Only the illegal are free


Huddled in the back of a lorry that has just rolled off the ferry at Dover, in a few minutes time you’ll be speeding up the M20 towards London and a new life living and working as an illegal immigrant in the UK. The government won’t know you exist... The lorry driver on the other hand has been thoroughly and electronically examined in fine detail. His whereabouts have been known to the government since he decided to travel abroad. This will be heralded as a success by the eBorders team as they search their database looking for the guilty needles in the haystack.

This article in the Daily Telegraph highlights, what is now fast becoming a common theme of government attempts at security: everyone is potentially guilty and to protect you from yourselves they have to know all they can about you, including where you travel to. And as the eBorders spokesman says, they’ve already discovered that 0.00353% of travellers are in fact wanted criminals. This is heralded as a success; that the rest of us, under governmental threat of being fined have ‘willingly’ shared our data with them. This is us proving to the government that we have nothing to hide, and therefore nothing to fear; self-perpetuating their own rhetoric so that they continue to believe that they are on the correct policy path.

The majority of legislation introduced in relation to the apparent security of our nation, and ourselves, has  contained a comparable threat to our own liberty which has forced us into compliance. Were this a private firm we would have long ago ended the contract and sought others who do not treat us as criminals from the outset. Perhaps the solution open to us is that we should all decide to become illegal immigrants, especially as it no longer seems this country is one that we are allowed to feel at home in.

Liberty and authoritarianism


David Aaronovitch's latest piece in The Times it so far off the mark that it is worth reading just to remind yourself why you don’t read him. The title is Politicians mess everything up – wrong. Yes, in a democracy stupid errors occur, but our constant carping ignores the greater danger: the rise of authoritarianism. The principal strand of his argument is that, “if you don't have a liberal democracy, everything else goes to hell". To prove this he uses the historical examples of Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia and the Rwandan genocide.

According to Aaronovitch, “we are in a nasty phase of attacking democratic politics and its inevitable representatives, the politicians, for their deficiencies and taking refuge either in populism, legalism or magical thinking." This statement sits oddly in the article, as in his previous paragraph he sets out how the legal system and fellow politicians were complicit in the atrocities mentioned above. The only exception is Aaronovitch’s glib claim that it was not, “strictly legal under the laws of Rwanda for Hutu militias systematically to kill their Tutsi neighbours with gun and machete". The fact that ID cards proved an essential tool in this massacre (something that Aaronovitch is keen on) is entirely neglected.

The populism that Aaronovitch fears comes from three sources:

1) “The casual, jokey bracketing of politicians with fraudsters."
2) “The influence of potty-mouthed right-wing bloggers on some political journalism."
3) “An impatience with foreign workers and other minorities."

In answer to the first point, most politicians are indeed corrupt; perhaps not as corrupt as in some other countries, but nevertheless we need more checks against their power. On the second point, who are these potty-mouthed right wing bloggers? The only ‘potty-mouthed’ bloggers I know of are strong libertarians. No political grouping is more distant from the politics of authoritarianism. Regarding the third point, the protectionism of the left is equally (if not more) culpable of impatience with foreign workers and other minorities. Remember 'British jobs for British workers'.

Aaronovitch’s conclusion, “how depressing it is that there are Grand Conventions in defence of liberty and none in defence of politics". What he fails to appreciate is that as far as political systems are good, they are built upon the protection of the individual: liberty. Historically, democracy has not proven enough of an impediment against authoritarianism. We need more. This is why the sooner parliament becomes more transparent, ID cards scrapped and CCTV camaras taken down, the better.

Sex Sells


The BBC has an interesting article on the status of the prostitution industry in New Zealand since it was legalized in 2003. The reception of legalization in the past six years has been overwhelmingly positive. The industry has changed quite a lot since 2003, with women receiving more legal protection in terms of their rights as sex workers, and their ability to gain protection from police when they are abused.

Some of the interviewed prostitutes claimed that the brothel conditions are quite good, and that since they now have more options they no longer have to put up with abusive owners or clients. Although the trade is not socially accepted, prostitutes are now treated with respect and feel safer.

Legalization seems to leave both prostitutes and their clients in a better situation. Clients no longer have to go to seedy back alleys to pick up workers and prostitutes are much better protected. Europe [the Dutch excluded] should learn the leson and legalize prostitution. It would help protect some honest hard workers and provide tax revenues for the state.

One cigar at a time


One unintended consequence of the smoking ban has been the rise of e-cigarettes. Although I have yet to see them in the flesh, with sales in excess of 1,000 every month for the £40 starter-packs, it can only be a matter of time before they are a common sight.

One can picture the scene. A packed restaurant with waiters and waitresses rushed off their feet. From his pocket of a young gentleman produces the e-cigarette and starts to partake. Silence. A young lady screams and faints; the passing chef returns to the kitchen to fetch his sharpest cleaver; the restaurant owner’s finger hits the first of three nines. Calm, the restaurant manager asks the man with his now mortified date to leave.

Deafly silence is broken by an explanation of the product, but confusion and consternation still reigns as the man refuses to be deterred. He continues to smoke while tucking into his poached langoustines. Faux coughs abound, surely it only a matter of minutes before the young gentleman will be hounded from the restaurant by his fellow dinners. However, the mob will grin and bare it tonight: the lady on the next table, a comrade, asks if she could try the e-cigarette. The baying mob has been held at bay, it is a small victory for freedom.

If the owner of any restaurant chooses not to allow smoking they should be free to make their restaurant non-smoking. Though, the alternate should also hold. Private property should be protected from the excessive regulations of an intrusive government. Let people be free to lead their lives in the manner to which they choose. Don’t regulate, nudge or even suggest. It is time to fight back, preferably with cohiba esplendidos rather than e-cigarettes.

Blog Review 902


You can't make sense of the unemployment numbers unless you relate them to the size of the workforce.

An unlikely hero for the taxpayers: Alistair Darling.

Companies failing is not an indictment of capitalism, it's the very essence of it, it's the proof that capitalism is working.

What would happen if drugs were decriminalised? Why not look at a place that has done that and see what did happen?

It's all about the gains from trade and the banking system moves those inter-temporarily. That's why we want a banking system.

A doctor talking about Giffen Goods when discussing alcohol consumption? Maybe the economists are starting to make an impact?

And finally, accountants bless the IRS.

Could do better


Yes, Dr John Dunford is right that "The government should trust school leaders more, hold them to account intelligently, have clearer priorities and take fewer, better planned initiatives," and yes, they should also show more regard to the views of parents. But Dr Dunford is quite wrong to see the moves from the city to the classroom as a sign of the lessening moral regard young people have for banking jobs. People are leaving the city because they have lost their jobs, and not applying because there aren't any to get.

To be fair to fair to him, Dr Dunford does spend all his time around teachers and as such it will be hard for him to understand being sacked; we all know useless teachers are just moved on to other schools.

Dr Dunford is also right to criticize the so-called ‘Tesco Model’ of Ed Balls as explained as Whitehall being the company headquarters with teachers as the branch managers and shelf-fillers. However, the Tesco analogy is a bad one, as state education would be run better by Tesco than it is at present: at least it would be customer driven and bad teachers would be shown the door.
Given that Dr Dunford’s job is to look after the interests of ASCL members, one cannot expect much better from him. I would welcome the day when children are taught at an equivalent level of service we get at supermarkets, with competition for customers equivalent to that between the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Co-op Waitrose, Whole Foods and Morrisons.

Highly recommended


The Libertarian Alliance is holding its Chris R. Tame Memorial Lecture tonight at the National Liberal Club in Westminster. It looks set to be an excellent event.

This year’s speaker is Professor Kevin Dowd, a libertarian economist who has written extensively on the banking system and monetary policy. His lecture is titled ‘Lessons from the Financial Crisis: A Libertarian Perspective’.

The event is from 6.30 – 8.30pm, with the speech first and then a drinks reception afterwards. Admission is free. The dress code is lounge suit or smart casual. RSVP to

Brian Mickelthwait has trailed the lecture in slightly more detail here on Samizdata.

AIG: Benefits of the bailout


After much pressure from the United States of America’s taxpayers and government, the insurance giant American International Group (AIG) finally disclosed the names of the financial institutions that benefited from the fall bailout. Among the names were the likes of Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, among others. These companies received indirect multi-billion dollar payments from US taxpayers.

Aligned with the actions of other financial executives’ actions in the past 18 months or so, AIG’s leaders (including chief executive Edward Liddy) have been criticized for taking irresponsible risks on investments based on dodgy credit derivatives. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been quoted on the issue as saying: “Here was a company that made all kinds of unconscionable bets. Then, when those bets went wrong, they had a — we had a situation where the failure of that company would have brought down the financial system." Not only has it made grand payments to financial institutions it was indebted to with taxpayer money, AIG was recently discovered to be rewarding their executives with multi-million dollar bonuses.

It is appropriate to say that not all of the executives receiving bonuses at AIG are responsible for the current state of the insurance company. The innocent executives may have been completing fantastic work over the past 18 months and should be rewarded in some way. But the fact of the matter is that the company does not have the funds to do so. After reporting a recent historical US corporate loss, AIG is a failing company in a turbulent economy. With many Americans out of work and tons of other companies struggling to pay their employees average salaries, it simply isn’t on the cards for any AIG executive to receive a bonus from US tax dollar funded subsidies. This may serve as a major lesson for the US government, that bailout packages are not always in the best interest of the citizens, the economy, or the government. When companies receive money they have not earned, they will dispense the funds as they feel is appropriate for the company, not what politicians think is best for the economy.

Bonuses and public service


Last week I wrote regarding public sector bonuses and the Lib Dem’s calls for more top private sector salaries to be disclosed. But, I think this issue runs deeper and is a symptom of a fundamental divide that that needs to be broken down.
This Government has created a gulf between the public and themselves with an ever increasing ‘them and us' attitude. If the fundamental aim of a government is to serve the people to the best of their ability, then this has firmly been flipped upside down. We are now serving politicians more than ever before.
The double standards we're subject to are illustrated by the public/private bonuses. Whilst the government is demonising bankers’ salaries, they are simultaneously awarding civil servants a total of £107.8m in bonuses. In truth, there is no reason as to why public sector workers should receive bonuses at all.
But this hypocritical divide is more widespread than this. Look at the ministerial expenses. Simply examin the examples set by Jacqui Smith, Michael Martin, Caroline Spelman and Derek Conway as indicators that we are now serving politicians.
Politicians need to be held to account more effectively in order to strengthen democracy and restore a culture of public service in Whitehall.