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Suboptimal Planet
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Sounds like a great trip so far. Enjoying the reports.
Toggle Commented May 2, 2013 on Bar Harbor at The Last Ditch
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Though it is true that corporation taxes and employer's NI eat into the budget companies have available to pay their staff. Without these, we might expect pay to be higher. It's also true that many markets aren't fully competitive (because the market isn't free). If government-imposed barriers to entry were removed, startups would bid up wages in their attempt to compete with established companies (there would be more employers fighting over the same employees).
Toggle Commented Apr 18, 2013 on Hope's funeral at The Last Ditch
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The free market is a better judge of fair wages than either of us. An employee worth more than they're currently paid will find work elsewhere. I think a big part of the problem is that the unemployed take houses away from the employed. Everyone needs somewhere to live, of course, but the unemployed shouldn't be given prime real estate in expensive city centres, which hard-working families can't afford. If you're idle, you may as well be idle somewhere cheap. It's also worth noting that housing benefit allows landlords to charge more than they otherwise could. Arguably it is they who benefit, not the recipients.
Toggle Commented Apr 18, 2013 on Hope's funeral at The Last Ditch
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Thanks. Truly shocking!
Toggle Commented Apr 16, 2013 on Hope's funeral at The Last Ditch
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A superb post, if depressing. I wish I could express my ambivalence about Thatcher and Churchill as eloquently as you've done here. "The Second World War delivered the Poles for whom we declared it to one of only two regimes on Earth worse than Hitler's" Which was the other? Communist China? Imperial Japan? "democracy is suspended because three out of four families in this still-rich nation are in receipt of money taken by force by that state from their fellow-citizens" I assume this is the combination of state employees and welfare recipients. Sounds plausible. Do you have a source? "Yet I respect her because like Winston, she was sincere" I'm not sure how sincere Winston was. ISTR that he had no qualms about telling 'necessary lies'. With you about Kinnock, though. The Durkin documentary was brilliant.
Toggle Commented Apr 16, 2013 on Hope's funeral at The Last Ditch
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" but what I want to know really is, do nasty people get attracted to socialism a-priori, or does the snaring of a soul by socialism make one into a nasty person? I'd just love to know which way round it is." As in most such situations, I suspect the answer is 'both'. Some bad people are attracted; some good people are seduced; and both suffer from a (literally) vicious cycle of reinforcement from their comrades. And of course the world isn't really so binary. The people are nasty to varying degrees and in different ways to begin with.
Toggle Commented Apr 8, 2013 on RIP Margaret Thatcher at The Last Ditch
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"What kind of human glories in another's death?" To be fair, I probably would have celebrated the deaths of Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin. The real question is how people can possibly view Thatcher that way.
Toggle Commented Apr 8, 2013 on RIP Margaret Thatcher at The Last Ditch
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Great post. "New Labour created more than 3000 new crimes in Britain" ... and how many of those has the Coalition abolished? Of all the dangerous steps taken under 13 years of Blair and Brown, which you've been blogging about since 2005, how many have been reversed?
Toggle Commented Apr 5, 2013 on Law vs Morality at The Last Ditch
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"to emigrate" ... but where to?
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2013 on The end approaches? at The Last Ditch
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I'd refine that: "people get the government that the majority deserve".
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2013 on The end approaches? at The Last Ditch
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I shouldn't reply, but I can't resist ... "you claim to be in favour of freedom, but would prefer people's ability to conduct transactions to be limited by a tight fiscal/monetary policy." Surely you've been hanging around here long enough to realise that the freedom libertarians favour is not "freedom from want" but "freedom from compulsion". Tight fiscal/monetary policy will never prevent people from conducting honest transactions - the exchange of value for value. It would mean reduced theft, but most people consider theft to be a Bad Thing.
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2013 on The end approaches? at The Last Ditch
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"Now that I live amongst them again, my views have reversed. The British masses are a shiftless, ignorant, nastily-envious bunch who believe above all in the arboricultural nature of money, the desirability of the free lunch and the infallibility of the state." I often feel that way, but I'm conscious that I don't meet a representative sample of the British population in my daily life, nor do I see the British public accurately reflected by the media. The views of vocal minorities are given undue prominence, and the 'ordinary people' selected for display by the BBC are anything but. Our electoral system was always vulnerable to what we have seen - a gradual slide to the left, with a small number of voters in marginal seats deciding the course of each election. "I now feel sorry for those few politicians who would like to do right, but are restrained by their electorate's vile inclinations." What we need is politicians unapologetically setting forth a radically different alternative, as Thatcher once did. Sometimes people need to be led. Speak plainly and honestly, and the public may yet awake from their social democratic slumber. Today I think UKIP are our best hope. We'll see in 2014 and 2015. Losing Scotland would probably help too, though I doubt they'll have the courage to go it alone.
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2013 on The end approaches? at The Last Ditch
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"Modern technology and medicine - and modern agriculture and transport - gives the poorest modern a life she would have killed for." I've heard seen various forms of this over the years, but I only half believe it. Modern medicine is the main reason I might chose Western 'poverty' over life as an ancient king, probably followed closely by access to information and international travel. But I expect they lived well in their short years. Good food, beautiful surroundings, fine fabrics, attentive servants. I don't know how good the wine was back then, but I expect it was plentiful, and at least as good as the cheap plonk you'd be restricted to if living on handouts today. I doubt Cleo would choose a British council flat over her palace, even if you threw in internet, Sky, an NHS pass, and a Ford Fiesta ;-)
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"I do all manner of things every day and I'd be hard pressed to name one that isn't in some way determined by the ideas and culture I find myself in." I don't think anyone would dispute that we're influenced by our environment, and that environment includes other people acting individually and in concert. Even so, you don't turn to the collective to decide most things in your life. What are you going to have for lunch? Where are you going to buy it? How much will you spend? What will you do with your evening? Will you have children? Where do you want to live? How do you want to earn a living? In non-totalitarian societies, these choices are rightly left to the individual. That's not to say that we have complete freedom. We can't suspend the laws of physics or economics. But within the limits of the possible, individuals decide and act. As societies slide into totalitarianism, individual choices are further restricted by arbitrary and artificial constraints imposed by other people. An individual thus constrained doesn't think that 'ideas and culture' are 'in some way determining' his choices; he knows full well that other people are telling him what to do. Now, you could argue that our universe is deterministic, and that this leaves no room for free will. I'd struggle to dispute that, but that way lies fatalism and nihilism. I choose not to go down that path, and from what you've written here (indeed from the very fact that you bother to comment here), so do you.
Toggle Commented Jan 3, 2013 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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Cove is evidently still a hopeless statist, who has no idea what 'real job' means (hint: it's a job people will voluntarily pay for, not "programs similar to those run by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration", based on confiscated wealth, "paying workers to build parks, refurbish bridges, clean streets, and so forth"). That said, having people receive something for something, rather than something for nothing, is clearly better for them and society.
Toggle Commented Dec 30, 2012 on The redemptive power of labour at The Last Ditch
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"And yes, as the debt was contracted for freely, it should be repaid." Have you read Rothbard on this point? http://mises.org/daily/1423 Government debt is fundamentally different from private debt. The former is by no means contracted freely. I did not consent to any of 'my share' of the national debt, any more than I consent to the current tax system. At every opportunity I have voted against expansion of borrowing. My one year old daughter hasn't even had that chance. Government debt is the only kind that passes from father to child. Collective contracts, unless unanimous, are invalid. Government borrowing is actually far more immoral than taxation. It confiscates wealth by stealth. Borrowing renders honest debate about the size of government impossible. It kicks the can down the road, and creates the illusion that we can painlessly live beyond our means. The deficit should be eliminated, but the debt should never be repaid. We should balance the budget, then repudiate.
Toggle Commented Dec 30, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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"Without our Welfare State, who would want to come to these rainy, windy, self-important and culturally rather barren islands?" That's surely overly pessimistic. People come today illegally. I don't think they all do it because they hope to sign onto the dole. It may be rainy here, but it's also green and pleasant, and far from culturally barren. It'd be interesting to know what you have in mind here, though. I suspect high culture is pretty low down the list of priorities for the majority of potential migrants. And if they prefer their own culture, they'd presumably be free to bring it with them. There's little doubt, though, that a massive influx of "those who think they can offer something of value" would drive down wages, at least in the short term. And while this may benefit people as consumers, it will hurt them as producers. This would probably be enough to undermine support for the fledgling libertarian government. We really can't throw open the borders until the rest of the world is as prosperous and as free as we are. Until then, some sort of restriction, however lax and unbureaucratic, seems appropriate.
Toggle Commented Dec 30, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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"Now now. Mark is not a troll." Perhaps that was too harsh. I've not been following his comments as long as you have. "he only wants - like the Greens - to steal enough to fund a basic income". There are plenty of other sinister aspects to Green philosophy, as I understand it, but the crucial question here is what counts as 'basic'. "We may know from Soviet experience that the damage to productivity would soon drag all but the apparatchiks down to that level, but he doesn't plan that." I accept that a basic 'citizens income', 'negative income tax', or whatever could actually be less damaging and costly than the system we have at the moment, and preserve a fair bit of inequality, provided the rate is set low enough. My main problem with it is that it cements the notion that people have the right to live at the expense of others, rather than trading value for value. "He can't imagine a society without [violence] and I find that rather sad." For my part, I can imagine a society without violence, and I think we'll probably get there one day, but libertarianism, like egalitarianism, is a revolt against nature. The difference is that one is moral and the other isn't. And while a renunciation of violence can be the natural result of a very unnatural prosperity, equality must always be forced, and can't be fully achieved even in a dystopian society of clones collectively reared. Someone must run the show.
Toggle Commented Dec 30, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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I am by no means a 'blood and soil' type, as you know, but I have to disagree with you on this point, Tom: "Once the 10 year transition from a welfare state was complete, we could fire all border guards and permit unlimited immigration." Even assuming that all of the immigrants would be good libertarians, it would be a shame to see Britain culturally swamped. Of course, I see no reason to assume that the immigrants would be good libertarians. And as long as Britain remains a democracy, it seems extremely rash to allow unlimited immigration. Unless a benevolent dictatorship was achieved through a military coup, the libertarian government presumably got into power because a plurality became sufficiently enlightened. Shifting demographics in the absence of immigration might easily tip the balance back to statism, but it seems the height of folly to allow unlimited immigration while billions around the world have not yet seen the light. Did you imagine stricter criteria for citizenship? Even then, the presence of unlimited numbers of foreigners who don't really believe in freedom (perhaps they prefer theocracy) could lead to significant social unrest and a reversal of the libertarian victory. We might discover too late that we lacked the manpower to expel them. I'd be content for us to serve as an example to the rest of the world. We'd take in a few from the best and brightest who share our values, but keep out the rest. They'd be free to pursue a libertarian journey at home, with the benefit of our experience. State restrictions on migration should disappear altogether only when states themselves disappear. At the very least we should wait until foreigners can no longer pose any threat to our freedom.
Toggle Commented Dec 29, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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"levy an additional two temporary taxes" What's the old saying about temporary taxes? ;-) "The second (not payable by taxpayers aged 18 or less at the date of its introduction) should fund repayment of the National Debt built up over decades by corrupt, dishonest, statist politicians buying votes." Why punish those who are 19, 20, 21? Even those who are 30 bear less of the blame than those who are in their 60s and 70s. Far better to simply repudiate the national debt. As a matter of transition, even I would support basic welfare provision (hostels, soup kitchens, acute medical care to basic standards) partly for those who had been accustomed to dependence, and partly for pensioners who'd foolishly (perhaps unwittingly) invested only in tax slaves. But lets not reward the slave owners this time around.
Toggle Commented Dec 29, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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I managed to resist feeding the trolls over Christmas (I'm sure you didn't go hungry), but I'll offer up a final morsel or two ... "Frankly... we have allready decided as a society that we will support those who won't work." Following your logic, not so long ago we'd "decided as a society" that homosexuality deserved punishment through the criminal justice system. We've since "decided as a society" that this was immoral and costly. I hope one day we'll "decide as a society" that theft doesn't become legitimate just because it's conducted through a middle-man called the State. In truth, only individuals can decide. Decisions "by society" simply involve one group of individuals forcing their decisions on others because they are in a position of superiority (numerical or otherwise). In any case, the fact that we've been doing things a certain way is not a compelling argument that we will or should continue to do things that way. "As a libertarian ..." LOL. Anyone with your enthusiasm for the compulsory redistribution of wealth cannot rightly be called a libertarian.
Toggle Commented Dec 29, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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"everyone will be forced to work - despite the fact that this is not a physical necessity." I agree that it wouldn't take very many workers to provide everyone in Britain with the bare essentials of life. The question remains: why should some be forced to work for the sake of the rest? I also suspect that you'd like to give the layabouts a higher standard of living than 'bare essentials'. How do you decide where to draw the line? It's true that accumulated knowledge and capital allows us to produce more with the same labour (or the same amount with less labour). But it doesn't follow that people should expect something for nothing. Instead, it means that we don't need to do very much in order to enjoy a more comfortable life than previous generations. Rather than suffering six long days of back-breaking labour each week to reach subsistence level, a few hours of comfortable work will now suffice. Those thousands of citizens idling about aren't surplus to requirements. There's plenty they could be doing to make life better for the rest of us, through voluntary exchange. There are roads to be fixed, gardens to be tended, cars to be washed, and streets to be cleaned. If that seems a bit too outdoorsy, there are plenty of tasks to be found on Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Millions of people around the world would leap at the chance to do this work, but for some reason we pay our own citizens to lie idle. Idleness is a luxury, not a right.
Toggle Commented Dec 16, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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"I also think that the "libertarian" position that we should crush the poor, promote the rich... is... pretty idiotic." Libertarians don't believe that anyone should be crushed, except in self defence. If someone wants to use their own money to 'promote' the rich (or the poor, or anyone in between), that's their business. If they wan't to use other people's money, confiscated by force, that's a problem.
Toggle Commented Dec 13, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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"It strikes me as an incredibly illiberal position to say that we must do something for others in order to "deserve" to live" The libertarian position here strikes me as entirely just (and liberal, when that word is properly understood). Everyone deserves to live ... at their own expense. Nobody has a right to take another person's life, but neither do they have a duty to sustain it. Imagine an island with two families on it. Family A, cognisant of their scarce resources, chooses to have 2 children. Family B recklessly opts for 10 children, who they then struggle to feed. Family A may take some pity on Family B, especially the children, but it seems perverse to say that they have a duty to provide for them. If you take the view that the very fact of one's existence creates a duty on the part of others to sustain you, it seems very strange for this imperative to stop at national borders.
Toggle Commented Dec 13, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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"the money of the poor" You seem to assume that the money rightfully belongs to the poor. What have they done to deserve it? And if we're going to give handouts, why give a penny to relatively poor people in Britain while there are millions of absolutely poor people in other countries.
Toggle Commented Dec 13, 2012 on Le vice Britannique at The Last Ditch
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