Sex trafficking: no evidence for Harman's law


Harman's sex trafficking law is based on feeble, fraudulent evidence.

Here's the line. Women are being trafficked into Britain and forced to become sex slaves. We know this because the massive Operation Pentameter, involving 55 police forces, six government departments and various NGOs, led to the arrest of 528 sex traffickers. On the basis of this, Harriet Harman is rightly pushing through a bill to make it illegal to pay for sex with a prostitute controlled by someone else.

Except it's all lies. As Nick Davies reports, the six-month investigation actually failed to find a single sex trafficker. Ten of the 55 police forces arrested nobody at all. Some 122 of the 528 arrests claimed never happened (they were wrongly recorded, or phantom arrests designed to chase targets). Half (230) were women – suggesting that the Operation was a convenient excuse to harass prostitutes and clock up more arrest figures.

Of the 406 real arrests, 153 had been released weeks before the police announced their 'success', 106 without any charge at all, and 47 being cautioned for minor offences. Of the rest, 73 were charged with immigration breaches, 76 convicted on drugs raps, and others died or disappeared.

Only 22 people were finally prosecuted for trafficking, including two women. Seven were acquitted. The net haul from this vast operation was 15 successful prosecutions. Of those, just five men were convicted of importing women and forcing them to work as prostitutes (two of whom were already in custody).

So that's the 'huge success' that allowed Jacqui Smith and now Harriet Harman, to claim that 'thousands' of women were being trafficked, and to push a Bill through Parliament. So much for evidence-based policy: I would feel happier if they just said that they found prostitution disgusting and wanted to outlaw it for our own moral good. At least that would be honest. This is simple deception, a fraud on the public.

Sex workers are opposing the new legislation. They know that every time governments 'get tough' on prostitution, they are the ones who suffer. The police just have another excuse to go on fishing trips, round up a few girls, and boost their arrest figures so that they get Brownie points and the Chief Constable gets a better bonus. And to prove that they are not 'controlled', girls will start working alone, rather than in flats with a maid to look after them, which will make them more vulnerable to abuse and attack. Thanks, Harriet.

Dr Butler's book The Rotten State of Britain is now in paperback.

The EU is listening...


In the past the European Union has been accused of being virtually deaf to the wants and needs of its members populace. The recent reactions to referenda being a classic example. Well it seems the EU is mending its ways and is going to listen to them. They are planning to listen to them all the time, whatever they are doing.

"Project INDECT aims to mine data from television, internet traffic, cellphone conversations, p2p file sharing and a range of other sources for crime prevention and threat prediction.

So rest assured whatever you are doing the EU will be listening to your every word or online action. Reassuring isn't it?

Immigration and the division of labour


In 2004, the UK lost about 360,000 workers/taxpayers but gained an additional 223.000, making immigration the most significant contributor to population growth in Great Britain. Emigrants have also become a crucial factor in maintaining the scale between workforce and a still ageing population. According to the “Foreign Worker Employment" report from February 2009 made by the Office for National Statistics, 21 % of the British Workforce has at least one foreign born parent.

The question then posed is whether it is a good or bad trend to have a still growing population of foreigners moving to the UK? In short, from an economic perspective it is undoubtedly good. Considering the fact that an growing number of Britons each year leave the country, it would be a catastrophe for the British economy to make migration rules more stringent than they already are. In fact, the wealth of all Britons would improve if current restrictions were diminished, making it easier for employers to hire the right workers with no regard of nationality EU or non EU.

Research published in the journal “International Tax and Public Finance" by Mihir A. Desai, Devesh Kapur and John McHale suggests that the quantity of foreign workers needed in the UK as a share of the British working age population will increase to about 73 percent within the next 40 years, this even assuming no post 1995 migration. Considering all this, easing the immigration procedures would be more than just useful, it is required.

Among the arguments against this include the suggestion that foreigners should contribute to their native economies rather than going to the UK. However, everything being equal the optimal use of human capital will by and large result in the optimal production of wealth. Foreigners going to the UK will be contributing to their community will also contribute to the aggregated wealth produced in the world. However, if any doubters still remain, why doesn't the government reward this percieved investment of human capital in the British economy with export restrictions to the UK market?

Spirit in the sky


The fact that a man in Texas is on death row and is to be executed in under a month is to come as no surprise. However, what should raise a few eyebrows is the influence that God’s word appears to have had in deciding this.

Khristian Oliver burgled a man, beat him with his own rifle and shot him in the face. Yet jurors have admitted that during his trial several, highlighted copies of the Bible had been passed around, and that attention to brought to passages such as "And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death."

Perhaps Oliver deserves the absolute punishment. For a man to be put to death, the jury must unanimously decide on the death penalty, free from outside influence. People’s outlooks are shaped by important figures and events in their lives, and for many people religion is a very strong influence. For such people, religion is an internal influence; something which already guides their judgments and decisions. The problem in this case is that the deliberation process in this trial reached a point where Bibles were used and quoted. However, the US constitution calls for the separation of state and religion. Just because one person believes in God doesn’t mean the law should be based around an interpretation of his wishes.

With all likelihood Oliver was a very nasty man and deserves his fate. However, as the American constitution went to great lengths to extract personal religious beliefs from law, the nature of his sentence is disappointing. Every US citizen is entitled to a free and fair trial, clearly this one has been tainted. Perhaps Oliver should not be meeting his maker just yet.

The Dyson Ball™ is not a crystal ball

The first is that it seeks to tinker with a machine that is fundamentally flawed. Of course Sir James is correct that it is madness to herd high-calibre graduates back onto aeroplanes as soon as their degrees are finished. But the solution is not to grant an extra few thousand places to the chosen ones. We should not be deporting (or denying access to) anybody who wishes to work in the United Kingdom. Similarly, Capital Gains Tax that discourages investment should be relaxed, not just for those investing in high-tech, long-term projects, but for industry as a whole. Car manufacturers and steel works are as susceptible to the effects of Capital Gains Tax as inventors.

The second is that Sir James is falling into the trap of thinking that he knows specifically what the economy requires. However, Sir James is no more able to predict the specific needs of an economy than the Government or a guest blogger at a think tank. Sir James may be right that UK needs to invest more in innovation and welcome more numerate graduates, but he may equally be wrong. Recent events have demonstrated the danger of assuming that current trends will continue into the long term. The UK may in fact need infrastructure rather than innovation; or it may require linguists more than mathematicians. Rather than creating distortions in the market, the government would be better letting the market perform its discovery process.

As for incentivising (forgive me!) long-term investment, there is a very simple and non-distortionary means of doing this: raise interest rates. Interest rates represent the return on investment: if they are low, long-term investment carries little reward; if they are high, long term investment is very rewarding. Austrian economists would argue that these, too, should be set by the market, so that they correctly reflect the time-preference of society (do we want to consume what we have today or a larger amount in the future?).

It is understandable that Sir James would like to promote an innovative Britain. A man who invested £2,000 and created a company worth £500m could be forgiven for thinking that projects like his are the future. But the future is not yet written, and a 25,000,000 per cent return should be incentive enough for anyone.


James Dyson is a quintessentially British hero. I use “hero" loosely, here, in the way that the Red Tops call people who defeat the Australians at cricket “heroes", rather than the plunging-into-a-burning-building-to-save-a-baby meaning of “hero". Nonetheless, we love him. There is something of the Wallis (be it of the Barnes or Gromit variety) about a man who beavers away in his shed making vacuum cleaners that don’t need bags but do glide on a beach ball. He has made the hand-dryers in toilets tolerable, and has now invented the fan without blades. I am convinced he has patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket, and I love him for it.

Opposition political parties like to recruit high profile non-politicians to assist them. Sir James has been leading a “technology task force" for the Conservatives (having previously been close to, and later alienated from, Labour). His recommendations, according to the Financial Times, are likely to include “tax breaks for high-tech investment and preferential residency rules for scientists and engineers."

Sir James told the Financial Times that the City needed better incentives to invest in technology start-ups. “Developing technology is a slow process and the risks are high. We need to encourage people to understand that, if you invest long-term, you can make enormous gains." The entrepreneur, whose wealth is estimated at more than £500m by rich list compilers, said: “I invested £2,000 in Dyson [the appliances business] and it is now worth a lot more than that."

Specifically, he is mooting reduced Capital Gains Tax for companies that invest over 20 per cent in high-tech ventures and extended leave to remain for foreign graduates from numerate disciplines. Which all sounds well-and-good, but to my mind it raises two issues.


Marriage privatization


The debate over the whether or not homosexuals should have the opportunity to marry has been greatly debated in the past year – especially in America with the passing of proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California. The problem inherently found within both arguments is that neither side will ever give in to the other regardless of future government rulings on the matter. If gay marriage is made legal, all the institutions and individuals that opposed it today will continue to oppose it after the fact. This is similar to what we see in the debate over abortion. The problem within the debate is not with the debaters, but with the moderator. What right does government have to regulate marriage; better yet, do we really want government telling us what is moral and what is not? Morality is private, and unless there is the risk of immediate harm to others, government should stay out.

When western governments decided to remove themselves from religion it was a great step forward for both religion and the general public. Religious beliefs are extremely personal and in many cases private. If individuals decide to unite themselves with a specific religious assembly that group may have guide lines or rules that they expect those individuals to follow. These are essentially private contracts and they have worked very well among religions, and government has been able to remain completely neutral. Marriage for most people is a religious affair and is also a very personal matter. The government should not have the right to issue licenses for marriage. A private marketplace where individuals are able to enter into private contracts with each other would be optimal. Religious institutions will have the right to apply specific clauses or articles to those contracts if the marriage is to be conducted under the authority of that church, therefore providing for all religious beliefs within marriage.

The privatization of marriage would essentially end the debate over gay marriage because any institution in opposition to it will not be forced to recognize them or perform them. State incentives to marry would disappear and therefore allow individuals to enter into marriage for legitimate reasons reducing fraud. Some studies have even found that the rise in state sanctioned marriages correlates with government expansion over time. The argument for privatization is neither for or against gay marriage; it is an argument against government regulating morality.

Spencer Aland blogs regularly here.

More philosophy in politics


Matthew Parris spoke at the London launch party for Dr Madsen Pirie's new book, 101 Great Philosophers. He spoke of the importance of philosophy and wished that more politicians would study it and learn a little about it. He pointed out that if they did, they would be less likely to fall into some of the obvious errors which they do commit. 

Dr John Campbell, the historian and biographer, spoke of how a coherent philosophy had enabled the Adam Smith Institute to help mould a new reality out of the ruins of the consensus which had prevailed before it arrived on the scene.

Dr Madsen Pirie, the author, expressed his conviction that philosophy enabled people to make sense of their physical world and its moral convictions. His aim in writing the book, he said, was to encapsulate the main ideas of all of philosophy's leading thinkers into a single volume which could introduce people to its world of ideas.

Blanchflower's blather


Just reflate the debt away. Moderate inflation would lift people out of negative housing equity. A few years of inflation of roughly 5 per cent or so would be very attractive right now. Maintain the monetary stimulus and if necessary expand it further for the foreseeable future, and keep the fiscal stimulus going. Too much is better than too little. And, for goodness' sake, don't start paying back the public debt until we are well out of recession.

David Blanchflower, 'What’s so bad about inflation?' New Statesman

When should children start school?


Children are being attacked from all sides these days. Firstly there is a recommendation that children should not start "formal" education until they are six. As someone who started school at four, I can't imagine waiting so late, but obviously others take a different line.

Dame Gillian Pugh, review author, said, "four and five-year-olds tended to be at a stage where they were just "tuning in" to learning and that they could be "turned off" if they were made to follow too formal a curriculum, too early on." Perhaps, but not for all children. The mandated age for children to enter school is questionable as the parents should decide, an issue Douglas Carswell eloquently puts forward here.

On top of this, or indeed in direct competition to it, the European People's Party believes that children should be given lessons in the benefits of the European Union from the earliest of ages. Of course, some would question how long a lesson it would be.

They claim that, "knowing and understanding, from a young age, the principles, the procedures and the successful history of the European Union, the generations of tomorrow will be immune to any distortion of the perception of the role of the EU and will much better embrace the advantages of this unique project of voluntary sharing of sovereignty." They want to 'instruct' young children in the "benefits" of the EU before they have a chance to formulate their own opinions on the institution.

Clearly both of these examples highlight why government needs to stand aside in the provision of education. The temptation to meddle and mould children's minds to be in sync with the government thinking of the time is too great. Free enterprise in schooling is best for parents, the taxpayer and the children themselves.