The way we're ruled today


I realise that not everyone shares my distaste of the European Union  nor my deep and abiding suspicion of all who sail in that ship of state.  However, a little story about why all should be worried.

One of the problems we have with the State itself, the very conception of it, is that  if it is possible for it to dole out benefits to favoured groups then those who would benefit pay attention and lobby to become favoured groups. Such benefits will be concentrated and the losses will be, to each person outside the favoured group, small. Thus there will be little pressure for the favours not to be granted.

This becomes even worse when the losses will be, in Bastiat's phrase, those things which are not seen. People are pretty good at spotting the loss of something they once had and terrible at spotting what they never got.

Having two layers of the State just makes such problems worse of course. The European Parliament has just voted to extend copyrights on sound recordings:

Performers and record producers could enjoy increased royalties after European lawmakers yesterday voted in favour of an extension of copyright protection from 50 to 70 years.

Leave aside the rights and wrongs of copyright itself, that's a story for another day. Leave aside the rights and wrongs of this extension as well. And consider solely that this very proposal was considered, carefully, in this country as recently as 2006. In the Gowers Report. And soundly rejected as an unwarranted enrichment of some to the impoverishment of others. This was a benefit that should not be doled out to such a favoured group. Copyright is a mechanism to increase the amount of innovation and given that no musician ever has declined to record a piece of music because they won't be getting royalties 50 years later the extension would not increase innovation. But it would limit what later artists could do with earlier recordings, thus in fact reducing innovation.

But now that we have this double layer of law making, this pair of chances for lobbyists to gain access to the purses of the citizenry, we are simply and obviously going to see more such successful attempts.

As I say, I know that not everyone shares my dislike of the EU either as it stands or even in principle. But doesn't the fact that the favoured ones now have a twice over chance to dip your pockets engender at least some unease?