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.

Blog Review 991


Yes, governments really are more expensive at doing just about everything for there's a deadweight cost to the taxation with which they do things.

How the internet has dispensed with the gatekeepers and thus reversed the burden of proof.

Making an error does not mean that the erree should never do anything again.

Would the mooted change in the electoral system really lead to this?

Fake charities spouting fake statistics: couldn't we change that part of the political system instead?

This is bizarre even for Polly Toynbee.

And finally, pilots do have a sense of humour, don't they?

(Netsmith would like to apologise for the somewhat random numbering of the blog review over the past few days. Some light brain spasm to blame, no doubt.)

The database state


dataConnectivity is a company which has just launched a new mobile phone directory service. They claim to have 16m of mobile phone numbers in their database. They won't give them out to you, but you call 118800 or go onto their website and say who you want to call, and for £1 they will send that person a text asking if they'll take your call.

The interesting question is where Connectivity laid its hands on 16m of our numbers. It's coy, but the answer is market research companies, online businesses that we buy things from, and brokers who sell lists of numbers.

Actually, I'll find it quite useful to be able to look up people's mobile numbers. But grasping the obvious benefits is how we lose our liberties. Most people want more CCTV, for example, because they think it prevents crime. But when you have millions of them tracking your every move, what it starts to prevent is free movement. And the worrying thing about this 118800 initiative is just how easily new databases of our information can be compiled. Click a mouse, text a friend, use your credit cards, sign up for a storecard, pay your car tax or buy a TV licence, walk in the street under the gaze of CCTV, apply for social benefits, forget to tick the box on that says 'we'd like to share your information with...' and your ID cat is out of the bag, floating around between – well, who knows who?

That's why the proposed National Identity Register is so dangerous. And the NHS patient records system too. Tens of millions of our records, all accessible to whichever of 400,000 civil servants happens to have the right security code. The late lamented Jacqui Smith wanted to keep a note of all our email and phone chats, while the lamentable Jack Straw wanted to share all our information between government departments. They both had to publicly backtrack. But I'm under no illusion that these things are going to happen, or are happening, anyway.

Germany’s European election results: A threat to UK new nuclear-build?


nuclearIn the UK, Labour’s disastrous European Election results, allied to a good performance by UKIP, dominated headlines domestically.

But for those presiding over UK energy policy, the results in Germany were seriously disconcerting.

The combined vote of the CDU and the Bavarian-based CSU was just below 38%. Moreover, the FDP secured a 10% share so that this trio fell just short of 50%. The main left-wing party, the SPD, polled less than 21%.

Germany is currently governed by a Grand Coalition led by Federal Chancellor, Angela Merkel, whose own standing remains impressive. Hence, she is well-placed to secure an overall majority – in league with the CSU and the FDP – in September’s general election.

A CDU-led government, especially with a decent majority, may well decide to scrap Germany’s nuclear phase-out policy that was controversially enacted in 2001.

Germany’s top two energy companies, E.On and RWE, strongly support such a marked policy shift. Undoubtedly, it would materially boost their cash flows: most of their nuclear stations could continue generating power - at low marginal cost - for many years.

E.On and RWE may also undertake upgrades to their existing nuclear plants. And, in time, new nuclear-build may become feasible in Germany, which would require massive investment by both E.On and RWE.

Along with France’s EdF, where net debt reduction is now a priority, E.On and RWE are key to new nuclear-build in the UK. However, a major change in the German energy landscape may cause their investment focus to become more domestically-orientated.

In any event, with nearly £40 billion of net debt, E.On’s own investment plans are being cut back.

Worrying times then for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) – a reversal of Germany’s nuclear phase-out policy would certainly not be helpful for the prospects of new nuclear-build in the UK.