Guns and the lack of Anarchy in the UK

A new report from HMIC has found that it is a miracle that we are not all dead yet. Ok, it hasn’t, but it has found that there are serious failings within a “chaotic” system of firearm licensing. These failures are coming from the licensing authorities, rather than from firearms owners. Therefore the authorities need more powers, apparently.

“We found that, too often, forces are not following the Home Office guidance that is in place, sometimes inexcusably compromising public safety…  Unless things change, we run the risk of further tragedies occurring” the author of the report said. Recent tragedies would include a man with dementia who shot his wife and himself. So yeah, tragedies. Now, who’s fault is this?

Is it perhaps a failure by the police to efficiently renew or evaluate licences, so that firearms are not left with people who by all common sense judgement shouldn’t be possessing firearms? Yes. If you can’t remember your own name or are prone to violent rages, you probably should be at home with a cup of tea rather than a loaded shotgun.

The report also suggests that without a legal obligation for GP’s to reply to the police with a medical assessment it is easier for people to obtain a firearm than it is to drive a bus, or, I don’t know, a bin lorry. This can of course go wrong, and ignores the fact that it is much harder to evaluate somebody’s mental state (not just in time an cost terms) than a medical assessment, and also risks stigmatising all with a mental illness people as unstable lunatics who should be kept as far away as possible from firearms (but not knives or cars).

There are undoubtably people who slip through the cracks, but having mandatory medical tests must be measured against the costs of preforming such a large and time heavy duty on around 800,000 people who are generally fit and well, at a time when GP’s feel that they are over stretched and under budgeted. Previously, the NHS has held concerns that it would be unable to secure such data securely.

So where should we be looking if we want to take these threats of “massacres” seriously? Is it from legal firearms owners? No. Is it arguably from people who really want to do us harm and have access to automatic weapons despite licensing, which also means that we walk around unable to defend ourselves? Yes, but that is another post entirely.

With 7 of 43 forces in England and Wales not dealing with expired licences correctly, there was a complete no show of gun massacres and gun homicide’s from previously legally owned firearms. It’s almost like the people who own firearms are not bad people, waiting for the day their license expires so they can go and cover themselves in the blood of innocents. There are examples of people who legally own firearms using them to end their own lives or the lives of others, but it must be taken into consideration that these people are a tiny minority of firearms users in the UK. It is rather more like people buy guns to enjoy them, be it target shooting or hunting, not only enriching themselves but the UK economy to the tune of £2 billion.

Which is why the conclusions of the report are so worrying. HMIC now believe because the police are performing so well so badly that they are saying that it is almost inevitable that a terrible tragedy will take place, they should have the power of warrantless entry.  That is a very, very dangerous power for authorities to have in a supposedly free society, particularly from a service that is already failing in its duty. The police already have the power to enter homes if they believe if there is a credible threat, which is a perfectly resonable restriction on both the police and somebody who might be about to commit a crime.

There has already been hyperbole and massive misconceptions over this report, and guns in general. If it is lives you are concerned about, please deal with things like this first, and how their lives matter less. If it is guns you don’t like, please explain this before you have a go at peaceful individuals. What this report makes clear is that even failures in the licensing system don’t mean that gun owners are a threat to society; they should be left alone to enjoy their sports in peace.

Another day, another load of bollocks from Corbyn

It seems that a day can’t go by without the frontrunner in the Labour leadership election coming out with more polices inspired by horse manure, (his fellow candidates, to be fair, being not much better either). Today’s proposal is a “National Maximum Wage” to tackle wealth inequality.

Putting aside that wealth inequality isn’t really a problem for the poor (as it doesn’t affect their lives if someone is being paid more), this won’t help in any way the working class which Corbyn says he is looking out for. If the policy was ever enacted, it would probably cause one of two things to happen; 1. Executives would be compensated in different ways, avoiding the maximum wage, or 2. They would leave, and take their companies with them.

This, like the massively increased minimum wage he is proposing, would do nothing for the least advantaged in society i.e.; the people Corbyn claims to care about. The quadrupling of the minimum wage apprentices can receive would result in, er, fewer apprentices, and probably fewer companies operating in the UK (if they haven’t already left thanks the 1970’s nostalgia wrecking the economy) as they cannot afford to train their staff.

The distance to travel between his polices and helping the poor is astonishing. The “people’s railway” which he has called for is typically ridden by those in higher income brackets; the poor tend to take the bus or drive. The yearly price increases are government controlled, so no surprise it isn’t working very well, but if Corbyn actually wanted to reduce rail prices for his Islington constituents Britain’s working class then he would deregulate the railways; they are effectively run by the state and subsidised by the taxpayer. Who would also have to foot the bill to renationalise them, which he seems to have forgotten.

But hey ho, what about housing policy? Oh, it again seems that Corbyn wants the beloved state (which he has spent most of his life fighting remember) to intervene and build houses. Well what he means is the state should pay for new houses, which doesn’t end very well (because they usually end life falling to ground at terminal velocity as nobody wants to live in them). Yet again, if Corbyn or his supporters wanted to help those they care about they might recognise that government controls are preventing that from happening (yeah, its the greenbelt).

And last, but by no means least, he partially attacks the non-existant gender pay gap “which there isn’t in small companies, only in large companies.” According to this logic, the largest employer in the country must be the worst then Jeremy? You can actually sue your company if you are being discriminated against on grounds of gender, which is why the courts are not flooded with lawsuits relating to this matter.

The next five years might not be much fun with this stuff going around.

Letting the 20th Century Back In

Good news, everyone! Corbyn’s economic policy “doesn’t have to be certain, (or) fully costed about everything; he doesn’t even have to be responsive and listening to everything” because according to our self-proclaimed holier than thou leftist author Zoe Williams, Corbynomics is about “breaking open the doors and letting the 21st century in”.

I doubt this means removing failed interventionist policies that have been dominant throughout the 20th century. Indeed, Corbynomics is entirely about returning to the grim misery of state socialism which the mad old uncle was in the thick of in the 1970’s. Having failed to learn the lesson, that central planning is bad, and as central planning was rolled back not just the economy improved, but society too, he wants to travel back in time to his obsolete ideas. If a 21st century way of thinking exists, it will be left firmly outside the doors of a Corbyn Britain. Which hopefully will not exist. So why get worked up about it?

Because this faux neo-economic philosophy (I used ‘neo’ because it makes things sound bad) is producing and giving credence to such stupid comments as “Governments running a surplus are not upstanding and responsible, but governments with nothing to invest in” corbynomics will need a continual bashing. You would think those who hope Government would be so efficient at providing public services it would not need to spend more than it absolutely needed too, not only because it defeats those evil neo-liberals who are falsely arguing government programmes are inefficient, but also because it is people’s lives that are in the balance, would want government to produce a surplus.

You would also hope those same people would want Government to be a wise investor, but it is continually failing at both of these objectives. I shouldn’t be surprised an outlook on life that doesn’t accept individuals can be responsible for anything, would forever want the hand of the state to expand, or “invest” in people, because the solution to a system that after 13 years of schooling produces people who can’t even work at the minimum wage is obviously more money!

Of course, as well as smashing imaginary doors, the article is also about removing the “consensus around debt” (which I think is pay it back). No serious person believes austerity is about balancing the books, because although “People think it means a government saving money, in fact it destroys money. Running a 1% surplus is a plan to destroy 1% of the money supply every year.” So instead of destroying 1% of the money supply, what are the serious people suggesting? Expanding the government controlled monetary supply to its logical conclusion? I don’t think that will work out very well at all…

Chancellor talking bollocks

Surprise! You have been lied to. Despite gideon telling the electorate in 2010 the public finances would be balanced by 2015, he is still borrowing around £2 billion a week, with £9.4 borrowed in June. That’s about £5,000 a second from this heartless chancellor, who is enacting on this country the most crippling austerity since the 1930’s. Except he isn’t.

“Austerity” is sham. The decrease in borrowing even came from increased tax receipts, not cut’s in spending. What is true, however, is certain parts of the budget have been cut, and these have disproportionately fallen on areas where there isn’t a great deal of votes; adult social care or council budgets.

We were told public spending decreases would be fairly distributed, but the largest parts of government expenditure have been protected, such as pensions, for example. Now, it is a common claim that the financial crisis is being paid for by those who didn’t cause it; and when it comes to pensions that is true. If labour caused the crisis, who voted them into power?

The protection for pensioners, and the triple lock in particular is an absurd idea; not only is it causing cuts to fall on people who haven’t had a lifetime to build up savings (fuck me, its personal responsibility) but we are also borrowing £153 billion a year which we don’t have. Don’t forget, the chancellor has built up a stunning £1.5 trillion of debt which needs to be serviced; this shouldn’t just be about balancing the books but paying the debt back before the next financial crisis that the government causes.

So, what should be done? Firstly, get rid of the triple lock for pensions, and then (getting radical here) prepare for the eventual removal of state provided pensions; perhaps a Singaporean styled compulsory savings fund would be acceptable for people who don’t believe that they or others are responsible enough to save for old age (as well as actually providing people with something to retire on) despite the fact working people formed voluntary associations without government compulsion.

When it comes to the enormous cost of our national religion health service, you cannot look at the near doubling of the health budget since 1997 and say that the present problems are due to a lack of funding. The absence of market operations when it comes to healthcare means the UK isn’t even in the top half of healthcare outcomes in Europe, not to mention the world. By rationing services by political decision rather than price mechanisms it also creates a system which can be far crueler; ultimately, it is a bureaucrats decision whether an individual treatment is available.

The popular idea that if Breaking Bad was set in the UK the programme would end there as we have free at the point of use is plainly wrong. What is more likely is that Walter White would have been told he has 12 months to live, there are no treatments available and if he seeks to pay for private healthcare all NHS support for everything else in regards to the disease would have been withdrawn.

It is plainly ridiculous that a country that accepts food (arguably more important than healthcare) shouldn’t be supplied by the state, but not healthcare. It creates maddening state involvement in personal decisions, such as the latest calls for a tax on sugary drinks and increased alcohol levies. If you wanted to save the NHS money you would actually want as many people to smoke and drink themselves to death as possible, because they cost the nationalised industry less than if they were to live long into their 80/90’s.

These measure are just a start when it comes to reducing the size of the state, to the benefit of all (except bureaucrats) as it is worth baring in mind the UK’s public finances are nowhere near a picture of health. Instead of moaning about non-existent austerity, or pretending that everything the chancellor does is the bee’s knee’s (while he runs the second highest deficit in the OECD), it might be a good idea to think about alternatives so when the fan is hit with the proverbial we won’t have to make the types of cuts that are being made in Greece.

Tax that sugar!

Oh dear, the trade unions have been causing trouble again. The BMA has released a new report on obesity, and surprise surprise, for a group of people who are fed and watered by the state their solution to the obesity crisis in the UK is the government should do something; by way of a new tax on sugar sweetened drinks (for a start). The money raised should be used to subsidise fruit and vegetables, which we know with our restrained and sensible government is exactly where the money will go, not new weapons of war which the PM has set his heart on.

Professor Shelia Hollins informs us “We know from experiences in other countries that taxation on unhealthy food and drinks can improve health outcomes”. Which countries exactly? The fat tax in Denmark was a complete train wreck, surprising not achieving what the government intended to do, but instead costing jobs and bringing no benefit. Strange eh?

Interventions by “public health” lobbies to protect us from our habit of putting food in our mouths around the world have been dismal failures. One of the “highlights” of Michelle Obama’s time as the First Lady was her support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which as the title tells us achieved all it set out to do. Oh, wait, no it didn’t; kids are either skipping the meals, being taken out at lunchtime for edible food or participating in blacks markets to bring in salt, pepper and sugar to make the meals taste better than cardboard. In trying to change peoples dietary preferences, government intervention has exacerbated the problem (if you think that people eating what they want is a problem).

This kind of “compassion” for people who choose to eat, drink and smoke things that are not on the middle class approved list is extremely frustrating. The same kind of people who sneer at those who shop at lower end supermarkets (because they are cheap) also seem to believe that making some foods cheaper will encourage the huddling masses to suddenly eat spinach three times a day. It wont’t. People will eat what they want to, and drink what they want to; going back to Denmark, which has the highest alcohol prices in Europe, it is also near the top of per capita consumption of sweet sweet liquor.

So if raising the cost of food that people really want to eat does’t discourage them from doing it, what other motivations are there? Well, tax revenue is one. I don’t know why they don’t come out and say it, since we are in a point and tax culture, but this might because talking about taxing things poorer people tend to consume might remind those compassionate people that they are in fact keeping them poor. Secondly, it might be sheer ignorance, but I don’t think that can be fairly attributed to professors and doctors, who also live in the age of google. Third is that they really don’t like people doing things  they personally don’t like; this worrying affliction doesn’t just apply to public health lobbies but also to those people who don’t want everyone to be married, ect. Maybe its just a snobbery thing.

And a humble suggestion if we want people to take responsibility for their own lives, rather than “the NHS (being) responsible for helping individual patients with the consequences of poor diets”; introducing a health insurance scheme rather than free at the point of use might help. A system that incentivises people to make better decisions long term, take care of themselves and not penalise the poor for no reason would be far better than a system in which people know that the state will pick up the pieces (however heavy you are). And as an added bonus, healthcare outcomes are better as well in states with insurance schemes; there is no point in having free care if it doesn’t make you better.

Until we have a system where people are responsible for their own actions (and what they put in their own mouths), what I should do is encourage you to take care of yourself, not just for you but for your fellow taxpayer (you altruist you). Today however, I encourage you to go out, find the sugariest drink you can and then half it with rum. Although their mouths are stuffed with gold (dammed socialised medicine), as you sip the slow death that public health lobbies tell us will be the downfall of civilisation, think how miserable the sods at the BMA will be with their quinoa. Ha.

Ian Wright (Food and Drink Foundation) added: “Many foods and drinks are already taxed at 20%. Where additional taxes have been introduced they’ve not proven effective at driving long-term, lasting change to diets. Who would have thunk it.

What to do about Greece?

If you haven’t heard, Greece is in trouble. This weekend, european leaders will supposedly meet to be told what to do by Frau Merkel discuss a further bailout for the Hellenic republic. Although there is no legal basis for Greece to leave the eurozone, if a deal cannot be reached Prime Minister Tsipras may well have to leave his country out of the eurozone because they have run out of money. There is no legal basis for grexit; however, our european leaders don’t really care about breaking the law. Oh well.

But would’t the grexit solve everything for the greeks? Well, no perhaps not. The un-resigned Nigel Farage seems to think that with “a devalued currency and with friends of Greece all over the world, you (Greece) will recover.” Yeah, that may well help, one of the big problems with the Euro is that it was that it was forced on economies that are entirely different. Greece having its own currency back means that it can have monetary policy suited to its fiscal policy.

Except it’s not that simple. Printing a currency takes about 6 months (or 12 in Iraq’s case), and we shouldn’t believe those horrible rumours that the drachma is being printed in Ireland and Switzerland, because it probably isn’t. If it takes that long, we could ourselves a thought experiment; if there hasn’t been any preparations for a new currency then what will happen to Greece if Mr Tsipras and his loan sharks can’t come to an agreement on sunday? This is of course assuming that Mr Tsipras keeps to what he was elected to do, and doesn’t capitulate to a worse bailout package than Greek voters rejected last sunday.

Here is a suggestion. Instead of issuing a new currency, the greek government should step back and allow a free market in banking; it worked for Scotland and could be the not only be a good option, but also what has to happens in a bankrupt country that won’t be able to organise an effective currency for months and wants to have some stability. Banks issue their own currencies (if they can stand on two feet; if not, no-one likes zombies) and and they compete for what their consumers want rather than what a central planning board thinks is best. This could even see blockchain based currencies arise or be adopted, such as Bitcoin.

In the greek case, I would assume at first stability and then a more liquid market to move away from the strangulation that is happening now. Although other countries (and US States) have issued IOU’s in place of currencies, would you trust an IOU from the Greek government? There is evidence that free market banking increases economic growth, is better regulated, is more innovative and more competitive than central-planned banking (which is the state which we find ourselves in).

In this world where the Greeks have escaped from the clutches of a dying dream of 1950’s technocrats, some things will probably stay the same; the Greeks will still have their aversion to paying taxes. Work with what you have got. The proposals that are put in front of the Troika involve large tax increases that simply won’t be paid. Instead of wasting good ink, they should institute a flat tax of 10/15%. This will allow businesses to grow, people might actually pay their taxes, it is far easier for them to be collected and Greece could become a much warmer Switzerland.

Is there any realistic chance that the greeks would seriously consider free market banking, low taxes and a world outside of the euro? Probably not, but they really should do. But in their current state, they seem quite happy to vote in irresponsible socialists and not think about tomorrow. Even 5 years of German mandated austerity in the wake of reckless spending has not produced a country that wants to actually solve its problems by relying less on central planning; why would we think that a Greece free from foreign financial domination would be any less irresponsible?

Defaults are nasty processes for countries to go through, and two famous examples, Argentina and Venezuela have not come out on the other side as free market marvels. But although the rot can get in deep, there are countries that do come back from the brink; Britain for one, which went cap in hand to the IMF in the 1970’s and isn’t in the same place as Argentina. Greece is in trouble, it doesn’t have to be forever.

Why I am not a Tory (again)

I hate budgets, and although the chancellor doesn’t need a drink to get through them, I always do. The political drama that the occasion demands means that the economics of the situation are usually shunted aside, and with a political chancellor such as Gideon keen to kick Labour and not therefore do his job, we have a raft of new ill thought out policies.

The first big thing that pisses me off is the new taxes that our “low tax” chancellor wants to raise on motorists. Road tax was never spent on roads (who will build the roads? Not this government). Assurances that the new taxes will be put into a special road fund probably should be taken with a pinch of salt from a man that has now changed his deficit reduction plan three times, and in it’s current form is a carbon copy of Labour’s plan. Which he campaigned against.

The changes to student maintenance grants are brilliant if you want to go to university and have a good time. You can now have more money, and all those missed lectures due to an increased supply of beer tokens won’t matter since you don’t pay the loans back until you are earning above a set amount. Hurrah! The problem for ambitious students who want to get a job after they study, and who’s parents who cannot afford to support them will have to take out bigger loans and be punished if they are successful (or in other words, pay back the loan, which isn’t in fashion at the moment).

Gideon will raise the income tax exemption to £11,000 (THANK YOU MASTER) but all the other taxes still apply. Tax credits are being cut, and you are seeing the reason they never should have been introduced in the first place; people are now dependent upon them. Its almost like subsidising dependency creates dependency (see previous paragraph/last 100 years) and without reducing the impact of national insurance, the cuts will hurt.

Gideon pulled a rabbit out of his hat with the National Living Wage of £9 by the end of the decade. This is purely a political move, and is nothing short of a bloody awful decision, guaranteeing unemployment that is supposedly so derided by our One Nation government for at least 60,000 people. With low inflation (take them at their word) this is a 6% annual mandated increase in the price of low skilled labour. This will only result in fewer jobs and decreased working hours “Remember that the minimum wage law provides no jobs; it only outlaws them; and outlawed jobs are the inevitable result.”.

This was presented as a balanced deal, as corporation tax is to be reduced to 18% in 2020. But corporation tax is only paid on the profits that businesses make; for struggling businesses in a weak economy this could well kill them off. If the worldwide economic situation continues to deteriorate, this price fixing government will really have put the country in it.

Short of a worldwide shock/collapse, Labour will have nothing other to moan about than welfare cuts, having their political rug taken from under them (and even if there is, judging by their previous performance they will probably cock that up too). Labour didn’t pick those policies because they make economic sense, but because they thought they would be popular. They now have nothing left to stand for, except against welfare cuts, which are actually incredibly popular with the public despite not really reducing the amount government spends. This may well be the death blow to overt socialism, but this isn’t something to be celebrated if one nation collectivism takes its place and there is no effective opposition to challenge bad policies.

There is no real austerity in this budget. The chancellor wants to spend more of other people’s money on war, and has continued to protect the largest parts of the budget, rubbishing talk that he is fundamentally changing the welfare state. We are still in a situation where more than half of households take more in benefits than they pay in taxes, an appalling situation not just because of the cost but because “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.” Many will find this to be true in the next few years.