I’m hungover, but on my way to a vineyard again; why not spend the weekend looking over my old Lib Con posts?

They’re all here.

I particularly recommend the post about Muslims and Minarets, where the collective Libertarian Blogosphere revealed themselves as closet authoritarians.

Oh, the one on North Korea and Nuclear Peace is good too.

Oh, and although long, this one on the Conservative International Development paper “One World Conservatism” might be particularly pertinent, now they are in power.

That’s all the posts I’ve had scheduled, see you all on Monday.

I am gorging on snails and baguettes; you are reading about how important “small” government is for growth, compared with simply “good” government

The Heritage Freedom Index is really a composite of measures that get at two different things: Good Government, and Less Government. Overall, the Good Government factors tend to dominate, and drive a lot of the correlation with good economic and quality of life outcomes. When one splits out the factors, the case for Less/Weaker Government weakens substantially, and the case for Clean/Non-Corrupt/Efficient government strengthens considerably.

This does not support many of the conclusions that are often drawn using the overall Heritage Index.

StatsGuy pops up on some American Economic blogs I like. He offers a post (from a few months ago) on whether the Heritage Freedom Index really measures “Economic Freedom” or simply “good governance.”

I’m off to Bordeaux

I’ve scheduled this for the time our coach picks us up – early, isn’t it?


Should all be worth it, of course, as I will be drinking amazing wine and gorging on delicious food for today and tomorrow.

I’ve scheduled some stuff for the next 30 hours or so, so you will have bits and bobs to keep yourselves entertained. If your waiting for an e-mail response or a comment, you might be waiting until Sunday/Monday.

Richard Littlejohn is as big an Astonishing Buffoon as Five Chinese Crackers is Hilarious

Richard Littlejohn has a novel… sorry that should be “novel.” Five Chinese Crackers has reviewed this and his reviews are marvellous. I cannot emphasise how much you must read FCC’s reviews.

At his best Five Chinese Crackers is as funny as Flying Rodent. At his best Richard Littlejohn would get pissed on/covered in my diarrhoea/would still be left to die if he was on fire.

[Don’t believe me? Try this:

WILL SELF: Does it [Littlejohn’s book] turn into Tolstoy at page 205?

LITTLEJOHN: No it doesn’t turn into Tolstoy. I don’t set out to be Tolstoy. It is a much more complex book than that.

WILL SELF:Than Tolstoy?]

Bah! Morons, the world is run by morons

This really is getting silly:

You might remember the story last November about police being issued with a 90-page elf ‘n’ safety manual on riding a bike. It was rubbish, as the Association of Chief Police Offers was quick to point out:

This work was neither requested nor drawn up by ACPO and we do not endorse it.

It was put forward by a group of well meaning police officers with an interest in this area. ACPO will not be taking it forward.

Some enthusiastic cycling policemen proposed a cycling guide for the force and it was rejected. Just another non-story (albeit one that snuck into the Independent). Except that, er, it’s now popped up in the government White Paper on police reform:

Whole shopping trolleys’ worth of guidance is loaded onto the police during the course of a year. Whether this is guidance for officers on how to dress or 92 pages on how to ride a bike – this has to be reduced.

It’s not the first time a Tory’s used tabloid rubbish to make a point, but you’d think a government document laying out policy proposals might have better standards of evidence…

I hope Jamie doesn’t mind this being exerted in full but this needs to be publicised. There is no reason to base policy on lies, there are enough real problems in the world to worry about.

Hey look over there!

This is why, despite my occasional scepticism I am still convinced of the need to blog the media until they are honest. I’ll leave the conclusion to the ever excellent Angry Mob:

My point is, as it always is, that tabloid journalism has real consequences for all of us – whether we read a tabloid newspaper or not. We are all passive tabloid readers, unavoidably inhaling the hatred, the outrage and the distorted media narratives on a range of topics that impact on our lives. You cannot stop inhaling tabloid messages by turning your head any more than you can stop inhaling a rank smoke that engulfs us all. In the end we all have a choice, we either quietly gulp it down and pretend it does not exist, or we do everything in our power to challenge it and stop it at its source.

The Tory’s History Tsar Niall Ferguson in massive hypocrisy shock

We all know Niall Ferguson. He is the adequate historian who has turned into a dreadful economic commentator, empire apologist and who has been given control of the Tory’s History Curriculum.

In 2003 he wrote in favour of George W Bush’s deficts, calling him the “Gun and Butter” President. Today he is a loud critic of deficits and has repeatedly predicted Armageddon for the UK and the US if they do not slash public spending.

Cognitive Dissonance? Its deafening.

Delightfully Matthew Yglesias and his intern Ryan have taken up Brad DeLong‘s challenge and spliced two Ferguson articles together to illustrate how little credence we should give this man’s policy recommendations. 2003 Ferguson is in bold, 2010 Ferguson is in italics and there is much more at Ygelsias’s blog which I heartily recommend:

https://i1.wp.com/top-people.starmedia.com/tmp/swotti/cacheBMLHBGWGZMVYZ3VZB24=UGVVCGXLLVBLB3BSZQ==/imgNiall%20Ferguson3.jpgGuns or butter: this is the choice historians conventionally say that governments face. The administration is currently engaged in an audacious — some would say reckless — experiment to disprove this theory. To judge by his actions, the President’s response to the question “Guns or butter?” is: “Thanks, I’ll take both.” This, in short, is the guns and butter presidency.

Are there precedents for such a combination? What’s to say this deficit-spending won’t work? Keynes would tell us that in the current environment we must boost aggregate demand.

Certainly. Long before Keynes was even born, weak governments in countries from Argentina to Venezuela used to experiment with large peace-time deficits to see if there were ways of avoiding hard choices. The experiments invariably ended in one of two ways. Either the foreign lenders got fleeced through default, or the domestic lenders got fleeced through inflation.

But the United States has broken the guns or butter rule before. Under President Ronald Reagan, substantial increases in military spending coincided with comparable increases, relative to gross domestic product, in personal consumption — that proportion of G.D.P. that the public, as opposed to the government, spends. The crucial point, of course, is that in the short term at least, fiscal policy is not a zero-sum game.

But this doesn’t respond to long run inflationary fears. When economies were growing sluggishly, that could be slow in coming. But there invariably came a point when money creation by the central bank triggered an upsurge in inflationary expectations.

But, as Keynes remarked, in the long run we are all dead! Aren’t these “inflationary expectations” priced into the markets? [cont…]

From the Spam Folder: Increasingly inventive spam-bots

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As you’d expect, no external links are endorsed by this blog and you click on them at your own risk.

Right wing propaganda from the BBC and the normalisation of deficit hysteria

We are used to claims that the BBC has a liberal left wing bias. Today we have had an example of almost indefensible right-wing bias on Radio 5. As highlighted by the increasingly strident  Paul over at Though Cowards Flinch, the BBC are running a “fun” competition on Radio 5 and online at the BBC’s moron pit Have your Say.

MPs will be breaking up for the summer tomorrow, 27 July, but when they return they will still have to deal with the £156 billion deficit which looms over Britain.

This week, BBC Radio 5 live Drive is looking for your big ideas to drive down the deficit. Today the focus is on home savings, including on health, education and local services.

As Paul says the deficit is not looming over Britain. We have run deficits through a recession which have helped mitigated much of the worst of it. As the employment situation continues to stagnate deficits don’t loom, arguably they shine.

A minor annoyance is that the Taxpayer’s Alliance is given a free run to complain about Britain’s overdraft. Britain can borrow at an interest rate of 3-3.5% for 10 years, if I had an overdraft like that I’d be over the moon. I repeat this country doesn’t have an overdraft, you twat.

I am perfectly happy when I see the Institute for Fiscal Studies report unopposed, but even at times watching TPA coverage I can’t help thinking that Lenin would be a more balanced commentator than Matthew Sinclair.  But the obvious bias in allowing The Taxpayer’s Alliance free range is only a minor gripe for me.

Partisan hacks will always be with us, what is more worrying is that deficit hysteria is becoming embedded in the reporting of our economy. Even when the The Taxpayer’s Alliance are not on the air the BBC are sounding increasingly like them.

For example, when I highlighted that inflation would have some positive effects an ex-TPA propagandist offered a simple alternative (after calling me immoral, a thief, uncaring and inhumane)…

I do have a policy suggestion – instead of your approach, which is spend, spend, spend, borrow, borrow, borrow, borrow, inflate, cut public spending.

… I don’t know, maybe its just me, but I’m left thinking: “and then what?” [1]

The same approach has been taken by the BBC. Rather than ask why we must cut spending this is taken as the assumption on which a premise is built, just as the TPA do.

The Labour leadership is in disarray over the deficit and there seems little concerted effort to highlight the positive effects of ignoring Tory policy recommendation in the last few years, while we would never end up like Ireland we could be far worse off than we are.

The embedding of this deficit hysteria may have already reached a point where it is impossible to overturn. If we let them dictate the terms of debate we have lost the debate and Lost Decade, Here We Come.


[1] I’m guessing Mark Wallace thinks that that cutting public spending would lead to an increase demand in the private sector, right? [2] But what I don’t get is that if cutting public spending leads to an overall increase in demand this would produce some inflation, right? But that’s bad, right? Or would this be a “good” kind of inflation? I don’t get the policy implications, Mark Wallace’s advice to “cut public spending” has pretty much left me with more questions that answers.

Islamaphobia on the rise

Two Muslim women have claimed they were refused a bus ride because one had her face covered by a veil.

The 22-year-old students, of Slough, Berkshire, were in London and boarded a Metroline bus from Russell Square to Paddington on Tuesday.

But they said when they presented their tickets the driver told them they were a “threat” to passengers and ordered them off the bus.

The driver later allegedly refused to give his details and, irony of ironies, covered his face when the two women who had been refused service tried to video him.

This is another reason why tolerance and the rejection of authoritarianism is essential. The driver didn’t want to admit he was an Islamophobic little git (allegedly) he pretended he was acting to protect his passengers from the “threat” of a veiled woman.

As an example of what the legitimisation of discrimination can cause, it is very timely. I hope Philip Holobone is happy because it is people like him, and his reactionary campaign to ban the burqa and niqab which bring this  sort of behaviour into the mainstream.

[H/T AdamBienkov]

Um, do you want to be hosting advertising for the weapons industry Mark?

Mark Thompson‘s blog is not the first place I would go for propoganda from the arms industry. But that’s what I found.

I’m definitely not looking to flame Mark or pick a fight, but it seems a little odd to me that he would want to advertise Defence Matters.

This is a website to promote the Defence Industries Council. Who are the members of the DIC? Well amongst others there are…

  • Ian King Chief Executive Officer, BAE Systems and Chairman of the Defence Industries Council
  • Sir John Rose Chief Executive Officer, Rolls Royce
  • Andrew White Chief Executive Officer, Serco Defence, Science & Nuclear

Lovely, gang I’m sure you’ll agree. What does the DIC do?

The DIC aims to take a strategic perspective of the interests of the UK defence industry and represent them effectively to Government notably through the National Defence Industries Council (NDIC) and in other relevant national and international fora.

What a lovely mission statement too!

So the DIC is a lobbying organisation whose main aim is to keep defence procurement high, the wallet of our Government open and our taxes flowing freely to them.  The Military Industrial Complex is one of the most pernicious elements of late 20th and early 21st century capitalism and I’m just surprised a blogger I respect wants to help advance its cause.

Of course I understand that it is difficult to control who advertises on your blogger hosted blog and Mark may not even be aware its there, but I would want Mark to know that this doesn’t look good.

Perhaps he can contact Google MessageSpace (see Mark’s helpful comments below) and ask them to not advertise weapons manufacturer’s propagandists on his website? Better yet, Mark could just change his byline from…

Thoughts on politics and life from a Liberal perspective


BAE, Serco and Rolls Royce and the Defence Industries Council are all a bunch of gun-totting, tax-payer-funded, scrounging, good-for-nothing wankers and they’re all terrible employers and their extortion of money from the Ministry of Defence through our dreadful procurement programme are one of the reasons why your child’s school is no longer being built and VAT is headed to 20%

That should also do the trick.


Scrapbook are up to it too…

ITV News propagandising for the racist BNP

BNP leader Nick Griffin has been denied entry to a Buckingham Palace garden party over claims he “overtly” used his invitation for political purposes.

A spokesman said his behaviour had “increased the security threat and the potential discomfort” to other guests [from the BBC].

Nick Griffin is claiming that this is a ploy by the “political elite” to keep him down and to subjugate a representative of the true voice of the whole of the British people (except the Black, Jewish, Muslim and Asian British people of course).

This is a claim that ITV news allowed him to repeat. While they did challenge him and repeated the Palace’s accusations that he had “overtly” used the invitation for party political purposes, they did not go far enough in exposing him for the “gutless coward” that he is.

Nick Griffin is a gutless coward because rather than admit he made a mistake, embarassed the his party and let down the misguided people who voted for him, he invented a fantasy world where he is the (white, male, middle class) victim. ITV could have shattered this illusion but instead provided a nice, “balanced” news report.

Nick Griffin’s claims that his banning is an “absolute scandal.” This is of course nonsense, likewise it is nonsense that he was kept out simply because he is a horrible racist BNP MEP. He repeatedly emphasised he was there in the capacity of a BNP member, representing BNP members, and repeatedly admitted that he was using the party to raise the party’s profile.

But how do I know there wasn’t a conspiracy to ban him from the party?

Well, if you’re banning members of the BNP from garden parties for political reasons, you don’t allow the other MEP of the racist BNP, Andrew Brons, to attend. It is shameful that Griffin’s rhetoric wasn’t challenged directly by ITV when they had the chance.

You can always rely on a fascist to be incompetent, hypocritical and manipulative. Unfortunately, you cannot always rely on journalists to expose this. Luckily there has been much better reporting of this on Channel 4 and the BBC.

Would you rather wear a sack or blow yourself up?

Just a quick final thought on Burqabangate.

A lot of people have seemed to propose that no woman would ever wear a burqa voluntarily. I think this is an odd theory for a number of reasons.

First of all, having looked at past societies both home and abroad, I am comfortable in the knowledge that a huge number of people have held a huge variety of bizarre beliefs throughout the ages. Wearing a burqa is pretty weird, but its no weirder than thinking a tobacco smoke enema will revive a victim of drowning or that slavery can be justified or that Jewish men menstruated.

Secondly, adherents of political Islam have a number of other even more bizarre practices for which we need no further verification; suicide bombing for example.

To what extent someone can be said to be truly free when they are in thrall to an ideology which they think obligates them to either cover up or blow up their bodies is a matter for debate.

But on a broad reading of freedom of action, I don’t think wearing the burqa is one of the weirdest practices in which people have engaged.

Norman Tebbit is more tolerant of homosexuals than Ed Balls, Ed Miliband, Diane Abbot or Andy Burhnam

In the long tradition of controversial blog titles, I submit the above for you consideration.

It seems an odd statement after all, Norman Tebbit is a man notorious for his “strident” position on homosexuality. Throughout the years he has done a number of things which leave him somewhat estranged from the gay community.

Tebbit supported Section 28, the law which made the discussion of homosexuality in schools illegal. He believes that no homosexual should ever be Home Secretary because “[t]he Home Office is responsible for laws affecting society – the adoption of children and the strengthening of the family. It is better not in the care of someone who doesn’t feel for those issues.” He has stalled legislation which would enable (not force) churches to conduct civil partnerships for gay men and women.

On the other hand, Ed Balls has passionately defended gay marriage after revealing that his deeply religious Uncle could never get married to his partner. Andy Burhnam insists that his commitment to equality leaves him no choice but to support legalising gay marriage. Diane Abbott has supported gay marriage since the 1980s. Even the disappointing Ed Miliband “understands and sympathises” with the idea, even if he’s too cowardly to support it without the backing of a focus group.

You may think it odd for me to label Tebbit the more tolerant of those discussed. It is not. It only seems off because the language of tolerance has become debased and approached the meaningless.

Toleration is an important concept and practice in any society. We all live our lives in different ways, under different philosphies drawn from different axioms. Most of us cluster around the median practices and beliefs of a society but most of us have some foibles which set us apart from the whole; a few of us are all foible. The practices of tolerance is the withholding of censure from those with which we fundamentally disagree, either in belief of practice.

Ed, Ed, Diane and Andy are not tolerant of homosexuality. They accept it in the same way in which they accept people with blue eyes, or black skin or a Geordie accent. Tebbit is a man who disapproves with a lot of aspects of, and I’ll use quotation makes, “homosexual lifestyles.” However in large part he tolerates them, in fact he admits some of his best staff have been gay.

Most people are far less tolerant than they think they are. Most of you probably think of yourselves as liberal people, you don’t feel any animosity towards gay people and gay adoption doesn’t bother you. You are happy with a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion or not. You are proud liberals when it comes to immigration, because you believe in the equality of man.

Of course none of that makes you a tolerant person. These are just things you agree with. It is only things which we find deeply unpleasant that test our tolerance. For example, the burqa and niqab are vile pieces of misogyny and I would feel far more comfortable knowing no women were to ever wear them again. But since the wearing of these does me no harm, and where they are worn by choice, I must accept them if I value tolerance.

Toleration is the vital lubricant of a society, without it a move towards a tyranny of the majority is entirely possible. Fooling yourself into thinking you are tolerant is a dangerous game. Without an initial tolerance a little acceptance is impossible, and without acceptance far too many people will remain on the fringes of our society. Were it not for dinosaurs tolerating homosexuality in the past, we would not find ourselves in the situation now where all our most important politicians accept it.

Are the Tories planning to inflate away our debt?

The coalition government has recently seen its poll ratings drop, its golden boy make a prat of himself and its face repeatedly hit by balls. What else to do next but to line up some inflation?

Via Ryan Avent and Buttonwood, I learn that the Government has recently switched from one sort of fund raising device to another. You may find this boring, but this is important.

The device abandoned are index-linked national savings certificates. These offered savings at the rate of inflation plus 1% for five years, with tax-free returns; they have recently been paying out at 6%, which I’m sure no one reading this would sniff at.

This fund raising instrument is a wise thing to use when inflation is low, because the Government only has to pay 1% on top of the inflation rate. However, despite the amount of money it needs to raise, and despite this being a very popular investment, the Government has withdrawn it.

What can we infer from this action? I think it is safe to assume that the Government, either alone or in coordination with Mervyn King, is planning to inflate away some of the nation’s debt.

This might be the first sign of this Government doing something sensible on the economy. The irony of course is that most people who identify as Conservatives will find the proposed policy positively evil.

But, in fact, I think this would be a good idea for a couple of reasons.

Because the UK’s debt is mostly long term , with an average maturity of 14 years, a little surprise inflation won’t lead to a significant rise in the cost of financing the debt. We can reduce our debt burden without risking increasing by much how much we pay for our debt.

The other good side to a rise in inflation is that it makes holding money less attractive and investing more attractive, which is exactly what our economy currently needs to boost demand, growth and jobs.

Banning the Burqa: Liberalism Ascendant

The French have banned the Burqa and the Niqab. The new law passed 355-1 (with the Socialists shamefully abstaining) bans both the wearing a face covering, which is lightly penalised by a £120 fine, and the forcing of someone to wear a face covering, which is heavily penalised by a year in jail and/or £25,000 fine.

This law has drawn criticism and praise in roughly equal measure. Burqas are vile symbols of oppression, but criminalising them is never the answer. I agree  with Carl when he approvingly quotes Kenan Malik:

The burqa is a symbol of the oppression of women, not its cause. If legislators really want to help Muslim women, they could begin not by banning the burqa, but by challenging the policies and processes that marginalize migrant communities: on the one hand, the racism, social discrimination and police harassment that all too often disfigure migrant lives, and, on the other, the multicultural policies that treat minorities as members of ethnic groups rather than as citizens. Both help sideline migrant communities, aid the standing of conservative ‘community leaders’ and make life more difficult for women and other disadvantaged groups within those communities.

But, I don’t want to dwell on the politics of this. I don’t know enough about French Parliamentary politics to enlighten you and I consider this ban unambiguously wrong-headed on principle.

Instead, what I want to highlight is that few people want to defend this law as a necessary firkin of authoritarianism in our sea of liberalism; even though few things are as petty and illiberal as banning a particular type of clothing. [1] Many people seem comfortable defending the idea of a ban as a liberal measure in itself. The intellectual  contortion involved in describing a ban as liberal is quite fascinating to behold. If we start from Mill’s Harm Principle it is hard to see how we could justify this ban:

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

But justify it they do! Of course there are limits to liberalism embodied in this  principle and if you squint your eyes and tilt your head just so, then you can just about make out how a law banning some clothing can be liberal. Below are these (poor) liberal authoritarian arguments distilled:

  1. People are entitled to freedom of religion, but I don’t think wearing a Burqa is a religious obligation, therefore banning it is not illiberal.
  2. These women are currently oppressed by their spouse/father/brother therefore using the oppressive power of the state to ban their activities actually empowers them. They are all being harmed by the burqa therefore banning it is not illiberal.
  3. A burqa is a disguise which can be used by criminals. As crime causes harm to others the state should act to prevent it, that is why it has a monopoly on legitimate violence within a certain area. Burqas are little more than disguises for criminals, therefore banning it is not illiberal.

I’ve seen all these arguments deployed and every one of them torn down. What the weaknesses of these arguments show is that liberalism is in the ascendant even as we continue to see authoritarianism around us. It is now deeply unfashionable to be an authoritarian.

I don’t think this is a positive development.

Mill deployed the Harm Principle with a reasonably well delineated concept of harm. However, recently harm has taken on a more and more diffuse meaning. From left wingers supporting a smoking ban to prevent “harm” to bar staff to right wingers suggesting that burqas “harm” people by being an effective disguise, this unfocussed us of “harm” weakens the cause of liberalism as a positive political philosophy.

The language of liberalism has become the language used to legitimate coercion. Quite often coercion is necessary and just, but all too often coercion is deployed not to protect people, but to impose a tyranny against an otherwise law-abiding minority. If authoritarians are not exposed for what they are, and their capture of liberalism not challenged, fighting for people’s freedoms from a principled and pragmatic liberal perspective will become impossible.

Sadly authoritarianism hasn’t gone away, it has just but on a disguise. [2]


[1] The pettiness confuses me the most. Why even bother banning the burqa and niqab when under 2000 people wear these sorts of veils? I guess this is why I’d make a bad authoritarian, if I was a legislator you couldn’t get me out of bed for that sort of nonsense.

[2] Probably a burqa…

[This is rather good too, from Laurie Penny]

Check out my new blog

As the more observant of you will have noticed I am moving to London at the end of September to study Global History at the London School of Economics. LSE is of course the university of Tim Worstall and Global History was the course of the much missed Giles Wilkes. Who knows what’ll happen to me?

Well, you guys will know what’ll happen to me! I’ve set up a new blog “Global History @ LSE” in which I plan to document my study.

Mostly for my benefit – typing up notes is a good way to go over the material a second time and with all my material online I can study anywhere with an internet connection.

But it is also open to all and sundry, i.e. you guys. Not much going on there now but I had a free afternoon to create it. Check it out.