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Entries by Bishop Hill (6690)


Posts on libertarianism

It's the same everywhere.

Amit Varma, top Indian libertarian blogger,  has a post up on his swanky new site about libertarianism in India.

[D]espite having gained political freedom 60 years ago, personal and economic freedoms are routinely denied in India. Even worse, there is no political party in the country that speaks up for freedom in all its forms.

One to subscribe to.


Nice to see...

...a big businessman arguing for no public subsidy. And telling the government to their faces too. Well done Richard Charkin.


Go and read this

Outside Story has an intruiging proposal on how to deal with NHS reform. I don't know quite what to make of it at the moment, but I shall sleep on it and see how it grabs me in the morning.


Tranzis really are socialists

Croydonian has beaten me to a posting on the fatal flaw in today's UNICEF report on child welfare, which ranked British children near the bottom of the scale. The report uses a relative measure of poverty - which as any fule no is essentially building a socialist bias into the report's results before the surveys are even performed. If you are a socialist country you will go straight to GO and collect £200. Anyone else can go straight to jail.

There's lot more wrong with the report, and I strongly urge you to read Croydonian's piece.

This inbuilt bias reminded me of another piece I was going to write; this time one which I actually failed to write at all, on the grounds that fisking Neil Harding was like taking sweeties from a toddler, and was a bit unsporting. But since it's relevant, I'll relay the story here. Neil had a post on public and private sector waste, in which he cited a World Health Organisation report which ranked Britain's healthcare system 18th in the world, and the US one in 37th. Neil invited us to conclude that the NHS gave better outcomes than the US.

However, a cursory look at the report shows exactly the same inbuilt bias as the today's report from UNICEF - it used "fairness of funding" as a measure in the ranking system, and so acheived an artificial boost for socialist systems. If you have a socialist system, it is apparently, by definition, better than the alternatives. We need to remember this next time we are told that the UN is the conscience of the world. It isn't. It's a PR agency for socialism.


NHS spending makes no difference....again.

From the Government News Network:

Statistical press notice: Diagnostic test waiting times December 2006

The following statistics were released today by the Department of Health:

* Diagnostic test waiting times data: month ending December 2006

This data shows the NHS' progress in tackling the waiting times for diagnostic tests like scans. The monthly data published today gives the waiting times for 15 key diagnostic tests carried out in the NHS. This data will help the NHS in delivering the new 18 week maximum wait from GP to treatment, including all diagnostic tests, by 2008. More information, including a diagnostic data Q&A, is available via the 18 week website.

The figures from October 2006 now include a wider range of audiology tests, with one of the 15 tests now covering all audiology assessments, rather than Pure Tone Audiometry previously. This means that the monthly publication now covers a larger proportion of longer waiters, which should be noted when comparing with previous months.

Well, I thought, no crowing over the improved performance there. I wonder what the actual figures show. It actually takes a bit of digging, because the figures they release don't actually have comparative data on them. I wonder why. But if you put the current set of data (Dec 06) against the earliest available (Jan 06) you find that waiting lists for diagnostic tests are up by 1% from 804,000 to 814,000.

This is because the extra spending on health is being spent on staff benefits rather than improvements to the service. The sooner people realise that this is all that is happening, and all that is ever going to happen, the sooner we can get on with scrapping the whole disfunctional shambles.


More EU protectionism

Via India Uncut, this amazing story from the Cato Institute.

In a move that is both remarkable and disturbing, the European Commission plans to file a complaint - and threaten protectionist trade barriers - because attractive Swiss tax policies are supposedly a violation of a free-trade accord. The bureaucrats in Brussels are not arguing that Switzerland is imposing barriers against EU products. Instead, the Commission actually is taking the position that low taxes are attracting businesses that might otherwise operate in high-tax nations.

People in this country need to wake up and understand that the EU is deeply, profoundly, and implacably illiberal. We are not going to "persuade it to change". They are not going to wake up and embrace free trade.

We really are better off out. 


What would a private sector library look like?

Tim Coates, of the Good Library Blog, has posted a manifesto for the reform of library services in the UK. From what he describes (and from my own bitter experience) libraries exhibit all the classic symptoms of state-run industries.  They are not responsive to their users, they are overly complex, they are not available when people want them, etcetera, etcetera. Replace library with passport office, police service or health service and pretty much any of Tim's criticisms remain valid.

I posted a comment along these lines, and was actually rather surprised to get a response that was largely in agreement with me. Where we differ is on whether it is actually possible to get the library service to function properly within the public sector. Tim thinks (or rather hopes) that it is:

Honestly it has hard to argue with what you say. I am just wishing and hoping we can find a way to make it untrue.

This set me to pondering what would happen if an entrepreneur got his grubby capitalist hands on a library, or a chain of libraries. What could be changed to make them more attractive? My own local library consists of a portacabin with irregular opening hours and a startlingly small stock of books. There's only two or three desks for people to sit at, and these are reserved for computer users. The staff are excellent but are hampered from providing the service they want because of pettifogging rules forced on them by "head office" in Perth.

What could be done with it?

For a start you'd need a proper home. Lots of room for reading, lots of books. Armchairs, a coffee shop, a children's play area, all soundproofed so that readers weren't distracted. You would pay for each book you borrowed. If you found you were enjoying it you could phone up and buy it. The library would replace it within 48 hours.  I'm imagining the bookshop and the library almost merging here. Think of all the things innovative bookshops do, like public readings and the like. No reason that libraries can't do this too, and make money doing it.

Book groups would have access to a central list of titles (I'm assuming a chain of libraries here) rather than a restricted list of approved titles like the one we have where I live. They could meet on the library premises at lunchtimes or in the evening. And yes, the library would be open in the evenings too. Every evening, if that's what people wanted. God knows, it might even be somewhere for people to go of an evening to socialise without getting drunk. That would be a turn-up for UK culture wouldn't it?

I've barely even started to think about this. I'm sure if a few people put their heads together they could come up with lots of wonderful and exciting services that a private library could offer. And it's worth remembering that libraries started as private institutions, set up by unions and self-improvement societies and the like.

And then remind yourself that it can never happen because any initiative along these lines would be crowded out by the local council long before it got off the ground. The state is not your friend, as someone once said.  


EU crime survey



This map is from an official study comparing crime and safety across the EU (warning 1.3Mb pdf file). The darker the colour, the higher the probability of being a victim of crime.

A few highlights:

  • Only the Irish are more likely to be victims of crime than the British
  • We are twice as likely to be victims of crime than the Spanish
  • Britain has the worst burglary rate in the EU
  • Our rates for assault and theft are at the top end
  • Our rates for fraud and theft are good
It's also worth noting that crime rates are falling across the continent. So next time a NuLab clone parrots the party line that they are winning the fight against crime, you can point out to them that the EU reckons its more to do with demographics and security rather than policy.

More brainwashing

Every so often (monthly? quarterly?) my children are sent home from school with a free magazine with the jaunty title "Whatever!". I've just done an analysis of the contents:

Environmentalism (11 articles)

Saving seagulls from pollution
Tesco opens Britain's greenest supermarket
2007 will be the hottest year on record
Girl wins competition to create cartoon on subject of energy conservation
Rainforest sponsorship
Planting fruit trees
Edinburgh Woodcraft Folk's renewable energy trailer
The green school awards
What does it mean to be carbon neutral
Erich Hoyt - author, conservationist and whale researcher
Beluga whales in Vladivostok 

 Health (5 articles)

Worried about your weight?
Drink lots of water
Healthy pack lunches
Kitchen hygiene 
Take more exercise

Multiculturalism (5 articles)

Chinese New Year
Highland dress
Chinese New Year (again)

Other (1 article)


In other words half of the magazine is about environmentalism and a large chunk of the rest is about health and multiculturalism. There is virtually nothing on, you know, educational stuff.

The magazine is produced by a company called Whatever News from Aberdeen. It's pretty hard to find out anything about them. Bizarrely for a publishing company, they don't even have a website. As far as I can tell the magazine is funded by the Scottish Executive and advertising - many of the articles are more like "infomercials" than proper writing. 

Either way, the similarity to the primary curriculum is quite clear. Greenery, health eating, multiculturalism. Greenery, healthy eating, multiculturalism. It's no wonder that children leave school unable to read and write. I really, really have to take mine out of school before it's too late.

Greenery, health eating, multiculturalism. Greenery, healthy eating, multiculturalism. Repeat to fade.


New blog

Mrs Bishop has started a blog about our extremely awful Mitsubishi Grandis car, and the jaw-droppingly appalling service of Mitsubishi UK and its franchisee at Fife Mitsubishi.


Localism as a substitute for liberalism?

Eaten by Missionaries asks if the Tories are serious about localism. I don't suppose they are, and I'm sure EbM doesn't think so either, although most of the current Conservative party have no association with the centralism of the eighties and nineties, so I suppose we ought to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Localism is a great concept, but it's one that involves considerable courage from a central government. If you decentralise power then at some point a local executive is going to blow the bank on some half-baked vote buying scheme and is going to demand to be baled out by the centre. Facing them down demands the courage and authority of a Thatcher, and this is a commodity which is in short supply these days. A Blair would cave in at the first sign of trouble and would open the floodgates to years of irresponsible spending.

I can't imagine that the LibDems or the Conservatives are going to pluck up the courage to legislate for balanced budgets or the outlawing of bale-outs, so if it happens, localism will probably be a disaster.

Regardless of this, liberals within the LibDems (of whom EbM is one)  need to remind themselves that localism is not the same as liberalism. Shifting power from one branch of government to another is not liberalism. Leviathan will still be in control, no matter which tentacle has you by the throat. Liberalism demands that the monster lets go. That individuals choose for themselves. When that happens we may get our country back. But not until then.


Blog spats

Please don't.


Liberalising the gun control laws

There's an interesting post at PC Copperfield's which asks if we should liberalise the gun control laws. As the good constable puts it, the police are now just the administrative arm of the insurance industry and there is absolutely no point in calling them. The number of comments from police officers agreeing with this is startling to say the least.

What struck me about the comments thread was that there were very few people who reacted with the traditional exclamations of horror, accompanied by wailings and knashings of teeth and accusations of insanity. Could it be that the state of the criminal justice system has reached rock bottom and the idea of public ownership of guns is acceptable, or even respectable?

We will see. 

(Hat tip: Outside Story



Last week, Spy Blog speculated about why the government has failed to publish the Annual Report 2005 of the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Annual Report 2005 of the Security Services Commisioner. Note the dates on both of those reports - these are now a long, long way overdue. Questions asked in Parliament have signally failed to produce anything other than evasions from the Prime Minister.

So what might the government be hiding? Spy Blog wonders whether current events might not be related:

Is this reluctance to answer simple questions, which have no bearing on national security methods or on individual investigations, due to some political embarrassment e.g. the current Cash or Loans for Honours scandal ?

Which seems to be a concern of the police too, according to this report in the Independent on Sunday:

The paranoia has become so feverish that some in the police even fear that the investigators' phones may have been tapped by the security services, to allow the Government to stay one step ahead.

"It's quite easy to tap phones, you know," said one source. "But it's also not too difficult to find out if you have been bugged. I expect the phones are bugged."

Is that another nail I hear, being hammered into the coffin of the Labour party?




I've got friends in Germany. As a student, I had a German roommate with whom I shared some wonderful times. I like the Germans I've met. Once I understood it, I like their sense of humour too.

But my God, when I read things like DK's report on the German Presidency's plans for a law on holocaust denial I am horrified by what their government is up to:

[I]t requires member states to prosecute violations, as defined in the document, it requires them to do so under the methods of corpus juris; that is the Continental system whereby you must prove your innocence, a concept that goes against one of the most fundamental tenets of the British justice system.

The Framework also deals with what it calls "Legal persons", which includes companies, charities, etc. Under these provisions, if one of your employees, for instance, says something racist that is reported, your company can be banned from "commercial trading", banned from "receiving public funds" or even compulsorily wound-up.

Or this report (HT: Carlotta) about a German girl who was being home educated, a practise which is illegal in Germany.

She has been removed from her parents' custody, and placed in the Child Psychiatry Unit of the Nuremberg clinic, her father, Hubert Busekros, told the homeschool group.

It's surprising, to say the least, to find anywhere that is less liberal than Blair's Banana Republic. It may just be that Germany is it. The Euro-enthusiasts in our three main parties need to explain what it is about our European colleagues way of doing things that they find so attractive.