Hurrah for Compass!


Compass is one of those wildly left wing non thinking tanks which would normally never attract our attention. However, I have to say that they've come up with a corking idea here. An absolute cracker:

Protect working people by index linking the minimum wage

Now I don't think there should be a minimum wage at all so why am I supporting this? Why do I applaud their campaign to make this happen? Because it will lead to, over the years, the minimum wage becoming an irrelevance.

The truth is that, over time (no, not in every year, like this one, but over the decades) wages rise by more than inflation. It's precisely and exactly this which makes each successive generation better off than the one that preceeds it. So if we link the minimum wage to rises in inflation only (the usual meaning of indexation) then it will become an ever smaller proportion of the average wage in the country. As an example of this, the state pension was linked to inflation, not earnings, in 1980. This has led, over the past near 30 years, to it falling from 23 % of average earnings to 15% of average earnings.

So, given that, despite my wishes, no one is going to abolish the minimum wage the next best thing is for it to whither away, falling behind average earnings until it is entirely an irrelevance. So I therefore entirely support this idea from Compass, for all that I think that everything else they come up with is ludicrous.

The only fly I can see in this ointment is that I rather suspect the proposers of this plan to be either too dim or too ill informed to understand what it is that they are proposing. But we'll not tell them, eh? Just keep it as our little secret?

Trade in votes


voteThe turnout figures for the UK (especially in European and local elections) continue in an ever increasing downward spiral. Reports that the election on June 4 only managed to excite 34.5% or 15,625,823 means that 4% fewer people chose to vote this time around. Over the space of the previous three general elections turnout has fallen by 10% whereby now the election only garners interest from 6 out 10 people. How then do we ensure that voters re-engage with politics, how do make sure that the incentive to vote matters?

The Electoral Commission states that, "unless voters feel that the election is relevant to them and that their vote matters, they are unlikely to participate." The figures for the next General Election could take a significant hit as we have such a lame duck Prime Minister and government at the moment. On the one hand many voters will believe the Tories to be a shoe-in and on the other Labour supporters could turn their backs on their chosen party. There are two ways to address the declining turnout in voters: the first is by making it compulsory (exceedingly illiberal and ensuring around 90% vote) the second is by allowing people to sell their vote.

Much is made of those who abstain, (in a way this is the same as voting) they evaluated the candidates and decided they were unrepresented and now their vote goes to waste. But what if the market stepped in and allowed others to purchase that vote. In a European Election with low turnout prices would be low as there would be many people selling their votes. In a general election on the other hand prices would increase, especially if the buyer lived in a constituency with a narrow majority. Even more so if the person attempting to purchase the vote was from a party that the seller wasn't likely to support. Obviously some constituencies could end up with more votes than voters, but obversely when a minority of a minority elect an official we cite that it's democracy at work. Perhaps rather than attempting to stuff the ballot box Gordon Brown, via PR he could return democracy to us and allow us the freedom to cast our votes to whom pays us the most. (Not unlike the current system, just a fairer and surer way of obtaining the cash).

Blog Review 993


Might this actually be a first? A professional group supporting a policy and action that reduces the opportunities for that professional group?

This isn't odd at all: the educational establishment uniting to undermine those who educate their children without using the educational establishment. More here.

Doesn't it comfort you to know that the politician reorganising the regulation of the financial markets collects lots of political donations from the financial markets?

How bailouts really work.

A quite wonderful reminder that the little guy can win....or perhaps a reminder that "caveat emptor" is a very useful phrase.

Another reminder, that Britain really does build things still: and that it's the design which is important.

And finally, the Iggy Pop soundtrack to how we are governed.

Climate change nonsense


An awful lot of nonsense about climate change is spouted, as we know. I think the thing that bugs me the most though is that people don't seem to be understanding the very reports they rely upon for their logic and calls to action. You know, things like various greenies insisting that we should revert to local and regional economies....when the very IPCC report they rely upon for predictions of climate change states that this would make things worse, not better.

Today's example comes from the private sector:

Airline passengers should pay a global tax on carbon and accept an increase in the cost of flying for the sake of the environment, the chief executive of British Airways has told The Times.

The airline is the first in the world to propose that all airline passengers should pay an additional sum which would be likely to rise steadily over time.

BA is proposing that the tax should raise at least $5 billion (£3 billion) a year to be used to combat tropical deforestation and help developing companies to adapt to climate change.

That there should be a price for carbon emissions, as there should be for other externalities, I have no problem with, indeed welcome. And as the Stern Review pointed out, we can do this either by Pigou taxation or by cap and trade. We'll leave aside the bit where that report points out that it doesn't matter what you spend the taxes on, it's simply the addition into market prices of those costs that does the work.

But what I would like Bill Walsh (for it is he suggesting this) to understand is that the very same report/review which provides logical support for this position also gives us what that price should be. And as a result of that suggestion, Gordon Brown has doubled Air Passenger Duty. As far as Stern is concerned, as far as both the price and logic of the argument are concerned, the external costs of aviation are already included in the market prices people pay to fly from or to the UK.

It's already been done, no more taxes are needed. It would be fine to call for a different system, but not to call for an additional one.

Home schooling vs. the state


schoolPopular culture by its very nature is a driver of homogeneity; the conscious individual whose views sit outside the norm, either has to fit-in or act outside what is deemed normal: neither is an easy option. This is troubling, but not insurmountable. Popular culture only becomes seriously oppressive when the state legislates.

This Labour government has been especially bad at dealing with difference, and its latest stance against home schooling is indicative of this lack of tolerance and understanding. Specifically, the government is considering forcing home educating families to have to register annually and demonstrate they are providing a suitable education. It would mean that local Councils would be given the power to force children into school against their parent’s wishes.

The BBC reports that: “Some teaching unions say they feel home educated children do not develop certain skills such as co-operation, conflict management or relationship-building." The irony of teaching unions holding up these virtues is comically ironic given their track record for militant power battles between themselves and the government. If that’s the kind of co-operation, conflict management or relationship-building a state education can give you, I am not at all surprised people prefer to privately educate their children or teach them at home in increasing numbers.

The choice to teach children at home is an issue that distinguishes the Conservative from the Libertarian. All on the left are of course behind the state’s stranglehold over our children, but many on the right feel an equal compulsion to control. As such, those that do not want their children educated by the state may still be in peril once Labour are eventually turfed out.

Blog Review 992


Yet another lesson, as if one were needed, in why these political attempts to subsidise one or another industry so often fail expensively.

Not that this is a new problem of course.

How and why such programmes are initiated.

This very expensive government programme is one that we don't want to succeed in any manner at all.

Required reading for all those who would like to know why and how economic growth occurs.

An intruiging point. Can the BNP now be sued for racial discrimination, absurd as that might be?

And finally, conspiracy theorising at its best.



UKIP - A party on the rise?


ukipA lot has been written over the rise of the BNP due to their success at the European elections last week. There have also been discussions surrounding Labour's apparent demise and falling support. All the while the party that pushed Labour into 3rd place seems to have slipped under everyone's radar. UKIP supporters are crowing about how successful they were, pushing Labour into third and increasing the number of their MEPs by 1. But they were another group that benefitted from the disappearance of the Labour Party's core voters.

Overall UKIP's total number of votes fell by 8.6% but then this is probably reflective of a falling turnout.  If you examine their vote across the regions it varies from a drop of 44.9% in the East Midlands to a 19.5% gain in the West Midlands (where they gained the extra MEP).  The party only managed to gain supporters in 5 regions and the majority of those gains were below 6%. Their losses were heavier, three of them being above 18%. It is difficult to see where they can improve on the numbers who are voting for them, despite this election proving to be a fillip for them. In these politically apathetic times  they are facing stiff competition from smaller/newer parties that are also anti-federalist. It is unlikely that we will see any increase on the 6% of the electorate who voted for them in the 2004 European election. Indeed if they deemed that a success one only has to look at the next election for the UK parliament where they only polled 2.2% of the votes, or 22% of the actual total number of voters from 12 months previously.

While many supporters of UKIP will see last week as a success the figures point to a party that has possibly reached it's zenith. But there still remains a hope for them, the continuing ignorance of the populace by the professional politicians of the day. Despite the citizens of the EU delivering a firm 'no' to the federalist leaning politicians they continue to call for more integration, as seen by yesterday's announcements by Peter Mandleson. UKIP's continued success depends on this blinkered idiocy to continue.

The value of education


educationpic1From deep in the cavern of bad policy ideas, the National Union of Students (NUS) have pulled out a cracker: former students should pay up to 2.5 per cent of their salary for 20 years after graduating to fund higher education. The tax would be levied depending on earnings.

The NUS’ policy is essentially a tax upon success. Those students who have worked and sacrificed to get into a top university, who while at university studied a demanding subject and focused more on study than the pub, who came out with the grades and skills to get a decent job that demands yet more work and sacrifice, will be paying for the education of the of lazy students ‘studying’ in third-rate universities. This is not meritocracy, quite the opposite in fact.

The impact of this tax would certainly send the top students abroad to study and or work. Many of the best and the brightest would prefer to pay an upfront payment for their education abroad instead of having their salary jacked by the government for twenty years; else they will take the benefits of a British education, only to work abroad, no doubt avoiding repayments entirely.

Only when education is truly liberalized will we see a meritocratic system emerge. Of course, those young people with no financial means who fail to qualify for a bursary will indeed have to borrow in order to be educated and the better the education the more the cost. But crucially it will then be their decision as to whether or not the education is worth that level of investment. This would be a meritocracy. If the students do not consider the education to be worth getting into debt over, they can and will choose to spend their productive energy in another direction.