We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

What is it about being Home Secretary that turns people into fucking fascists?

– Tim Worstall, apropos this. Though it might equally apply to this or most of this. It is time the Home Office was renamed in accordance with its actual mission. Bureau of State Security (BOSS) would do nicely, now there’s no chance of confusion.

Repainting the stable purple after the horse has bolted

Some future historian, in search of a telling detail to exemplify the primitive superstition of early twenty-first century thought, will seize upon this:

“Savile Dr Who show removed by BBC chiefs,” reports the Times.

The BBC has withdrawn an episode of Doctor Who from its DVD collection because of a link with Jimmy Savile.
The disgraced television presenter appeared in the introduction to a ten-minute special episode entitled A Fix with Sontarans and again at the end to interview Colin Baker, the sixth actor to portray the title character. BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm, decided to remove the recording in its entirety rather than cut Savile’s appearance.

The unannounced removal of the episode from The Two Doctors, a DVD featuring episodes starring Baker and Patrick Troughton, means that it is the only Doctor Who story that is not officially available. All other episodes, including early ones for which only the audio recording survives, are currently on DVD release.

Tom Spilsbury, editor of Doctor Who magazine, said that the reissue of the DVD will irritate completist fans of the science fiction stories. “It doesn’t really include Jimmy Savile — he just introduces it and appears at the very end — so it would be very easy to just present it without the bits with Jimmy Savile. I don’t know why they’ve not tried to do it that way.”

Samizdata quote of the day

This was sixth form socialism of the most uninspiring kind. It is lazy and dangerous to implement populist measures that won’t raise the money politicians promise. Windfall taxes will hurt pensioners who rely on stable returns for a comfortable retirement, sin taxes hit the poorest hardest, and a Mansion Tax would be a vindictive gesture that will eventually find its way down the property ladder to hit much less expensive homes, too.

Jonathan Isaby

A fairly neat crushing of the “Mansion tax” idea

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.

David Cameron is a complete idiot

The Scots have voted NO, and the Prime Minister now has the justification to not just make good on the pledge to massively ramp up devolution north of the border, but to do the same for England in ways that could dramatically change the political landscape. So what does he do?

Downing Street has made it clear that David Cameron’s Scottish devolution pledge does not depend on giving more powers to English MPs at the same time. Mr Cameron vowed to give tax-raising powers to the Scottish Parliament “in tandem” with moves to restrict Scottish MPs from voting on English matters. But No 10 sources insist that “one is not conditional upon the other”.

And thus the sheer stupidity of the man is revealed. This could have been bundled up together as a quid pro quo to present the Labour party as a ‘hospital pass‘: back Scottish and English devolution right now and in this form, and we will accept no faffing about to delay it until after the next election. Support two tier MPs in Westminster as we hand over power to the Scots, or be seen as being The Anti-English Party.

But no, the Stupid Party never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The NO vote handed Downing Street a gun to hold to the other side’s head and they just tossed it away.

Restore the heptarchy!

For the unlettered among you, the heptarchy is a collective name for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, Dorne, the Kingdom of the Isles and Rivers, the Kingdom of Monuntain and Vale, the Kingdom of the North, the Westerlands or Kingdom of the Rock, the Kingdom of the Reach, and the Kingdom of the Stormlands …

Bzzzt! Reset!

The heptarchy is a collective name for “the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east, and central England during late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, conventionally identified as seven: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms eventually unified into the Kingdom of England.”

Like you care? You should. Following the vow made to the Scots by David Cameron in order to win the referendum of devo max to the limit of my credit card, the West Lothian question has come back to bite him.

The West Lothian question is easy to ask and almost impossible to answer. As posed in 1977 by Tam Dalyell, former MP for the Scottish constituency, it demands to know why MPs from Scotland (and now Wales and Northern Ireland) should be able to vote on issues such as health and education that affect England when English MPs have no power to vote on social and other policies that are devolved to the parliament in Edinburgh (and now also the assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast).

Because welfare issues are devolved, members of the Westminster parliament elected from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have no power to decide how these policies should affect their constituents; ironically, they can vote only on welfare issues as they affect constituencies in England.

One solution to this might be simply to have the same type of devolution for England as is already present for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Yes, I know that the arrangements for all three regions differ, but I’m just thinking in broad terms.) The trouble with that is that England has a population of 53 million as against Scotland’s five million, Wales’ three million and Northern Ireland’s 1.6 million. Quoting the same Guardian article by Joshua Rozenberg on the West Lothian question as above,

Vernon Bogdanor, research professor at the Institute of Contemporary British History at King’s College London, pointed out recently: “There is no federal system in the world in which one unit represents more than 80% of the population … Federations in which the largest unit dominated, such as the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, have not been successful.” He also points out that there would be little appetite for a new English parliament, separate from Westminster.

So maybe we could split England up into smaller electoral regions for the purpose of voting on English matters? It has been tried. Almost nobody wanted it. Only the proposed North East England Regional Assembly ever appeared to have anything like enough support for anyone even to bother putting it to a vote, and the proposal was decisively rejected. The main reason for that rejection was that voters saw it as just another layer of politicians and bureaucrats whose salaries and fancy offices would have to be paid for out of their taxes. A less well-articulated but still significant reason was the feeling that it was all a plot to Balkanize England hatched by the European Union and England’s oikophobic elite. Which it was, though probably not one made consciously. Yet another reason was that the proposed regions were cultivated in a petri dish and hatched from a test tube. Many have loved the north east of England but nobody has ever loved “North East England”. No poet has ever penned such stirring lyrics as “To arms, citizens! Will ye stand back when enemies imperil our Regional Unit?”

It is an attractive idea to bring back the traditional counties of England. It is also an attractive idea to dig up the body of the man who abolished them, Edward Heath, and stick his head on a pike, but that won’t happen either. The counties are just too small.

So if we are to have petty kingdoms, let them at least be kingdoms. Men have loved the Kingdom of Mercia. Men have died for the Kingdom of East Anglia – notably at the hands of men of Mercia, but there you go. Men of all the ancient nations of the Saxon have followed the greatest of the Kings of Wessex to glorious victory against the Vikings. Divide and conquer that, Eurocrats! Also it would serve the Vikings right for subjecting me to all those irritating pictorial instructions.

Sorry, Scotland, I’m afraid that the contemporary Kingdom of Strathclyde will not be restored to the full extent of its ancient holdings where they stretch into modern England. As in post-colonial Africa, for the avoidance of bloodshed the external borders established by the imperialism of the Kingdom of Alba must remain in place. Whether Scotland should restore its own ancient sub-kingdoms within its present borders is naturally a devolved matter.

Scotland votes NO… and now for the rest of us

Scotland votes NO fairly decisively. Oh well, I was looking forward to adding a new separate blog category for Scotland, but somehow I will weather the disappointment. And so former Maoist Alex Salmond warms Cameron to make good on the pledge for more devolution.

I agree.

Indeed I think Scotland needs to be given full control over the share of the national budget, institutions and taxation powers within Scotland equal to their population, minus defence. And then they need to get not-a-penny from any other part of the UK. And the West Lothian Question must be answered properly this time: Scottish MPs (et al) need to have as much say in the affairs of England, other than in matters of collective defence, as MPs elected in Indonesia or Peru.

And whilst we are at it, we need London to devolve a great deal more political power to the rest of the UK so that they can screw up their own affairs themselves. But what we do not need is a new second tier of troughers looking to justify their existence in an English assembly.

Why I am happy that Scotland has voted NO

All things considered, together we do pretty well in this very imperfect world.

Why I want Scotland to vote YES

I have many Scottish friends, both north and south of the border. My views have nothing to do with ethnicity, it is entirely about political culture. And if other Samizdatistas want to say why they want a NO vote, by all means do so.

I am of the view that English political culture has become steadily more toxic, hollowed out by multiculturalism and moral relativism, resulting in shocking incidents like the Rotherham scandal. Indeed the Tory party is hardly a conservative party at all, and is increasingly interchangeable with Labour and the LibDems. The mere fact the Tories chose David Cameron as leader tells you something about the state of the Stupid Party, a man unable to win an outright majority against probably the most inept, least charismatic and most spectacularly unsuccessful Labour Prime Minster since Harold Wilson. Yet the best Cameron could manage was a coalition.

But there are quite a few counter currents. The classical liberal tradition is not dead and buried, and it is by no means impossible to posit plausible scenarios in which the values of Cobden, Acton, Burke, Mandeville and… Adam Smith… and other followers of what Hayek called the “British Tradition” such as Montesquieu and de Tocqueville, once again informed a mainstream political movement. Those traditions of thought are not dead, they are just… waiting. At least in England.

But it has long seemed clear to me that as toxic as the political culture had become in England, it is even worse in Scotland.

And so my support for an independent Scotland is not because I do not think there are many fine classical liberals and other friends of genuine liberty north of the border, but rather there are just not enough of them. It is an exercise in ‘political triage’ on my part. Much as I would love to see Scotland once again embrace Adam Smith and Hume, I cannot see that happening any time soon. I may admire those willing to stay and fight for a better Scotland than the one they will get under the likes of Salmond, but I think it is a fight they cannot win.

And that is why I support Scottish independence. I see it as a gangrenous limb in need of political amputation, or we risk loosing everything it is attached to.

“This referendum is about power … we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks”

The Scotsman reports (emphasis added):

FORMER SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has claimed there will be a “day of reckoning” for major Scottish employers such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life after a Yes vote.

Speaking from his campaign vehicle the “Margo Mobile”, Mr Sillars insisted that employers are “subverting Scotland’s democratic process” and vowed that oil giant BP would be nationalised in an independent Scotland.

Earlier this week, a number of banks, including Lloyds Banking Group and RBS, said they would look to move their headquarters south of the border in the event of a Yes vote.

Mr Sillars, who earlier this week claimed he and First Minister Alex Salmond had put their long-held personal differences behind them to campaign together for independence, also revealed that he would not retire from politics on 19 September but said he would be “staying in” if Scotland became independent.

He claimed there is talk of a “boycott” of John Lewis, banks to be split up, and new law to force Ryder Cup sponsor Standard Life to explain to unions its reasons for moving outside Scotland.

He said: “This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority, we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks.

“The heads of these companies are rich men, in cahoots with a rich English Tory Prime Minister, to keep Scotland’s poor, poorer through lies and distortions. The power they have now to subvert our democracy will come to an end with a Yes.”

He added: “BP, in an independent Scotland, will need to learn the meaning of nationalisation, in part or in whole, as it has in other countries who have not been as soft as we have forced to be. We will be the masters of the oil fields, not BP or any other of the majors.”

The most recommended comment on the Scotsman website is from someone called “Common Sensei”:

Who would want to live in a post Yes Scotland run by these scarey people?
Academics who cross them get phone calls to their employer.
Companies scared to speak out against them.
Business leaders scared to sign a No letter for fear of retribution.
Media outlets who tell the truth get vitriol thrown at them.
No campaigners shouted down and mobbed.
No campaigners scared to put No signs in their window.

Yesterday Salmond attacks the BBC about telling the truth about companies moving south, and today Ex SNP Deputy Leader Sillars (who shared a stage with Salmond this week) threatens companies who have dared to tell the truth about what would happen in a separate Scotland.

“a day of reckoning”.

It’s genuinely scary stuff, the SNP and yes camp makes Scotland appear like a wannabe soviet state or banana republic.

No wonder Salmond admires Putin…

It is perfectly possible to be in favour of Scottish independence and have views very unlike those of Mr Sillars. But, as Common Sensei said, this is not some random cybernat talking; it is the former deputy leader of the SNP.

I think Common Sensei is also right to say that No campaigners have some reason to be scared to put up signs. A few days ago the Times columnist Melanie Reid, herself a Scot living in Stirlingshire whatever the commenters denouncing her plain speech may think, wrote,

“Every roadside No poster in fields between my home and Glasgow has been vandalised, an unpleasant message of violence and denial of democracy.”

Such behaviour is certainly a common and bitter complaint in the comment threads of Scottish newspapers. My friend Niall Kilmartin, who up until a couple of days ago was happy to let Twitter pass him by, signed up simply to express his anger at the way that so many No posters in his area had been vandalised. He posted some pictures he took of smashed signs (all of them on private property) under the hashtag #vandalnats .

Samizdata quote of the day

What’s the difference between Jim Davidson and Frankie Boyle?

One is reviled as a right-wing Tory and thus an obvious racist whilst the other is an ardent far-lefist whose jokes about black mentally handicapped babies are not racist but absolutely hilarious and the sign of comic genius.

BOOM BOOM!!

– Samizdata commenter Lee

There should be further action – against false accusers and tyrannical police

The comedian Jim Davidson has been described as a “throwback”. Criticisms that his style of humour cynically courts outrage are not confined to the politically correct. It takes a lot for me to feel sympathy for someone who jokes about rape victims.

I think what happened to him in 2013 qualifies as “a lot”. In fact a better description might be “kafkaesque”. Daniel Finkelstein writes in the Times (paywalled), regarding Davidson’s book No Further Action:

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book was to read detailed accusations put to Davidson that couldn’t possibly be true: someone who claimed to have been assaulted in an upstairs bar of a place that doesn’t have an upstairs bar, or to have travelled with him in a gold-coloured Bentley that Davidson didn’t possess. Someone who said that they were assaulted at the London Palladium stage door and then, when that was disproved, said it was at the Slough Pavilion, which couldn’t have been right either.

And

Yet I think the most important aspect of the Davidson case is just how long the whole thing took. He spent the best part of a year waiting for the allegations to be dismissed.

It is hard not to warm to him as he tells of the strain he was under. The whole thing cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost income and more in legal fees.

So we return to the justice of the Devil’s Mark and the extra teat.