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"Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice" - Adam Smith

Fight for the right to party

Written by Carly Zubrzycki | Wednesday 02 July 2008

Apparently, Swedish schools have now decided that children have a right – yes, a right –  to be invited to birthday parties. An eight-year-old boy was accused of discrimination when he failed to invite 2 of his classmates to his birthday party. According to the boy’s father, one of the uninvited students bullied the birthday boy and the other had not invited him to his own birthday party. But because the boy was handing the invitations out in class, his teacher confiscated them and has accused him of discrimination. According to the BBC, “The boy's school says he has violated the children's rights and has complained to the Swedish Parliament." The Parliament will decide whether the boy has a right to only invite his friends to his birthday party in September.

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Blog Review 645

Written by Netsmith | Tuesday 01 July 2008

A fascinating little map showing quite how large government looms in the economy in the various parts of the UK. There have been nominally socialist countries with lower levels than some areas.

Another fascinating snippet on attitudes towards such government interventions in the economy.

The highly amusing results of advanced technology meeting not very advanced prejudice.

These government consultation things might not be quite all they seem you know. Strange but true.

Total Politics seems to have managed what many new magazines do not: plan for a second edition.

As a bibliophile Netsmith is annoyed with himself for not coming up with this explanation for house price falls.

And finally, the usual uncle at a wedding thing.


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Envy of the world?

Written by Tom Clougherty | Tuesday 01 July 2008

According to ICM polling for the BBC, 40 percent of Britons list the risk of potentially deadly infections such as MRSA and C–difficile as their main concern with the NHS. They are right to be worried:

  • One in nine patients admitted to hospital contract an infection during their stay. MRSA accounts for 45 percent of hospital-acquired infections in the UK, compared with less than 5 percent in the Netherlands and 1 percent in Sweden and Iceland.
  • Only half of inpatients surveyed by the Picker Institute regarded their ward as clean.
  • The number of hospitals not complying with the Healthcare Commission's standards on infection control, decontamination and hygiene went up by 6.8 percent, 1.7 percent and 2.5 percent respectively in 2006/7. A third of hospitals failed to comply with at least one of these standards.
  • The number of deaths caused by MRSA has risen by 39 percent since 2001/2.
  • EU-wide figures on MRSA infections show that Britons are 45 times more likely to get MRSA than Swedes and Icelanders.
  • Between 2004 and 2006 deaths caused by C-difficile increased by 69 percent. Only one in four hospitals has a C-difficile isolation ward, even though this is considered the best way to stop the spread of the infection.

The strange thing is that 81 percent of people surveyed also said they were fairly or very proud of the NHS. 51 percent believed the NHS was the envy of the world. One simple question – why?

Healthcare spending now consumes 9-10 percent of GDP every year, and yet the UK has one of the highest levels of avoidable mortality in Europe.  We spend more on cancer treatment than any other European nation, yet still have poor survival rates compared with Western Europe, the US and Canada. We're the only OECD country to show no improvement in stroke deaths since 2000. NHS patients wait much longer for treatment than their European neighbours, and are denied new medicines and treatments that are routine elsewhere.

The NHS is nothing to be proud of. The sooner people realize that, the better.

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Standing against the consensus

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Tuesday 01 July 2008

Meteorologist Fred Singer is always amusing. He has a cheery disposition, and takes particular delight in teasing the likes of Al Gore when their enthusiasm gets the better of their reason. His Non-Government International Panel on Climate Change points out that melting glaciers and suchlike may be evidence of rising temperatures, but they are not evidence that human beings have caused them. And he states simply and confidently that human influence over the climate is insignificant.

The world has been much hotter, and much colder, long before we arrived on the scene. Carbon dioxide has been twenty times the level it is now. The sun – gushing out radiation, gas clouds, and magnetic fields – is a much more important cause of climate change. Carbon 14 and Oxygen 18 isotopes in ancient ice samples allow us to gauge both solar activity and temperature over the millennia; and indeed there is a strong correlation.

Singer has been in London, promoting his new report, Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate. The idea that human beings are causing climate change, he says, has produced damaging distortions in our energy policy – increasing our costs, damaging our economic growth and lowering our living standards. Instead, he says, since our activities have almost no influence on the climate, we should carry on using coal (and nuclear power) to generate electricity, and use our potentially-insecure supplies of natural gas for less strategic purposes such as transportation.

You might not agree with Singer, but it's hard to dislike the good-natured way he is prepared to stand up against the consensus.

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Eroded liberties 11

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Tuesday 01 July 2008

It is an important safeguard against oppressive authority that the state should only act against people suspected of a specific crime. Free societies reject what are called "general warrants," where the state comes fishing to see what wrongdoing it might find. Its searches should be limited to specific offences suspected of being committed by specific persons.

The state always wants to survey everyone in case it can find some offence they might have committed, and liberty is preserved by preventing it from doing so. The police want to stop drivers at random in case any of them are under the influence of drink or drugs; but they are only allowed to stop people who are behaving suspiciously. Similarly with homes or businesses; there must be good cause to suspect specific infringements, not general snooping.

Several recent laws have weakened this protection by, for example, giving numerous bodies including local authorities the power to snoop on actions, correspondence, and communications in case people are transgressing the laws and rules. The position should be re-established that general warrants are not to be tolerated in free societies.

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Blog Review 644

Written by Netsmith | Monday 30 June 2008

The delightful results of the abolition of that 10 p tax band again: yet more of the poor face 60% marginal tax rates. as we insist all the time around here, the poor simply have to be taken out of the income tax net.

Looking at population projections: yes, predictions, especially about the future, are very hard. But it would help is we at least extended the current trend.

A question for those advocating "high quality childcare for all". Just where are all the people going to come from?

The legal profession responds to the latest government proposals. We'll take that to be an exam question answer shall we?

Catching up with the latest climate change news.

Really? Asprin is now rationed by law?

And finally, this has to be a spoof book review from Mr. Dale, yes? Please?


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The dangers of border police

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Monday 30 June 2008

Britain's Association of Chief Police Officers is lobbying for the creation of a 3,000-strong counter-terrorism border force, to be made up of a special branch of uniformed officers.

Somehow, I cannot imagine that this will be a welcome development for travellers. Sure, I want Britain to keep out terrorists, gangsters, drug-thugs and the like. And we have a UK Border Agency already, charged with managing border control, enforcing immigration and customs regulations, and dealing with citizenship and asylum. It's a wide brief, to be sure, but that at least moderates its behaviour. My fear is that when an 'elite' counter-terrorism force gets put in charge, travellers to the UK will be viewed with suspicion as potential terrorists, rather than welcomed with enthusiasm as potential tourists or traders.

I just have this vision of perfectly innocent families who have some glitch on their passport being marched off by heavies in riot gear to be generally inconvenienced and intimidated. When you give exceptional powers to public officials, they do have a habit of using them indiscriminately. Local authorities' use of surveillance against litter-louts and wheelie-bin rule-breakers is an example. But at least local authority officers don't tote Heckler & Koch MP5s.

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4-day week, anyone?

Written by Jason Jones | Monday 30 June 2008

Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah is bringing radical change to his state next month. Currently state employees work eight hours a day, five days a week. Starting in August, they will work ten hours a day, four days a week. The idea is to help employees save on gas and to reduce the state’s energy bills. By closing hundreds of buildings for an extra day of the week, the state will save $3 million a year.

Unfortunately, when politicians try to solve problems they usually make them worse. But this idea shows a keen understanding of supply and demand. Tariffs, taxes, minimum wages, and price controls distort markets because they work against supply and demand. But a four-hour workweek will help 16,000 state employees.

Further, the money workers save will be spent in other sectors of the market and the $3m the state saves can be invested in infrastructure, schools, or given back as tax breaks. In March, Utah was named the best-managed state in America and last year it had the most economic growth and it continues to perform well even as the economy slows.

Creativity, intelligence, and an understanding of economics. Imagine the possibilities.

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Eroded liberties 10

Written by Dr Madsen Pirie | Monday 30 June 2008

The law used to recognize the right of individuals to protect themselves and their property from illegal transgression. People who found themselves facing assault or theft were entitled to use what the law called "reasonable force" to resist such infringement of their rights, and to secure the safety of their person and their property.

Recently the determination of the police to exercise a monopoly of violence, coupled with a determination by lawyers and judges to protect those accused, has systematically eroded the common law right of self defence. Those who have apprehended criminals in the act of theft or assault have found themselves arrested for false imprisonment, kidnapping, or assault.

Our right to protect ourselves is surrendered to an impartial authority more likely to exercise dispassionate judgement, provided that it does indeed safeguard our interests. If that authority fails to protect, however, then people have to protect themselves. In undermining that right, recent decisions have also undermined the rule of law and the right to life and property.

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Blog Review 643

Written by Netsmith | Sunday 29 June 2008

'Twas ever thus: politicians seem insistent on subsidising the things that don't really need subsidising while refusing to subsidise those that might be worth it.

Here's a good example of what not to subsidise: an oil producer importing petrol and then subsidising it.

A quite excellent application of technology: tracking imports, container by container. There are simply so many uses for this.

Not what you might expect to see around here: Clement Atlee was correct on the NHS.

Why newspapers are like pop music.

What would happen if Harriet Harperson's ideas on equality were truly enforced.

And finally, no, not what you really want to happen.

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