. Unfortunately for us his quick headline to fuel is own narcism could well end up as policy nightmare for the rest of us.

relocation relocation relocation

Rambo Reid wants yet another Criminal (in)Justice Bill, with yet more draconian liberty destroying powers for the police.
Officers in England and Wales will be allowed to temporarily throw out nuisance neighbours, whether they are council tenants, private renters or even own the properties.
Notice there is no mention of arrest or trial. The police think you are up to no good so then they throw you out on the streets. Rather different from the way that the founder of the modern police service saw their role.
Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.

Of course we are told not to worry because these powers will only be used rarely and in extreme cases. Pull the other one, once this power is introduced it will be used more and more for crimes that it was never supposed to cover. Just as the Nat West Three where deported for doing something in this country which is not considered a crime in this country under the terrible extradition treaty that Labour negotiated supposedly for dealing with terrorists.

Lets hope Gordon Brown shuffles him away from the home office before this abomination can hit the statute books, but even then there is the real possibility that this Bill will not go when he does having already been tried out in Scotland and so will probably find its way south sooner rather than later.

May 16, 2007

Why support the SNP

Unity makes a point as to why free marketeers in Scotland should not be supporting the SNP, despite their giving a bloody nose to Labour. This also shows why libertarians south of the border should support them. The SNP, as Unity points out, it to the left of Labour, their growth in support comes not from pulling voters away from the miniscule Scottish Conservative Party (there wouldn't be enough of them to make much of a difference) but from the Scotish Socialist Party. Labour isn't getting beaten up jus because they of their sustained attacks on civil liberties of mistakes over foreign policy it is also because they are not economically left wing enough and the SNP is to the economic left of Labour.

With even the Conservatives left of what most Libertarians would like why should one like the success of a party to the left of Labour? Because their success shows just how different the polities of England and Scotland are. One national government cannot truly represent the wishes of such different national moods, so should they reach their primary aim of separating Scotland from the rest of the UK finally they would be able to get a government that was able to give them the legislation that so many of them seem to think would be best for them. This freedom to pursue what you think is best for you with the minimum amount of coercion from outside is one of the core ideals of Libertarianism and so the coercion of the English power over so many areas of national life forcing them to follow sensible policies is not ideal.

To those north of the border my commiseration's, but if so many people really do want to retry the old, failed, socialist model then they should be able to. Maybe Scotland will be able to make it work where nobody else (outside the Kibbutz movement) could. Freedom has to mean the freedom to make mistakes, and luckily in a democracy these can be corrected by just voting them out later.

Falwell is in hell

While Falwell decends down in hell to be Fired and flambeéd, baked and sauteéd, steamed and stewed, barbecued, grilled and roasted, Lightly toasted and fucked up the arse with barbed wire. I am off to get out my dancing shoes.

Grammar schools

Cameron wants to no longer commit the conservatives to creating new grammar schools.
The Conservatives are to abandon their support for grammar schools by saying academic selection is unfair to poorer families and limits social mobility.
They are wrong about social mobility, during the period where grammar schools social mobility was much higher than after. Children from poorer areas do particularly well in selective schools.

If they are trying to say that children from poor backgrounds would be unable to pass the entrance exams then he is not only wrong, but also very insulting.

If they think that Academies would be better for children than Grammars then will be right, and wrong. For some people Academies would be better, for some Grammar schools, but then for others home schooling would be best or one of the many other approaches to schooling.

What is best for whom is something that cannot be set from central government dictat. The only people that really know what is best for an individual child is the people that really know the child in question, parents of the children themselves, and even then it might take some trial and error. Instead of simply being yet another politician with a Plan for what he thinks is best for everybody, it would be better to have proposed a framework to allow parents to be able to pick what is best for their
individual children.

Scotland no longer a Labour stronghold

Alex Salmond has been elected as first minister of Scotland. This is good for a number reasons:
1. He has broken the Labour one party state north of the border. The kind of uncontested monopoly that Labour used to have is bad in any field, especially politics.
2. As a minority government he isn't going to be able to do much. Which is just one of the best things a government can do.
3. It sets up the possibility of a referendum on Scottish independence, and given that date in three years time that the SNP proposed just happens to co-incide with what could, hopefully, be a defeat for Labour south of the border there is a good chance that they could win. The Scottish Socialist Republic will be free to turn itself into a bankrupt basket case, and England will be free to pursue the free market and become rich.

May 13, 2007

intentions are not way to evaluate actions

A good post on way intentions are not way to evaluate actions.

Gun Boat Liberalism

for months Blair has been trying to construct a legacy to leave to the country. Signing us away up to the new EU treaty, or some other eye catching initiative. But everybody knows that Blair's legacy is Iraq. This will forever overshadow everything else that he did. This does not mean that it is not indicative of his reign. One of the beliefs evedent through all his actions is that the state is a force for good. This can be seen through the ever increasing level of state interference into private life that has occoured though the Blair years, and his love of gunboat liberalism. Over and over again Blair has gone to war in the name of helping other people: Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afganistan, and Iraq. I don't think that there can be any doubt that Blair was sincere in his intention to use British military power to try and help people, and in the case of Sierra Leone he suceeded. Perhaps this aggressive quest to spread the benevolent embrace of the British state world wide is partly due to his inability to get his way as completely in domestic policy as he could in foreign policy due to the deal he made with Gordon Brown limiting his options due to the need to ask next door whenever he wanted something funded, just as a US president will also always face the temptation of some foreign intervention since domestic spending has to be cleared through congress but dropping a couple of cruise missiles into a pharmaceutical factory does not. Or maybe had he not been so contrained at home he would have been just as eager to dispatch the Royal Navy to where ever there where headlines people calling out for his help. This will always be an unknown. What has become very apparent is that while it is very easy for our armed forces to topple a government reconstructing a civil society afterwards is much harder. It is possible if you can get enough of the people wanting what you want, as shown by Sierra Leone, but if you don't you are in for a very hard time that you cannot easily get out of.

May 08, 2007

Notes to a translation

At university I learned a few things; don't mix red wine, spirits and cider in an evening, a reasonable knowledge of programming, a healthy scepticism of academia, and how to translate to and from post-modern bullshit. The postmodernism generator is good, but you can only use it a few times before it becomes too obvious. Especially as the lecturers will also be using it as well.

So here is my initial translation of Oliver Letwin's recent, and much derided, article in The Times.

Is Cameron Conservatism just a set of attitudes, or is it a political theory?

Whichever it is trying to make it sound like litarary theory isn't going to get anybody to vote for you.

This is the unspoken question behind quite a lot of the more intellectual commentary over the past 18 months of Conservative revival.

No, its been the spoken question quite a bit. Especially amoungst the fifth estate (or filth estate in my case as a proud swearblogger). Just we tend to say it more directly, often involving the use of the word "cunt".

The question therefore deserves an answer. And the answer is that Cameron Conservatism, so far from being merely a set of attitudes, has a specific theoretical agenda. It aims to achieve two significant paradigm-shifts.

The bullshit meter just went off the scale with that one. A clearer version of that paragraph would be. "There is substance behind the style, as Cameron seeks to achieve two goals." but what do I know? Mr Letwin is the one with the up to the minute poll results so perhaps people respond better to baffling complexity compared to a simple message.

First, a shift from an econocentric paradigm to a sociocentric paradigm.

Translation: In the past the political battles where about economics, but the right anhilated opposition on that one because of it had the advantage of proposing stuff that actually works and tends not to leave six figure death tolls. Now the political battles will be on the other axis of the political compass, and about individual freedom against state control.

Secondly, a shift in the theory of the State from a provision-based paradigm to a framework-based paradigm.

Translation: This means that we should be promoting structures so that people can choose the things they want themselves, rather than dishing it out standard issue from the state.

It all goes back to Marx. Before Marx, politics was multidimensional – constitutional, social, environmental as well as economic.Marx changed all that. After Marx, socialists defended socialism and free marketeers defended capitalism. For both sides, the centrepiece of the debate was the system of economic management. Politics became econocentric.

Translation: Marxism treats people as pure products of the economic power, far more than under the free market. So since it was offshoots of Marxism would be found as one of the main protagonists of the political battle grounds that meant that the main arguments would have to be on economic grounds. Just pointing at the raw body count or gulag archipelagos tends not to have much effect on a true believer of Socialism.

But, as we begin the 21st century, things have changed. Since Margaret Thatcher, and despite recurrences of something like full-blooded socialism in Latin America, the capitalist/ socialist debate has in general ceased to dominate modern politics. From Beijing to Brussels, the free market has won the battle of economic ideas.

If the free market is a matter of consensus, the debate must change its nature. Instead of arguing about systems of economic management, we have to discuss how to make better lives out of the prosperity that the free market generates

Translation: Socialism failed, badly. This means that we are back to markets being the only game in town as far as economics goes. That isn't really contested by anybody anymore. Now we can go back to arguing about how to live rather than about ground nut production numbers.

The first theoretical advance (the first paradigm shift) of Cameron Conservatism is to see that fact clearly – to refocus the debate, to change the terms of political trade, to ask a different set of questions. Politics – once econocentric – must now become sociocentric.

But Cameron Conservatism is also an attempt to shift the theory of the State from a provision-based paradigm to a framework-based paradigm. The provision-theory of the modern State is the successor to socialism in the postMarxist era. It is the essence of Gordon Brown’s version of new Labour.

Translation: Thatcher's ideas won, she freed people economically and it worked. Now it is time to free people socially to let them enjoy the fruits of her sucess. That is where the new political battles will be. Gordon brown wants to make up for the fact that he has to live with free markets by excercising state control in other areas. Cameron Conservatism is about extending Margret Thatcher's gift of economic freedom to beyond economics.

The tell-tale marks of provision-theory are to be seen in much of the record of the last ten years – the targets and directives, the reorganisations, schemes and initiatives. Direct government intervention has been brought – with the best of intentions, though often with notable lack of success – to bear on schools and hospitals, police officers and neighbourhoods, local authorities and universities. The State has been seen as the source of enlightened social action, just as it was once seen as the source of enlightened economic action.

The key to translating this paragraph is the last sentence. "The State has been seen as the source of enlightened social action, just as it was once seen as the source of enlightened economic action."
Translation: New Labour is about controlling society from whitehall through their blizzard of targets and directives, just as they once tried to control the economy from whitehall.

The framework theory of the modern State sees government as having two basic roles: to guarantee the stability and security upon which, by common consent, both the free market and wellbeing depend; and, much more controversially, to establish a framework of support and incentive that enables and induces individuals and organisations to act in ways that fulfil not merely their own self-interested ambitions but also their wider social responsibilities.

Cameron's conservatives also want to try and guide society, but they want to do it more indirectly by fiddling with incentives to get problems solved without the need for a specific formulae to be handed down from the centre and implemented in the same way everywhere.

It is in emphasising this second duty of government that Cameron Conservatism distinguishes itself radically from Brownian new Labour.

Cameron Conservatism puts no faith in central direction and control. Instead, it seeks to identify social and environmental responsibilities that participants in the free market are likely to neglect, and then establish frameworks that will lead people and organisations to act of their own volition in ways that will improve society by increasing general wellbeing.

Translation: We prefer the subtle invisble hand to a big clunking fist. And where markets and society is not currently working well only there do we need to see about how to get them to improve things.

The intuitions about human nature that underpin this framework-theory of the modern State are unsurprisingly the same as the intuitions about human nature that underpinned free market theory in 20th-century econocentric politics.

The first intuition is that human enterprise, initiative, vocation and morale are the things that lead to progress and sustainable success in the socioenvironmental sphere, just as in the economic sphere.

The second, allied intuition is that command and control systems eventually fall under their own weight because they stifle enterprise, initiative, vocation and morale.

And the third intuition is that a framework that leads people to fulfil their social responsibilities of their own volition in their own ways is a much more powerful engine for sustained socioenvironmental success than direct government control.

This is all good stuff. It's just a shame that Letwin has decided to wrap it in layer upon layer of post-modern Lit-crit bullshit.
Translation: There are three assumptions that underpin the idea social freedom is better than a controlled society.
1. People know what is best for themselves. Just let them get on with it and they will make the best world possible.
2. Central control doesn't work. A society like an economy is simply too complex. This has already been seen by the fall of Socialism.
3. People have always helped each other voluntarily. But when you try to force this it stops being a pleasure and becomes a chore. All you then get is resentment and natural civility disappears.

Will the framework-theory based on these liberal conservative intuitions come in time to win the battle of ideas in sociocentric politics as comprehensively as its precursor, liberal conservative free market theory, did in the old econocentric political debates?

It is too early to tell. But one thing is clear. Cameron Conservatives have both an analysis of the nature of 21st-century politics and a theory of the role of the modern State. To win a battle of ideas is always a hard task. But having an idea is certainly a good starting point.

Just a conclusion trying to get people to ask what side they are on. Are you on the side of social freedom offered by Cameron's Conservatives or the centrally controlled society of Gordon Brown.

Because I am willing to translate his bullshit I like the ideas that have been submerged in it. But you cannot win a battle of ideas, which is what politics is, if nobody can actually get at them because you decided to bury them under haft a tonne of pseudo-intellectual crap. 7/10 for technical merit, 0/10 for artistic interpretation. The only reason that I can think of as to why Letwin decided to write his peice so badly, other than he actually wants people to think he's a wanker that is, is that doing it that way uses more words and he had a set number to produce in order to collect his cheaque.

May 02, 2007

All the privacy that's good for EU

Another victory for the EU, following up on shitting all over free speech it has decided to attack privacy as well. All in the name of our safety, of course. One thing this does provide is a good example of why you cannot use intentions as the measure of things, only actions. It was intended to make police co-operation easier while protecting us serfs. However it will actually:
make police co-operation harder and citizens more vulnerable
This an The intention here was good, it was to protect the people both their privacy and their security. But what actually emerged and could well end up up into action is detremental to both. Not that the bureaucrats of the EU are going to be too worried about a policy ending up doing the complete opposite of its stated aims, this is small fry compared to the CAP and the CFP, so long as the real purpose of all EU legislation is served. Which is too bring more areas of legislation under EU control.