Blog Review 794


The correct Thanksgiving prayer, possibly modifiable for Christmas. To the global economy, the division of labour and trade.....

Yes, it really is the international bureaucracies that are imposing this terrorist legislation upon us.

How to reduce poverty with the stroke of a pen.

And of course, it's morally wrong to take money from the why do we tax them?

Why on earth is everyone insisting that we want to increase mortgage lending? Reduce it, surely?

Something of an argument. Who benefits most from the presence of the State? Low skill workers perhaps?

Pollution or plant food?

And finally,

Of course, if one defines "grownup" as a person who agrees with Paul Krugman, and "hack" as a person who does not, then one might come to a different conclusion.

A very important question


Neal Lawson of Compass tells us that:

The state and public services do need to be reformed and yes modernised. But not through the market.

So how are we to reform and modernise public services if not by using market mechanisms? By more target setting? By calling for Stakhanovite efforts in tractor production?

Instead we should be looking at ideas such as co-production, whereby users and staff work together to redesign services and therefore obtaining levels of productivity and efficiency that no cost cutting private consultant could ever achieve. There is huge latent potential in workers and citizens that could be unleashed if we build them into the reform process.

Sounds fun.

And the crisis does give us a chance to rethink state structures and strike a new deal between a centre that should focus on equality and a periphery of local delivery that can innovate and encourage participation.

Innovation, eh? My word, he makes it all sound so simple. Which is because, in very large part, it is indeed simple. Users and staff work together to redesign: that is the interaction of the producer and the consumer, the demand of the one and the desire to supply of the other. Leading, as noted, through a series of iterations, to greater productivity and efficiency. The innovation that results from such participation then gets sorted by our looking at which innovations work and which don't. Those that do we copy and roll out in other areas. Now we have a name for these sorts of things: market processes. Here, specifically, a market in methods of organisation.

So Lawson's idea is that in order to reform our public services without using the market we must use the market.

Which leads us to our very important question: how do people so confused end up having influence over public policy?

Dissent will not be tolerated


The emerging story regarding the arrest of Tory frontbencher Damian Green would be absurd if it did not represent such a continuing degradation of age-old liberties. As Janet Daley commented, ‘anybody who thinks that the Conservatives are creating an overblown fuss over the arrest of Damian Green is making a genuinely grave mistake’. Many people may dismiss the Tory response as political showmanship, and think that as Green was only questioned and not charged, we should forget the whole sorry saga. But this episode cannot simply be swept under the carpet and forgotten.

At the moment the details of the arrest are still slightly hazy but essentially, Damian Green was arrested on Thursday by anti-terrorist police and held for nine hours, because he had made public leaked Home Office information related to his brief as Shadow Immigration Minister. Some Tories have alleged that the authorization for the arrest was made from the upper rungs of the government itself – a claim that the government deny, saying this was an entirely police matter. Either way it seems clear that the information disclosed by Green (that the government was employing illegal immigrants in 'security-cleared' positions) was a legitimate matter of public interest.

But the details in this story are not the most worrying element. What is so hard to comprehend is the idea that an opposition Member of Parliament can be arrested by counter-terrorism policy, held for nine hours, have his home and his parliamentary office searched (seemingly with the consent of the Speaker), simply for daring to hold the government to account. This is a blatant and undeniable encroachment on the civil rights of the British people. The arrest of an MP by special operations units is the type of scene witnessed under tyrannical dictators.  (Well, I suppose Gordon Brown is unelected...)

The worrying thing is that there have been no sweeping invasions of our privacy, they have been snuck in through the back door under the veil of anti-terrorist measures, surveillance cameras and ID cards. The Tories are right to make a big deal out of this arrest, it would be difficult to blow this one out of proportion, but they need to make sure they make real changes when they come into power.

Blog Review 793


So just what was Damian Green arrested for? Other than doing his job that is? And more. Yet more.

And would you believe yet even more? Netsmith thinks that Daniel Finkelstein wins the competition for the best post on this matter.

A useful comment upon government and efficiency. Google actually provides, for free, a better snapshot of flu outbreaks than the Centers for Disease Control (very definitely not free).

A rather alarming chart of net worth per person in different countries.

Another commentary on the same basic facts and asking the question, are we bust yet?

More on whether the war did in fact end the Great Depression. Well, only if you think that blowing things up adds economic value seems to be the answer.

And finally, the husband of the year awards.

Welcome to Fascist Britain


Apparently we now live in a country where opposition members of parliament can be arrested by counter-terrorism police for holding the government to account.

It is things like this that really bring home the sickening reality of what the current government has done to this country.

If it turns out they knew about Damian Green MP's arrest in advance, then they really are beneath contempt. Anyone who values freedom should be disgusted by this latest step along the road to serfdom.

Red in tooth and claw


If and when Prince Charles does make it to the throne, he has decided to speak in public more than Her Majesty the Queen has so far. If his latest public utterance is anything to go by, he might do well to follow his mother’s example.

Published in The Times yesterday was a speech by the Prince that seems to have been inspired by the negative reactions to his previous dalliances with public oration. The title ‘The modern curse that divides us from Nature’ sums up the loquacious eulogy to all things natural as distinct from all things ‘modern’.

Note that nature gets a capital letter. This is fitting as the speech deifies the natural world. Drawing upon the thinking of Ghandi (that half naked Fakir), the Prince of Wales argues that modernism contravenes the harmony of nature.

The Prince is of course right to be concerned about the natural world, but to pitch nature against modernism is off the mark. Certainly, those in the aristocracy have long had a profound and fascinating relationship with the aesthetics of nature, shown in the wondrous estates built under their patronage. However, those who had to eek out a living from the land, had a very different relationship with nature. Your average peasant was not in harmony, but in constant peril and battle against the vagaries of nature.

His Highness rightly draws attention to the soulless life of those living in high-rise council housing, but this was caused by government social engineering, not the modern world. Some will criticize the Prince's opinions once more, for others his views will chime with theirs. Ironically, concurrence with the Prince’s view of nature is very modern. No longer is the love of nature the reserve of the landed elites. Despite recession, many in this country possess the economic freedom to protect themselves from the hardships of nature and concern themselves with its conservation.

Power Lunch with Alex Brummer


Alex Brummer, City and Business Editor of the Daily Mail, was our guest at lunch in Westminster yesterday. He talked about the origins of the financial crisis - he has outlined it in his book Crunch - and sparked a lively discussion.

There seemed to be little confidence around the table that the economic problems would right themselves any time soon. It could even be ten years before  government's effective nationalization of certain banks is reversed, and they are left to themselves. Meanwhile all sorts of new regulations, panels, committees, and boards are being set up to regulate the banking sector. They will of course just be competing against each other, producing contradictory rules - and too many of them. It will just dampen any spark of entrepreneurship in our banking system, and drive financial markets out of London. There is no shortage of up and coming countries that would love that.

The things that have worked best to regulate business, like the takeover code and various codes on best-practice board management, have been voluntary. Instead of throwing more regulation at the bank, the government should be telling banks and other financial institutions to set up their own code that would curb the excesses of the last decade. Things like how commissions are paid - hopefully so that they did not just encourage people to rush for market share and sell the wrong things to the wrong people - and how credit agencies are paid and judged. It's bad government regulation that let things get out of control in the first place, so we can't rely on the official bodies to get it right.

In the Daily Mail this week, Brummer writes how, after years of giving them the benefit of the doubt, he has now gone right off New Labour. Prudence has been cast aside, in the Pre-Budget Statement they went for broke, without any clear plan for getting back to financial probity. And their slow steps to make the tax system simpler have suddenly been ripped up. It's a view I share.

I hear Berlin is a great place to live...


It seems Gordon Brown's self-appointed role as global saviour is not acknowledged as universally as he might like...

Angela Merkel, German Chancellor:

Excessively cheap money in the US was a driver of today’s crisis. I am deeply concerned about whether we are now reinforcing this trend through measures being adopted in the US and elsewhere and whether we could find ourselves in five years facing the exact same crisis.

Steffen Kampeter, budget expert in Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union:

I see the danger of creating a new bubble. Massive interest rate cuts and massive borrowing may bring about new problems.

How good is a policy package if it has to be changed every other week? How good is it for confidence? The latest British decisions on VAT and income tax, for instance, are inconsistent. Better to wait a bit longer and put forward more durable solutions.

Hat-tip to the FT's Westminster Blog, via Spectator CoffeeHouse

Blog Review 792


Not so much the post as the first comment.

I do actually get very upset when I realise that I have lived out the best years of my life under the most deceitful, vindictive and unintelligent government of all time.

A rather rosy view of Obama's new economics team from one who knows them all.

Not everyone thinks this way. Why, for example, would anyone want to force farms to be lower than the size necessary for maximal efficiency.

Yes, we like this. Civil service and politician's pay should be cut in these straightened times.

It's not that GM makes cars no one wants to buy. It's that they make cars that no one wants to buy at that price.

Now here's a plan.

And finally, yes, this is the internet.

Night of the Living Gordon

However, there appears limited room for further revival, and lots for decline. Recession is on the way, and this will hurt the people as well as Gordon’s chances. The European Election in June is unlikely to be a strong point, and (just like the shopping mall scene in Dawn of the Dead) provides room to undermine his leadership: both from outside and within. More importantly, regardless of his recent jump, he remains an unpopular figure lacking in electoral magnetism. Some see him as a safe bet now, but they may still hope he is out of Number 10 when the sun (and government deficit) rises.

Finally, there may be one other problem, radicalisation. The ‘strange death of Labour’ may not yet be upon us, but the seeds of destruction for ‘New Labour’ are well planted. The recent pre-budget report shows the first signs of this shift back to old-fashioned socialism. This process will only accelerate as tired MPs call for change, and wrongfully blame Capitalism for causing the economic woes.

Overall, a Conservative victory still seems likely. However, as in all horror sagas, nothing is certain; the ugly head of socialism and the fist of big government may yet jump out... Booo! I am scared - are you?


If you have ever watched the zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, the current political scene should appear quite familiar. Picture Dave C. and Georgie-o strolling blissfully through the landscape on a 28% lead (14th September 2008, IPS0S-MORI), as a pale faced man (zombie) lumbers towards them.

Gordon was recently raised from the dead, having lain in the detritus of his own failed policies and incompetent regulation of the financial sector. Despite the deep layer of failed policies covering his tomb, safely keeping him down, he was suddenly re-animated by the myth of world leadership. Now, with the Lord of Darkness at his side (since the 3rd October) he and his Darling have closed the gap on the Tories.

He has also secured his position within his own party.  The disputes I highlighted in August, have faded away, as has Bananas Miliband. Brown’s newfound identity has given him renewed confidence and purpose. With the public focusing on short-term action, and less on blame for continued failure or the long-term costs, he now markets himself as the experienced economic guardian of the UK, thus developing a viable election platform. Labour now seems less like a pack of sluggish George A. Romero zombies and more like a creature from 28 days later or I Am Legend. [Click 'read more' to continue]