Gabb on liberty


Dr Sean Gabb spoke to the Cities of London and Westminster Conservative Future ‘Star Social’ meeting on Monday on the subject of liberty. He caused somewhat of a stir. The talk was based around the advice that he would give to a future incoming Conservative administration, and why it needed to undertake the ideas he suggests. He posited it in the future as he rightly believes that the government that Cameron would form will be more or less a carbon copy of the governments of the past 17 years.

Dr Gabb drew upon Marx and his reasoning as to why the 1871 Paris Commune failed as a way to show why the Establishment needs to be abolished. The key actions he called for a future administration to undertake involved closing the BBC and shutting down around half of the civil service and its associated quangocracy. This would successfully rid any government of the challenges that the entrenched rent seeking opponents could bring to bear by utilizing their positions of comfort. Most importantly though, liberty would be returned to the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, as they would have the heavy weight of bureaucracy lifted from them and the heavy burden of tax removed.

The Conservative party, as is, has meekly become an extension of the establishment, exemplified by the response that Dr Gabb’s speech received. Dr Gabb is correct in his suggestion that a new wave of radicalism is needed to save the freedoms’ of the British people. That this approach is unacceptable to those who seek to become part of the problem should be of no surprise. Proceeding governments of the near future will offer little that will alter the status quo.

Whilst the polls show a massive lead for the Conservatives, they do so only because the Conservatives appear to not be New Labour. The truth of the matter is that both of them accept the Establishment and will do little to undermine their own chances of lining their pockets via the political process. We the people will continue to lose out.

The beginning of the end?


An article in The Times yesterday highlights the correlation between the business cycle model and the political cycle. As we slip further towards a recession Gordon Brown’s position seems even more precarious. As the article points out, his rise was as false as our credit boom – although it seems the fall of New Labour will not be quite as rapid as the economic downturn.

In anticipation of a Labour loss at the next election, senior members of the party are already sowing their seeds for a leadership contest. It has been rumoured that Harriet Harman planted a story that Brown is already considering a role as ‘Global Financial Regulator’ in an attempt to undermine confidence in him (although she has hastily denied this). Ed Balls made a high profile comment about the state of the economy that was well beyond his departmental remit, and the ever-present Ed Miliband (my personal bet to win the next leadership contest) has appealed to the green-arm of the party by opposing a third Heathrow runway.

It seems it is not just the Labour heavyweights that are finally coming to terms with the fact that the current government is on a downslide. In the past week we have seen the prominent welfare guru David Freud deflecting to the Tories – not for any policy reasons, but because working with the opposition can give him more opportunity to impact public policy. It also seems civil servants and mandarins are trying to distance themselves from the Labour party as they look to the future. We are surely seeing the beginning of the end of New Labour.

Blog Review 875


Excellent couple of political interviews: once Senator insists that taxes are voluntary, a Congresswoman insists that working for less than minimum wage is just fine, as long as they're working for her.

Even if the stimulus works, it won't work: what'll be the effect of politicians getting their hands on the banking syustem?

It's generally agreed that sports stadium building doesn't provide a stimulus: so why should other infrastructure projects do so?

And this scheme is likelty to be expanded as part of our own stimulus. Whoopee, eh?

Introducing Valtio, the country which might give Patri Friedman a run for his money.

Instead of the spies playing economists and the economists spies, why not utilise that insight of Adam's, the division of labour and its specialisation?

And finally, vomitology.


Deregulate the labour market


On the 9th of February, Christopher Chope, Conservative MP for Christchurch presented his Ten Minute Rule Bill to the House of Commons, amid no fanfare whatsoever. His Bill went unnoticed by political commentators and was largely ignored by all but a few of his friends, some quietly dozing MPs, and those such as myself, with seemingly nothing else to do but watch BBC Parliament.

Mr. Chope proclaimed that it was time to "liberalise and deregulate the employment market", to allow workers to negotiate wages themselves, without restriction and interference, as free and consenting adults. At a time of crisis, Labour's assurance that the Minimum Wage is fair for workers is in fact proved false. Far from any definition of fairness, it is now resulting in millions of people across the country being made redundant.

Instead of being able to reduce wages below the state-regulated minimum in order to adjust to falling profits, businesses are now forced to make those employees redundant. Instead of being able to offer to work for less in order to gain a job in an increasingly hostile labour market, hopeful job applicants are being blocked by government regulation alone from achieving an income other than the dole.

Some are driven to extremes: according to Mr Chope MP, up to a million workers are already earning below the minimum wage - this significant proportion of the workforce is being criminalised unnecessarily for exercising their fundamental right to work.

More urgently than ever before, the minimum wage must be abolished, at least temporarily. As well as penalising employment through Employers' National Insurance Contributions and various PAYE schemes, the government has placed barriers to people keeping their jobs when they most depend on them, and has restricted the capability of businesses to hold onto those workers. These restrictions mar the label of fairness - they must be removed or reduced immediately if we are to stem the rise of unemployment, now rapidly approaching 2 million.

Anton Howes is leader of the Social Liberalist Party.

Public art is public waste


Having wasted £1.4m on the complete failure that is B of the Bang, Manchester City Council has decided that no more public money will be spent on the project. It is a little late for that. Whenever the words ‘public’ and ‘art’ are heard falling from the lips of those in charge of spending our cash, you know disaster is just around the corner. B of the Bang is just one of many. Of late we have seen much brass been burnt at the altar of art.

Firstsite is supposed to be Colchester’s first ‘Visual Arts Facility' – every town should have one. Originally it was going to be built for a paltry £16.5 million and open in 2007. Instead, following mammoth delays, it will end up costing in excess of £25 million, with Essex County Council needing to strip its taxpayers of a further £2 million just to keep it going. It is however free to enter, unless of course you're a taxpayer in Essex, in which case you have already paid for it (and some).

The Wigan Pier Quarter Interpretation Project is a £36,000 plan to erect four life-size statues at Wigan Pier. Guess who is putting in a wheelbarrow or two of cash for this? Wigan taxpayers along with the good taxpayers of Europe through the European Regional Development Fund. What about the poor people of the small Welsh town of Cardigan? They certainly don’t want the Big Art Project on their shores. I doubt Welsh taxpayers want to plough in £50,000 either, and i'm quite sure the rest of us don’t want the state subsidized Channel 4 to spend money making them angry.

Even Antony Gormley, who has received taxpayers money, does not like the way the success of his Angel of the North has been as a precedent to encourage people and local authorities looking for European funding or investment.

It need not be this way. The Giant White Horse in the south of England will be built by private money. Whether or not you think it's a good idea to build a giant white horse in a field, at least you won't be footing the bill for it.

The city of brotherly crunch


Michael Nutter, the current mayor of Philadelphia, recently faced public scrutiny as a result of him making a number of cuts in city programs to deal with major fiscal problems. Philly is known for its public libraries, so when Nutter announced the closure of eleven, he heard outcries from disheartened city residents at a following town hall meeting. In addition to the library cuts, Nutter may also have to shut down several public swimming pools and fire departments.

Although the value of a public library is priceless to a seeker of knowledge, the price of this piece of infrastructure is quite high for a city. Aa such, when a library is severely underused, it seems logical to cut it. Many of the public libraries that Nutter decided to close were empty most of the week, and even after the eleven librarys are shut Philadelphia will still have more libraries per capita than any other American city. Nutter is considering the best interests of the city, as the cuts will save $8 million per year. 

Philadelphia surely had its problems in the past, and it is still severely ailing in the areas of health care and education. But since Michael Nutter’s inauguration a year ago the city has seen major improvements in crime, which has been the city’s most pressing issue in recent times. After hiring 200 additional police officers last year, the city’s murder rate decreased 15%, the sharpest decline in a decade. 

Nutter’s major plans for the city are to reduce the cost of health care and decrease the crime rate further (Philadelphia has had a long reputation for being one of the most dangerous cities in America) so when it comes down to it, some of the money the government is saving in cutting a few libraries will be put towards increasing the city’s well being.

When a city is facing hard times, making a citizen ride the bus an extra few minutes to get to the nearest library should not be the biggest concern for government leaders.

Blog Review 874


When markets rumble a mistake in a market, this isn't a failçure of markets, this is markets working like they're supposed to do.

Financial services are not the be all and end all of the UK economy: and most certainly not all of the growth in it.

Banks have the right of set-off. Some want them not to use it: hang on, aren't we trying to nurse the banks back to health?

Democrats, the poor, Republicans and the religious....and professional politicians.

Was the iPhone simply too good?

Diplomatic blogging like you've not seen it before.

And finally, the world put to rights. Had to happen eventually, didn't it?

Culpability Brown


One clear fact shines through the bluster: Brown is to blame. He told us that Britain's financial problems were "caused in America," as if their sub-prime crisis were wholly responsible for our own troubles. He told us that he had "cut borrowing," whereas in reality he increased it to record levels and just lied about it, shifting off-stage the liabilities for private/public partnerships, the commitment to Network Rail, the unfunded public sector pensions, and pledges to Northern Rock, amongst others.

He told us that he had "reduced taxation," though of course he increased it, just using stealth taxes to keep much of it out of sight. Britain used to attract businesses, now increasing numbers are being driven abroad by our tax regime.

He told us that "Britain is best placed" to weather the recession because of the healthy state of our economy and our public finances. In fact we are worst placed, according to the IMF and virtually everyone outside of Number Ten.

Brown bears a heavy responsibility. The inadequate and incompetent FSA is his baby, and he appointed the wrong people to it as well. It failed utterly to foresee to warn, and to restrain, as the Bank of England used to do when it had the task of supervision.

Brown inherited a thriving economy and frittered it away on a recklessly massive expansion of the public sector. When Britain should have been storing up assets for leaner times, Brown was spending as if there were no tomorrow. Tomorrow has arrived, and Brown bears the blame for the mess it has brought. He is Culpability Brown, and cannot escape the blame this time.

The bankruptcy of Brown's Britain


In Bankrupt Britain, a report published by ConservativeHome, Malcolm Offord highlights some very uncomfortable truths about the UK's financial situation.

For instance:

If we assume that in 2009-10, UK GDP falls by 5% overall in real terms, we think that “business as usual" levels of public spending and taxation would lead to national debt (on the Maastricht definition) rising to around 105% of GDP by 2012 and continuing to rise thereafter to 156% of GDP by 2020.

As a result of which, Offord argues, public spending will need to be cut by £100bn if we are to restore any kind of sanity to the public finances. Though I don't agree with everything in the paper – the tax rises on top-earners that Offord supports would bring in little revenue and hamper economic recovery – it is well worth reading in full. Just don't expect it to bring a smile to your face.

On the subject of cutting spending, however, £100bn might not be quite such an outlandish target as people expect. According to the figures in this paper on public sector efficiency by two ECB economists for the Fraser Institute, the UK could get the same public sector output with 16 percent less public spending. If we could make the British public sector as efficient as the American, Luxembourgian, Japanese, or Australian ones, we could save almost £96bn a year without cutting any services. That's certainly something to think about.

It's even worse than we thought...


According to a recent piece on the BBC website "The severity of global warming over the next century will be much worse than previously believed, a leading climate scientist has warned." In this case, Professor Chris Field has told the American National Academy of Sciences meeting that, since greenhouse gas emissions have been rising more rapidly than expected (a statement which in itself deserves to be questioned), the predicted 1.1 to 6.4 degree Celsius average temperature rise over the next century is likely to be a serious underestimate.

And Prof Fields is not alone in his predictions of catastrophe. James Lovelock, proposer of the Gaia theory and catastrophist-in-chief, no longer talks of global warming, but global heating. He believes mankind's malign influence has gone too far to be reversible, that investment in renewable energy generation is a waste of time (I wouldn't disagree with that) and that remnants of the human race will only survive in polar regions and a few favoured islands such as the UK and New Zealand.

The only problem is that the doom-mongering is all based on the unproven hypothesis that anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide are having a dominant effect on climate. However, in the past ten years, there has been no rise in average temperatures and no evidence (other than the output of flawed computer models) to suggest that mainstream climate science is right. It is equally plausible that the quiet period of solar activity which started recently (as shown by a dearth of sunspots) will be lead to a cooling of the climate, as has always been the case in the past. Adam Smith himself noted the increased price of wheat in times of low sunspot numbers.

Time will tell, but in the meantime expect more scary headlines based on selective use of evidence by scientists convinced their theory is right.

Guest author Martin Livermore is the Director of The Scientific Alliance