Friday, 29 July 2011

Dumbass of the week

The US have caught a soldier trying to pull off another Fort Hood massacre. Given conscientious objector status because he’s a Moslem you would think he’s got little reason to go AWOL – he’s not going to be sent anywhere hot, dangerous or uncomfortable any time soon. Problem is he got caught as a connoisseur of Kiddie Porn – that was found on his Government issue Laptop. As a result he legged it. Rather than taking the well trodden nonce path of getting on the first plane to Cambodia he decided that he wanted to blow up some of his work mates instead.

“Abdo's Facebook page, which has since been taken down, showed that he traveled to New York City in September to attend an antiwar vigil and show support for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged source for the classified war documents released by controversial group WikiLeaks”. One fuck up cheering on another one. Did none of his Platoon mates see his facebook page? Did none of them notice that a soldier attending rallies for a traitor isn’t the usual behaviour of a loyal and honourable part of the team?

And the pearl of this guys intelligence, he goes to the same gun store where the previous Fort Hood murderer – Major Hasan – picked up his weaponry. Rather unsurprisingly “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”, the owner of the store has trained his staff to take a keener interest in his customers. But lets be honest, he didn’t exactly have his work cut out for him. The PFC in question didn’t know what he was buying and asked “numerous questions” about the gunpowder in his shopping cart with the store clerk.

A soldier not knowing what to buy in a Gun store. That’s like Heston Blumenthal wondering dazed and confused round Tesco’s pointing at fruit and vegetables saying “What’s that then?” PFC Abdo wondering round the store muttering "Errr I want some of those bullet thingies, do they come in different sizes? Does this Black stuff with No Naked Flames on the lid go Bang?". Not only should some security heads roll on the back of this, but also the Army training team that managed to put him through his basic training without teaching him fairly vital military skills such as what does and does not go “bang”.



Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The DNA Database.

Both coalition partners in opposition were against the retention of innocents' DNA on a national database, preferring the Scottish model where those accused have their DNA retained for a limited time. The Police, facist bastards that they are (they're wearing black shirts these days, they're not even pretending) want a universal DNA database, ID cards etc... and can't see why this fundamentally changes the relationship of the Police to the people they serve, or worse, don't care.

The Government has caved into the police lobby, releasing the news when Parliament is in recess, presumably hoping we Civil Liberties bores will be too busy watching the Cricket to give a stuff about a betrayal. Of course Cameron & Co will need the police to deal with the entrenched batallions of the left, who will smash things because the tax-payer is funding a pension slightly less generously than before (but still more generously than the tax-payers'). Or perhaps the right-wing populism "in control" of Government at News International has been replaced by right-wing populism of the Daily Mail. I don't know.

But I do want Innocents' DNA removed from the database. And so does the European court of Human rights.

Here's what I wrote to my MP.

All I ask of you, my elected representative, that you hold the executive to account. Please could you hold them to account over this?
This is a shameless betrayal of the civil Libertarians who voted for both parties.



Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Gobshites and Utoya Norway Shootings. Glen Beck and Aslak Sira Myhre

Both sides of the Political spectrum are using the shootings at Utoya to rather distastefully bash their political opponents. On the Right we have Mr Glenn Beck who has compared the political camp at Utoya to the Hitler Youth. Now due to my distrust of politics, politicians and the political process that gains power without merit, it would not be my idea of fun to be stuck somewhere I would have to swim across a freezing Fjord to get away. But to compare this Political Camp to the Hitler Youth is distasteful and plain wrong after what has happened. All political parties throughout history have Youth movements, including Young Republicans. These people did not deserve to die, pure and simple. This was a vile act, and accusing these people of deserving it in some way is beneath contempt. You Sir are a Prick.

And on the other side we have the Grauniad, who before the bodies are even cold are calling anybody who disagrees with open door immigration as violent Neo-Nazis who are to blame for all of the West’s troubles. They will see that full multiculturalism is a land of milk and honey, and anybody that disagrees will be locked up. That sounds familiar, reminds me more than a bit of the Soviet Union locking up its dissidents in Mental institutions. The author also ignores the wider European Terrorist movements that have blighted Democracy, The Bader-Meinhof Gang, Red Brigades, 17th November, ETA, INLA and of course the Millions killed by the Soviet Union. Just because Brigitte Mohnhaupt killed people, it doesn’t mean that John Prescott is a physical threat to anything except a Desert Trolley.

I disagree with my co-blogger about the need for nation states and boarders but fully support controlled immigration and am willing to argue the point. Aslak Sira Myhre is basically calling anybody who wants to discuss changing an open door immigration policy and Militant Islam mentally ill and must be crushed. Oh that’s a good idea, force normal people outside the political process too, what could possibly go wrong with that?

Whilst not the world’s expert on Norway, I have visited Norway over 10 Times, speak conversational Norwegian (I studied the language for 4 years a decade ago) and have Norwegian friends who were in Oslo when the bomb went off. I have a great affection for Norway and have a great respect for its people, indeed Love everything about the place except Brunost, Lutefisk, the price of a Beer and its Politics. They are a great people with an admirable bluntness and honesty, so let me be blunt and honest in return. The level of Political debate in Norway is pathetic; and whilst no excuse, may have been one of the precipitating factors in this atrocity (the main one being of course being that Anders Brevik is a nasty little asshole).

Norway has moved since World War II from insularity and naivety caused by Poverty, to insularity and naivety caused by its extreme oil wealth. Previously nobody went to Norway because they were dirt poor, and only if Norwegians went to sea did they see anything outside their own country. Until these attacks Norway believed that giving money to noble causes would insulate you from the world’s hatred. This is not the case. Before 9/11 there was Timothy Mcveigh. Norway would be foolish to imagine the threat only comes from Angry White People just as the rest of the world would be foolish to imagine the only threat comes from Angry Bearded People.

Norway has shown its basic goodness and nobility in some very trying times. This is a great thing. But it will protect and strengthen itself even more from the actions by idiots by opening up political debate more; not closing it down in the light of Anders Behring Breviks actions.



Saturday, 23 July 2011

Norwegians can be Proud of their Country Today.


Anders Behring Breivik. This is why racial profiling doesn't work.

Needless to say the killing of nearly 100 people, probably by a right-wing Christian extremist called Anders Behring Breivik in by bomb in Oslo and by shooting on a nearby island youth camp yesterday is a terrible crime. A spokesman for the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's Labour party said
"We meet terror and violence with more democracy and will continue to fight against intolerance..."
I can't help thinking that if Bush or Blair had said something similar in the wake of 9/11 or 7/7, Britons or Americans would not be living in the unpleasant police-states in which they now find themselves.



Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Jonathan May-Bowles

I can think of no other legislature in the world which would have let members of the public into the same room as yesterday's committee hearing with Rupert & James Murdoch.


*I am trying to find out. But I BET he went somewhere like Stowe.

As a result of the British Parliament's openness, UK Uncut founder, Hero of Fortnum & Mason, and "activist", Jonathan May-Bowles, who lives in Windsor and probably went to a decent public school*, (Update: He went to Grammar School, specifically St Bernard's in Slough, parents being rich enough to afford a house in the catchment area...) was able to make a brilliant political point by publicly assualting an 80 year-old man who'd just described the proceedings as "the humblest day of my life", with a custard pie. To make himself even more risible, he got a kicking off Wendi, the old man's wife in the process.

Make the argument that you think the Murdochs to be evil incarnate, by all means. We do after all live in a free country. Boycott the Murdoch press. Pressure the advertisers who fund News International titles. These are all democratic, legitimate tactics. Wave placards in the street, make your point online, or in "comedy" shows. But there is a time and a place for "direct action" and when your quarry is giving evidence to Parliament is manifestly not it.

The sheer childish futility of such "actions" gets to me. What is the point? This made Murdoch, who was playing the part of a doddery old codger to perfection, seem vulnerable. The headlines today are about Wendi's lightening defence of her husband, not wrongdoing at News International. But the real effect of well-heeled protester's actions are that such openness in letting into Parliament self-confessed anarchist activists will be a thing of the past, and British democracy now gets a little more closed, the politicians a little further removed from the people they legislate for.

Thanks, Jonnie, you complete bell-end. You just made British democracy a little worse for all of us.



Sunday, 17 July 2011

So. Tunisian revolution. Worthwhile?

After the outpourings of joy in the wake of the departure of Tunisia's Ben Ali (14th January) and Egypt's Mubarak (11th February), there has been a period where other Arab regimes have offered concessions: Morocco & Jordan, bought off their people: Saudi Arabia or repressed viciously in the face of growing unrest: Bahrain Syria.

So what's happening 6 months on from the Arab spring in the country where it all kicked off? The Economist is more optimistic than the Spectator, which raises the bogeyman of previously repressed Islamists gaining power, at the expense of relatively liberal, if despotic strongmen.

The intellectual elite threw their support behind the revolution, in which only a tiny percentage of the population participated. Now they complain of a lack of police protection. But the laconic policeman in charge at a local station, in response to a plea for help from a member of the CinemAfricArt audience [where a film by Nadia El Fani "Neither God, Nor Master" exploring Atheism was being shown], rather hit the nail on the head. ‘Ben Ali was protecting you, and you kicked him out,’ he reportedly said, and shrugged.
Despite this, the Economist concludes
COMPARED with the other upheavals across the Arab world this year, Tunisia’s is still the runaway winner. Since the country’s dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, with his greedy wife, Leila Trabelsi, flew off into a Saudi twilight on January 14th after a nationwide uprising that lasted barely a month, there have been political hiccups, sit-ins, strikes and riots, especially in the fly-blown towns of the interior, and several new governments. But under Beji Caid Sebsi, an avuncular 84-year-old who first served in a cabinet in the 1960s and took over as prime minister on February 27th, Tunisia has calmed down.
So. The warnings were at the time, that Islamists, who formed by far the best organised would prevail. Journalists, who made that prediction at the time, are finding enough evidence to support the view that they were right. And those who were optimistic, can still do so. I fell on the cautiously optimistic side at the time urging (writing about Egypt) the people of the Middle East to...
...contain their expectations - democratic systems are not perfect, and do not in themselves lead to freedom and the rule of law, nor do they always lead to good government. What it does ensure is that tired, ineffectual or repressive regimes get booted out before they become a liability and stupid ideas such as socialism, get tested to destruction.

But whatever happens - there is reason to be optimistic about the world right now, until politicians and religious leaders get together and screw it up for everyone...
Of Course there is much that could still go wrong. But to imagine that Islamists were NOT going to be influential in ex-dictatorships was clearly naive. In any future Middle-Eastern democracy is going to have Islamists in Government or it isn't a democracy. This means that movies by Atheist feminists are going to be harder to show in public. It also means that, if democracy takes root, the islamists are confined to the Margins, and committed to democracy in much the same way as Eastern European communists are today.

I still remain optimistic that a better, freer, more democratic Middle East is on the cards. A democratic Syria will be both more Islamic, and freer than that of the Boy Assad. The Egyptian Military interim council is perhaps "new boss, same as the old boss". But even they're planning elections, which have a chance of being fair. Islamists may run amok in the Tunisian interior, but that's economic - the despair of angry young men without jobs, and these people have been manipulated by extremists for the whole of history.

The Islamists are not the boogeyman. The Arab spring, it should be remembered, started not with an Islamic group but an unemployed fruit-seller, Mohammed Bouazizi, who was selling vegetables without a permit. Being unable to bribe the police, he suffered harassment. His self-immolation which led to The Arab spring was economic, not political. Tyrannies are tough enough to resist Islamism and other political opponents but insufficiently flexible to provide employment for their people. The lack of jobs changes the risk/reward profile of protest, by removing the economic levers the dictator can pull to blackmail his population. Unless the new leaders CAN reverse the economic factors that led to the revolution, Arabs will lose the faith that democracy can bring economic benefits.

The problem is that Democracy doesn't in itself, bring employment. Free markets and the rule of law, strong property rights, and a lack of corruption in public services do. And these take generations to develop - generations the newly democratic countries do not have. Islamists are merely the latest incarnation of political extremists to use economic demands of the to impose political ideologies on them. Before them were the communists & fascists. Anarchists, religious fanatics and military men have all through history done exactly the same. Democracy itself is remarkably fragile, especially in its early years. Whoever gets control of Egypt and Libya can either use the levers of a democratic state for patronage for favoured groups leading to the African vision of elections as tribal head-counts, Or the European/Western model of democratic parties leading interest groups who get showered with economic favours when their favoured party wins. Neither is particularly good at upholding the real guarantors of freedom: Institutions such as a civil service & law enforcement which upholds rather than flouts the law, without corruption. We in the west HAVE to help Tunisia & Egypt build strong institutions. Whether their new institutions will last, though, That's up to the Arab people themselves.



Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Everything Stinks, But Nothing will Change, Except for the Worse..

Britain has, expenses scandal notwithstanding (which would make news in only a handful of countries), a pretty high standard of honesty in public life. Perhaps this is BECAUSE we have such a vile, unscrupulous, yet tenacious press? The Late & Unlamented 'News of the Screws' may be history, allowing the Dirty Digger to sell off a Leaner and more streamlined 7-day Sun Newspaper, as well as the venerable Times. Due to publicity and the greater bargaining power of management, Murdoch may get more than perhaps he could have expected even a few weeks ago.

But even the sale of The Sun and The Times changes little in the long run. The newspaper industry is dead. It doesn't know it yet: the strongest brands may live on in mobile-device subscription and on the Internet, but the logistics of paper-delivery mean that lower circulation will lead to its eventual demise. It seems News International agrees: perhaps their strategy of putting their brands behind a pay-wall isn't yet successful. It certainly remains a risk, one which Murdoch is happy to divest himself of. In order to allow the purchase British Sky Broadcasting without having to divest the potentially valuable Sky News, he's prepared to sacrifice his papers. Before passing judgment, ask yourself: do you know more about global media than Rupert Murdoch? Me neither. His revealed preference is for Broadcast media over print. Sell Newspaper stock, all of it. Now.

The rest of Fleet Street? Well, News of the World and other NI titles weren't even the worst papers. The Daily Mail is by far the worst - cheerfully breaking the law to get stories, with the Mirror, a paper read by Morons, second. The entire UK newspaper industry are all in a brutal pit-fight over readers and advertisers to keep a dying business-model going. I suspect that results - juicy stories which sold papers - resulted in a "See no evil" approach from senior management. Thus even if Coulson and Brooks had plausible deniability, it was the result of a degree of negligence which left them culpable, but not criminally so. With different media interest, this would be a "punish the perps, move on..." story. So why is this such a big scandal? The fact is the removal of the powerful operator, News International, from the UK media scene benefits a lot of people, in particular opposition politicians and competitive media organisations. Even the Police benefit from keeping the focus on News Corp and away from themselves.

So what of the ethics of the BBC? Well, they're stoking the outrage. That they are the cleanest of the media organisations appears not to be in doubt, but they are protective of their dominant media position in the UK. The Former Director General put his name to a letter demanding that News Corporation be prevented from buying Sky. Why would they risk getting involved publicly in an issue in which there's such a clear conflict of interest? Only Sky News can challenge their dominant, agenda-setting position. It is the BBC who decide which stories are News and which aren't. As a result, the agenda of the Metropolitan Left gets a more dominant airing than its popularity in the country warrants, and it's jealously guarding this power. This explains the foaming-at-the-mouth seen in leftist circles whenever you mention News International. The leftists don't want an organisation with a different world view which challenges the cosy consensus, as a Sky News which enjoyed the full backing and resources of News International would.

The police, whose alacrity in investigating earlier allegations of media impropriety was conspicuous in its absence. It is possible that they had greater priorities at the time (Sir Iain Blair's defence in committee this morning), but it is more likely they knew it would uncover embarrassing levels of corruption and collusion with the media. The police don't come out of this at all well, so focusing public ire on a big bad fat cat suits them. They're more than happy to investigate Brooks and Coulson if it keeps the inquests away from their door.

Now the Labour party is also seeking political advantage. Hilariously, because they'd been in power when the story happened for a decade, they were just as completely in bed with Murdoch's media empire. For Gordon Brown (who employed such charming people as Damian McBride) to allege that he'd refused to play ball, and that is why he lost the 2010 election is vile. Absurd. Awful. Now it's alleged that he planted the story about his son's Cystic Fibrosis to make him more human, and counter-alleged that The Sun bullied him into the exclusive. Either way Brown doesn't come out of this well. He's either disgustingly cynical, or a spineless gimp who backs down when bullied. For Brown's drippy homunculus, Milliband minor, to attempt to Jump on the Bandwagon, temporarily successful though it may be, is, will be exposed for the hypocrisy it is.

There's little doubt that in egregious lawlessness, the News of the World may be different qualitatively if not quantitatively to the rest. However, this is a big story because of its closeness to the current Executive. However, that closeness ended 6 months ago when Cameron fired Coulson/Coulson quit. So Cameron is keeping a low profile, standing by his friends, but saying little. I can't see the shit sticking to him.

For this reason, the left, and the Labour party (outside its top echelons) who've long loathed Rupert Murdoch as an ideological enemy, and are crowing that his influence in the UK media is waning, may be as disappointed as they are with the effect on the Tories. News International already own 39% British Sky Broadcasting and have effectively a controlling stake. If they divest themselves of the Sun and Times, then the competition commission can ONLY conclude that there is no risk to Media Plurality of the News International bid. Indeed, because it challenges the dominance of the BBC, this can only be POSITIVE in this regard. This leaves the OfCom test of whether Murdoch is "Fit and Proper". The evidence is that his titles are no worse than the Daily Mail. So. Murdoch will get Sky because there's nothing except public outrage keeping him from doing so, if The Times and The Sun get new owners. Nothing else will change and nor should it; we are, after all ruled not by the baying mob, stoked up by self-serving competitors, but by the rule of law. Either Murdoch will get British Sky Broadcasting, or the UK is a mere ochlocracy whose mob is being turned on a striken competitor by a hyperventilating media. Mmmm. Mob rule. Grrrreat.

By the time the judicial enquiries submit their reports this will be yesterday's news, and their recommendations will be implemented half-heartedly - if at all, unless the politicians see an oportunity to remove scrutiny by over-regulation. Only they will gain by further regulating the media. It's the press's job to hold politicians and others in public office to account. Does anyone deny the British Press do this better than many other countries' media industries? Their having overstepped the mark in doing so is less dangerous than politicians overstepping the mark in holding the press to account. If there's new media regulation, I cannot see this being for anyone's good except for the elite who get less scrutiny. Where does that lead? Yes. France.

So.

I hope the Politicians do nothing about Hackgate, because the likely alternatives to doing nothing are much worse.



Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Victim's "Justice"

So a Private Investigator retained by the Whore's Gazette listened into the Voice-mail messages. This included Slebs: (meh), Politicians (double Meh... indeed this is the very definition of "investigative journalism"). However they did not stick to people in the public eye who should know better; They listened into the voice mails of the (then) missing schoolgirl, Milli Dowler and some of the victims of the 7/7 Bombings, which is pretty despicable, especially as in the former case, it appeared the fact the messages were being opened misled the police and gave sadly false hope to the Dowler family. It goes without saying that this is pretty appalling behaviour, against a number of data-protection & misuse of information laws. It's also potentially perverting the course of justice. This doesn't need any extra legislation, or even an emergency debate in parliament (politicians' phones were involved... they're pissed off. Sod 'em) Just enforce the laws against the individual PI involved. As for Milliband Minor's ridiculous demand for an enquiry into "media ethics" - I find the sight of people jumping onto a bandwaggon to serve their partisan interests at the cost of dealing with some real underlying issues, distasteful.

It's worth pointing out though: This isn't "HACKING" which involves listening to conversations, something a family member of a Tube-bombing victim openly implied this morning on the 'Today' program, without being corrected. If you don't have a PIN number on your inbox, spend a couple of minutes NOW and put one on. Bingo: the News of the World can't get at your messages.

It's not just politicians milking this for all it's worth. There are two factors at play. This is being given wall to wall coverage on the BBC (but not SKY), and all the papers (except News International titles) because the BBC and fleet-street want to bash their competitors, and especially don't want News International to buy the portion of BSkyB it doesn't already own. This is a brute commercial consideration: Newspapers are barely profitable, and struggling. Hurting a competitor might help a bit & sell some papers in the process. For the BBC, it's defending it's patch against an increasingly influential and aggressive SKY news. The DG has even put his name to a letter opposing the purchase, which rather put his organisation's cards face-up on the table. The BBC is even alleging that Murdoch is not "fit & proper", something which isn't in the scope of the decision to allow SKY to buy BSkyB. It's an abuse of its position for the tax (the license fee is a tax in all but name) funded BBC to report in such a self-serving way in a story with a such clear conflict of interest.

There is also a residual leftism of the organisation which would love to make the most of the resignation of Andy Coulson from David Cameron's team. If you listened to the BBC this morning, you'd think he was still there spinning for the Government, instead of having already fallen on his sword over this issue five months ago. The guy's already gone. It's a non-issue for the Prime-Minister.

Finally, this is being run in the media together with the issue of the treatment of the Dowler family at the hands of the defence barrister, and of the issues this story raises, this is the most dangerous. "Victim's justice" isn't justice at all. I'm the first to call the police, and the entire criminal justice system "useless" but the fact remains a standard defence in court is "I didn't do it" and therefore the implication is that someone else did. By introducing reasonable doubt, certainly guilty people have got off. But I'd rather 10 guilty men go free (and they do) than one innocent man go to gaol because the police were allowed to fix the usual suspects up, or the defence had its's hands tied by laws which prevented relevant questions being asked. As far as sentencing goes the people who should have NO say in the punishment are the victims. The only people I can think of who are worse are politicians. Sentencing should be for the Judge who's seen the evidence acting according to law and precedent.

Here's a picture of a Gavel, to annoy 'The Magistrate'.

This rush to protect victims in court is going to lead (rightly) to challenges by guilty people on the basis that their defence was hamstrung and may lead to MORE guilty people getting away with it. This is nothing more than an assault on the presumption of innocence. If you're in court, and expect to see a criminal put away for a long time, expect him to fight - there's a chance the man in the dock DIDN'T do it. It's up to the prosecution to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. Lazy investigations, sloppy legal work and all the hallmarks of state-run ANYTHING: time-serving incompetence, are responsible for more miscarriages of justice than overzealous defence barristers who remain a mere scapegoat for incompetent prosecutions.

Hard cases make bad law. One horrible case with a vile defendant should not remove the rights of people to defend themselves vigorously in court, and be presumed innocent until they're proven guilty.



Sunday, 3 July 2011

Is "Employment" the problem?

By far the most important economic metric, as far as politicians around the world are concerned, is "Unemployment". If this rises - particularly amongst the middle-class, who can be relied upon to vote - governments tend to fall. This is as true in the democratic nations as in tyrannies. Youth unemployment of over 45% in many Arab nations may have changed the micro-economic risk-reward pay-off of protest. If there are no jobs with which to bribe/blackmail the young, there's less to lose by being part of a demonstration.

When you take on a job, you take on severe constraints upon your time. Usually you're expected to present yourself at a time and place 5 days a week and subject yourself to monitoring and surveillance which would be unacceptable in any other circumstance and a gross invasion of privacy. In return your employer pays you a regular wage, whether or not you've earned it. The employer is also expected to pay significant levels of taxation as a result of each job, and incurs other burdens such as contractual redundancy pay, insurance and so-on.

The result of this is an economic conflict. It's in the employees interest to do as little as possible to earn his pay without getting fired. Every office has shirkers who are carried by the rest of the business, or people who exploit management systems' loopholes to engage in rent-seeking behaviour. On the other hand, it is in the employers' interest to sweat the labour and earn as much as possible from each employee. This is not to suggest that there aren't good employers in some sectors where it is both possible and practical to remunerate according to delivery, and see it in their interests to look after their employees. There are, however, employers who exploit the weak bargaining position of their employees to improve productivity through coercive means, and employees who exploit employers (to death: this is why there are few unionised workers in the private sector). The public sector, without real cash constraints, is easily bullied by organised Labour & rent-seeking professionals.

Let's put some numbers on this. For a private-sector employee to achieve £30k in his bank account at the end of the year (once taxes are taken into account) s/he needs to generate at least £100k of top-line value. If this employee is in a "cost centre" instead of a "revenue-centre", HR, for example as opposed to sales or the shop-floor, his/her remuneration comes from the excess profit of the productive work-force.

As a result of the sheer cost of guaranteeing a wage month to month, the temptation is to seek revenue from employment which doesn't add to customers' utility. The most egregious example of this is perhaps the financial services industry, which sells "products" larded with hidden fees, or insurance to people who don't need it or who could almost never claim on it. A legislation-protected cartel operates to keep bank deposit interest low and lending rates high. Branches no longer serve their customers, whom they know only from computer records, but instead serve sales targets for corporate markets. Evidence: people don't change banks because they're all the same.

Another examples of this "crapitalism" is the McDonalds happy-meal toy, whose negative externalities in the inevitable disposal, manufacture, transport and packaging vastly outweigh the utility gained by the customer. It is a product whose only purpose is pester-power-marketing. You can think of any number of other examples. The disgusting excesses of some of our consumer culture are partially as a result of the drive to manipulate people into purchases they don't need at any cost. Does anyone think 'planned obsolescence' is good for the consumer? Are the people selling this crap, in call-centres, shops; or indeed those making crap in factories around the world really happy with their lot serving this avaricious machine? Should this almost feudal relationship between employer and employee, which could be at the root of it, really be the dominant economic relationship in a supposedly free society?

The crucial thing, above and beyond the crap needlessly produced, is the self-actualisation of the people making and selling it. It is this crucial happiness-delivering facet of the human experience which is missing from much employment in service of crapitalism. Would it not be better if people were able to choose to how much to work, the margins at which they work and their working hours and conditions, and deliver a product or service of which they were proud? I'll declare an interest: I'm self-employed. The freedom to have more, or indeed less than state-mandated holiday allowances and working hours as necessary, is a huge bonus. As is the sense that no-one is looking over my shoulder, telling me I should be working. My time, even in the office, is my own. I am, in a huge number of senses, free. Even if I didn't take a holiday for four years, when starting my practice, and building my client-base, the sense I was building something for ME was hugely motivating.

Many of my clients are likewise self-employed: plumbers, builders, property-developers & businessmen. It is risky and certainly tough at the outset for all people who slip the bonds of formal employment, but because the products of your labour aren't shared with an employer, you get nearer the full benefit of our labour. If more people were self-employed, there would be less work of negative utility: HR, Accounts, Compliance, Health & Safety officers, who serve to enforce legislation which exists only in the EMPLOYED market place would wither. More self-employment would then free these people from their parasitic jobs to do something productive. An ancillary benefit is the state would lose an enormous class of people in the private sector from its control.

But it's also about more than productivity. The self-actualisation and self-reliance that self-employment engenders are benefits in themselves. The fact that the self-employed have to hand their income tax over in a cheque every six months means they actually think about the dead-weight cost of taxation each and every time they do so. (I've never met a self-employed Labour voter...)

At the moment, society, politics and the economy is structured around formal employment, and the resulting drive to squeeze 'human resources' (I call them 'people') at whatever cost. Employees feel the temptation to rent-seek. Neither of these are good: though these activities may help GDP, they aren't productive. Perhaps an economy shaken up by de-industrialisation is an ideal opportunity to have another look at the structures of the job market and consider if legislation unfairly supports one form of labour-market organisation. Self-employment works for me. I am not suggesting it works for everyone, but merely asking the question: Isn't it better to work for yourself, rather than allowing someone to be your boss?

I started this post with the Arab Spring, at the root of which is unemployment. The Tunisian revolution which saw dictator Ben Ali flee to Saudi Arabia started when an unemployed man called Mohammed Bouazizi started selling vegetables in the street without a permit, and the subsequent harassment (he wasn't making enough to bribe the police) led him to self-immolate. Such is the effect of denying people the right to earn what they can. Whilst a secure job may be preferable in many economies, for many people the guaranteed wage just costs too much. For many marginally productive workers, Spain, for example, has youth unemployment comparable to Tunisia's, they just aren't productive enough. What prevents Spain from imploding, apart from the pressure valve of democracy, is a black economy which allows the poor to subsist in the manner attempted by Mr Bouazizi - without the interference of a rent-seeking police force.

Instead of harassing the black economy Western governments also suppress it using an over-generous welfare state, at vast dead-weight cost: people paid to do NOTHING. There's no need to scrape a living: the state will take from the rich and give it to you, gratis. Is this just? Maybe. But it also comes at a cost; the self-reliance, independence and integrity of the recipients of the tax-payers' largess, who lose any habit of independence and will never work as a result of their handouts. Would it not be better to deal with our welfare rolls by cutting the hand-out (a CBI could ensure everyone's basic needs were met), and encouraging people to find something, anything, they can do for other people for whatever they can earn?

An employment market which rewarded self-employment, independent trading, if allied to a tax and benefits system which didn't act as a massive barrier to entry to marginally productive workers, would cut welfare rolls and could eventually end the concept of unemployment. Perhaps we could also reduce much of the nonsense economy of crapitalism? After all, self-employed people don't eat unless their product or service is actually valued, instead of being 'bundled' with something that is. (Would you pay for the happy-meal toy or the mobile phone insurance which comes with your bank account, unless it were"free"?) Above all, freeing people from employment they know to be useless would improve people's sense of self-worth. By removing the totalitarian oversight of the feudal lord - your employer - you achieve freedom.

So far, so Marxist. He wasn't all bad, you know. The temptation in current politics is to play the masters - state & business off against each other. The electorate's choice is their proxies: Labour & Tories. We libertarians marginally favour the latter, but regard both, or indeed any master, as abhorrent.



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