Saturday, 4 December 2010

Government and economies

 This article compares the UK economy to Hong Kong and Singapore. I think the conclusion that we have "spectacularly ineffective government" is irrefutable.


The first thing to strike you about these two city states is the people – hard-working, disciplined, committed, ambitious and law-abiding. But why?

You are drawn towards the conclusion that it is something to do with government – but that is not synonymous with either big government or no government. Hong Kong and Singapore are very different in style – Hong Kong free-wheeling and buccaneering, while in Singapore the government is interventionist and nannying, often to an annoying degree.

But in both cases government is effective. What it does, it does well – whether that is the provision of vital infrastructure, education, or law and order.

What strikes me about the UK is how many of the things which hold us back fall into government's sphere.

We have big government – but it is spectacularly ineffective government. Whether it is the egregious failure and gross waste of our social security system, or the degenerate state of our education standards, our transport infrastructure, or the travesty of the protection supposedly offered to the citizen against crime, it is the same story: huge amounts of money spent to little good effect.

We seem to have the worst of both worlds – big government, which makes a nuisance of itself and costs a fortune, but which achieves very little.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Lord Young

Lord Young was spot on.

The early 90's ERM recession with interest rates in double figures nearly killed my business and I was forced to "let people go". For me this has been a great recession and I have been taking on staff.

Coming out of the 90's recession we picked up a cheap factory from Allied Irish Bank who had repossessed it. I've been keeping my eyes open for another deal but so far business units are still on the market at silly prices and there is very little vacant in this area.

Sure, some real, that is private sector, workers have had a rough time. But for most of us this has been a phoney recession, almost as phoney as the government "cuts" with spending still rising.

The daily mash has the right of it:,-insensitive-old-tory-absolutely-spot-on-201011193271/

Friday, 12 November 2010

More rights

OK. I'll start to try and make some sense of the concept of rights.

What are rights other than a social construct? And if a socail construct is the concept of rights valid in a non homogenous society?

I think rights as a social construct are not rights at all but a manifestation of that societies rules.

For example western society, or at least its commentators, hold "democracy", that is the right to vote, as an important right and one that can be used to justify at least in part inflicting violence on non democratic societies.

In contrast the Chinese, and not just the political class, are suspicious of democracy, as in a non homongenous society it is a force for instability and for historical reasons the Chinese value stability as the same class as right as we consider democracy.

Democracy, IMHO, is only an important right in a homogenous society where the vast majority accept the same social norms. Democracy is an evil in many other societies because, even with fair voting, it gives power to a cultural majority and leads to the tyranny of the majority. The genocide in Rwanda is just one example of the cultural and ethnic problems which democracy can only agravate. Iraq is another. We have removed the dictatorship of the minority Sunni muslim and replaced it with the tyranny of the majority Shia muslims. Democracy can do nothing to improve the situation in Iraq and may well be part of the ongoing problems.

Of course democracy is a valid right in societies which are homgenous such as Western Europe. However a good example of the weakness of democracy can be seen in the history of modern Turkey. The Ataturk set up a non theocratic democracy guaranteed by the army. On numerous occasions the army has felt the need to remove the elected government to safeguard the constitution. Now that an islamic party is in government there are on going concerns that religion is becoming a factor in government policy.

As far as I can see the right to vote is an example of a social right valid only in certain societies.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Earlier today I responded to a Facebook post about rights:

ELV "is wondering where our 'rights' begin and end . . ."

To me this is a fairly fundamental question. Too many people talk of rights as if they are free and without obligation.

So how do I see rights? At the moment I can see 3 kinds.

1. Rights seized from one's superiors, for example Magna Carta where King John was forced to concede various rights.

2. Rights granted by a state or group of states, for example the European Convention on Human Rights.

3. Libertarian rights. The right as an individual to go about one's business without let or interference by anyone provided one doesn't interfere with the same right for others.

Is there a difference between these types of rights? In practice probably not. However I see groups 1 and 2 as rights granted by some authority while group 3 seem more fundamental.

The problem with groups 1 and 2 is the fact that someone else has the power to grant or enforce them. Since I only reluctantly concede to being coerced by others as a modus operandi with the real world I accept these rights as a partial counter balance with the coercive nature of the state. However philosophically I dislike having to accept rights from the same coercive state.

Group 3 rights seem to distil down to special cases of the basic libertarian non-aggression principle. I am content with group 3 rights as they are consistent with my favourite piece of graffiti scrawled across my college walls many years ago, ni dieu ni maitre.

Gay rights, women’s rights, religious rights are all in fact just aspects of the basic libertarian right. Your sexuality, gender, religion, ethnicity, etc are irrelevant provided they do not interfere with other people’s equivalent rights. And in the end these rights only involve the state as the laws of the land have constrained and limited our right to live as we see fit. For a free society the state only has to say these things are nothing to do with government.

The problem with all this is of course that our right to defend our rights has been taken from us by the coercive state over the last 100 years or so partly, or mainly, as means of social control.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Coming back to the UK

One thing that always bugs me is UK passport control. I can swan around Europe enjoying the only benefit of the EU, the Schengen agreement. When I leave or return to the UK some jobsworth checks my passport.

In recent years this seems to have become more irritating with long queues at UK airports waiting to be processed. It always gets me muttering about fascist pigs.

I don't see myself as a racist because in everyday life I don't care if the people I deal with are black, white or yellow. I do care if they speak English properly so that rules out half of the low life in this country.

That said Luton and Heathrow airports aggravate my usual irritation at passport control. Here some non English, I don't say British because the government allocates that label to any Tom, Dick or Rasta, here some non English bod is posted to challange my right to enter my own country.

Is it any surprise that at these moments I feel like I am entering an occupied country?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Airport security

Am I the only person to find it odd that a few days after suggestions that airport security was over the top there is a new scare?

Is it a coincidence that a bomb was found that had got through security procedures? Just luck that it was found based on intelligence?

I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist but this just seems too convenient.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

I am a free man - for now

In April 1985 I was at a friends house after playing darts at the Boot, a country pub complete with fungus growing out of the walls. The phone rang with a half expected summons to the hospital.

Half an hour later I stood by my father's bedside. He said "look after your mother", a request I could hardly refuse. Since then, except for a 5 year break when my mother moved back to live near my sister, I have done my best to live up to my last promise to my father.

Over the last 2 years the task has got bigger and bigger. Mother is 90 this month and has been blind since an accident in 1956. We have had to be there for every meal time, every day for months. She is no longer able to even get herself a hot drink.

One Sunday in early June I went next door to her home to do breakfast. The door was open and mum was missing. Eventually we tracked her down. She had waved down a car and been given a lift to the local community centre. She was hoping to get home to see her own, long dead, mother.

Later in June my wife had a knock on the front door. A passerby asked my wife if she knew the old lady out on the street. Mother was loose again.

After the first incident social services were called in and the mental health unit eventually sent out a doctor to see mother. The diagnosis is Alzheimer's with a strong recommendation to get mother into a home for her own safety. Of course this makes sense but not the something I have the power to do without her consent. She has always been adamant that she would not go into a home.

However with the support of social services and the psychiatrist I have today delivered mother to a home for a 2 week "holiday". So for 2 weeks I am a free man.

The practicality of long term care is another matter. At £700 per week I need to look very carefully at the options and legal issues such as the Coughlan case. But for now I am free.