"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
As noted, there's a very simple solution to the angst ridden political question of who may marry whom. Simply take the question out of politics and allow any adults who wish to to marry.
Finally, a politician Netsmith likes. Pity he's in Poland though.
Some more good news on solar power . Yes, prices really are cascading down.
Worth stepping back occasionally and getting a sense of proportion . The entire economic output of Saudi Arabia is about the same as that of Dallas, Texas.
Possibly the best thing yet written on Sudan and the teddy bear .
Watching the news, as we go over to Our Correspondent in Khartoum, it's difficult to maintain the normal level of seriousness that one usually brings to these situations. You're waiting for someone to break the spell, to shout out, oh for fuck's sake!...this is teddy bears we're talking about! We're dealing with idiots! But the standard requirement that we must treat these subjects with due solemnity and respect means that, as yet another clown explains why a punishment of 15 days in jail is nowhere near harsh enough for such a sin, the interviewer nods understandingly, for all the world as though it was a case of one rational adult talking to another, when they should be spluttering with incredulity - "and this is for...for naming a teddy bear? Are you completely out of your mind?"
So why is it that, just as you've managed to understand one social networking site, everyone moves off to the next one? Because , as all too few people remember, there are also diseconomies of scale.
And finally , dread the coming of Comment Imperialism.
It's unfortunately rare but it does occasionally happen. Someone makes a sensible suggestion for a government policy (err, writing for a think tank perhaps that should be sometimes people not working for this think tank also make sensible suggestions...).
Cocaine addicts should be prescribed the drug by chemists and nurses to help them overcome the habit, the Government’s drug adviser said yesterday.
If we're not going to be able to make people see sense on the liberty front (your body, ruin it as you wish) can we at least have policies which reduce the harm to the rest of society, of which this is obviously one.
The ACMD also backed a change allowing nurses and chemists to prescribe diamorphine, cocaine or dipipanone to addicts under licence from the Home Office, in a bid to manage their problem. Ministers will now consider the proposal. But David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “If Gordon Brown signs up to this, it would show yet again that Labour merely seek to manage drug addiction rather than end it."
So yes, the idea is that this will be, for addicts at least, legalisation of a sort and thus a way to end some of the worst effects, impurities, disease, overdoses and the lethality of the scramble for profit in the illegal trade (btw, I looked it up: diamorphine for an addict would cost about £20 a day. Vastly cheaper for us as a whole than the current idiocy of the War on Drugs.).
My apologies to David Davis on this one (he is rumoured, as an ex SAS Territorial, to be able to kill me with a plastic spoon) but you're at the wrong end of the argument here. We've shown over the past few decades that we cannot end drug addiction (even if we were to destroy every vestige of liberty, as Milton Friedman pointed out) so all that is left to us is the possibility of managing it. We can do that sensibly, by making clean and pure drugs available to those who would take impure and grossly expensive ones if those were their only option, or we can carry on with the current policies which a) don't work and b) kill people.
The local priest came across Paddy who had stumbled out of the town tavern.
"Paddy," he said, " I'm afraid I'll not be seeing you in Heaven one day."
"Really, Father?" slurred Paddy. "What have you done?"
Across the country Santa's magical sleigh ride has been grounded because of health and safety, but the immediate culprits are not who you think. It seems a number of insurance companies are worried that the combined effort of riding through towns and villages while waving to children will cause the old man to tumble out of the sleigh and hurt himself. In West Midlands, Santa now must harness himself into his seat. In Northumberland, the town of Alnwick has been forced to forgo the sleigh altogether in favour of a bus. Usually, we blame these kind of frustrating and paternalistic policies on the government and Health and Safety. This time, two private insurance companies demanded that the two towns make the changes or face such high premiums that the event couldn’t go on. The companies held their ground, claiming the restrictions "protect him from the speed of his own sleigh," which, incidentally, runs at about 5mph.
This may seem odd, until we remember that it's only because of government regulation that the towns have to have insurance in the first place. The insurance industry is now taking cues from a government that encourages a culture of protectionism. The government operates under an ethos of paternalism, that it is better to keep the children indoors than let them outside to skin their knees. Out of this comes a society required to have insurance against hazard and more likely to sue when things to do go wrong. The growing philosophy of people, beginning in America and working its way over here, is that when something goes wrong there must be someone to blame and some financial compensation owed. Because of this, people expect some government or organization to hold them up when they fall, therefore more people buy insurance, more people make claims on that insurance, and premiums increase. And eventually, the regular enjoyments of life, like Santa and his sleigh, become regulated literally harnessed beyond recognition.
Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with eveyone else's. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.
– St Paul to the Thessalonians 2, 3:10-12.
Vince Cable MP, on Gordon Brown's "flawed approach to goverment":
I call it "bureaucratic centralism". He has a belief in the secular equivalent of papal infallibility: a near-religious faith in the capacity of central government and its army of civil servants to improve our lives and never make mistakes. When Gordon Brown quotes the sage of Kirkcaldy, Adam Smith, Smith must be turning in his grave. Smith was Britain's – perhaps the world's – greatest economist who understood two centuries ago the perils of big government...
Indeed. Read the rest of Cable's Mail on Sunday article here.
It's always amusing to see the wheels coming off one political cart or another. As Guido proves with a letter he's "found", British politics hasn't been this much fun since the mid-1990s.
Iain Dale's also making hay. It's things like this that make farce so enjoyable to watch: even when they try to do the right thing they still manage to break the law.
Another most enjoyable peek into the level of competence with which we are governed. If you were an advisor to DfID, and wanted to ask for some help on economic development from one of the world's leading development economists, wouldn't you check his name?
Of course, no discussion of political fatuity is complete without a discussion of the War on Drugs.
But we can't only blame the politicians: apparently 29% of Britons still trust the European Commission.
Speaking of whom, there seems to be something of a move to a one party state there.
And finally, a most incorrect joke.
Timothy Garton Ash had an interesting article in The Guardian this week, on the subject of religion in a free society. His argument is that for religious diversity to work we need to spell out more clearly the essentials of a free society.
Freedom of expression must be reclaimed from political correctness. Freedom of religion and equality before the law must be reasserted. Doing this requires a secular public sphere but the question is, what does that mean in practice?
It should not mean every trace of religion has to be purged. Displaying Christmas manger scenes in public buildings, for instance, or exhibiting the Ten Commandments in a law court does not strike me as problematic. It merely reflects the heritage of a country's culture and laws and, in reality, does no harm.
As Garton Ash says, it is practical questions that matter more than the theory of secularism. How to apply it to faith schools, for instance, or the teaching of evolution, the Mohammed cartoons, the building of new mosques or the hijab?
I have no problem with faith schools receiving public funding, but they should not discriminate between applicants, and religious instruction should be optional, separate from the standard timetable, and funded by the church, not the taxpayer. The theory of evolution should be taught in science lessons, though not perhaps as an absolute truth. Intelligent design, on the other hand, has no place in science lessons. This is not to say it's invalid, just that it's not a scientific theory and should not be taught as such.
The Mohammed cartoons are a straightforward example of freedom of expression. Living in a free society means you have the right to offend, and the right to be offended (but not to incite or threaten violence). New mosques and the hijab, on the other hand, are matters of equal treatment and religious freedom. People should be free to pursue their faith as they see fit, so long they don't harm others in the process.
This whole debate is one that liberalism is well equipped to deal with.