Tuesday, 30 November 2004


I wish all readers a happy St Andrew's Day.

Another perspective

Last week I was hoping for the best for the people of Ukraine. That still stands of course but it's interesting to read this article that looks at the situation from the point of view of those who have been portrayed as the "bad guys":
The East and the South of the Ukraine are sick and tired of subsidizing Western regions of the country by contributing more than 70% of the budgetary income. All sea ports, mines, steel plants, machine building plants, aviation and space industries are in the East and in the South. All day today people in those regions (90% Russian speaking) rallied for autonomy and even for joining Russia. This scenario is totally spontaneous and is not welcome by President Putin. But things can really get out of control.

Monday, 29 November 2004

A sinner repents

In yesterday's Scotland on Sunday Gerald Warner was on fine form:
How can supposedly intelligent observers imagine New Labour was ever anything more than a cosmetic label, or that the Blair régime is a conservative administration? The Great Charlatan will leave only one legacy: an exponential increase in the scope and power of the state. If that is a conservative programme, then Burke, Disraeli, Churchill, Kirk, Hayek and Thatcher must all have got it wrong.
It's certainly true to say that Mr Blair has conned a lot of voters who should have known better. The purpose of the Labour party is to tax and regulate - Blair's just a bit cleverer at disguising this than some of his predecessors. Warner concludes by saying:
The crass notion that Labour has stolen the Tories’ clothes does not stand up to any factual scrutiny. It is the Tories who have lost their sense of identity and their nerve. They have six months to recover both and save us from a one-party socialist state.
None of the above is surprising coming as it does from the pen of Gerald Warner who is one of Scotland's most outspoken conservative writers. But this article was a big surprise. In many ways Iain Macwhirter is the left wing equivalent of Gerald Warner. Every week in the Herald - our very own tartanised Guardian - we can rely on Iain to give us the bog-standard leftist outlook on the week's events. To paraphrase: it's Tories, Bad and Labour (or someone like them), Good.

Now some leftists are intelligent enough to realise than the proposed introduction of ID cards is a bad idea, albeit one that follows logically from the very same leftists' own worldview. Mr Macwhirter (like Muriel Grey) doesn't like ID cards. Good for him (and her). Echoing so many other socialists, Mr Macwhirter is moved to write:

In five years’ time it may be too late to stop Britain becoming a nastier version of Britain under Margaret Thatcher.
No surprise there. But then I almost fell off my seat when I got to the next sentence:
I never thought I’d ever say this, but she was more protective of fundamental rights than Blair. Nearly blown up by the IRA in 1984, she didn’t introduce ID cards or imprisonment without trial.
No, indeed she didn't. And I would guess that Mrs Thatcher opposes ID cards now. Sure, Mrs T wasn't perfect: she failed to slash the welfare state and gave far too much away to the EU. But she did have a feeling for British liberties and it is rather wonderful to observe that a few of the leftist commentariat are beginning to understand that.

Friday, 26 November 2004

Give this a red light

Are you sitting comfortably in your pram? Here comes nanny again:
SHOPPERS want "traffic light" logos on the front of food packets to help them make healthy choices, according to research published yesterday.
Reading further, I note that the "research" was carried out by the government's own food agency. They're hardly going to recommend that nothing needs to be done and that their own jobs are pointless, are they? And for those who think that big business supports capitalism, consider this:
The food industry, however, is wary of such a scheme, claiming it is too simplistic.
"Simplistic"! The correct response is: "It's none of the government's goddamn business. If there's a demand for this kind of thing we'll make loads of money providing it voluntarily."

Incidentally, I wonder if those researchers asked the proper question which is: "Do you want "traffic lights" printed on food labels bearing in mind the resulting extra cost you will have to pay for your groceries?"

Andrew Duffin...

... has drawn my attention to this:
HOSPITAL waiting lists in Scotland have hit an all-time high and people are waiting longer for treatment, new figures showed yesterday.
Andrew asks: "if they will ever learn?" No, probably not.

We read that:

The statistics made grim reading for Jack McConnell, who vowed not to be "bound by ideology" in his quest to modernise the NHS in Scotland by using private contractors.
But it's Mr McConnell's "ideology" that's the reason why we have an NHS in the first place. Note what the boss of the doctors' trade union has to say:
Dr Peter Terry, the chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said: "We are increasingly concerned by the commitment that the Scottish Executive is now making to long-term contracts with private sector providers.

"While this may appear attractive to politicians, it is not the solution. Diverting investment from the NHS to the private sector will do little to solve the problems of the NHS in the long term."

The Scottish NHS is stuffed full with "investment" and still doesn't work properly. Scotland's health service enjoys Europe's highest level of per-capita spending and has one of the worst outcomes. Privatise it now, I say.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Best wishes...

... to the people of Ukraine. Here's a bloglink.

(Update: more news here and here.)

My career as a programmer

Way back in the olden days men would use pencils to enter numbers in columns on lined paper and, with the aid of black magic, get the debits to equal the credits, thus producing a bona-fide set of accounts. As time went on young ladies would be hired to operate new-fangled devices known as "computers". Mere males were not allowed to touch these machines. We were allowed to stare at the resulting printouts.

Eventually my then boss decided that the two of us should attend a course on computing and get one over the ladies by learning how to program the infernal things. After a week we had a basic knowledge of BASIC and shortly afterwards I was bold enough to answer the optional computing question in a statistics exam. I wrote a program that purported to calculate the standard deviation - not a skill that I've ever needed since I must say. My program had about a dozen lines of code.

And so it was with great interest that I read in the December issue of Aircraft Illustrated magazine an article about the latest upgrade to the RAF's Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft. This plane is a souped-up version of the Comet that made its first flight way back in 1949. I don't suppose that the first Comet carried much in the way of computing power but the new Nimrod more than makes up for that: its on-board Tactical Command System utilises 5,400,000,000 lines of coding. What the hell it all does is a mystery to me but I suspect that it's not good news if you're on a hostile Russian/Iranian/North Korean/French (Oops!) submarine somewhere off the west coast of Lewis.

It's reassuring to know that some of our taxes are spent on protecting us against foreign foes although previous versions of the Nimrod have been known to go ever so slightly over budget. As for myself, twelve lines of code were enough - I'm quite comfortable with the occasional use of Excel and lots of lined paper.

And yet they still vote for them

Scots gave the world:
#The hypodermic syringe
# Anaesthesia
# Morphine
# Antiseptics
# Insulin
# Penicillin
# Interferon
# The thermometer
# Ante-natal clinics
That's quite an impressive list don't you think? So it would follow that our health service would be world class, wouldn't it? Not quite:
... a baby boy born south of the Border can expect to live to 77. In Scotland, the life expectancy is 73. In Glasgow, it's 69.1 years. Let's put that into perspective. Scotland's largest city has lower life expectancy than Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Bosnia & Herzegovina and North Korea. For a rich country such as Scotland, that's a remarkable achievement.
Fraser Nelson continues:
And it's a political achievement. Lives are long in areas of Scotland where people run their own lives: it's Scots living in government-run (and government-built) housing schemes where the life expectancy is, quite literally, closer to that of Baghdad than Bristol.
This is an outrageous state of affairs, and yet Glasgow continues to vote Labour, signing its own death warrant. I'm not as enamoured as Mr Nelson of the Blair "reforms" in England but even those crumbs are unacceptable to the Scottish ruling class.


This letter criticises the fact that a Scottish video games company:
was to release its John F Kennedy assassination video on 22 November.
I have to agree that such a release on the anniversary of the murder of the 35th US President is in poor taste. But what are we to make of this news:
A small passenger plane on its way to Hobby Airport to pick up former President Bush crashed along Beltway 8 this morning, killing all three crewmembers on board.
Another US President (number 41), also in Texas and also on 22nd November. It's enough to make you believe in conspiracies.

Monday, 22 November 2004

This is what's wrong with Britain

I've just received the latest copy of the journal of a UK-wide professional body. Not that I'm hunting, but, as one does, I had a glance at the job adverts. As well as one role in Paris, there's a job in each of: York, Coventry, Suffolk, Northants, Lincoln and Nottinghamshire. There are another sixteen vacancies in the Home Counties and twenty-nine in London. So every single job advertised in the UK is in the southern half of the country and 88% are in London or its surrounding counties. I simply don't believe that this is the result of market forces. It's something to do with the way we're governed.

A tale of two cities

Sydney and Melbourne; Toronto and Montreal; Liverpool and Manchester. City rivalry is a common phenomenon and we certainly have our share of it here in Scotland.

Glasgow and Edinburgh are very different cities that all too often find it difficult to cooperate. There's endless discussion about airport policy, improving the rail linkages and getting together on joint economic development.

And the rivalry can be more personal. I recall the story of the Glaswegian actor who was filming in Edinburgh for a few weeks. No one could work out where he went for his lunch each day. Eventually, a fellow artiste followed him only to discover that his colleague was taking the train through to Glasgow to eat a sandwich in George Square - just outside the station - and then return to Edinburgh, the rival city in which time spent had to be minimised.

We all know the differences. Glasgow is the slightly run-down, former industrial powerhouse that is now inhabited by Labour-voting welfare recipients with some old-time trade unionists still employed in the few remaining factories. Edinburgh, on the other hand, is an architectural wonder, full of tourists, wealthy students from the Home Counties, finance industry executives and many, many professionals. Walk round the New Town and have a look at all those brass plates: solicitors, advocates, accountants, architects, planners, charities, consulates and even a few advertising agencies. Edinburgh, with its very high proportion of privately educated children is almost certainly Britain's most middle class city and appears to be a bastion of a financially self-reliant bourgeoisie. Especially compared to Glasgow. Except, of course, I don't think that this is true.

When we look behind those New Town brass plates we don't actually find quite as much "capitalistic" activity as you may think. A very large proportion of Edinburgh's professionals are funded, one-way or another, by the taxpayer. A lot of those "charities" are really arms of local or national government in another guise. There's an awful lot of work done by Edinburgh's professionals on behalf of the public sector, both directly and indirectly. This isn't particularly the result of parliamentary devolution - most of the public sector activities that I'm thinking of have always been based here in Edinburgh as a result of the existing administrative devolution. Democratic devolution is merely an added extra, albeit an expensive one.

Of course I believe that almost all of the things I've mentioned should be run and financed privately, if at all. Given that they are run by the state I do agree that they should have separate Scottish operations - we are a nation with its own legal and cultural differences from the rest of the UK. But we should recognise that much of Edinburgh's wealth is not earned in the free market - it comes from the pockets of taxpayers, including those who live in Glasgow.

So could it not be the case that Edinburgh is the welfare queen of Scottish cities rather than its west coast rival? If we abolished the ninety-odd per cent of unnecessary government spending, which city would be harder hit? Yes, Glasgow's vast army of "incapacitated" middle-aged males would have to find jobs rather quickly. But a low-tax Glasgow could well become a vibrant centre of successful entrepreneurship - it has been in the past. And without all that government money sloshing about, just what would Edinburgh's professionals get up to? I'm only asking.

Sunday, 21 November 2004

Look at this

Regular reader Neil Craig has started his own blog.

Saturday, 20 November 2004

And Andrew Gray...

... asks why the government doesn't ban drinking as well as smoking.

I give it ten years or so.

Gillian Bowditch makes this observation:

Whether you applaud or abhor the government’s decision to crack down on obesity and on smoking in public places, the fact that Big Alcohol has been left to police itself is intriguing.
It looks like the normally sensible Ms Bowditch wants the political classes to "do something" about alcohol. She realises why nothing's happened yet:
Ultimately, the biggest stumbling block to tackling alcohol abuse is perhaps the fact that so many of us enjoy a drink. While less than 30 per cent of us smoke and only 20 per cent of us are obese, more than 90 per cent of us - in other words, 40 million British adults - drink.
Whatever happens at Westminster it seems inevitable that we will have to endure some sort of left wing regime here in Edinburgh for many, many years. The urge to ban and regulate will not go away, so why not go for an alcohol ban? Outrageous, you will be saying. Criminalise whisky production? Close all of our pubs? Well, we could wipe out the evil tourist industry once-and-for-all, thus ending the need for Scots to be "servile" to visitors who've probably got too much money anyway. The horrible truth is that plenty of our politicians do think that way. Mark my words - if alcohol isn't banned within 10 years, the campaign will certainly have started.

There's a letter...

... in today's Scotsman from F&W reader Andrew Duffin.

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Where to start the cuts

The boom in local council "jobs" continues:
Official statistics from the Scottish Executive showed that council staff, both full- and part-time, have increased by nearly 10,000 in the space of a year to 315,414. Much of the increase was said by councils to be due to the recruitment of front-line and support staff in areas like social work and educational support.
Cutting any of those jobs at random probably wouldn't do much harm but why not start with some of the "education" bureaucrats? Far from supporting learning, some of those folk are actively discouraging it:
MINISTERS have warned local authorities not to ignore guidelines on home education amid claims that some councils are obstructing parents’ attempts to remove their children from school, The Scotsman can reveal.
If the ministers are serious (which I doubt), why not cut off the money?

The perils of fiat money

Thanks to Free Republic for this one;
GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Charges have been dropped against a woman who paid for clothes with a fake $200 bill that featured President Bush's picture and the serial number DUBYA4U2001.

Westmoreland County prosecutors dropped all charges Friday against Deborah L. Trautwine, 51, after she paid the store in real currency.

Trautwine wasn't aware that the bill wasn't actual legal tender, said her attorney, Harry Smail Jr.

A clerk at a Fashion Bug clothing store also apparently was fooled by the funny money.

She gave Trautwine $100.58 in change following an August transaction.

There is no $200 denomination bill, even without Bush's picture on it.

The back of the phony bill depicted the White House with several signs erected on the front lawn, including those reading "We Like Broccoli" and "USA Deserves A Tax Cut."

That broccoli sign should have been a giveaway. Surely the President wouldn't want to upset his father

Monday, 15 November 2004

Another boring week in Scottish politics

Everyone's heard about the recent attack on Scottish property rights. I can't really say that I was surprised that smoking in "public places" (mainly private actually) is to be banned. After all, banning things is what turns MSPs on and how they must have revelled in last week's worldwide publicity over the onward march of the Scottish Nanny. But even I couldn't have foreseen what would happen next.

On the same day as voting to ban smoking in a whole range of private premises a Liberal Democrat MSP was caught smoking a cigar in a no smoking zone inside the hallowed portals of the Scottish parliament building itself. In an almost Clintonesque explanation, Mr Purvis said:

"It wasn't in the office, it was out of a window in the MSP block."
Aha! Well that's all right then, but how the Scottish people, smokers and non-smokers alike, laughed.

Next we heard the extraordinary news that Tommy Sheridan was no longer leader of the Scottish Socialists. I am finding it difficult to keep up with the changing rumours about whether the Great Prole resigned or was fired by the other comrades but it does seem that he is to spend more time with his family. On to the next story.

Almost all of the 129 MSPs, together with assorted hacks (but sadly not yours truly), spent Thursday evening at the Scottish Politician of the Year event at the Prestonfield House hotel in Edinburgh. No doubt strong drink was consumed, and nothing wrong with that. At around two in the morning a curtain caught fire in the hotel's foyer. Shortly afterwards another curtain was on fire in another room. Then we read this extraordinary news item:

Lord Watson of Invergowrie, the MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, was arrested following claims that a curtain was set on fire at the five-star Prestonfield House Hotel during a parliamentary awards ceremony attended by the First Minister and a host of Scottish politicians.

I have no idea of whether or not Watson did set fire to the curtains - and where was Holmes when he's needed, one asks. Is it not possible that Watson crept away from the crowd to have a quick smoke behind the curtains? Smoking's not yet illegal in bars but it wouldn't look too good to light up in front of the press a few days after voting to ban the very same activity. Perhaps Mike had a little accident with his matches. As the Sun would put it, you couldn't make it up.

I am sure that the whole Scottish nation is giving thanks that our lawmakers didn't perish in some terrible conflagration. This providential deliverance must be properly commemorated in years to come. We already celebrate Guy Fawkes Night on the 5th of November. Scotland must hold its own devolved bonfire night on November 12th each year. We can all let off fireworks (blue and white of course) and burn effigies of the failed Prestonfield pyrotechnician. Whoever he or she may turn out to be.

Saturday, 13 November 2004

Dunfermline man adopts Enron accounting

I wonder why the government doesn't need to use proper accounting techniques:
Billions of pounds of Government liabilities from private finance initiatives will no longer be listed on a single balance sheet, it emerged yesterday.
I was pleased to note that Tory and LibDem spokesmen are criticising this change in presentation. This quote sums things up nicely:
David Smith, an economist at Willems de Broe, said the move was part of a "remarkable degradation" in the data that is available to judge the Government's financial position. "It is hard to see who benefits from the change, apart from Treasury ministers with something to hide," he said.
A Treasury mouthpiece "declined to comment on the reasons behind the move". I guess he wants to keep his job.

Government accounts should be prepared using the same rigorous procedures that the law imposes on the private sector. Any more of this and I'll start to think that Gordon Brown is angling for a job with the Scottish Executive.

Thursday, 11 November 2004

They're getting serious now

Now that smoking's been dealt with (unless you're in prison of course), our politicians can turn their attention to more important matters. Like selecting a national song or a state bird. How on earth could we survive without these people?

F&W reader's letter

I note that Neil Craig had a letter published in the Scotsman yesterday.

Monday, 8 November 2004

I'm PC Plod and I'm not reporting for duty

It seems that the police have worked out that a smoking ban in so-called public places will create a few difficulties. And, amazingly, the cops have told the politicians that they won't enforce any such ban:
SENIOR police officers have told ministers they would not be prepared to enforce the Scottish Executive’s planned ban on smoking in public places.

The warning opens the way for new teams of "smoking police" employed by local authorities or health boards, who will target pubs and clubs once a ban is imposed.

This is excellent news and perhaps a first sign that senior police officers realise that the public wants them to concentrate on catching criminals instead of becoming the storm troopers for an illiberal nanny state.

Last year I described the British police as "the paramilitary wing of the Guardian newspaper." That was written back in the days when the once proud voice of Manchester liberalism had degenerated into being the mouthpiece of the social-working classes, a group that increasingly seemed to include our police forces.

Now, all has changed. The Guardian has won President Bush a famous victory, as noted by Rod Liddle:

The Guardian directly delivered Clark County for Bush. And hence Ohio for Bush. And further hence, America for Bush.

So by extension, you can also blame The Guardian for the bombardment of Falluja, the invasion of Iran, the invasion of Syria, thousands of Islamofascist nutters blowing themselves up everywhere from Baghdad to Bank Tube station, dirty bombs and anthrax in Canary Wharf and Times Square, a swift retaliatory and punitive response from the USA on the central mosque in Mecca and world war three.

Yes indeed. And, if the police continue to be closet Guardian readers, it's a new type of paper they're looking at. Having overthrown the elitist Massachusetts Democrat it must only be a matter of time before the Guardian helps rid us of our own elitist, the illiberal Lanarkshire Labourite. I'm sure that most policemen will agree. They know it makes sense.


Those guys over on Free Republic sure know how to have fun with Photoshop.

Saturday, 6 November 2004

Mentioning the War

On Wednesday lunchtime I was having a quiet pint in my local. A group of German football fans came in and sat at the next table. They were the advance guard for the UEFA game against Heart of Midlothian the following evening. I was reading the Scotsman and they were reading the Daily Express (I think). On the front page of their paper was a headline along the lines of “Queen forced to dine in Hitler’s bunker”. This caused considerable amusement. Then one of the Germans pointed to the poppy at the top of the front page of his paper and then over to the poppies on sale at the bar. One of them turned to me and asked, “Why are so many people wearing those red flowers?” I replied that they were to commemorate British soldiers who had died in wars. The Germans nodded and one of them went over to buy another round. When he returned I was pleased to note that he was wearing a poppy.

The only downside was the result the next night…

Friday, 5 November 2004

The new political geography

We've all seen the red and blue maps of the various states. (Red = Republican, blue = Democrat.)

It's interesting to see an equivalent map showing the vote by county:

Some people think that this is the outcome:

Libertarians and elections

Stuart has criticised libertarians for not taking part in elections:
"Libertarians" are disnonourable, they are not democrats: they shun elections.
I think that it is useful to have a look at the very first publication of the Libertarian Alliance, the UK's leading libertarian organisation. Here is part of what was written way back in 1979:
IDEAS CHANGE SLOWLY Although ideas sometimes change slightly as a direct result of the political cut-and-thrust, fundamental ideas usually change slowly. There are entrenched assumptions which cannot be challenged by anyone who wishes to be politically influential. Politicians of a reflective disposition will often admit that a certain policy has great merits, but will add that it is “politically impossible”, because it goes against ruling opinions inherited from the past.

BUT IDEAS CHANGE Yet these fundamental ideas do change. In the Wealth of Nations Smith ridiculed the possibility that free trade could ever be introduced in Britain. A few decades later, it substantially had been, and the Wealth of Nations was largely responsible. Other examples include the rapid spread of Marxism in Europe before the First World War, and in recent years the sudden collapse of the monolithic Keynesian consensus. In both these cases, preparatory developments in earlier decades, which might have seemed quite inconsequential to many, were vital.

As a result of such changes, the parameters of politics shift. What was politically possible becomes politically impossible, and what was politically impossible may even become impossible to resist.

HOW IDEAS CHANGE It is a mistake to think that these changes occur by means of a gradual diffusion of slight influences affecting the mass of people uniformly. Free trade, Marxism and monetarism did not gain influence because millions of ordinary people found them day by day that bit more appealing. They spread because they were adopted by small groups of people who turned out to be influential propagandists. These ideas were picked up by individuals atypical of the mass, variously known as “intellectuals”, “propagandists” or “purveyors of second-hand ideas”. After decades of these ideas being discussed by little coteries in unprepossessing journals and grubby meeting halls, barely noticed by the surounding world and without any great effect upon it, the ideas were disseminated more widely and in due course played their part in the rise and fall of empires.

Within the community of intellectuals there is the same hierarchial relationship as within society at large: the groundling intellectuals tardily accept the ideas advanced earlier by higher-order intellectuals.

Very roughly, the ideas which make the running in current social policy are the ideas embraced by the lower-order intellectuals twenty years earlier, and by the higher-order intellectuals fifty years earlier. There are many important exceptions and qualifications to this picture, but it is much more accurate than the theory that millions of people spontaneously change their ideas, a bit at a time, in a direction which appeals to them. Very few people would accept that latter theory if stated in those words, but they implicitly accept it when they come to the task of persuading the world to implement whatever particular policies they hold dear. They ask themselves how all those people out there in the street can be directly worked upon in order to imbue them with the desired outlook and assumptions. But that is an adman’s question, the wrong question, and if it is asked, the correct answer (that there is no way it can be done) will be unnecessarily dispiriting.

The use of the term “intellectuals” above should not be misinterpreted. The intellectuals or propagandists who matter are not necessarily very intelligent or well-qualified. A few may happen to be academics, but most will not be.

MASS PUBLICY NOT THE AIM What all this means in concrete terms is that a libertarian propaganda group primarily aims to recruit a number (small by necessity) of committed and knowledgeable adherents to libertarian doctrine. The group should not be much concerned with the direct results of publicityseeking efforts or of campaigning for particular political measures.

All of the group’s activities should be judged in the light of long-term propaganda. The group will seek some media attention and will effortlessly receive more, and will agitate and campaign on particular issues. It will be a welcome bonus if any of these efforts are intrinsically successful, but it will be no great tragedy if they have no effect on legislation or on mass opinion. Their main value is in recruiting the few potential libertarian propagandists, and in helping to educate those already recruited.

The recruiting of one committed and knowledgeable libertarian activist is of immensely more value than thousands of pages of publicity in the national press or thousands of hours of TV exposure. Those pages and hours of media coverage might result in the obtaining of several recruits. But recruits to what? If it be recruits to an organisation for getting further pages and hours of coverage, it is futile, if not harmful.

Shallow free market sympathisers sometimes come to us and say: “Why don’t you do something?” The answer is that we are doing something, invariably far more even in crude man-hours than the speaker, and he is welcome to help us in what we are doing, provided he understands and sympathizes with it. What he has in mind, however, is some attention- getting campaign. In other words he wants us to allocate time and energy we now allocate to doing something important (higherorder, long-term propaganda) and allocate it to doing something ephemeral and silly.

And in conclusion:
NO NEED FOR A LINE Among matters controversial within the libertarian movement, on which the group does not at this stage need to have a settled “line” are: the comparative merits of various economic methodologies (e.g. Austrian or Chicago), the ethical bases of libertarianism (e.g. natural rights or utilitarianism), foreign policy in the current world situation (e.g. unilateral disarmament or support for NATO), the political organization of a libertarian society (anarchism or minimal statism), the merits of particular productive techniques (e.g. nuclear generation of electricity), abortion and the rights of children. These are debated vigorously within the group, and it may be that in years to come some of the issues will be so clarified that a definite line is indicated. Or it may be that when the group is much bigger there will be room for more independent groups taking a definite stand on such questions, in addition to continuing the LA as the broad “alliance”.

There is also a wide area of propaganda strategy on which no uniform line is necessary. For example, most members of the Libertarian Alliance are not members or supporters of any political party. There are a few LA members in each of several political parties. So far as we can judge, most are opposed to forming a libertarian political party, but a few would favour that. There is continuing debate about the merits of these strategies, and it would be quite inappropriate for the LA as an organization to rule which was the best. There are similar differences on the wisdom of working within various pressure groups, such as Amnesty International or the National Council for Civil Liberties.

For obvious historical reasons there are far more libertarians in the US than elsewhere and some of them do indeed take part in elections. Have a look at what happened on Tuesday:
Badnarik's total of 379,229 votes continued to increase as late vote counts trickled in. Trailing behind were the Constitution Party's Michael Peroutka, with 130,285 votes, and the Green Party's David Cobb, with 105,808. [All vote totals from USA Today's web site.] Badnarik's name appeared on 48 state ballots, plus D.C., compared to 35 for Peroutka and 27 for Cobb.
So some libertarians do contest elections - even for the US presidency - and perform better than the Greens. In Britain, most of us chose to follow the strategy laid out in the LA's document that I have quoted from.

A warm welcome to:

Arthur's Seat, another Edinburgh blog.

Just saying no

I note that the canny folk from North East England have rejected the proposed regional assembly:
The total number of people voting against the plans was 696,519 (78%), while 197,310 (22%) voted in favour. Official figures showed 47.8% of the region's 1.9 million voters took part in the all-postal ballot.
I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the "no" majority and the reasonable turnout. There wasn't really any similarity to the Scottish devolution referendum: Scotland has a clearly identifiable national culture and well-defined territory together with its own legal system. That's not the case in the English regions where the very boundaries are often the invention of the Whitehall bureaucratic mind.

This appeared in the Scotsman earlier in the week:

The scandal over the spiralling cost of the building and its numerous delays is the only aspect of Scottish devolution that many voters in the north-east know about - and they do not want to make the same mistakes in their region.

One Labour MP confirmed that the problems of the Holyrood building had been raised by many voters over the last few weeks of campaigning, and the only way it could be countered was to insist that no new buildings would be constructed to house the North-east Assembly.

But when we had our referendum in Scotland no one expected that we would be made to pay for a new parliament building - the Royal High School was ready and waiting on Calton Hill. Why then would the people of north-east England not have a sneaking suspicion that they would be lumbered with one too?

Monday, 1 November 2004

And about time too

I think that this is good news, don't you?
Dozens of "witches" executed in a Scottish town more than 400 years ago are to be pardoned to mark Halloween.

Prestonpans, in East Lothian, will grant the pardons under ancient feudal powers which are about to disappear.

Descendants and namesakes of the 81 people executed are expected to attend Sunday's ceremony.

More than 3,500 Scots, mainly women, were executed during the Reformation, for crimes such as owning a black cat and brewing up home-made remedies

It's probably just as well that I came into the world in the 20th Century. Although not a woman, I was born in Scotland. I once owned a cat and I have indeed brewed home-made ginger beer. On top of that, there's a broomstick in the kitchen and I've even worked in Prestonpans for a few weeks. A narrow escape I think.

If any of you are still around in 400 years you may be able to attend another ceremony in East Lothian. Perhaps there will be a pardon for our political parties.

For the Conservatives - for never actually conserving anything.

For the Liberal Democrats - for misuse of the word "liberal".

For the Scottish Nationalists - for alienating anyone who may favour independence but not socialism.

For the Labour Party - for being the party of dependency at the expense of those who actually perform useful labour.

A great deal of confusion in a nation

There's a letter today from the anti-property rights group Action on Smoking and Health. As always, these people show absolutely no understanding of the concept of private property and why it is so important for the continuance of civilisation:
ASH Scotland believes that the time has come for decisive action to be taken to improve our countries’ poor health record and end smoking in all enclosed public places.
No. No No. A place does not become "public" merely because its owner allows other people to enter it. My house is not "public" when I allow the meter man to check on my electricity usage. Decisions on whether or not smoking should be allowed should be made by the relevant property owners. If they get it wrong, they'll go out of business.

The letter from ASH claims that the Scottish Executive's consultation was fair despite what seems to me to be valid criticism from the licensed trade:

The SLTA’s claim is based on the fact that it requested, along with Tennants and Belhaven breweries, for 210,000 forms to put out in its members’ pubs. This request for so many forms naturally took the Executive a couple of weeks to fulfil.
It looks clear that the consultation process was flawed. I must say that I did read the form on the Executive's website but I don't imagine for a moment that many non-political junkies bothered to do so. I didn't bother to leave any comment as I have little doubt that the politicians will do what they want whatever the public says. Just like what will happen when we are asked for our views on the EU Constitution.