Nor is gay marriage the only issue around which strict orthodoxies are calcifying. Climate change, multiculturalism and feminism are all issues on which there is only one correct view. To be sceptical of the impact of climate change, or to challenge the censoriousness of feminism, is to incur the wrath of the right-thinking. Not that critics of the new orthodoxies are challenged on their views. Rather, they are branded – as deniers, as misogynists, indeed, as bigots. By their labels, they shall be known – and shamed.
For centuries, people living in Western Civilization have been accumulating capital. They have not simply subsisted, and left the world the same as when they entered it. They have been creating more than they consume, passing on new wealth to their children. The Fed’s falling interest rate has slammed this process into reverse. It has put the entire economy into liquidation mode. It has forced people to consume their capital.
The dramatically named NHS Survival – an “umbrella group bringing together patients, public and professionals” – echoes previous dire warnings that we had “24 hours to save the NHS”, or “14 days to save the NHS”, and so on. At best it seems a bit “boy who cried wolf” and at worst actually contradictory.
Backed by many of the same people who cherry-pick the Commonwealth Fund report to claim the NHS is just super, its website says that “our NHS is a wonder of the world”. In another part, it warns “the NHS will continue to fail”. If it’s failing, then why are they trying to save it? If it’s so good, why are they trying to fix it?
Contradictions like this make it difficult to take the group seriously at all. We are told that it wants an “independent body” (presumably stuffed with NHS staff) to set funding requirements for the NHS. Yet the campaign’s whole website is predicated on the idea that it already knows what funding needs to be – higher, much higher.
When the aliens stop trifling with crop circles, bumpkin abduction, and indelicate probes and finally introduce themselves to the rest of humanity, will they turn out to be partisans of central planning, interventionism, or unhampered markets?
This week, Alastair Campbell said that the current eruption of ‘Corbynmania’ was akin to ‘what happened when Diana died’. Worse still, popular delirium can foster a herd mentality that leads to the persecution of dissenters and opponents. This is especially the case when a movement’s mentality is half-detached from reality. Protecting benefits, ending austerity, raising taxes on the wealthiest, abolishing university tuition fees, reopening coal mines: Corbynomics is basically the equivalent of saying ‘wouldn’t it be great if all this Monopoly money was free?’.
The European law gives individuals and institutions the right to demand that search engines such as Google must de-list postings containing ‘outdated’ or ‘irrelevant’ information. The Euro authorities insist that this cannot be construed as censorship, since the material will not actually be removed from the internet – it will simply not be linked to by Google and Co anymore. When plans for these regulations were first announced in 2012, the European Commission’s vice-president said: ‘It is clear that the right to be forgotten cannot amount to a right of the total erasure of history.’ That sounds like rewriting history. If material is not listed by search engines, it is effectively invisible to most online and ceases to exist as public information.
No, no, say the authorities, of course we are not banning this controversial book! We are simply ordering all libraries and bookshops to remove it from their shelves and websites forthwith. You will still be at liberty to read it – if you can find a copy anywhere, or even spot a reference to its existence…
Krasimira is gloomy about the future. She doesn’t think Greece will implement the necessary reforms and will, in the end, have to leave the eurozone. As ever, she views the situation through a Bulgarian prism. “Greece has received €30 billion from Europe,” she says. (In fact the figure is far higher). “That’s more than seven other Balkan countries have received put together — I saw it on Bulgarian TV. You’ve got to pay back your debts in order to take more loans. If I ask you for a loan you’ll give it to me; if I can’t pay it back you wont give me any more.”
She has a final comment — on the EU subsidies. “In Bulgaria the state doesn’t give subsidies to the farmers.” She points to some sprinklers watering the garden. “So what you see here: water being wasted, you’ll never see in Bulgaria. My brother has 2,200 hectares there and grows corn and wheat and he is not allowed to overly water them, he has to rely on the weather. If it’s not good he has a problem.”
“Yes, the subsidies have made Greek farmers spoiled and wasteful. But since Bulgaria joined the EU and started receiving subsidies you’ve seen the same thing — people receiving subsidies and using them to buy houses and consumers goods instead of investing the money.”
The EU as resource curse: it’s an old tale — and one that seems to have had disastrous effects for Greece, which for years grew fat on easy money. Now in its time of crisis it must watch its poorer, leaner neighbor to the north further compound its deep, almost existential, despair.
While it is perfectly reasonable to expect companies to obey the law in the countries in which they operate, the rage against Uber highlights how stifling regulation of economic life can be. Prior to the emergence of Uber, complaints of never being able to get a cab during peak times were common in every major city in the world. Uber’s sidestepping of licensing laws and other regulations that limit enterprise has enabled it to increase supply and meet demand.
What’s more, Uber’s cheaper fares have saved customers money, expanded our transport options and provided a source of income for a whole new sector of drivers. While the debate about Uber drivers’ pay and employment rights rumbles on, it is clear that banning the service, and forcing these drivers to go through the same costly licensing systems as everyone else, does no one any favours.
It is the competition that Uber provides that is driving its popularity with drivers and customers. But this is precisely what is enraging licensed taxi drivers.
I see no advantage to the American system at this point. We’ve had so much “yeah it says that but they didn’t really mean what the words say” reinterpretation of our founding document it’s essentially been rendered meaningless. The president can do whatever he wants, from starting wars to snooping though your computer to prior restraints on what you can say to using the apparatus of the bureaucracy in a campaign aimed at burying you under audits and investigations.
The world in the 21st century is beset with economic fallacies that are, for the most part, modern versions of those that Bastiat demolished 16 decades ago. The answers to the vexing problems those fallacies produce are not to be found in proposals that empower bureaucracy while imposing tortuous regulations on private behavior. It’s far more likely that the answers lie in the profound and permanent principles that Frédéric Bastiat did so much to illuminate.
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