What is the solution to the housing crisis? Preston Byrne, author of an Adam Smith Institute Briefing Paper entitled Burning down the house, knows what it is not:
Government is not the solution to the housing crisis.
That being the subtitle of his Briefing Paper. In his penultimate paragraph, he expands on that thought:
… government is not the solution to the housing crisis: government is the housing crisis.
Byrne is giving my next Last Friday of the Month talk, on Friday 25th, in other words at the end of this coming week. His talk will be entitled “Mortgage Subsidies: Why They Didn’t Work in America and Won’t Work Here.”
I’m guessing that this, the italicised preamble at the top of this Briefing Paper, is a further clue to what he will be saying:
Help to Buy will not end the housing crisis. The government’s plans to increase liquidity in the housing market will do little to solve the UK’s long-run housing supply shortage – and do much to aggravate high housing prices while improperly using the state as a risk transfer mechanism. Liberalisation, not intervention, is the best long-term solution for the distorted British housing market.
So, not a bundle of laughs. But Byrne, an American who is now a London-based securities lawyer, is an engaging speaker, and I doubt it will be quite such a grim evening as the above quotes suggest. There is, after all, humour to be found in watching politicians carefully placing banana skins in front of themselves, and then running enthusiastically over them. Even if we’re the banana skins.
More Preston Byrne ASI verbiage here, on this and other subjects (see the links top right).
[T]his Conceit of Levelling of property and Magistracy is so ridiculous and foolish an opinion, as no man of brains, reason, or ingenuity, can be imagined such a sot as to maintain such a principle, because it would, if practiced destroy not only any industry in the world, but raze the very foundation of generation, and of subsistence or being of one man by another. For as industry and valour by which the societies of mankind are maintained and preserved, who will take the pains for that which when he hath gotten is not his own, but must be equally shared in, by every lazy, simple, dronish sot? or who will fight for that, wherein he hath no other interest, but such as must be subject to the will and pleasure of another, yea of every coward and base low spirited fellow, that in his sitting still must share in common with a valiant man in all his brave and noble achievement? The ancient encouragement to men that were to defend their Country was this: that they were to hazard their persons for that which was their own, to wit, their own wives, their own children, their own Estates. And this give me leave to say, and that in truth, that those men in England, that are most branded with the name of Levellers, are of all in that Nation, most free from any design of Levelling, in the sense we have spoken of.
- John Lilburne defends himself against the accusation that he was a “Leveller”. But, the name stuck. Last night Richard Carey gave a fascinating talk about the Levellers, and about the seventeenth century historical context within which the Levellers proclaimed their ideas, in the course of which he quoted the above piece of writing.
Carl Watner includes it in this JLS article (p. 409) about Richard Overton.
Next time I meet up with Patrick Crozier, I will be giving him a present.
I hope that the next time we meet will be if he drops by at my place tomorrow evening. Then, Richard Carey will be giving a talk about “The English Radicals: 1640-1660″, but I believe that work commitments may prevent Patrick from being at that.
Richard Carey will be talking about:
The use and abuse of history; the period 1640-1660 as a crucible of political philosophy; Libertarianism and Republicanism and their respective myths; Those great heroes to all honest Englishmen, the libellously-labelled “Levellers”, what they stood for, their impact and influence on the development of politics in this country and America, likewise the Republicans.
As always with these talks, I expect to learn a lot. To find out more about them, click where it says “Contact” here.
The present for Patrick Crozier is this:
That’s twenty one ancient copies of The Times. I saw a great stash of these in a local charity shop, and, knowing Patrick’s interest in the past of this newspaper, especially when world wars are involved, I purchased one, dated May 24th 1940. I asked Patrick if he’d like this copy, and more. He expressed enthusiasm. So, yesterday I went back and bought all the rest. Originally these copies were sold for 2d. These same copies each cost me exactly as much as a copy of The Times would now cost, £1. Someone else had also had a go at the pile by then, but there were plenty left. The dates of the copies I now have are: 1939 – October 2; November 18, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27, 29; December 5, 13, 15, 19
, 27; 1940 – March 27, 28; April 4, 6, 13, 17; May 24, 30.
Giving gifts to one’s friends these days is hard. Stuff worth having tends not to cost nearly as much as it used to. If a friend wants, say, some spoons, he just buys some spoons, of exactly the sort he wants. Why give him other spoons of the wrong sort? Besides which, the gift most of us would really like would not be more crap, but more space to accommodate all the crap we already have. So, when the chance occurs to give a friend a gift that they really might like, costing about the right amount in money or bother, it makes sense to grab that chance.
LATER: I’ve just discovered that what I thought was December 27th 1939 was actually September 27th 1938. Before WW2 began, in other words, which will please Patrick. There’s a big Hitler speech about Czechoslovakia.
Which is better? A technically superb photo of something you’ve seen many times before, like a wonderful still life oil painting? Or, a technically very average photo of something remarkable, that you never thought you’d live to see?
If you are in the mood for the second sort of photo, and you are someone who likes the kind of ideas that Samizdata seeks to spread, you should definitely take a look at this:
This is a group of Chinese people to whom Tim Evans of the Cobden Centre, seated proudly in their midst, was speaking, on Friday September 20th, about … Austrian Economics. And yes that is people from China China, not from some already strongly capitalistic outlying fragment of China.
My thanks to Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home for telling me about this. Gibbs writes:
Tim Evans of the Austrianist Cobden Centre shared this image on Facebook. It is unclear who is visiting who but he is depicted front and centre with a delegation of Chinese officials as if he was an honoured guest or leader. Tim has been training the group in the details of Austrianism. The group worked with the Chinese State Council and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.
Of this exercise, Tim Evans writes:
Spent a great day on Friday lecturing key academic and economic advisers to the Chinese State Council and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. I regularly work with senior Chinese officials and find many of them to be increasingly well versed in the ideas of the Austrian School of Economics.
Austrian Economics is very persuasive to a certain sort of economically curious person, because it is basically a statement of how things are. It describes a world of realities which are true whether you care about or accept their truth or not. This stuff is true no matter what else you choose merely to believe. You can, in principle, understand that Austrian Economics describes how the world is, yet still believe that the world ought to be a centralised despotism or a socialist nirvana, or maybe even some combination of the two.
But, it is rather difficult to stick with such beliefs on a permanent basis. Once you accept the truths that Austrian Economics tells you, it is difficult not to find yourself believing that the world ought to be different from the tyrannical way that a lot of it still is.
I just got an email from the End of the World Club, about their next meeting. This will be at 6.30pm on Monday September 30th, at the Institute of Economic Affairs, London SW1.
Corrie Chipps will talk about “Lessons from Zimbabwe: A Broke Billionaire’s Survival Guide”, discussing her personal experience of watching a prosperous economy spiral into total collapse and how Zimbabweans have adapted.
Email me (click top left here, where it says “Contact”) if you are interested in this, or other EotWC meetings, and I’ll put you in touch.
I have the feeling that there might be rather more than the usual EotWC turnout for this one. Here is a case where the political and the personal overlap, big time. I for one will definitely be attending, barring disaster or memory failure, and I expect to learn a great deal.
Further to yesterday’s SQotD, which was an MP dissing the Climate Change Act, I spotted this propaganda, on the big expensive greenhouse type front door, in Victoria Street near where I live, of the governmental organ that now calls itself the Department for Business Innovation & Skills:
Those wanting to say that my title for this posting is nonsense won’t have to go very far to prove themselves right, in their own eyes. All they need to do is go to the Department for Business Innovation & Skills website, where they will find no prominent mentions of anything about Energising Britain with such things as oil or gas, but plenty of mentions of things like Offshore wind industrial strategy and Multi-million pound investment in offshore wind industry to unlock billions in UK economy. Unlock billions from the UK economy, more like.
I agree, sort of, in other words, with a commenter on that SQotD, who said:
Too late, the scam has been running long enough that there are now too many snouts in the trough.
The above piece of propaganda that I photoed may not be an actual lie, in the trivial sense that 13.5 billion quid may indeed be being invested in Britain this year in oil and gas, despite everything that the Department for Business Innovation & Skills may have done to discourage such investment by instead prattling on about wind farms for the last decade or more. But as an exercise in saying what the Department for Business Innovation & Skills is now concentrating on, it is a lie. The racket continues.
But this is often the way with big government bureaucracies. The truth, and a consequent forthcoming shift of policy emphasis (that later cascades into a truly new and totally different policy), often first impinges in the form of public lies about what they are now doing, even as they persist behind the scenes with the old discredited nonsense.
Never underestimate the reverse-impact of public relations departments, in the form of them telling the other people in the building what they now all ought to be doing. The collapse of the USSR, no less, began as a big old Soviet lie about how the USSR was going to start being efficient and nice and good, by doing something called “Glaznost”. It was wall-to-wall bullshit, but it was wall-to-wall bullshit that helped to change the course of history. The USSR, like “green energy”, “climate change” and so on, was another huge scam that went on for far, far too long, and by the end snouts in the trough was all it was. And the snouts only changed things when the trough was getting seriously near to totally empty. But change things they did. Millions had already died, and millions more had endured lives of utter misery, and in this sense, the change came too late, far too late. But change like that is never not worth doing. There is still a future worth improving, for many millions more.
Suppose you were a green fanatic who had weaselled your way into the Department for Business Innovation & Skills, and got yourself a job giving money stolen from British taxpayers to friends of yours who construct wind farms for a living, and emitting Niagaras of lies about how that was going to “energise Britain”. How would you feel about walking past all this stuff about oil and gas, every time you went into work in the morning?
You might think that all that lovely oil and gas tax revenue would perhaps enable you and your lying friends to keep the wind farm scam going that little bit longer, and if you did feel that, you might well be right. But I don’t think, on the whole, you’d like what you were seeing every morning. Just keeping your little scam going for a few more years until you are safely retired is hardly what you had in mind when you began it. Then, it was a cause, and you and your pals would be all over the history books, in a nice way. Now, history is looking like it might be taking a somewhat different turn.
For starters, there is no mention in this big lump of verbiage, of green, either as a word or in the form of the actual colour green. There is only a rather garish, shamelessly industrial, orange. “BRITAIN” in big letters also has a nasty, nationalistic taste to it. Whatever happened to saving the world?
More fundamentally, “oil and gas” is everything you hate. Oil and gas is vast, clunky metal structures noisily gouging dirty old energy to set fire to out of defenceless Mother Earth like it’s 1925, or if it now isn’t that, you still think it is, as do millions of others who also think: Hurrah! It’s a whole generation of people saying: Bollocks to wind farms, let’s get rich, again. It’s the whole world saying: “Climate catastrophe? Let’s not worry about that when it doesn’t happen, okay?” Despite all the wind farm idiocy that the Department for Business Innovation & Skills is still shovelling out, I think I smell change here, and for the better.
LATER: Green bloodbath in Australia.
SEE ALSO: Alex Singleton, at the ASI blog, says that Parliament’s cushy consensus over climate change is dead.
Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.
- Lord Ashcroft, spotted by the great Guido.
Too much information? Is that being a tad too transparent? I really did LOL. I say: For once, what sounds like truly good advice from a politician.
It was twelve years ago now, so it is no particular surprise that nobody here, as September 11th 2013 comes to its end, had much to say about September 11th 2001. But Simon Clarke of Libertarian Home does say something of significance about this tumultuous day. In a posting entitled Libertarian Home started 12 years ago today, he says this:
To say that Libertarian Home is a result of 9/11 sounds like some random happenstance, but it was not. 9/11 woke me up, and got me thinking.
9/11 woke up a lot of people. It got a lot of people thinking. A great many blogs started up soon after that day. It wasn’t merely because, at around that time, they could. In the aftermath of 9/11 people found themselves wanting to say things that the regular media were not saying, and to criticise a lot of the things that the regular media were saying.
Simon did not immediately start writing blog postings, but he did start reading blogs, including this one, which is most gratifying to know.
A while back, I did a piece here about US government space policy. I tried to answer the question of why President Obama was doing it so bizarrely well, given that he seemed to be doing lots of other stuff so bizarrely badly. My answer was basically that he is doing everything well, as he understands it. He believes the US government has been chucking its weight around in the world far too much of late, and that this aspect of its activities should be weakened. And he believes that the US government hasn’t chucked its weight around enough, domestically. That aspect of US government policy should be strengthened. All this has been and is being busily accomplished, indeed accomplished with considerable political virtuosity, with Big Government and the political party that favours Big Government working ever more closely in harmony with one another.
Norman Podhoretz seems to agree, certainly on the foreign policy bit:
It is entirely understandable that Barack Obama’s way of dealing with Syria in recent weeks should have elicited responses ranging from puzzlement to disgust. Even members of his own party are despairingly echoing in private the public denunciations of him as “incompetent,” “bungling,” “feckless,” “amateurish” and “in over his head” coming from his political opponents on the right.
For how else to characterize a president who declares war against what he calls a great evil demanding immediate extirpation and in the next breath announces that he will postpone taking action for at least 10 days – and then goes off to play golf before embarking on a trip to another part of the world? As if this were not enough, he also assures the perpetrator of that great evil that the military action he will eventually take will last a very short time and will do hardly any damage. Unless, that is, he fails to get the unnecessary permission he has sought from Congress, in which case (according to an indiscreet member of his own staff) he might not take any military action after all.
Summing up the net effect of all this, as astute a foreign observer as Conrad Black can flatly say that, “Not since the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, and before that the fall of France in 1940, has there been so swift an erosion of the world influence of a Great Power as we are witnessing with the United States.”
Yet if this is indeed the pass to which Mr. Obama has led us – and I think it is – let me suggest that it signifies not how incompetent and amateurish the president is, but how skillful. His foreign policy, far from a dismal failure, is a brilliant success as measured by what he intended all along to accomplish.
I am seldom convinced by explanations of why the President of the USA has just done something that the explainer considers stupid, when the explanation is that the President of the USA is himself stupid. I didn’t believe this kind of thing when it was said about Reagan or Bush jnr by their political opponents, and I don’t believe it now when it is said about Obama, by his political opponents. Those who argue that this or that bad thing happened because the President is an idiot call this argument things like: “Occam’s Razor”. But I think they confuse brevity and simplicity, and what they want to believe, with truth.
If the President is so stupid, how come he’s President? He got that bit right, didn’t he? And President Obama is a member of an even more exclusive club, one that also includes Reagan and Bush jnr. He is a President of the USA who got himself re-elected. The dumber and more disastrous you think his first term policies were, then the smarter you must concede he had to be to win re-election.
I think the argument that Obama knows just what he’s doing and is doing just fine, by his reckoning, makes far more sense.
A generation from now, Americans will be richer, more leisured, healthier and longer-lived than ever. That sentence could have been written at any time since the Mayflower landed (at least of the settlers; it was a different story for the indigenous tribes). It would always have prompted scepticism; and it would always have been true.
- Daniel Hannan begins his response to America 3.0, an optimistic book about the historic origins of and future consequences of the exceptionalness of America, by James Bennett and Michael Lotus. Hannan shares their optimism.
Something strange just happened. Parliament has asserted itself over the Government. It doesn’t occur very often, and I can’t remember the last time the government lost a vote on a foreign policy matter. I am reminded of Viscount Cranborne‘s famous mea culpa after having been rapped over the knuckles for exceeding his authority. Like him, the executive “rushed in, like an ill-trained spaniel”, only to be chastised by the master it had almost forgotten it had.
Of course, the matter is not settled by any means. Parliament may wake up hung over and remorseful, and I’m sure the spaniel will be prowling the darkened halls of power, looking for someone to sink its teeth into, but for once it feels like we’re in a parliamentary democracy rather than an elected dictatorship.
- Richard Carey
This is the beginning of a piece by Tony Blair that Guido linked to a few days ago. The rest of it is behind the Times paywall. But I think the basic folly that MPs were voting against, and which Blair presumably goes on to enthuse about, is actually quite well described:
The announcement of the summit in Jordan this week, after the use of chemical weapons in Syria, is very welcome. Western policy is at a crossroads: commentary or action; shaping events or reacting to them. After the long and painful campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, I understand every impulse to stay clear of the turmoil, to watch but not to intervene, to ratchet up language but not to engage in the hard, even harsh business of changing reality on the ground. But we have collectively to understand the consequences of wringing our hands instead of putting them to work.
But what is now collectively understood is that the consequence of this determination to be for ever “shaping events” and “changing reality on the ground” in the Muslim world only seems to be futile wars which expend much treasure and blood but accomplish very little. That, I think, is what MPs were voting against, egged on by just about all their voters. Where, ask the voters, is the British national interest in all this proposed action? What on earth is so wrong with reacting to events?
However, Blair’s claim that the choice is between ratcheting up language and taking action is surely wrong. The idea of all the verbal ratcheting of recent days has been to hustle MPs into voting for action. If the idea of action is now set aside, the verbals will be dialled down again.