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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

On the first day of Christmas...

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Tuesday 25 December 2007

My true love sent to me: a partridge in a pear tree. In the original song it seems that 'my true love' is God, that the partridge symbolizes Christ, and the pear tree represents the Cross. Well, maybe.

But in Britain, until this year, if you wanted to deal in game - not just partridges but pheasants, hares, grouse, moor game, woodcock, deer, or rabbits, you needed a licence from the local authority under section 18 of the 1831 Game Act (plus an excise licence from the Post Office under section 14 of the 1860 Game Licences Act). The 1831 legislation laid down strict rules on when game could be sold - an attempt to ensure that breeding cycles were not disrupted. Freezing and refrigeration of course make a nonsense out of this, but our politicians seem to have overlooked this for the last half century. That is how laws are made.

The requirement for a licence to shoot game has been scrapped, but shooting on Sundays and Christmas Day is still banned, thanks to a campaign by the League Against Cruel Sports. (I guess it's not so cruel to shoot things Monday-Saturday.) Critics also argued that Sunday shooting would disrupt people's lie-in, and could prove dangerous as people went for a Sunday stroll. Still, they told us that nobody wanted to shop on a Sunday too, and now (even though our rulers allow the shops to open only a few hours) Sunday is a hugely popular shopping day. We really should scrap all this regulation.

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Blog Review 456

Written by Netsmith | Monday 24 December 2007

One big question is what will happen to living standards with $500 a barrel oil? We're going to get there eventually, after all. Well, the answer appears to be not a lot .

Why is it that people complain that the US is doing nothing about curbing emissions when in fact they are curbing emissions better than those who have made more extravagant promises ?

Counter-intuitive but true : you reduce emissions more by moving from a 15 mpg to 18 mpg vehicle than you do from a 50 mpg to a 100 mpg one. The implication of this is that instead of trying to improve the emissions of the new cars sold, the effort would be better rewarded by subsidising the removal of old clunkers from the road.

Those ID cards might be an even worse idea than we already think. One American system costs $2,800 per card

Yes, exactly, we should be delighted when politicians debate such subjects : it'll stop them coming up with ideas like ID cards, at least. 

Imagine Ron Paul is in fact elected: what exactly could he do? Not a lot, actually .

And finally , who knows the difference between a Hackney Cab and a pedicab? Not Transport for London, that's for sure. 

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Christmas is cancelled

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Monday 24 December 2007

smokingsanta.jpgAs Santa Claus sets off to drop presents down the chimneys of innumerable households on Monday night, let's hope that he has got the right paperwork. 

Claus, of course, is just an alias. He's really Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, on the southern cost of Turkey. The EU (foolishly) isn't admitting Turkey to the Union, so Claus needs a visa and a work permit to run his Christmas delivery service in the UK. 
His elves, of course, would be bound by the child labour regulations. Working at midnight on 24 December would be right out. And Claus would have to be vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau in order to work with young people. Since that can take up to three months, he's way too late for this year anyway. The education authorities might wonder why the elves aren't in school. And if the elves are paid, then they need to be registered under Pay as You Earn, and for stakeholder pensions.
Because he drops presents (and himself) down chimneys, he is covered by the Working at Heights regulations. He would need training on how to use a ladder, or would have to hire a cherry-picker (with professionally qualified operator).
The fact that Claus uses reindeer to draw his sleigh would of course bring him under animal welfare regulations. The sleigh itself must qualify as an aircraft, and as such has to be licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority. 
If the presents that Claus drops off have their origin outside he EU – Lapland, say – then VAT forms have to be filled out. If Claus claims that his purposes are purely charitable, he would of course have to register with the Charities Commission. 
Of course, like other successful and innovative businesspeople, he might decide not to bother coming to Britain at all.

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Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Monday 24 December 2007

Little Johnny and his dad went to the supermarket and were in line for the checkout counter when Johnny said to his dad, 'Look at that Lady in front of us, Daddy, she's fat.'
The man notices the lady but politely tells Little Johnny, 'That's not a nice thing to say'.
Little Johnny continued to stare and point and then said, 'No Daddy, she's really fat.;
The man said, 'Please son, we're almost done here, behave and stop saying those things'.
Just then the lady's phone went off and Little Johnny said, 'Watch out dad, she's backing up!'

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A better plan for the London Olympics

Written by Steve Bettison | Monday 24 December 2007

olympics.jpgIt's time to make the Olympics not only profit making but also interesting. Every four years the Olympics rolls into some poor naïve city and proceeds to prove to all and sundry that it wasn't worth the time, the effort, or the money that was spent on it.

With London 2012 expected to be enormously over-budget, I would suggest implementing the following plan - not just to save money, but to also put some life back into the Olympics. Post 2008, regional qualifying should take place over three years, reducing the field of competing athletes to a cream of the region. Then, when the Olympics come around, the events are simply a series of finals with no one but champions competing in them. Perhaps the Olympics could be reduced to a three-day event. Infrastructure would then be dispersed around the World and costs shared, and the event itself would be short and sweet.

The amount of taxpayer's money that is going to be wasted upon on the upcoming London Olympics is not even known by the current administration. The honesty of their continual claims that it will not be over budget is hard to believe, but they could insure themselves against dramatic loses by seeking to have the cost of the games shared across the globe! The Olympic Committee will continue to seek others to pay for their games and, unfortunately, many cities/governments will continue to force their taxpayers to pay.

It has to be remembered that governments are vain, and there is nothing better than an Olympics to rub the egos of those in power.


[Ed - I also like Sir Simon Jenkins' rather more modest proposal: that we deliver the Olympic games at the originally agreed cost and not a penny more. If that means we have to use existing stadiums and venues, well, so much the better!]

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Wasting police time?

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Monday 24 December 2007

portland_house.jpgAlain Roberts climbed Portland House the other day - a tall building (mainly full of quangos) near London's Victoria Station. He did it all with his hands and feet - he used no ropes, pitons or other kit. At the top he was promptly arrested.

The charge? Wasting police time.

Now I don't know what makes the police think their time is so valuable that the antics of this harmless eccentric amount to a waste of it. Presumably they reckon that while they were taking tea on the roof and waiting for 'Spiderman' Roberts to arrive, they could have been out booking motorists for doing 36mph, or harrassing middle class citizens for trying to stop thugs breaking into their homes.

The police didn't have to be there. Their action reminds me of the supposed lawyer's bill: To crossing the road to update you on your case, £100. To crossing back after realizing it wasn't you £100.

We seem to live in a society where we invent crimes for no good reason. Why punish people for smoking weed (or tobacco for that matter) when the only person caused any harm is themselves? I'd really prefer it if the police sat at home rather than having to think up new reasons to arrest folk.

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Blog Review 455

Written by Netsmith | Sunday 23 December 2007

Sadly, we in the UK are going this way too, reversing the burden of proof. It's not big, it's not clever and it doesn't advance freedom or liberty in any manner whatsoever. If the Government wants to take your property they should at least have the decency to convict you of something first.

Prohibiting alcohol, prohibiting drugs, prohibiting paid sex: it all leads to the same thing : merely a change in the channels of distribution as was known a century ago but I guess it takes time for politicians to catch up.

Just why are people trying to increase voter turnout? It's far too high already!

One of those justifications for the pub smoking ban: that non-smokers would flock back to the pubs. Well, that seems to have worked, doesn't it

Now this is what you might call high-tech crime fighting

Markets in everything. Finding it difficult to grind out the blog posts over the holidays? Try Blog Sitter

And finally , vital information for that last minute shopping, or for the January sales. Which food halls offer the most samples? 

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Is our energy secure?

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Sunday 23 December 2007

liamfox.jpgThe Conservatives' defence spokesman, Dr Liam Fox, is a worried man. Not just because the UK has more attack aircraft in the RAF museum at Hendon that it has flying in the RAF. As he told the Economic Research Council the other day, he sees trouble brewing over energy security.

He argued that 90 percent of the world's oil comes from undemocratic countries, which is asking for trouble. And a fair proportion of that has to come through some pretty narrow straits and canals that are obvious targets for terrorists.

Fox believes that NATO - which unlike the EU does not exclude Norway (a large producer) and Turkey (a major transit country) - is maybe better placed to deal with the issues of energy security. But liberalizing its own energy markets is maybe a good first step. We can't afford the present inefficiencies.

Meanwhile Russia is using its energy strength as an instrument of foreign policy. Gerhard Schroeder, whose government underwrote a €1bn loan to Gazprom just before he left office, for a pipeline project (which he now sits on the board of.) The Ukrainians and others have felt the heat - or rather the cold - when Moscow turned off energy supplies. Even Norway is beefing up its navy because it feels it can't trust the Russians. Maybe planting a flag on the seabed was not just a stunt.

But the lack of investment in upstream gas production in Russia, thinks Fox, might well lead to future shortages, even if Russian malevolence does not. That puts the UK, with its declining North Sea production, and at the end of all the pipelines, in a dangerous place.

Maybe its' time we started being nicer to the Canadians, with all their oil sands, uranium and hydro-electric power.

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Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Sunday 23 December 2007

Little Johny asks a pregnant woman: "What is in your tummy?'
'My baby!'
'Do you love him?'
'Of course I do!'
'Why did you eat him then?'

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The fourth plinth

Written by Steve Bettison | Sunday 23 December 2007

model_hotel.jpgIt's time to bring this farce to an end. The Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square has been abused, in the supposed name of art, for too long now. November of this year saw the erection of "Model Hotel 2007" (pictured left), by Thomas Schutte, a few sheets of coloured glass, and some metal rods; this replaced the eyesore more commonly known as "Alison Lapper Pregnant" by Marc Quinn. Rather than commissioning any further pieces of artwork the Mayor of London should begin a campaign to raise the statue originally intended for that plinth: King William IV.

King William IV reigned from 1830 to 1837, during which time he played a key role in the poor law reform that led to the Reform Act of 1832, also under his reign slavery was abolished (even though he had previously spoken against this) and child labour laws established. He was the first truly constitutional monarch of Great Britain and he also served admirably (no pun intended) for his country in the Royal Navy. Thus qualifying him for his place in Trafalgar Square.

Yet it is highly unlikely that the current Mayor, Ken Livingston, would have high regard of someone who was a champion of the poor and who held the people of this country sovereign. It is also doubtful that he'd even allow the statue to be placed there as originally intended, even if it were privately funded, let alone publicly! But the real reason for not allowing the erection of a statue to someone who achieved so much could be the embarrassment it would cause to our current crop of politicians.

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