Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Farage's gaffe on Ukraine

More often than not I agree with Nigel Farage.   He generally has disdain for statist authority, tends to prefer to leave people alone to live their lives the way they want and his stance against the EU is primarily (although not exclusively) about wanting less rules from Brussels, not more rules from Westminster (the Tony Benn stance).

 I agree with withdrawal from the EU for many reasons, most of all its strong protectionist instincts, the overwhelming push to introduce pan European legislation on matters that shouldn't be regulated and the unaccountable nature of the European Council and European Commission, not least because the European Parliament has no powers to repeal or introduce legislation.  I'm no worshipper of democracy, but law making should not be done by appointed officials, rather than elected representatives, not least because the latter can be removed.

I don't believe the EU should have a foreign policy that extends beyond trade, not least because the interests and positions of Member States are wildy diverse.  How can you reasonably represent a common view from leading NATO Members that are Nuclear Weapons States (the UK and France) against neutral states (Austria, Ireland and Sweden)?  You need only look at the sclerosis the EU has with disputes between its Member States of this nature (Gibraltar-UK) to see this, as well as how ineffectual it is in dealing with issue facing its Member States from threatening behaviour.  

However, when Nigel Farage debated Nick Clegg saying the EU had "blood on its hands" and spoke rather approvingly of Vladimir Putin he opened a can of worms that he didn't really intend.  Hence the backtracking via press release.

You see Nigel's most appealing trait is that he speaks off the cuff, he says what he feels like saying, it isn't particularly well rehearsed and that shows, and people respect it.  What it means is that sometimes what he says points to much much more than he really means.  That is what has happened over Ukraine.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Budget 2014

I agree with the IEA - Budgets should be scrapped.  They are awful political exercises in running a lolly scramble, whereby the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets to exercise wholly inappropriate powers to dish out other people's money.
He seeks glory and gratitude from the various preferred parties who either get some of their money back (a tax cut, or even tax freezes are meant to gain applause) or get to spend other people's money.

There are two things I want from the Budget in principle, as for the detail, I have suggestions on those too, but here goes.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Is it fear or is it editorial judgment?

In the past week, a battle within the Liberal Democrat Party has become news, if only because it highlights the clash between those who believe in absolute free speech, and those who think free speech should be tempered by it not "causing offence" to others - which of course is not free speech.  The latter is the sort of "free speech" seen in China, when you can talk about anything, as long as it doesn't offend the Communist Party, or in Islamist countries where you can't offend the local clerics.

It is anything but liberal.

- A Sunday morning BBC discussion programme included two people who wore t-shirts from "Jesus and Mo".  Here it is 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

No. You didn't pay into the "state pension", it's a fraud

One of the most cruel and callous lies of the pension system in the UK is that it involves people paying all their lives "into a system" that they get "paid back" from.

This myth has been created and perpetuated by politicians, and is sustained by the lie that is "national insurance".  It isn't insurance.  Any private company that offered a voluntary scheme that resembled "national insurance" would face legal proceedings and its directors would be convicted of fraud.  I have heard it once described as a PONZI scheme, which is what is resembles.

The problem lies in several dimensions.

Taxpayer funded old age pensions originally were established to address the poverty of the elderly, back in the days when life expectancy was in its mid 60s.  The issue simply being that when people were too old or frail to work (during an age when most work was physical) there was a lot of support for providing for the elderly poor.  This translated eventually into a basic universal pension to avoid poverty, but not much else.

What came beyond that was the idea that people could have more, and that it could be contributory.  "You get what you pay in" sounds like a fundamentally fair principle.  So came "national insurance", essentially a tax that would be a contribution through your life that would reflect in a higher pension once you retire.

Except that it was an unintended fraud.

Unlike individual pension schemes, where there are accounts kept, where the money is invested for a return that will be reflected in the final pension amount, national insurance contributions were treated as taxes.  

The state spent the lot.  It saved nothing and invested nothing.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

UKIP could do so much good, but needs to professionalise properly

There is a good reason for UKIP existing in UK politics.  Its original raison d'etre, to support UK withdrawal from the EU, is a position that was ridiculed for so long by the three major parties.  Indeed, it was long thought that the Conservative Party was denying itself electoral victory by opposing the Euro and having a strong Eurosceptic wing to it.

Those days are long gone, and given EU attempts to expand regulation across business, spending on rent-seeking industries and its persistently unaudited accounts, there are sound reasons to promote leaving the EU on economic liberal grounds, and retention of sovereignty. 

So there is a space for a party that seeks to leave the EU.

UKIP's views on immigration, which are decidedly not libertarian, are still views that no major party has been good at taking on.  Support for a points based immigration system, that means migrants are clearly net contributors, is not racist or nationalistic, but likely to be acceptable to many who reject immigration for more unsavoury reasons (i.e.  don't like foreigners, especially ones who work harder than me or for less money).  Similarly, opposition to an absolute open door for migration from across the EU does have a sound basis in terms of managing the obvious claims to the welfare state, and being able to exclude convicted serious criminals.

Beyond that, the real potential for UKIP is to be the party to keep the Conservatives honest to certain key principles.  Like less regulation rather than more.  Like believing in not only fiscal responsibility, but in reducing public debt and the size of the state.   Like promoting a simpler tax system, with lower rates.  Like encouraging competition and choice in public services, and confining the welfare state to relieving poverty as a safety net, not providing support to people on middle incomes.  

However, to do that UKIP needs three major internal steps to transform itself.  These have become apparent in recent weeks with the dramatic growth in candidate numbers, and the symptoms of a party that has grown from a small bunch of enthusiasts to a large bunch of amateurs.

It has parallels to what happened to the BNP, which has had very brief bursts of popularity, but has long been so toxic, rightfully so, that is only attracted people who either wanted to join but retain a low profile, or those for whom BNP participation wouldn't ruin their employment or business prospects.  That's because they weren't that good in the first place.

UKIP can be different.  It does explicitly ban BNP, NF and EDL members from joining, but does so on an honour basis.   However, it has a lot of people who have joined with little experience of politics and has developed an ad hoc approach to policy.  It has a window of opportunity to change this.  Criticism leading up to the county council elections will do little harm, but UKIP ought to be aiming to come first next year in the European elections, and do well in the larger scale local elections.  To do this, it needs to ensure it harnesses what is good and negates what is bad:

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Scrap planning laws and urban growth boundaries, and go back to property rights

Give some credit to Nick Boles, he's actually making an effort to confront part of the problem with housing - the socialist central planning focused planning laws that make just about any alteration to a property a matter, not for the property owner, but for "society".

That means the immediate neighbours, the near neighbours, the people down the road, the local residents' association, the local environmental group, maybe a competing business, a charity and of course, the council itself.  

Your property isn't yours, and it isn't about protecting the property rights of others, it is simply about gaining the consent of those whose property it isn't.  In other words, it is communitarianism.

So I applaud the attempts to simplify planning laws, to make it easier for property owners to build on their own land, and to change the use of properties from commercial to residential purposes.

However, it isn't enough.  The fundamental philosophy behind the planning system is rooted in 1940s style socialism - the belief that property is communal, not private.

This needs to be scrapped and replaced with a new approach, based entirely on private property rights.

My recent backbencher articles

Recently I've been penning short pieces for the website The Backbencher, here are the last two:

The NHS is no envy of the world

Voluntaryism: We need to talk about welfare