January 31, 2008

record of corruption

While the noise over Derek Conway dies down it is rather interesting to speculate what would have happened had he been in the Labour Party rather than the Conservatives, to do so you just have to look at what happened in the past. Something that has already been done in the comment thread at Political Betting on the subject.
I was looking at MPs suspended from the House of Commons..and what happened to them at nexte GE.since 1990 17 MPs have been suspended from the House: John Browne (1990), Dick Douglas (1990), Rev Paislay (1993), David
Tredinnick (1995), Graham Riddick (1995), Bob Wareing (1997), Ernie Ross (1999), Don Touhig (1999), Kali Mountford (1999), Teresa Gorman (2000), Geoffry Robinson (2001), Keith Vaz (2002), Michael Trend (2003), Clive Betts (2003), Jonathan Sayeed (2005), George Galloway (2007), Derek Conway (2008)

Andrea's question was answered by HF later in that thread.
116 Andrea interesting question on which MPs stood
down/deselected at next GE. They were all Conservatives!

Every one of the 8 Labour MPs suspended carried on past at least the
next GE apart from 1 who joined the SNP.. 0 Labour MPs stood down or were
deselected at next GE.

5 of the 7 Conservatives stood down/deselected at next GE, 2 carried on, 1
of which was voted out.

John Browne CON (1990) deselected and still stood.
Dick Douglas LAB (1990) left LAB joined SNP and lost
Rev Paislay DUP (1993) carried on
David Tredinnick CON (1995) carried on
Graham Riddick CON (1995) fought GE97 and lost (to Kali)
Bob Wareing LAB (1997) carried on and finally deselected 2007
Ernie Ross LAB (1999) carried on, retired GE05
Don Touhig LAB (1999) carried on
Kali Mountford LAB (1999) carried on and was promoted
Teresa Gorman CON (2000) stood down in GE01
Geoffry Robinson LAB (2001) carried on
Keith Vaz LAB (2002) carried on and was promoted
Michael Trend CON (2003) stood down in GE05
Clive Betts LAB (2003) carried on
Jonathan Sayeed CON (2005) deselected for GE05
George Galloway RESP (2007) carried on
Derek Conway CON (2008)stood down next GE

It seems it is best to be a Labour MP, their party seems to be more tolerant
of bad behaviour.

with one of these being clarified a little later
135. I don't think Sayeed was deselected. On the contrary he won
his re-selection, but after further revelations he retired on "health

So Labour is a little worse than the Conservatives, but when they are caught out they are far less likely to be forced off the gravy train. So if you want to be corrupt and get away with it be on the 'left'.

January 30, 2008

The state of happiness is not being in the EU

Chris Dillow of Stumbling and Mumbling is pointing to an economics paper that, to those on the 'right', shows a most unremarkable result.

The effect is large. Controlling for a few obvious things, they estimate that, within OECD countries a one percentage point rise in the share of government spending in GDP cuts growth by 0.13 percentage points a year. This implies that the rise in government spending we've had in the UK since 2000 (from 37.2% of GDP to 42%) would, if sustained take half a point off GDP growth, making us more than 5% worse off in 10 years' time than we would have been had spending stayed at 2000's levels.

So far so unexceptional and the luddite left will bleat that all of this growth is oiled by the blood of cute little fluffy puppies, that economic growth cannot possibly ever be good and that we would all be much happier living in unheated mud huts and inbreeding. They will claim that we should be trying to make people happy rather than rich, and the pressures of modern life mean that we are far less happy now than when our forefathers where working themselves into the grave at 40 trying to scrape together enough food to survive the winter from their peasant small holdings. They are wrong of course.

In a sample of over 130,000 people from 126 countries, the correlation between the life satisfaction of individuals and the GDP of the country in which they live was over .40 – an exceptionally high value in social science.

So if the aim is happiness the proscriptions of Polly Toynbee et al. would be completely counter productive. Their desire for control and stopping economic growth is not going to make everybody happier, it is going to make everybody far less happy than they could have been. In stead of yet more regulation and yet more big government if you really want to improve quality of life then yo should be arguing to let people get on with their lives, improving them and making their own choices as to what will make them happiest. There is another point to this paper as well, some ways of shrinking the state are better than others at promoting growth (and therefore happiness).

It estimates that it is indirect taxes, and not income taxes, that depress growth most.

He then singles out two particually bad examples of these indirect taxes, VAT and excise duties stating that if we cut these we could even increase income tax and still have the same effect. Unfortunately we cannot cut these taxes, they are controlled by our imperial masters in Brussels. Excise duties are completely under the control of the protectionist Customs Union that forms the core of the EU, and VAT is required to never be levied at below 5% and, like the revenue from excise duties, it forms part of the funding of the EU.

This means that not only could we get a boast of 3% growth simply by leaving the EU and its red tape factory behind, even if they decide to raise tariff barriers against us but because we could then get rid of these regressive, fraud magnet, taxes growth would probably be even better. This would in turn make everybody happier than they could have been in the EU, and happier than those poor serfs still serving the EU empire.

Immigration and the Welfare State

Wat Tyler has a run down of the amount that immigration costs tax payers through increased demands on the Welfare State. Which goes to show, to paraphrase Milton Friedman, that you can have free immigration or a welfare state, but not both. Not that we can do anything about this, as part of the EU empire our immigration policy is not set in Westminster anymore but from our government over the water in Brussels. In order to deal with the problem that Wat Tyler points out we can either get out of the EU, and take back our immigration policy, or get rid of the Welfare State, and so the cost of people coming here to exploit it. Both of these happen to be good options. Personally I would like to get rid of the Welfare State and get out of the EU, then continue with an open immigration policy anyway ('cos freedom of movement, like any other freedom, is important).

January 28, 2008

Snouts in the trough

It isn't just Labour that are self serving good for nothings, and finally a Conservative has been caught with his snout in the trough. I suspect that Conway will get the boot. Not because he a corrupt bastard of course, if people got thrown off the gravy train for that then the Houses of Parliament would be practically empty. Nor even for getting caught. No he will get thrown out because it is politically useful to Cameron as it lets him contrast the tough way that he deals with scandals like this with Brown's vacillating and it gives him a chance of a bit of revenge.

January 25, 2008

Old age incentives

Apparently two thirds of people have no plans to put money aside to pay for the extra care they will need in old age. The survey that reveals this factoid comes from a group of charities campaigning for more government money to be spent on themselves old age. However there is a ring of truth to it, why would any rational person save for their retirement based on what the government is currently doing? If you save you will have everything taken from you. If you do not save you will have everything given to you. It is therefore better not to save, and to spend the money now, than to try and put something away in the knowledge that it will simply be confiscated later in order to pay for those that didn't.

January 24, 2008


Renewable propaganda

There is only one response to our government over the water's demand that we must produce 15% of all our energy with renewables by 2020, laugh. It simply isn't going to happen. Like there demand that 10 per cent of all vehicle fuel comes from biofuels, even though they mean the production of more carbon than they would save, will lead to the destruction of rainforest, will increase food costs, this is feel good enviromentalism which is going to be far worse for people than the effects of climate change that it is trying to counter. But what does the EU political elite care about people, when there is valuable propaganda to be spun? Trying to provide that much of our power from wind, wave, hydro, and solar would be so cripplingly expensive and unreliable that there is no way that we will end up with even close to 15% of all energy coming from renewables. Unless of course they include that forgotten renewable energy system, the Fast Breeder Reactor.

January 23, 2008


Here is an interesting article on the differing attitudes to what to do about the coming economic slowdown on the two sides of the atlantic. In the USA they are thinking about the best ways to provide a bit of stimulus to try and achieve as soft a landing as possible. In the Eurozone there is paralysis and just wishing it would go away as they don't think they can do anything about it. A comment to it is particularly good:
There may be a good reason whay [sic] European economists and policy makers have “file not found”, when talking about a fiscal stimulus package: they cannot do it! What would matter in the euro area is an aggregate fiscal stimulus, not uncoordinated policies by single member states. If Germany or France or Finland did it on their own, it would only disappear as a marginal stimulus for imports, while the borrowing government would be landed with the full debt burden. At the same time, interest rates would go up und that would take some of the effects away. So, the proper forum for such policies would be the Eurogroup.

EU arguments

One of the problem with arguing with the Pro-EU is that they simply have no arguments.

You can point out the massive democratic deficit in the system. You can show how it will never become a true democracy no matter how much tinkering because there is no demos (and bugger all chance of one forming due to the multitude of different languages). The contempt that democracy is held by those pushing the EU forward is only too obvious. From the fig-leaf parliament where its highly inaccurate show of hands voting system would be a travesty had they actually any power, to the neverendums that happen should the public have the timidity to vote in a way that the EU elites disapprove of. Or simply the way they ignore referenda that produce the 'wrong' results and carrying on anyway.

You can point out that most of what the EU does is shit, like the Common Agriculture Policy or the Common Fisheries Policy. You can tell them that loads of what the EU does is not just shit but completely counter-productive to its stated aims, such as: the Common Agriculture Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy, or enviromental policy.

You can tell them that even the good bit, the common market, come with so much baggage that it turns out to be a large net loser. You can tell them that it is protectionist, corporatist, and a massive source of corporate welfare. A situation that has been known to be crap for a couple of hundred years. Pro-EU people will often describe themselves as liberal and then go on to have to defend the Corn Laws, which is just bizarre.

You can show why if we left their horror stories of millions losing their jobs simply wouldn't happen, and how we would actually be considerably better off. You can prove that the scare stories that they circulated about how the UK economy would collapse because we were not inside the Eurozone were wrong. The UK has actually done better by being outside the Eurozone than the other large countries in it because it is outside it and therefore maintained a floating currency value and interest rates that were right for the UK rather than right for the Eurozone average.

You can explain that federalism does not mean a end to wars. You can point out that the Germans are not Nazis, that germany is constitutionally pacifist and has been making too much money from not having to maintain a large army to have any intention of invading anybody. The only part the the EU and its predecessors played in the only war that might have happened in Europe in the last 50 years was to provide the USA with a way of bribing their allies with other people's money, it was the USA (and their nukes) with NATO that really kept the peace.

In the end a lot of the pro-EU argument often seems to reduce to a nostalgia for empire. Not the British Empire, of course, just any empire that they can get their hands on. "By banding together we will be more powerful" they will say. Try to tell them that power isn't good in itself, that if you are going to shoot yourself in the foot it is better to do it with a peashooter than a shotgun, and you will get the reply but ... but ... but its POWER.

January 22, 2008

The end is nigh ... yay!

Well it could finally be happening, it looks like the slowdown is finally here. David Cameron must be wiping his considerable brow in relief that Gordon Brown didn't call a snap election in the autumn. Had he done so there was a chance, admittedly a small one, that Cameron would be having to carry the can for Gordon Brown's economic mismanagement only a few months into his time in office. As it is when the election comes in 2010 it will be Gordon that will be made to take the blame. The economy will be growing again by then but his reputation for economic competence, his only trump card and the one he plays at every opportunity, will be gone.

We don't know whether it will become a full blown recession, but one thing that is certain is that it is going to look much worse than it is thanks to the whinging form the public sector. Having been hosed down with money for the last 5 years the public sector is used to getting big rises to their already generous pay and perks every year. This cannot continue as there isn't any money there to pay for it and they won't be happy. Had he been prudent during the time of plenty the government would have been running large surpluses, money that he could now dip into in his time of need. Unfortunately for everybody he wasn't prudent and was already spending beyond our means when the times were good because he needed the money in order to implement his dreams of micromanaging everything from the centre through a raft of targets Gordon tried to buy the co-operation of the public services by stuffing their mouths with gold.

No more gold, no more co-operation.

In the past some might have been willing to forgo the perpetual increases in pay because they where true public servants and enjoyed their work serving the public, but not now. What satisfaction is there as a mindless drone endlessly trying to meet the meaningless targets that rain down from above? Not much, even for the most unimaginative of time serving of bureaucrats. Worse still for those that really do want to help the public but have to spend their time jumping through hoops for the amusement of their superiors, like performing animals in the circus, all the time knowing that if they where just allowed to get on and do their jobs they could do them so much better.

January 19, 2008

More personal data lost by the government

Another month and so another scandal of peoples data being lost. This time it was a laptop full of information on 600,000 people who expressed an interest in joining the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force, and hundreds of highly personal state benefit documents had been found scattered near a roundabout in Exeter.

This is not the first time that private records, including bank details have been dumped like this at this location which shows the contempt that these 'public servants' show to the people that pay their wages. Can't be bothered to dispose of the records safely? Just chuck them out of the car window, its only people's bank details. Where any private company guilty of such flagrant disregard of people's data the perpetrators could be facing a jail term, but in the public sector they would just be quietly shuffled to another department or allowed to retire on their hugely generous pension.

As for the laptop I can only hope that it was encrypted. Not that keeping your data private via encryption is an option for the rest of us since labour made it a criminal offense for a private citizen to have encrypted data on their own computers and not be able to produce the keys on demand, even if that data was inaccessible from the file system having been deleted so long as the operating system has not overwritten that particular area of the disk. Perhaps now they are beginning to understand the need for encryption? Maybe now they are beginning to understand that not all data hidden from prying eyes has to be evidence of evil relating to whatever the scare story de jour is? No, probably not. They certainly won't be thinking of making people innocent until proven guilty having managed to get the burden of proof reversed in these cases, that isn't the Labour way.

January 18, 2008

The last bastion of Socialism

In the Kitchen Dr De'Arth is bemoaning the central planning and micromanagement in the NHS. Unfortunately this is how the NHS is supposed to work. It is supposed to have ministers fretting over the tiniest details, it was set up in order to have ministers fretting over the tiniest details.

That was what they thought would be best, get a sufficiently smart person with a sufficiently good plan and, they reasoned, that the result would have to be better than the messy products that had evolved to solve the problems before. So industry was planned from the centre, architects made 'machines for living in', and the NHS where born and grew to fruition.

This experiment has been running for more than haft a century and the results are pretty conclusive. The messy products of evolution spanked the planners across their own drawing boards.

Central planning of industry turned into the 'managed decline' of industry. The 'machines for living in' crushed their inhabitants. The NHS manages to take first world levels of funding and turn it into developing world levels of service despite the best efforts of the staff, which if they had been in the private sector would be referred to as grossly exploited. So now the state, rightly, does not take an actively try and direct the way that business are run, and the economy is no longer in decline. Architects are less likely to declare 'Never again' and you get more buildings that actually perform their function. Perhaps one day we will let the power of evolution into healthcare as well with a multi-payer/multi-provider system like those on the continent.

January 17, 2008


January 16, 2008

Trust doesn't work

Iain Dale is pointing to a report in the times, which he doesn't link to (thanks Iain) about a speech by Mark Thompson on the general levels of distrust people have for politicians and how the BBC can educate them out of these naughty thoughts. The speech itself is rather less than the report makes out, and I'm not particularly interested in his claim that the BBC can to ride to the rescue and overturn decades of distrust in the political classes through re-education. It can't though if that includes being a little less biased (or at least open that they are biased) then that would be good thing. I want to query why the general distrust of our political elite is seen as a bad thing.

Seeing those in public office are seen as primarily motivated by their own interests provides an extremely good model for predicting their behaviour. This model is so good that there is an entire branch of economics has been built from it which has produced several nobel prizes.

The lack of trust in politicians isn't due to them not understanding them, it is that they understand them only too well. This is people looking at the various bits data they have and coming up, in aggregate, with a conclusion that is just as good as that of the very best economists. It is the result of The Wisdom of Crowds.

Mark Thompson says that:

people get on with their lives and the UK remains a going concern despite the very high levels of stated scepticism.

so people must actually trust the politicians and not want to admit it, because without them putting their faith in the wise man in whitehall everything would fall apart.

However scepticism is the better model than trust so it would be more accurately put the UK remains a going concern because of the very high levels of scepticism. People understand not to trust politicians when they claim that they are going to make black white or cause money to fall from the sky. They know how little the man in whitehall can really achieve and plan accordingly. Mark Thompson claims that scepticism is a distroted view of reality, but it isn't. Scepticism provides the more accurate way of assessing the actions of those in public office, it is being trusting that is the distorted view which produces strange results.

January 15, 2008

All your body are belong to us

Spare organs are a scarce resource, and we all know the best way to distribute a scarce resource. Yes, socialist style confiscation and rationing, of course. It is not really a surprise that the illiberal conspiracy are taking the socialist option of nationalising peoples bodies rather than the liberal option of treating peoples bodies as your own to do with as they wished.

One of the organless straw-men deployed is that somehow being against enforced organ donation is the same as being anti-abortion, even though saying the state can decide how or where your body parts are of best use has exactly the same root as the anti-abortion argument, that the state has more right to decide what happens to your body than you do. My body is mine, to do with as I please. I should be able to take out contracts to do whatever I want with it. A Will is a contract that I have taken out with a trusted third party that should I no longer be able to deal with my affairs they will disperse them according to my pre-defined wishes. Why should the state be able to usurp this contract in order to come in and raid the contents of my chest anymore than it would come in and raid the contents of my fridge?

If I take out a contract to be land filled then that contract should be honoured. If I take out a contract to be incinerated (the cost of which should include the correct Pigou Tax for the carbon released) that contract should be honoured. If I take out a contract with a catering company to be served up at the wake then that contract should be honoured. If I take out a contract to have my remains cut up, plastinated and then given away as paperweights to the mourners then that contract should be honoured. If I take out a contract to have my remains cut up, plastinated and then sold on eBay to pay for the assassination of Gordon Brown then that too should be honoured (should anybody agree to take it up). Likewise if I decide to realise capital in my bits before death, by selling on the right to use them once I no longer need them, then that is what should happen. There is another advantage to this option, the action of the market for these 'no futures' contracts would have the added advantage of meaning when they did get cashed in my organs would continue in the way that was optimum for society, rather than what was optimum for some politician trying to buy votes.

January 11, 2008

You cannot make it up

Paulie is exhorting people to read this post, claiming that "this post pulls together so many themes that I've been niggling around for so long. I'd never have got there though." This has to be sarcastic, but certainly try reading if you want a laugh. Haft of it reads like it was produced by the postmodernism generator and the other haft is even worse, with such unintentionally hillarious statements as this:

The symptoms of the failures of this worldview are everywhere – in a disintegrated social sphere in which teenagers shooting each other has become commonplace, in which mental illness and affective disorders of every kind are proliferating at an alarming degree, in which hospitals incubate aggessive Superbugs - what is required is connect effect to structural cause. Far from being isolated, contingent problems, these are all the effects of a single systemic cause: Capital.

Really. So it was private capital that made the state owned, state financed, and state run hospitals providing socialised health care into plague pits. Compared to the very clean private hospitals where the patients can actually influence the conditions that they want to be treated in by refusing to be kept in squalid filth. Were a private hospital to try and force NHS like conditions on upon its patients it would go out of business.

Or even better this:

Microsoft has achieved its global domination not so much by occupying the State as by subordinating the machinery of government to its interests.

What the fuck? At what point exactly did the state have anything to do with Microsoft's current domination of the operating system market? Microsoft gained its leaverage through the stupidity of IBM in not forcing them to give an exclusive licence for MS DOS (nee QDOS, Quick and Dirty Operating System) and the cleverness of the engineers at Compaq for seeing an opportunity to piggyback IBMs marketing muscle. Microsoft has spent most of its existence dodging the machinery of government; be it copywrite, patents, or anti-trust.

Or how about this for chutzpa:

The Left should argue that it can deliver what neoliberalism has signally failed to do: a massive reduction of bureaucracy, a handing back of control of work and life from rhizomaniac bureaucracies to workers.

Ha ha ha hha ha hahahahah ha ha. To be able to deliver lines like that with a strait face!

January 08, 2008


Just as I defended Samina Malik or would defend somebody's right to claim the Protocols weren't a forgery (while pointing out they are) on pure free speech grounds I will defend Lionheart. I don't like what he says or the way he puts it but he should be able to say what he thinks so long as he isn't directly inciting violence (and he isn't). His case also has the merit that the bluster has a vague grounding in fact. Both the kebab thing and the child grooming are both based on extremely unusual but real cases.

January 06, 2008

Camels of the sky

According to The Register Ofcom is planning more spectrum sales, and it is going to do it in a way that could not be bettered. You see it is planning to establish property rights over the airwaves. The chunks of spectrum will be sold permanently to the buyer who can then lease or resell them onwards if whatever they are planning does not pan out, the only restriction is that any signal from that chunk of spectrum cannot interfer too much with the signal in the chunks of spectrum around it. This is great, a recipe for the limited resource of the radio spectrum to be used in the most efficient manner possible and be able to be quickly and easily repurposed to meet peoples changing needs.

The only cloud on the horizon is our government over the water as the EU has other ideas. It would prefer to take over control of the spectrum itself so that it can dictate what it is used for in an attempt to pick winners. Somehow the GSM standard managed not to be a total camel, but the chances of that happening twice are just laughable. More likely there will be spectrum dedicated to TV for mobile phones and other useless boondoggles.

Where we an independent nation this wouldn't matter of course. We would create property rights for spectrum and the EU wouldn't. If the EU's camel breeding programme did manage to turn out a couple of successes then whomever owned the relevant slice of spectrum would cash in by letting it be used for whatever that was. If the EU picked losers however it wouldn't matter and that piece of spectrum would be used for something that was useful. However we are not independent, we are very much part of the EU empire so what our local government and its regulators decide is irrelevant as they will just be overruled by their imperial masters.