Oil above $135 per barrel and burgers up to $175 per barrel!
"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
Oil above $135 per barrel and burgers up to $175 per barrel!
If you would like to see a true outrage, a gross use of "earmarks", try this little story from the Cato Institute.
Another twisting of the regulatory process: nuclear plants are not able to take part in the carbon offsets schems. Why ever not?
If you would like to try something useful in cutting carbon emissions, try this contrarian list: first thing, shun organic milk.
How the State claims it is saving money: by moving the goalposts, of course.
It simply boggles the mind that this keeps being deleted from the Guardian website.
And finally, an email that never did receive an answer.
There was a terrific article in yesterday’s Times by the philosopher Jamie Whyte entitled, ‘Why taxes should be slashed by half’. Arguing against the still-indecisive Conservative tax policy, Whyte claims that we are miles past the acceptable limit of taxation because politicians lack an understanding of the basic business concept of “cost of funds".
When a company considers investing in a project, they first have to determine how much it will cost them to raise the funds. As Whyte explains, a company will keep raising money until its cost exceeds the return from spending it. Whyte suggests that such logic should apply to government spending:
The Government should raise taxes until the cost (to society) of doing so exceeds the benefit (to society) of the spending it funds.
Due to the combination of administration, compliance, avoidance, and deadweight costs, this equates to the need for the government to deliver a return of more than 20 per cent upon the taxpayer’s investment. Of course, almost all government spending fails by any objective standards to deliver on this investment. Just take a look at education, healthcare, housing, unemployment insurance and pensions.
Given the politically sacred status of “public services", eliminating this spending and taxation will not sound like a very nice idea. And Mr Cameron is determined to make the Conservatives seem nice. But imposing pointless costs on society is not really a nice thing to do.
Taxes slashed by half? It would certainly get my vote.
The past two days have certainly been heated ones in Parliament. MP’s have been voting on amendments proposed to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. On Monday, I attended an event held by the Progress Education Trust entitled Half-truths? The Science, Politics and Morality of Hybrid Embryos.
Three panellists debated the topic: John Burn, Clinical Geneticist at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Professor at Newcastle University, (in support of the embryos); Josephine Quintavalle, Co-founder of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, (against); and Brenda Almond, Emiritus Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at the University of Hull, (explaining the ethics of the bill).
Several examples why “closing some roads" would harm science in the future were provided from the audience:
Ms. Almond described old definitions and proposed these ‘embryos’ be called “pseudo embryos", as they are not true embryos. Ultimately, this debate was less about the embryos and more about the government telling scientists what they may or may not do. Luckily MP’s recognised the need not to close the book on this topic. My favourite quote from the evening was from Prof. Burn comparing stem cells with replacing tires on his car: “ I don’t want retreads (adult stem cells), I want new ones (embryonic stem cells)!"
Religious-political institutions around the world are criticizing the British Parliament for yesterday’s vote to no longer require doctors to include "the need for a father" when administering fertilization treatment. The argument that Judeo-Christian values, or any religious ideology, necessitate pro-family legislation automatically caters the legal system to a faction of society at the expense of those who believe differently. After criticising Barack Obama last week, I’ll praise his advice to religious political institutions:
What [pluralistic democracy] demands is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. [For example,] those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God's will--they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, [or those of no faith]. (The Audacity of Hope).
If for some reason fertilization treatment for lesbians were indeed bad for society, the arguments should be based on scientific and empirical facts, not religious doctrine. They ought to remember what Abraham Lincoln said: “Certainly there is no contending against the Will of God; but still there is some difficulty in ascertaining, and applying it, to particular cases."
An interesting variation on the usual Laffer Curve arguments.
If a doctor is allowed (nay, encouraged!) to speak to the child of an economist in private, shouldn't the economist be allowed to instruct the child of the doctor again in private?
A rather Keynesian argument, but some merit still. With the constuction market in a slump, why not get on with necessary infrastructure?
And finally, shouldn't Congress now sue itself?
In a speech at Policy Exchange yesterday, Nick Clegg said:
When Labour came to power in 1997, the Government took three hundred billion pounds a year in tax. This year the Government will take nearly double that. They take one thousand seven hundred million pounds of our money every single day of the year. That’s more than £18,000 a second.
Indeed – and isn't that a great way to put it? The whole speech is pretty interesting actually, as it marks a definite departure from the tax and spend, social democrat stance of the party – which characterized its last two general election campaigns – and a shift towards old-fashioned liberalism. Clegg says he wants to break the consensus on ever-higher spending and claims he " would not be interested in spending a single penny of people’s money unless I knew it was going to give a greater benefit than leaving it in their pockets". Which is excellent.
But while I don't doubt Clegg's conviction – it's always been clear that he is much more free market than most Lib Dem activists – I suspect this speech is more the result of a political realization than an economic one. The Lib Dems know that most of their key election battles in 2010 are going to be against the Conservatives, and are positioning themselves accordingly.
In either case, this is good news for British politics. When the Lib Dems position themselves on the left, it drags the centre of political gravity in that direction, pulling the terms of debate with it. Hopefully the Lib Dems' explicit embrace of freer markets, lower taxes and greater decentralization will have the opposite effect.
In preparing for a data communications Bill in November’s Queen Speech, the Home Office is investigating the idea of a communications database. The government, which has already implemented the European Union’s Data Retention Directive (whereby telecommunication companies are required to keep records for 12 months of all calls made and text messages sent), is looking to extend this to include email and website visits. This is to be coupled with the haunting prospect of it all being gathered together in a database for easy governmental access, so that they may ‘protect us’.
We should be fearful of the inherent inability for the information to remain secure in their hands. This database would hold even more sensitive data (how many emails contain credit card details?) available for them to lose, data that could allow local governments to spy on our behaviour. The potential for blackmail or cash for access to that data is greatly enhanced as well. This creeping introduction of the ‘Big Brother’ state is nothing more than a reflection of a complete misinterpretation of the natural order of society. As the Labour government’s introduced legislation fails, they seek to control us via the concept of database management and its systematic appeal. They do so because they wish to create a perfect, stable un-natural order.
Currently we live under a system of continual surveillance, and have done since the 1970s. It is light in touch and the government’s use of it is held in check by the judicial system. ECHELON, which screens all telephone and email communication for any incriminating phrases, is a listening service that is at the government’s disposal so that it may deal with any potential threats to our security. This governments desire to understand and re-order us means that ECHELON is of little use to them. We could all inevitably face being entered in a database. Thankfully though, there are only 709 days left for us to live under this cloud. If there wasn’t a chance to vote for a change of direction we would, more probably than not, be turned into bar-code branded numbers.
One thing is clear from the Crewe and Nantwich by-election. Traditional class politics - epitomized by the ludicrous shenanigans of the Labour Party shadowing Edward Timpson with a young man dressed in top hat and tails - is well and truly dead.
The stunt has failed entirely to hit the right note with the people of Crewe and Nantwich. Gone are the days when political party affiliation was inherited lock, stock and barrel alongside support for the local football club. Those who aspire to better than what Gordon Brown has been able to offer thus far are ready to vote instead for the what the Conservative candidate is promising, and this is no doubt a good thing.
It was the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who shaped the current political climate. Blair was a populist, undercutting traditional party loyalties through a personal (even if fabricated) connection with the public. Brown’s inability to tune in to this, explains the Crewe and Nantwich tactics and it is much to the credit of the voters that the message of class is being ignored.
Gordon Brown is not a populist, but an ideological left-winger. His problem is that undermining the public’s individual rights, regulating their businesses and offering them pitiful state services has proven to make him very unpopular indeed, something transcending all class divides.