Why don't single men vote?


According to Tony Dokoupil, writing in Newsweek magazine, the male voter is "vanishing" in the US. Apparently some 16 million men have stopped voting over the last 40 years – much steeper than the corresponding fall in numbers amongst women.

The explanations offered are that men are less likely than women to attend church, consume news, trust authority and believe that people are generally good, that they aren’t as well educated as women, and that lots more men than women are in prison.

Well, I'm sure they're all factors, but I think there might be something more fundamental going on. As the article says, this isn't just 'a guy thing', it's a 'single guy thing'. And I think that points towards the problem.

Single men are, I suspect, the group of voters most inclined to favour both greater economic freedom and greater personal freedom. In general, they don't want to be taxed out of the products of their labour, and they don't want to be told what to do or what to think.

But there are few politicians that cater to this audience. Even when they do call for tax cuts, for instance, they are usually aimed at 'hard-working families' – as though hard-working singles are somehow less worthy. And of course, most politicians regard it as their god-given right to boss people around.

Maybe one day single men will become a vital group of swing voters (like soccer moms) and politicians will start pandering to their every whim. Who knows? But for now, one can forgive them for thinking voting is a pretty pointless exercise.

Blog Review 767


The FT calls it as it see it. Vince Cable, loony.

A reading list to get you up to speed on what's happening in the markets and the economy. As ever, it includes Friedman for the facts and the truth, Galbraith for the verve of the writing.

Why prime brokerages matter and why London really does need some different regulation.

Alcohol consumption, contrary to what we're being told, isn't at an all time high.

Introducing the needed new political party. "For The Love Of God Don't Do Completely Insane Shit" party, needed now more than ever before.

This story is, bizarrely, true. Netsmith knows people that work there.

And finally, it's not only homework they eat.

The gift that keeps on giving


I've pointed out before that I read Polly Toynbee so as to have something to sneer at. As with Saturday's offering:

The British Chambers of Commerce still flaunts its absurd Burdens Barometer, claiming that this year Labour's extra regulations have cost business £65bn since 1997. The "burdens" include such frivolities as maternity leave, stakeholder pensions and the control of pesticides and asbestos.

That sarcastic "" around burdens is clearly to underline the "absurd". That these figures are figments of capitalist oppressors' fevered imaginations perhaps. But that isn't strictly true:

The figures in the Burdens Barometer are compiled from the Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIAs) produced by government departments and now downloaded into the British Chambers of Commerce RIA Database.

All government departments are required to complete RIAs that evaluate the risks, costs and benefits of any new regulatory proposal that has an impact on business.

The figures show the Government’s own estimates of the compliance costs of a series of regulations affecting business....

So the numbers actually come from the government's own estimations of the burdens the regulations place upon business. Still could be the product of fevered imaginations of course, indeed, given that source more likely than not.

It's also possibly true that some of these regulations are worthwhile (or none or all of them) but to evaluate that we have to admit to the costs they impose as well as the benefits they bring and then measure one against the other.

Which brings us to that great truism, that there are no solutions, there are only tradeoffs: that free lunch is as elusive as ever.

Ship of fools


A scientific report published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that a type of genetically modified maize banned by France does not pose a risk to animals or other plants.

Earlier this year France's provisional ‘Higher Authority on GMs' said it had “serious doubts" about the safety of the crop, MON810. It was duly banned. Following the EFSA report, the European Commission has the power to force France to lift it. I am not keen on Europe taking precedent over the nation state, but on this occasion at least it would be making the right decision.

MON810 is a product developed by the biotech giant Monsanto. It is intended to resist the European Corn Borer, a moth that has been known to damage crops, particularly maize, for around the last hundred years.

Greenpeace has of course responded. Marta Vetier, Greenpeace's GM campaigner, has called on the EFSA to be shut down. Why the media even reports the statements of Greenpeace is beyond me. Certainly the tide is turning against this ship of fools, but surely the media should credit their idiocy with silence.

If journalists write an article on immigration they don’t ask the opinion of the BNP, when they write about the environment they shouldn’t voice the words of Greenpeace. The Neo-Luddites should be mentioned by journalists only because of their continuing criminality and not give voice to their backward environmental and political positions.

If you give money to Greenpeace, watch this.

The questions that remain


There has been much debate on Obama’s executive capabilities, because few people know what 'community organizers' actually do.

This was different in the 70s when plenty of the rebelious students and hippies where active in that role. The best description was published by Tom Wolfe in his once famous book Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. Wolfe depicted inner city community organizers as radical agitators who managed to blackmail city magistrates into expanding social programmes, the proceeds of which often didn't reach the intended recipients. This later became the blueprint for third world development aid.

The US equivalent of this kind of advocacy is ACORN – the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. At the core of its agenda is wealth re-distribution through policies like minimum wages or tax justice. According to the WSJ:

It (ACORN) was a major contributor to the subprime meltdown by pushing lenders to make home loans on easy terms, conducting "strikes" against banks so they'd lower credit standards. But the organization's real genius is getting American taxpayers to foot the bill. [Acorn has been on the federal take since 1977, its Housing Corporation alone receiving some $16 million in federal dollars from 1997-2007.]

Given his claim to be a new kind of politician, and to transcend the old party divide, Barack Obama's close links with this organization are troubling. Apart from working for them in the 1990s and learning his political skills there:

During Obama’s tenure on the board of Chicago's Woods Fund, that body funneled more than $200,000 to Acorn. More recently, the Obama campaign paid $832,000 to an Acorn affiliate. The campaign initially told the Federal Election Commission this money was for "staging, sound, lighting." It later admitted the cash was to get out the vote. [Acorn is now under investigation for fraudulent voter registration in 13 US states.]

This is exactly the Mau-Mauing in politics which Tom Wolfe so brilliantly exposed. Change we can believe in?

Blog Review 766


There's just something terribly English about this particular spy.

Just as there's something disturbingly English about the complete history of London bus route numbering.

The difference between left and right isn't all that large: not when you compare it to that between those who know their economics and those who don't.

Your choice here: is Ford being brilliant or insane?

The portrayal of Obama as an FDR will take root, but will people remember Bush as they ought to Hoover?

No, Marxism ain't dead yet, sadly.

And finally, the last cartoon here.


There's a lot of ruin in a nation


As Adam Smith pointed out, there's a lot of ruin in a nation....but not an inexhaustible amount, as he didn't go on to say. The latest story from Zimbabwe horrifies me:

A cholera outbreak has claimed its first victim in Zimbabwe's capital after causing death and illness elsewhere in a country too poor to provide clean water or clear garbage from the streets. Health authorities reported the death in Harare Thursday and said 20 other people had been hospitalized. Across the country in recent weeks, at least 27 people have died from cholera, mostly in impoverished districts, and hundreds have been treated for the highly infectious intestinal disease spread by contaminated food and water.

We know very well what is needed to beat cholera: a potable water system and a sewage system. They're the basics of any system of public health. That Zimbabwe has now sunk so low that they don't even have that is an example of the way in which government can screw up.

We sometimes get derided here for being anti-state, anti-government, and the sad thing about such criticism is that it simply isn't true. We're all in favour of the State and governments: provided they are kept in their place. There are some things which have to be done and which can only be done by government: public health measures being one of them. No, it doesn't mean that the Zimbabwean government has to provide, directly, sewage and water services, but they do need to ensure that they are provided. Just as such a government needs to provide a legal system, secure property rights and so on.

Without providing them, but still insisting upon being the government, they would be nothing more than bandits preying upon the population: you might think that to be already true of what is happening in that country but I couldn't possibly comment.

I demand to have some booze


I am not one for being sentimental about the past, but staring into the bottom of my pint, memories flow of a time when things were better than this.

Of course the world has changed somewhat since we had the social divide of a woman’s place in the home and pubs exclusively the domain men. This is no bad thing, and the ready availability of other forms of entertainment from the Internet, DVD Players and affordable televisions the size of children. Vast swathes of the population now prefer watching the latest blockbuster movie with a bottle of wine to going to the pub. Fair enough.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) are trying to fight back. They are petitioning the government to limit the ability of supermarkets to make a loss on selling alchol. This is esentially a request for a subsidy and should not be supported. But what can be done to save the great British pub?

A good place to start is reversing the government’s blanket ban on smoking in pubs. At the very least pubs should be able to apply for a license to permit smoking. As well as being a highly illiberal act, the smoking ban has hit pubs hard; with the holy trinity of glorious vices – pint, cigarette and crisps – now one man down.

Tax is another problem. The Government takes over 80 pence in tax for every pint sold in a pub. This is a hefty chunk for the treasury that should be drastically reduced. Why not also lower the drinking age to sixteen at pubs. This would take youth binge drinking out of the private sphere, educating them in the finer points of drinking.

I spent much of my youth in pubs and beer festivals drinking real ale. I have no doubt that if the government simply backed off most pubs would survive. They offer something unique to offer that are being undermined by the public health agenda, obsessive regulation and indefensible taxes.

Blog Review 765


Now here's a surprise. The OECD tells us that the USA has a progressive tax system, in fact, one of the most progressive amongst the industrialised nations.

Will we see deflation? In the end, it depends upon the authorities continuing to do the right things.

Those authorities seem to be doing so many different things that it's difficult for everyone to keep up.

Using the back of the fag packet supercomputer to work out how much the PSBR is going to be over the next few years.

A more formal method of trying to work out what the reduction in GDP will be, the rise in unemployment.

If Iceland really is bankrupt, does that mean someone can go and buy it?

And finally, why we need to control the menace of romance novels.