Everyone is very, very cross. The welfare reform minister, Lord Freud, has caused outrage for saying that some disabled people are “not worth the minimum wage”.
Spoken without tact but with truth. Some of our fellow human beings are incapable of doing work that is worth anyone’s while to pay six pounds and fifty pence per hour to have done.
Freud had been responding to a question from David Scott, a Tory councillor from Tunbridge Wells. Scott had said: “The other area I’m really concerned about is obviously the disabled. I have a number of mentally damaged individuals, who to be quite frank aren’t worth the minimum wage, but want to work. And we have been trying to support them in work, but you can’t find people who are willing to pay the minimum wage.
While it is certainly true that many people with a disability also have abilities or dispositions that allow them equal or surpass as workers their able-bodied and able-minded colleagues – it is also certainly true that many others, sadly, don’t. This is particularly often the case for the mentally disabled. Long ago, I was a teacher. I saw some sad sights, few sadder than the dawning awareness in a child’s eyes that he or she would never be able to do all that “the others” could.
Still, people are resilient. Such a child might very well grow up to be quite capable of sharing and rejoicing in the dignity of work – real work for real employers, not charity – were it not illegal. Only those whose labour is worth more than £6.50 an hour are allowed to sell it. Those less able are compelled by law to be unemployed.
We have these spasms every few years. Allow me to recycle my post from the last one, in which the speaker of inconvenient truth was Philip Davies MP who said,
“Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, can’t be as productive in their work as somebody who hasn’t got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that given that the employer was going to have to pay them both the same they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk, and that was doing those people a huge disservice.”
And I said then and repeat now:
Within hours so much outraged commentary flowed out of newspaper columnists, charity representatives and politicians of all parties, including Mr Davies’ own, that you’d think there’d been an outbreak of indignation dysentery.
Not one response of all the many I read even tried to argue that Mr Davies was factually wrong. They were outraged, disgusted. They asserted what no one denies: that mentally disabled people are equal citizens and often prove to be hardworking employees, valued by their employers. But I could not find one article that argued that Davies’ description of the way things go when a person with an IQ of 60 or a history of insanity seeks a job was inaccurate, or gave reasons to believe his proposal would not increase their chances of landing one.
A quote from Charles Murray: “It seems that those who legislate and administer and write about social policy can tolerate any increase in actual suffering so long as the system does not explicitly permit it.”
I really hope this article is tongue in cheek. If not (or even if so) then I have a better idea… just replace money with bananas and release several million monkeys into every major city. It will stop people and companies getting into debt because they have to be spent quickly before they go off or marauding monkeys steal them (what with monkeys being vastly more likely to act in a consistent manner than any government that has ever existed since the beginning of human history).
If science ever finds a away to expunge people from history and un-invent their ideas from people’s minds, making all books on the subject vanish into some dimensional tesseract, I would nominate John Maynard Keynes as the most pressing candidate for expungement.
Bishop Hill has a posting up today about the gigantic folly that is the D(epartment) of E(nergy) and C(limate) C(hange).
Says the Bishop:
As we look at UK energy policy now, DECC has had the country make a massive financial gamble on the back of a prediction that was wholly unfounded and which has been obviously so for many years. We now learn that DECC has also distributed this astonishing wave of public money in a manner that can only be described as monstrously incompetent, and which many will assume to be monstrously corrupt…
Comment (Oct 3 9.32am) from “fen tiger”:
I have a relative who works at DECC, and has done since getting his masters. He’s an environmental economist (one of many in DECC, I imagine), briefing the likes of Huhne, Davey, and Gummer. He appears to know nothing whatever about the climate question, but is fully invested in the warming scare (condition of employment, I guess).
Closing DECC would obviously benefit the country: but it would also benefit many of those who work there. My relative is not an untruthful man, but he has worked since leaving university in an environment where systematic untruthfulness and wishful thinking are the norm; an environment where the taxpayer would get better value if he were paid to stay at home and do nothing. He desperately needs to get out and find a real job (although his qualifications won’t help with that).
This comment is anonymous partly because I don’t want to foment a family rift, and partly because I am ashamed of having a family member employed in this way.
But how to close DECC?
“Roger Tallbloke” (Oct 3 9.08am) had already commented earlier, thus:
Strategic action on the part of the consumer could actually make a difference and help get rid of DECC. This action is quite simple, and won’t take long or cost the consumer anything. Here’s what they need to do.
Would that work? Is this a case where your vote might actually make a difference?
UKIP has turned into a me-too operation on most of the big items of state spending, as Ben Kelly writes in this Libertarian Home report of the recent UKIP conference. But on UKIP’s energy policies, Kelly writes this:
Energy – Ah, Roger Helmer; an intelligent and articulate man, an asset until you get him on the subject of gays or the finer details of rape. Then it’s hide behind your hands time. Luckily he was simply talking about energy policy today. He wants to scrap the Climate Change Act, cut all green taxes, end subsidies for wind farms and get fracking, creating a sovereign wealth fund with the tax income. It is the Guardian’s worst nightmare, and I like it.
Me too. It would be a worse Guardian nightmare if there wasn’t that bit there about “creating a sovereign wealth fund with the tax income”. But when it comes to voting, the question is not: What gets me everything? It is: Does anything get me anything?
“Google obviously has a monopoly in search. There are all sorts of questions about whether it is abusing that monopoly or not. But I distrust the power of the EU regulators to make things better. I think the technology industry is dynamic enough that the Google monopoly will not last for ever. In practice, anything [the EU does] to micromanage the Google product will produce a cure that’s worse than the disease.”
– Peter Thiel (quote is taken from the Financial Times, which is behind a registration wall).
Vladimir Putin has warned the Ukrainian government against getting closer to the EU, threatening their access to Russian markets.
So the Ukraine has to decide between losing their access to 142 million Russians with a total GDP of $2.1 trillion (official), or improving their access to 511 million people with a total GDP of $16.95 trillion (official).
Hmm, yes I can see how that might be a difficult decision
For some while now, leading London libertarian Simon Gibbs has been telling his many libertarian friends and acquaintances about a Libertarian Home event which he is organising which will happen on October 23rd in the Drama Studio of the Institute of Education. At this event, a group of speakers from across the political spectrum (somewhat biased towards libertarians but with non- and anti-libertarians definitely also being heard loud and clear), will take it in turns to speak about the The Causes of the Cost of Living Crisis.
Attendance will not be free of charge. It will cost £11. But, over the years, libertarians have shown themselves willing to pay quite a bit more than that for similarly well organised conferences. Simon is an energetic and conscientious organiser of such things, and I think I would have been optimistic about this event even if he had not offered me free entry in exchange for my best efforts as a photographer.
For quite a while now, but especially during the recent Labour Party Conference, Labour leader
David Ed Miliband has been making this notion of the cost of living crisis a central theme in his ongoing attempts to become our next Prime Minister. City A.M.’s Ryan Bourne, before the Labour Conference got started, wrote thus:
Labour’s party conference will see Ed Miliband try to shift public focus away from the Scottish referendum fallout and back towards the choice at next year’s general election. In particular, he’ll seek to refocus our minds on the “cost of living crisis” narrative that he’s been composing since 2011.
And so it proved. I heard this phrase a day or two ago in a radio news item where the words “Miliband” and “cost of living crisis” emerged next to each other. Whether Miliband will succeed in persuading the country that even more taxing-and-spending will do anything to abate this cost of living crisis, as crisis it certainly is for a great many people, remains to be seen. Whatever. But if you want a minority cause to get some little sliver of majority notice, what you must do is supply your minority answer to a majority question. So kudos to Simon for identifying this particular debate as something libertarians can get in on, and get in on very eloquently. I am really looking forward to this October 23rd meeting.
→ Continue reading: Nice libertarianism
Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs, has some fairly blunt comments to make in a release on Labour Party leader Ed Milliband’s proposal to levy an annual tax (“Mansion tax”) on residential properties valued at £2 million or more. I would hope that it isn’t all that hard to persuade regular readers of this blog that such a tax equates to a tax on the right to continue owning a property after it has been bought or inherited simply because said property has passed some arbitrary valuation threshold. As I have come to learn, some people enamoured of the collectivist notions of Henry George, a writer in the 19th Century, believe that because physical land is fixed (you cannot make more of it) that when the value of said rises for reasons outside the direct control of the owner or owners, that because the state protects such holdings against theft, the state is entitled, nonetheless, to demand a sort of “rent” to be paid by the owners of the land to everyone else because of their enjoying some “unearned” rise in the price, so that the owner is not in a fundamental sense an owner at all, but a tenant of the collective. Advocates of the Mansion Tax” usually do not make the case in such abstract terms, perhaps because the sheer, socialistic nature of it would make it unappealing in some eyes. (There is no fundamental difference between taxing high-value properties on such grounds and taxing people with great inborn talents because they did not directly create them.) In cruder terms, this tax plays on a general hostility towards “the rich” that remains an ugly feature of UK society. Some may try and finesse the issue by pointing out that rising prices have been driven by central bank quantitative easing (printing money) and land planning, to which my response is to stop doing those things, rather than hit the owners. (There is, by the way, an urgent need to relax UK planning laws and yet, as I suspect is the case, most politicians, including the hapless leader of the Labour Party, are unlikely to enact thorough reforms, apart from superficial measures to hurt “the rich”).
There are, as Mark says in his comments below, specific problems that make the Mansion Tax bad, but I wanted to make the forgoing to remind people that there is nothing remotely liberal, in the proper, classical use of the word, in such a tax, even though there are people who sometimes try and pass themselves off as libertarians who have, in my experience, sought to champion such levies. (The writer Jan Narveson has a good debunking of Georgisism.)
Anyway, here is Mark Littlewood:
“Introducing a mansion tax would be poorly targeted, arbitrary and deeply unfair. The UK already faces some of the highest property taxes in the western world when stamp duty, inheritance and council tax are taken into consideration. Such a levy would act as a double tax, whereby people pay income tax and then are taxed again on a house bought with that income.
“Aside from this, it would disproportionately penalise those who bought houses many decades ago in areas where property prices have rapidly shot up. A person’s assets does not always equate to their income. It would also be an arbitrary tax. People could own several homes costing just under £2mn and not face the levy.
“This is an extremely unwelcome addition to the Labour Party’s already disastrous attempts to tax the wealthy. Evidence has proven that their favoured 50p top rate of income tax raises trivial amounts of money. Those earning over £150,000 pay nearly 30% of all income tax. Politicians should be cultivating this tax base, not eroding it.”
Remember, there is a fairly high chance that Milliband could be in power at some point.
Bono is annoying. This was supposed to be a post in which I gloated about how, if I had an iPhone, I would be making use of the U2 removal tool, too, the story being that Apple gave away the latest U2 album for free and enough people complained that they had to offer a way to remove it.
And I would support my argument with stupid Bono quotes. But it turns out he is harder to pin down than that.
If globalisation means a better life for more people, we’re all in favour of it. If it means a better life for less people, we’re all against it.
Non-commital but hard to disagree with. And then there is this analysis:
While Bono has become synonymous with campaigns such as Drop the Debt that fit his right-on rock star image, he also has a well-developed sense of how capitalism works. U2 has acquired a business empire with an estimated worth of nearly (EU)700m. Much of that is due to their artistic talent, but a substantial portion has come from careful management of business opportunities.
Bono’s idea for helping the Third World involves the destruction of trade barriers and protectionism, and investment in the development of self-sustaining businesses. His economic instincts are pro-globalisation, but in a perfectly sensible business way. One of his big ideas to help the Third World, the launch of the ethical brand Product Red, with partners such as Motorola, Gap and Giorgio Armani, is based firmly on capitalist principles.
That is from an article criticising him for tax avoidance, of all things.
I am almost starting to like him. It is very annoying. Still, I do sympathise with @twitflup via The Daily Poke:
Just woken up to find U2 downstairs watching TV and eating my biscuits. Will their presumptions that I want them in my life ever end?
“There are no facts, only interpretations”, Friedrich Nietzsche once said. One needn’t be a nihilist or a relativist to be bemused at the latest radical rewriting of history from our official number-crunchers. Everything we thought we knew about the British economy’s performance over the past 15 years or so now turns out to be wrong. Endless articles, books and academic papers have become worthless at the stroke of the statisticians’ pen.”
– Allister Heath.
Hey, I thought the science was settled!
Tim Newman has a great piece about the authorities shutting down McDonalds in Russia. The article is splendid on oh so many levels, such as:
Apparently, he told one of the Russia servers to greet the customers and offer a smile, which prompted the following response:
“Why? We’re the ones with all the burgers.”
It seems that almost 25 years later some Russians still haven’t worked out the basic relationship between business and customer.
Read the whole article.
Venezuela enters the high farce stage of its development.
In a move that will no doubt help further the Venezuelan government’s aim of establishing a socialist utopian republic, President Nicolas Maduro announced this week that grocery stores will soon begin the mandatory fingerprinting of customers. The peculiar initiative, which could be implemented by the end of the year, is meant to help combat the hoarding and smuggling of government-subsidized goods.
Is this not truly epic? Is not socialism stranger than a chorus of singing penguins?
Whatever the “Yes” campaign claims, threatens or believes, here will be no currency union between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the United Kingdom. All three major parties plus UKIP have said this outright, and the voters back them up. Quite right too, unless you think it’s a good idea not to cancel the joint credit card after a bitter divorce.
(Just a reminder: there almost certainly will not be any divorce. All the polls point to Scotland choosing to remain part of the UK.)
So, to Plan B. Sterlingisation. The Guardian has flagged up a report from the Adam Smith Institute saying, correctly in my opinion, that for iScotland (OK, so I did just say “iScotland” and I cannot guarantee to resist “rUK” either – sue me) to use the pound as Panama uses the dollar would be the best option.
Under “sterlingisation”, Scotland would not be able to print its own currency and would lack a lender of last resort. But the ASI report said the experience of Panama pointed to this being an advantage because it would force lenders to be more prudent.
In contrast to the situation for a currency union, there would be nothing the rUK could do to stop iScotland simply deciding unilaterally to use the pound, and no reason it should care anyway. But it would be tough for Scotland at first. It would be the equivalent of gastric band surgery. No more splurging on welfare for you, Alba my love!
This is not the first time the Adam Smith Institute has said something like this. My post on currency options for an independent Scotland back in February was partly inspired by an article by Dr Eamonn Butler of the ASI.
You know my views. No surprise that a free-marketeer like me agrees with the ASI here. It does seem a little odd for the Yes campaign, spearheaded as it is by the Scottish National Party, backed by the Radical Independence Campaign and the National Collective, to be quite so keen.