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Tom Harrington
West Hampstead, London
Interests: Liberty in our lifetime
Recent Activity
Does an Establishment represent a monopolisation of judgement and peacemaking? If so, does this reduce the quality of the decisions made and raise their economic costs? In preference to such centralisation of judgement- making power would be its dispersal among competing natural elites. However democratic processes and attachment to egalitarian sentiments inhibit such developments. For a fuller explanation: 'Natural Elites, Intellectuals and the State' http://mises.org/etexts/intellectuals.asp
Toggle Commented Jul 18, 2009 on The need for an Establishment at CentreRight
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Why Conservatives continue to believe that it's possible to put a bridle on the State so as to lead it in a conservative direction is a mystery. The State has had an atrophying impact on the institution of marriage. Conservatives should be seeking to undermine its influence over marriage. Trying to use the tax system to bolster the institution of marriage merely helps to legitimise the State's control. Over the longer term this has a highly corrosive effect on the very institution which you claim to support. Sometimes Conservatives are just their own worst enemy.
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Any political commentary that focuses on who's up, who's down, and whether a new policy represents a miniscule move to the left or right is a waste of time. But on economic matters, Liam Halligan remains a voice of sanity, and over the last few months especially Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's articles have been unmissable.
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Did Jesus not advocate free choice over the most important decision of all - whether to accept Him as our Saviour? He didn't say lock 'em up till they repent and convert. He encouraged people to set an example and to spread the message of Salvation through voluntary interaction. Not State-coercion.
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Taking the property belonging to one individual, under threat of imprisonment, in order to give it to others, is violent. Try to resist, and the violence underpinning State power will become all too clear. In my view, Christ's commandment to love one another does not find expression through the actions of the State.
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"The Conservative commitment to move towards 0.7% of GDP being spent on overseas development." Why should a Christian support transfers of wealth enforced under threat of imprisonment? This property, which is breezily described as "0.7% of GDP", ultimately belongs to individuals, rather than a meaningless aggregate. I don't see the teachings of Jesus reflected in such an act of violence.
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To illustrate that one intervention will necessarily beget another intervention, we arguably need to go much further back in time. Back to those times when market forces were displaced by central banking, when gold was incrementally displaced by fiat currency, and when taxpayers - rather than the individual bank - were forced to bear the risks inherent to banking systems based around fractional reserves. The crisis is the culmination of these factors.
Toggle Commented Jul 12, 2009 on A fable at CentreRight
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It still remains a "fatal conceit" to believe that a centralised power can provide wise supervision.
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"However, the good news is, because of what we have learned since the Great Depression, I believe we can avert such a disaster again. Problem is, this government is showing little willingness to implement the lessons we have learned, as there implementation could, in its view, jeopardise a Labour election victory." But your article doesn't tell us what lessons you believe have been learned since the Great Depression. Policy makers in central banks and national governments believe that they are implementing policies which reflect the lessons learned since the Great Depression, particularly in running large deficits and seeking to prevent a contraction in the money supply. If you believe that markets should be allowed to liquidate, then it would be good to see you state it. Some of us would agree. But as your article stands, I have no way of knowing what lessons you believe have been learned. Perhaps the lessons we should draw are those from the 1921 recession, which never became a 'great depression' because on that occasion markets were allowed to re-allocate economic resources.
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According to The Observer article the Tories want the voucher system to extend to China. So yes, we'd be borrowing money from the Chinese in order to give it back to them as education vouchers. While refusing to implement such a voucher scheme in the UK. It's barking mad.
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So the developing world would enjoy a relatively straight forward voucher system, allowing education services to be purchased from the private sector, but in Britain itself, the Conservatives will only introduce Michael Gove's rather more convoluted system. Will people in the developing world be allowed to spend these vouchers at schools which select on the basis of academic ability? It would be good to know...
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It's not sufficient to just gloss over the ERM episode as "ill-fated". After Lawson's resignation, Thatcher was in an isolated and weakened position, and Major took full advantage to overcome her long-standing opposition to ERM membership. Although she relented and Britain joined the ERM, Thatcher's scepticism was proved correct, while Major's enthusiasm led to disaster. Maastricht was presented as an illustration of how the EU was moving in Britain's direction, and Major placed particularly heavy emphasis on subsidiarity. We now know this has amounted to very little.
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The Conservative Party's silence on quantitative easing makes it complicit in this act of vandalism: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/liamhalligan/5742424/QE-just-acting-as-a-sugar-rush-for-insolvent-banks-that-deserve-to-fail.html
Toggle Commented Jul 5, 2009 on Sunday 5th July 2009 at ConservativeHome
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"Strip the Bank of England of its power. Leaving a team of ‘wise men’ to set interest rates is absurd. Market forces will always do it better" http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6619963.ece
Toggle Commented Jul 3, 2009 on Friday 3rd July 2009 at ConservativeHome
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That should have been: But it's those who eschew political action, in favour of ideas, who have benefited most from new means of communication.
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2009 on Whither the IEA? at CentreRight
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I think you're correct to say that advocates of free markets must fully exploit the use of modern communication tools. But it's those who eschew political action, in favour of ideas, would have benefited most from new means of communication. The Ludwig von Mises Institute is an example of how to maximise the use of technology to spread ideas while rejecting politcal involvment. The LvMI website gets more visitors than Cato. LewRockwell.com gets more visitors than both Heritage and Cato. LvMI and LRC are spreading ideas about Austrian economics and a non-interventionist foreign policy that the conservative movement, focused on political action, generally considered taboo. You mentioned Ron Paul. In 35 years the Cato Institute has only invited him to speak there twice (the second time was last week) in spite of him being the strongest advocate of the ideas they claim to believe in (Individual Liberty, Free Markets and Peace). But really, who cares now? Thanks to new technology it's possible to by-pass 'the movement' and to get ideas considered 'too radical' about gold, a non-interventionist foreign policy and the need to abolish central banks, directly into peoples homes.
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2009 on Whither the IEA? at CentreRight
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I don't know any free marketeer who believes that the market can do no wrong. Human nature is flawed, and since the market is a product of human action, it too is flawed.
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2009 on The view from Steerage at CentreRight
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An interesting article, but for Cohen to call what we are witnessing "a crisis of capitalism" shows that he doesn't really grasp what's happened. It's a crisis caused, not by mechanisms generated by the free market, but by mechanisms that have been imposed by State intervention, such as central bank manipulation of interest rates and fiat currency. Cohen also writes: "It is as if the managers of the White Star Line had decided that there was no need to impose restrictions on the first-class passengers." The idea that the banks were given a free rein by the State doesn't really capture the true relationship that existed between governments and banks. Even before the bailouts, some free market thinkers (Austrians mainly) made reference to Wall Street socialism, because of the degree of closeness between the State and the banks, e.g the characterisation of the US Treasury as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. We haven't had spontaneously ordered markets. We've had regulation and State intervention. Cohen needs to re-assess his faith in the competence of the State, given its manifest failure.
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2009 on The view from Steerage at CentreRight
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The Libertarian Party will field a candidate in the Norwich North by-election. http://lpuk.blogspot.com/2009/06/norwich-north-by-election-july-23rd.html
Toggle Commented Jun 30, 2009 on Tuesday 30th June 2009 at ConservativeHome
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Economic necessity will see the IEA regain its relevance. The rigors of classical liberalism will once again be required to dig us out of the hole we find ourselves in. The self-consciously "compassionate" thinking, which has dominated the conservative agenda in more recent times, is already appearing less and less relevant to the economic circumstances we now find ourselves in. As far as seeking to influence policy, The Spectator had an article last week - "Where is the Arthur Seldon for our own era?" - which made the point that at the IEA, Seldon always "insisted that authors take their arguments to their logical conclusions without regard for the ‘politically possible’". The IEA has been extremely influential without deliberately setting out to influence party political policy. This will be the case once again. http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/features/3715908/where-is-the-arthur-seldon-for-our-own-era.thtml
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2009 on Who can revive the IEA... and how? at thetorydiary
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The Centre for Economics and Business Research is forecasting that public spending will reach 50% of GDP in 2010/2011. For Wales and Northern Ireland it will be almost 70%. Cuba is a more modest 60%. http://www.cebr.com/Resources/CEBR/Forecasting%20Eye%20Special%20Regional%20Expenditure%20Analysis%202009.pdf
Toggle Commented Jun 29, 2009 on Monday 29th June 2009 at ConservativeHome
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According to Eamonn Butler in today's Telegraph, "If spending since 1997 had risen no faster than inflation, we would be spending a third less than we do now, and could abolish income tax, VAT, and council tax entirely." http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/5627352/Government-debt-Thatll-be-2.2-trillion-please.html
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The mitigation of adultery was suggested at the end of the article: "It is inevitable that some Tory MPs will chase their secretary round the office. If that secretary is also the MP’s husband, wife or civil partner that’s one less thing Mr Cameron has to worry about." "There are a great many organisations in the City and elsewhere which forbid office relationships." And the same approach could apply to MPs and those they employ. But instead of adopting such an approach, it's being suggested instead that MPs should be able to employ their spouse, as a way of minimising inappropriate office relationships. This sort of reasoning is completely outlandish. If someone in Tesco or Marks & Spencer suggested to their line manager that they should be able to employ their spouse as their PA, so as to reduce the likelihood of them having an affair, they would be laughed out the building. A similar reaction would be forthcoming if someone said that they need to employ a relation because the information they deal with is very sensitive. We're in danger of rationalising privileges for MPs that would be considered simply absurd in other jobs.
Toggle Commented Jun 21, 2009 on In praise of nepotism at CentreRight
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We need to stop yielding to the temptation to insulate MPs from the day to day inconveniences that others have to deal with in the course of their work and family life. "An MP needs to be able to trust their assistants implicitly and intimately." Yes, just like anyone who employs a secretary or a personal assistant. "Being an MP puts an enormous burden on family life." Yes, just like so many other jobs that involve unpredicatable hours and travelling. "Then there is the fraught matter, if such staffing situations are banned, of what happens if an MP and their secretary start a relationship". I can hardly believe I'm reading this. It is not the role of the taxpayer to fund employment relationships that mitigate the potential for MPs to commit adultery. The justifications put forward for allowing someone to employ their spouse would not be persuasive within a large publicly listed commercial organisation. If we continue to treat MPs as a class apart, they will come to resemble one more and more.
Toggle Commented Jun 21, 2009 on In praise of nepotism at CentreRight
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