Sunday, 26 March 2006

Power struggle

A few months ago the City Council sent me details of a property development that's planned about half a mile from here. Under the planning laws those who may be affected have the right to have their say. I couldn't see any way in which the development in question could possibly impact on my property. But last Wednesday this thing appeared opposite my kitchen window:

Originally uploaded by David Farrer.

I've got quite used to the windmill now - it makes no noise and it's facscinating to see just how often the wind direction changes. But I wonder why the neighbours weren't consulted considering that we were asked about new homes being constructed half a mile away. I presume that it's all to do with the green cult - we can't go questioning that, can we? Anyway, I'm just informing anyone who's in the neighbourhood that I'm performing a limited test of my own home-built nuclear generator some time next week. It's only fair to let you know.

Only following orders

About twice a year I get a nasty cold. It always starts with a sore throat, then there's a lot of sneezing and next the chest gets bunged up. After a few days it gets better. The latest cold started on Thursday. When I went to see the doctor a few years ago he prescribed no pills but gave two instructions:

(1) Take a lot of rest, and
(2) Avoid smoky pubs.

I finished work early on Friday and went straight home without enjoying an end of-week pint. This morning I "rested" by lying on the sofa and reading some more of William Hague's biography of William Pitt. But what about the second instruction?

It suddenly dawned on me that the Scottish parliament's latest attack on property rights that came into force today must have been timed to coincide with my cold. So I went to the (non-smoky) pub and had a couple of pints.

Only following the doctor's orders.

Tuesday, 21 March 2006

The Holyrood fiasco

Peter Wilson of Napier University has an interesting article in today's Scotsman:
The root problem, however - and this is true of many so-called "iconic" buildings today - is the presumption by some architects that if a form can be drawn and modelled on computer it is capable, with technology, of being constructed.
It struck me that there is a parallel with politicians. They too come up with all kinds of madcap schemes that may look OK on paper but which fail the test of working in real life.

Chris Tame

It is my sad duty to announce the death of my dear friend, Dr Chris Tame. As my own modem broke down yesterday I was unable to post anything to this site until arriving at work this morning. I am taking the liberty of posting this message from Dr Sean Gabb who now takes over as director of the Libertarian Alliance. I travelled down to London last Tuesday and met Chris for the last time and can confirm Sean's description of Chris's bravery as he faced the end. Without Chris, I would never have discovered the libertarian movement and, like so many others, can say that Chris changed my life.
It is with the deepest regret that I must announce the death of Dr Chris R. Tame, Founder and President of the Libertarian Alliance.

Chris founded the Libertarian Alliance in the early 1970s. During the next 30 years, he worked tirelessly to recover the British libertarian tradition as a seamless heritage of freedom. He took issue with those Conservatives who saw freedom in terms purely of pounds and pence - and often not even as that. He took issue also with those who demanded freedom in all matters but those involving the getting and spending of money. He believed that freedom should be defined in the traditional English sense, as the rights to life, liberty and justly acquired property.

In July 2005, Chris was diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive form of bone cancer. Though only 55 at the time, and though he had avoided all those vices commonly believed to be dangerous, he took this diagnosis with great calmness. During the next eight months, he faced his approaching end with a fortitude and good humour that was an inspiration to those around him.

To the very end, he retained a keen interest in public affairs and in the welfare of his friends and loved ones. On his last day, he made sure to check his e-mails.

Chris died peacefully in his sleep at 3:37pm GMT on Monday the 20th March 2006. He was never alone during his last six days. Mrs Helen Evans and Dr Sean Gabb were by his side at the end.

Chris was married and divorced twice. He left no children.

Dr Gabb will make a further announcement in the next few days of the funeral arrangments. In the meantime, all further correspondence should be directed to him.

Chris leaves the Libertarian Alliance in the hands of Dr Timothy Evans and Dr Sean Gabb, who as President and Director, hope to carry on its work through the first decades of the 21st century.

-- Sean Gabb Director, the Libertarian Alliance

Monday, 20 March 2006

The end of the peer show

What a useless response from the Conservatives (sic):
Tory leader David Cameron will propose a cap on fundraising and an element of state funding, the cost of which could be offset by having fewer MPs.
There's no reason at all why one penny of taxpayers' money should be used to fund political parties. And if we can get by with fewer MPs (and we can) why doesn't Daveboy call for that anyway? The real question is whether MPs should be paid at all. And the answer is "No". Instead of nonsensical proposals to allow sixteen-year-olds to become MPs, we should be restricting membership of Parliament to those who have worked for at least ten years in the real economy and have saved enough money to finance their period in the legislature.

Sunday, 19 March 2006

Losing the head

It seems that the Scottish Parliament's roof malfunction has a simple explanation:
George Reid, the Presiding Officer, announced yesterday that the fiasco over the broken beam was caused by a £1.50 steel bolt and a workman earning £25 an hour who twisted the bolt so far the wrong way, the head almost came off.
I once suggested that the eventual cost would be £500 million. Who's to say it won't be?

Everyone seems to have focused on the additional expenditure caused by the roof problem. I want to raise another issue. The government seems to be determined that everyone goes to university, however bog-standard, but doesn't value people who actually make, maintain or clean the bogs. In the Scotland of the fifties and sixties, a few people attended very elitist universities and many, many others trained in industry through apprenticeships. I well recall an acquaintance who left school at fifteen to become an apprentice and who was doing the kind of maths in his evening classes that would have challenged those of us who stayed on at school till eighteen.

The question is this: would a society that valued apprenticeships as much as degrees produce "a workman earning £25 an hour" who didn't know how to tighten "a £1.50 steel bolt"?

Thursday, 16 March 2006

You've got to laugh

I know we shouldn't, but I can't help smiling about this:
A bogus police officer ordered a woman who was smoking on a Glasgow train platform to pay a £20 on-the-spot fine.
The unintended results of political actions!

But didn't East Germany abolish unemployment by hiring half of the population to spy on the other half? Can't we achieve full employment in Scotland by getting the non-smoking half of the population to keep an eye on the rest? It's Keynesian economics for the 21st century!

Monday, 13 March 2006

There ought to be a law against it!

On second thoughts, perhaps not. But Gordon McLean, a fellow Rebus fan, certainly has a point.

I feel his pain:

I have my copies of every previous Rebus paperback arranged in order on a shelf in the living room. They are all the same A format paperback size (178mm by 111mm if you really want to know), have the same styling and are all neatly numbered on the back. They look neat and tidy sitting directly underneath a shelf that has quite a few Iain Banks novels, all with the same styled black and white covers (i.e. not his Sci-Fi stuff). Neat and tidy.

So imagine my disgust when, upon opening that clever Amazon packaging, I find a book that is a completely different size to, and has a completely different cover design from, all the other Rebus books I own.

Of course, if I weren't an anarcho-capitalist I would be demanding a law against these outrages. And it's not just Inspector Rebus: I mean YOU, the Policy Institute, and YOU, Outdoor Photography magazine, and even YOU the Scotsman. We liked you all the size you were. Thank goodness for the decades-long quiet conservatism of the Prestwick Airport Letter (no link, no colour, few photos - just like it was in the '60s!).

So, if there can't be "a law against it", what's to be done?

Surely, the answer's obvious. One of us should write a crime thriller in which the offending publishers are mysteriously bumped off, one by one, in a manner so diabolical and fiendish that even Inspector Rebus can't work out whodunit, never mind the motive.

The attack on property rights

There are only a couple of weeks to go before it becomes illegal for publicans to allow smoking in their premises. I understand that several Scottish pubs are planning a big send off for yet another of our liberties. Apparently, quite a few are going to hold big smoking events on the final night with private "lock-ins" taking place up to the last minute.

Incidentally, I went into a very traditional working class pub on Leith Walk last week. It was filled with smokers. I discovered that there's a lot of anger in this solidly Labour-voting part of town. Let's hope that the Labour vote disappears - in a puff of smoke, so to speak.

Here we go again

It's our money he's talking about:
The first minister has promised to make resources available if the Commonwealth Games come to Scotland.
Why can't politicians be straightforward and say "I'm going to spend your money"?

"Resources." Bah.

Thursday, 9 March 2006

The most important news of the week

Oor Wullie is seventy years old.

And if you click on the link (or watch it on TV tomorrow) you'll see that Wullie's creators were on the Nazi hit list. All because of a cartoon. Plus ca change...

David Beckham in Dumfriesshire?

My little company received a mailshot today from Hampden Park. I'm invited to purchase a number of the VIP Hospitality Packages for the forthcoming Scottish Cup semi-finals. The price is £199 (plus VAT) per person and for that you get quite a reasonable package of goodies: hot filled rolls, pastries, croissants, refreshments, champagne, 3 course lunch with wine, post match 2 hour bar, corporate gift, parking and, of course, match tickets. Most of the news has been about whether the Hearts v Hibs semi-final should be played at Hampden at all. But what about the other match: Gretna v Hamilton Accies or Dundee?

I was born a few miles from Gretna and find it amazing that such a tiny town has such a successful football club. Now, what if Gretna get to the final and beat Hearts or Hibs? Then, presumably, they qualify to play in Europe next year. I look forward to travelling down to Gretna to see them smash Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Victoria Beckham will find the pubs in nearby Annan to be rather different from Madrid's restaurants, but I am sure that she'll be made most welcome.

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Do nations need capital cities?

In today's Scotsman there is an article by Ken Houston who is concerned about the implications of moving government jobs out of Edinburgh.

I have mixed feelings about this. Firstly of course, most of these jobs shouldn't exist at all, at least in the public sector. Once they've been privatised we'll see soon enough whether the remaining jobs should be in the capital or elsewhere. Let the market decide. Secondly, I can sympathise with taxpayers outside of Edinburgh who must be rather annoyed that so much of their money is being spent in one city, albeit one in which I live and undoubtedly benefit from its capital status. On balance though, I think that I favour the decentralisation of public sector employment.

Mr Houston makes another point:

The benefits of relocation notwithstanding, all should recognise that an economically buoyant Edinburgh is in everyone's interest: you cannot have a vibrant country without a vibrant capital city.
Is this correct? I don't think so - Edinburgh's (and London's) prosperity is to some considerable extent caused by governmental spending at the expense of the rest of the country.

Think about this: If Bern were to disappear off the face of the earth, would the rest of Switzerland continue more or less as before? I suspect that the answer is "Yes".

Monday, 6 March 2006

Empty and expensive.

Even when New Labour drives you to drink, there's a catch.

Cops and robbers politicians

I'll be watching the excellent Ken Stott playing Inspector Rebus on TV tonight. Stott is a great improvement on John Hannah as Rebus, although Hannah is a fine actor in other roles. Stott has the necessary dour grumpiness that is so much part of the Inspector's persona in Ian Rankin's wonderful novels.

Rebus' rival in the world of fictional Edinburgh detectives is Bob Skinner, created by Quintin Jardine. Unlike the distinctly anti-establishment Rebus, Skinner moves smoothly up through the ranks in the Jardine books and is now Deputy Chief Constable. I am currently reading the latest in the series and there is a fascinating sub-plot that is all too topical. The First Minister of Scotland is about to introduce a law that will politicise the police force and make senior officers toe his party's line. It's very obvious that the party in question is Labour. The Justice Minister is opposed to the new law and has sought Skinner's help and advice. I've no doubt that the good guys will win - they always do in these books. But I can't help wondering if Jardine is having a go at all-too-similar developments in real life. After all, Jardine used to be a PR man for the Scottish Tories...

Sunday, 5 March 2006

Global warming hits back at politicians!

I note that Bjorn Lomborg is to visit Holyrood:
A CONTROVERSIAL author who claims climate change has been exaggerated has been invited to address MSPs.

Bjorn Lomborg, who argues that the world should end its “obsession” with global warming, will make his case in the parliament later this year. The move has been welcomed by his critics, who say the Danish academic’s appearance will give them a chance to expose his views.

I had hoped that Mr Lomborg would be able to expose some of the myths about global warming. But I have a horrible feeling that the Greens may hold a trump card:
STRONG sunlight and weak glue may have been the fateful combination which caused a beam to swing loose from the roof of the debating chamber at the Scottish Parliament, an architectural expert claimed today.
It was the sunlight wot did it!

(By the way, if the Parliament had been built in Glasgow there would have been none of this nonsense about "weak glue".)

Thursday, 2 March 2006

In the wet

I notice that remedial work is to be undertaken at Holyrood following an unfortunate accident that befell a tourist:
Police have put crash barriers at the front of the building after a sightseer - who was gazing up at the structure - accidentally stumbled into the water.
We can't have visitors drowning outside the Parliament building, can we?

But read on:

The water is only a few inches deep and the person, who was unhurt, did not complain.
We hear about "political correctness gone mad" (although PC is actually a carefully planned Gramscian attack on western values) but surely this is an example of health 'n' safety gone mad. I mean, I stepped in a puddle a few months ago: shouldn't Edinburgh be sealed off? Or perhaps we should all be supplied with water wings.

Holyrood's falling down.
They're being sued over the building contract.
None of this is anyone's fault)

Your taxes at work

Do you remember reading about the new policy for ministerial cars that was announced recently:
THEY are fashionable, environment-friendly and even allow the driver to escape the congestion charge.

Ministers are to receive the first green cars to grace the Government’s fleet.

In future they will be given a choice of ministerial vehicle: the Toyota Prius, also a petrol-electric hybrid used by the Prince of Wales, or a Jaguar powered by “clean” biodiesel.

I just happened to be walking past Bute House at around 8.45 this morning and couldn't help noticing that one of Scotland's ministerial limos was parked on the yellow line, no doubt waiting for the appearance of our Jack. I suppose that one can just about justify a car for our top politician, but it's not very environmentally friendly for the chauffeur to keep the engine running while the First Minister finishes his porridge. Next time, I'll perform a citizen's arrest.

Sad news

I regret to announce that Harry Browne has died. Harry was one of the people who converted me to libertarianism. I still recall my first reading of How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World well over twenty years ago. At a time when I didn't have too much money I ordered a hardcover copy to be sent by airmail from the US when the book first came out. Harry's writings on economics led me to more intensive studies that are still paying off financially to this day. Browne was presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 1996 and 2000.