Saturday, 30 July 2011

Ed Miliband Reveals His Inner Marxist

It’s always nice to be proven right when making a political prediction, and thanks to Ed Miliband, it’s happened to me once again.  For in last week’s article, I predicted that the Murdoch hysteria would be so great that it would open the door for meddling politicians to initiate entirely unnecessary legislation and unconnected governmental interference.

Hey presto, a week later and we are being told by Ed Miliband, along with a whole host of other left-wing politicians, journalists and bloggers that the Murdoch empire needs breaking up.  Miliband has called for drastic new laws governing media ownership, and slammed Mr Murdoch for having “too much power over British public life.”  Ouch!

First of all, this condemnation may or may not be true, but it has nothing to do with phone hacking.  As we have been told repeatedly over the past few weeks, phone hacking can be performed quite easily by those with the knowhow and the will to do so; it matters not what sort of market share that person commands.  Additionally, any corruption by the Met Police is an issue to do with the integrity of the police force, and has little to do with the size of News Inc and/or News Corp.

So as predicted Miliband et al have been using this scandal to promote an agenda that has nothing to do with the phone hacking saga.  It is also interesting to note that neither Miliband nor Harman (who also condemned Murdoch’s structure as “too powerful and too rich) nor Kinnock (who has this week called for a press entirely regulated by the state) didn’t see a problem with all this when The Sun was supporting Labour from 1997 to 2010.

Yet what all this really shows is Labour’s condescending belief in the Marxist concept of “false consciousness” – the idea that the working masses can be duped by big powerful capitalists and will therefore actively fight against what the Marxists say are their real interests.  This get-out clause has been trotted out time and time again when middle class Marxists discover that the proletariat they claim to be fighting for actually don’t want any of their hard left nonsense.

It is this understanding that underpins Miliband’s attack on the power of Murdoch.  For when he calls Murdoch “too powerful” what he actually means is “too successful.”  For all Murdoch has done to become powerful is to provide news sources that people want to read or watch.  For in the free market the only people who are powerful are those who are successful in continuing to meet the needs and wants of the consumers, who have their own free choice whether or not to buy the product in question.

So when I (along with millions of Brits every day) walk into my newsagent and peruse the morning’s papers, I have a choice.  I can certainly choose to read a Murdoch paper like The Sun or The Times, or I can go for The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Star, The Independent, The Observer, The Guardian or The Financial Times, along with a range of other papers that are perhaps not in wide circulation in the UK such as The Morning Star and The Wall Street Journal.  If I don’t like those choices I can shun newspapers altogether, and get my daily fix from online sites, blogs and Twitter.

Unlike the BBC – which forces taxpayers to fund it whether or not they approve of the service it provides or the views that it presents – the Murdoch Empire cannot force a single penny out of your pocket.  I for one have not purchased a Murdoch paper for years – that is the choice I have made.  Similarly, the people who do buy those papers make their own free choice every day whether or not to buy them, and read the views held inside.

Murdoch is therefore not powerful in the same way the BBC or the government are; he cannot force any money out of your pocket without you first giving it to him via the purchase of one of his products.  The only power he holds is due to the fragile and free relationship between business and each individual consumer that chooses to buy their products.  If people don’t like what is being produced, or are disgusted with the way in which they have gone about their business, they can stop buying the product immediately.  There is nothing forced about this relationship; that is, unless you subscribe to the Marxist view that the masses are nothing by mindless “sheeple” who can be brainwashed at the drop of a hat.

If the law has been broken, then the law should investigate and prosecute those involved.  Yet this should not be used by the left as an excuse to promote some pseudo-Marxist critique of the free market.  Murdoch’s power is nothing more than the fruits of success in providing the people with what they want, and in a modern Britain there should be no politicians slamming anyone for being successful in doing that.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Dunblane Syndrome Strikes Again

So, The News of the World is gone. Yet if you think the high-pitched outrage that has been yelled at you over the last week is over, think again. Not only can we be sure of a constant drip of stories over the coming months, there is also too much political capital at stake for this to just be about getting The News of the World shut down.

For by breaching every code (written and unwritten) of decency, The News of the World have created the kind of public outrage that can be very dangerous if political opportunists are allowed to get their hands upon it – and this is exactly what is happening now. It is reminiscent of a phenomenon that can correctly be termed “Dunblane Syndrome.”

The Dunblane massacre in 1996 triggered spontaneous outrage and grief from the British public. The public mood in the months after the tragedy was emotionally sensitive to say the least, drifting between grief, anger and the desire that “something must be done” to prevent another massacre of innocent schoolchildren.

It was this emotionally taut mood that Tony Blair (at that point Leader of the Opposition) used to push forward his drastic anti-gun legislation. In his 1996 speech to the Labour Party conference, he famously responded to Tory criticisms that he was guilty of emotional blackmail with this sickeningly cheap shot,

“Well, if they had been in that gym, if they had talked to those parents, sitting on the tiny chairs where once their children sat, they would have been emotional too.”

The implication was clear; if you opposed Blair’s gun legislation (which would have done little to prevent Dunblane) then you didn’t care about dead children, or were too ignorant to understand – after all, you hadn’t seen the tiny chairs! The fact that Blair’s visit to Dunblane was a bipartisan visit with the Tories, and therefore they had talked to the parents and seen the tiny chairs, wasn’t allowed to get in the way of Blair’s “passionate” speech.

Say what you like about Blair, the fact is he knew how to get things done, and this was no different. The Tories didn’t want to be seen as people who didn’t care about dead children, and so shut up, and in 1997 the legislation was passed. Fourteen years later and the fact that gun crime has almost doubled, and that we have the highest burglary rates in Europe is still irrelevant – anyone who tries to revoke or change any of those laws will be tarred with not caring about Dunblane. Poor legislation described by the Home Affairs Select Committee at that time as “panic legislation” and that would never have been passed under normal circumstances was allowed through as wily, agenda-driven politicians tapped into an emotionally sensitive atmosphere.

Fast forward fourteen years and we have The News of the World scandal; a scandal that appears to be constantly evolving. It seems that the outcry from this will not be a short thing, but will be long lasting as more and more sordid details are drip fed to the public over the next few months. This opens the door for left-wing politicians and journalists with a grudge against Murdoch (“How dare he be successful and mildly right-wing!”) to steer this outrage to implement far reaching restrictions on press freedom that have nothing to do with the News of the World scandal.

The activities The News of the World engaged in are illegal, and therefore they should be investigated and prosecuted by the police. If there are questions of police corruption (as there were in the 2006 investigation) then it is that is a separate matter and should be looked at. As David Cameron correctly stated (over the hoots and jeers of the hyenas that pass for Labour MPs), now is the time for the rule of law to work and to take its course.

But that isn’t enough for the politicians and journalists looking to use this for their own political purposes. We are hearing the constant refrain that “there must be regulation.” Ignoring the fact that there are already press regulations, one should always be cautious when one hears cries for “regulation.” For “regulation” in and of itself is neither a good nor a bad thing; it is a question of what kind of regulations we are looking at, what specific regulations will be implemented, and what problems will it seek to solve that are the important questions.

Yet in this whipped up emotional frenzy, we will not see any of those questions asked nor answered. Instead, those with a long standing grudge against a successful media empire will call for the law to be bypassed with whatever haphazard, half-arsed, over the top legislation some slapdash committee of MP’s with no clue about journalism have come up with. Then, it will be forced through Parliament, with anyone who objects to it being put down as “not caring” about Milly Dowler, the Soham girls, Gordon Brown’s son and the 7/7 victims.

The big victim of all this will be press freedom – the most fragile of all freedoms, and the first to fall on the long road to tyranny. Dunblane Syndrome strikes again.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Importance of Economic Freedom

This is a great little video about just how important economic freedom is.  In both the UK and the USA, even the limited economic freedom we enjoy today is under attack, and many people don't understand just how important it is, or believe that economic freedom only benefits millionaires and billionaires while hurting the poor.  This video helps to dispel this myth, and show the precise opposite to be true.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Have Labour Destroyed Britain's Democracy?

We often see democracy as a sturdy political machine; leaders and parties come and go, but the system of democracy remains.  This is not reality however, merely wishful thinking.  The history of man is one of tyranny after tyranny, with democratic freedom being unusual in both history, and even in our world today where most people live not in a free society, but under the iron fist of tyranny.

The quote often attributed to James Alexander Tytler states, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government.  It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”
Who actually said these words and where does not change their truthfulness, and the last Labour government has given our democracy an uncertain future.  For Labour exploited one of the “flaws” with democracy; namely that you can get elected time and time again on the back of promises to spend other people’s money, whilst leaving the economics and the bill to future politicians to deal with.

The consequences of this were on display last week, with public sector workers striking about renegotiations of what are laughably unsustainable pensions.  It gets worse when one realises that not only did Labour make these outlandish pension promises, but they made no effort to provide any sort of money to pay for it.  The tiny contributions that workers are paying into the system are only being used to dole out money for current pensions, and even that is making a loss.  There is absolutely nothing in place to pay for the public sector pensions in the future, where there will be more pensioners living for longer, and with bigger pensions.  There is no money – Britain is in denial.

Yet none of this mattered to Labour – they promised big money and contracts to the unions, and the unions responded by giving money back to the Labour Party and making it clear which way their members should vote.  Labour bought votes with taxpayer money and have left future generations to worry about how to pay up on those promises – it’s that simple. We have seen this time and time again.  The Private Finance Initiative was nothing more than a way to get schools, hospitals and other buildings built so the Labour could take the credit and the votes, while booting the bill down the road for future politicians (preferably the Tories) to worry about.

Additionally, the culture of welfarism exploded under Labour, with them even allowing the shipping in of more people from abroad to live off the back of our glorious welfare system.  This has encouraged vast segments of our population to believe that they have a right to live off the back of the state without ever working; and who will therefore vote for any party who allows this to continue.  Even those who are not relatively poor have fallen into this trap.  Recent proposals to cut housing benefit so that taxpayers are no longer paying for other people to live in expensive houses that they themselves cannot afford have been met with outright hysteria.  Polly Toynbee declared the plans to limit housing benefits to £400 a week as the Tories’ “final solution” for the poor.

Although it is laughable that £400 a week in housing benefit is remotely close to austere, Toynbee has a point in the sense that even a reduction of benefit to remotely sensible levels will cause major disruption for some families.  They have been taught that they are entitled to extravagant amounts of benefits, and have adapted their plans as a consequence.  All sorts of people, (working or not) rely on massive handouts from the state, having been promised them by Labour with the assurance that “someone else” will pay for them.  French economist Frederic Bastiat’s description of government as “that fiction whereby everybody believes that he can live at the expense of everyone else” seems apt in this situation.

Labour has therefore inculcated the myth that it is legitimate for more and more people to vote themselves more money from the public purse, and the way to do this is to vote for Labour.  Should anyone (such as the Tories) try and cut this gravy train even slightly, then they face the wrath of those people riding on that gravy train, who now make up such a large percentage of the population that it scares off any politician from making any significant cuts in fear of losing their job.

It is for this reason that the minor cuts the Coalition has made (that will not even start reducing the deficit for another three years – who knows when we will ever start working on our £1 trillion debt) have been met with such hostility.  The responsible option is the tough one, and Labour have been choosing the irresponsible easy option for years – promise to spend more on anyone who promises to vote for you, and boot the bill forward a few decades for someone else to worry about.

If Labour keep doing this, failing to acknowledge both their blame in this crisis, and not accepting that it is morally reprehensible to make unsustainable promises for future generations to deal with, then it will make it very difficult for democracy to survive.  For the road to economic meltdown is clear, and if our nation lacks the political will to get off that road due to the mass entitlement mentality created by Labour, then destruction and tyranny can only follow.

Friday, 15 July 2011

A Conservative's Guide to the Republican Primaries: Part 2

Newt Gingrich

The former Speaker of the House can be described as the veteran of the group.  Gingrich headed the Republican midterm campaign of 1994, which resulted in an unprecedented landslide for the GOP that forced President Clinton into the political centre.  Although this unwittingly allowed Clinton to win re-election in 1996, and then allowed him to take credit for the success of Republican measures, it means that Gingrich is a man who knows how to get things done politically.  He is also very eloquent when speaking — preferring cold hard logic to buzzwords — and is armed with a library of statistics at his fingertips.  However Gingrich has also been the source of infighting within the party, recently criticising Paul Ryan’s budget in a way that many felt was unnecessarily harsh.  Also, his softness on certain issues leads many of the more ideological conservatives to turn their nose up at him.  A potentially very strong candidate, with a medium chance of winning the nomination.

Sarah Palin

If you ask any man or woman in the street for the name of one Republican who may run for President, I would gamble that a comfortable majority would say “Sarah Palin.”  Since 2008 she has become (for better or for worse) an international sensation, both loved and hated in America and beyond.  Both inside and outside the Republican Party, Palin has surprisingly strong support, yet for a presidential run, those numbers quickly turn sour.  Palin is becoming the female version of radio host Rush Limbaugh; conservatives love her, but understand that a presidential run would be disastrous.  Apart from her folksy attitude that many see as unpresidential, most Republicans want the next election to be just like 2010, i.e. a referendum of the policies of Barack Obama.  Yet a Palin run would make 2012 about Sarah Palin, not about Barack Obama, leading many people to vote for Obama simply because he isn’t Sarah Palin.  It is for this reason above all that make Sarah Palin unlikely to win the nomination, if she chooses to run for it at all.  The conservative mood seems to be that Palin has a great number of skills, but becoming president isn’t one of them.

Jon Huntsman

Every set of candidates always has a “centrist” amongst them; one who eschews “ideological” politics, choosing instead that lovely buzzword of “pragmatism.”  Jon Huntsman is that candidate this year, having served as the Ambassador to China under Obama, and the one posing as the moderate.  This moderate stance is based mainly on attitude rather than policies (fiscally Huntsman is very conservative, although liberal on climate change, immigration and gay marriage), recently stating that he wanted his to be a civil campaign based on only differences of opinion rather than nasty attacks and loud rhetoric.  Such a statement has put him out of the race for many conservatives, who see this as naive in the extreme.  What is worse for Huntsman is that he is being labelled as this election’s John McCain – who also posed as a moderate obsessed with civility.  Most Republicans would be unlikely to pick yet another candidate who could only mumble in disagreement while being more concerned with not offending Obama than winning the election.  Republicans seem determined not make the McCain mistake again, and are therefore unlikely to go for Jon Huntsman.

Rick Perry

Rick Perry has been Governor of Texas since 2000, and has long been rumoured to be running for President in 2012; but as of yet he has not declared.  He is worth mentioning not only because he is likely to run, but because the conservative base is so excited about him.  A run from Perry, even late on, could be a real game changer. He is seen as a strong conservative who would still have excellent national appeal, and he has a long career of success as a tax cutter who balanced budgets.  In the Bachmann/Cain style of candidates, he has the ability to speak powerfully and inspire audiences with his fierce conservative rhetoric, and would be competing to be the candidate of the right if he were to run.  Yet his likeability and record of success means that a Perry candidacy could appeal to the mainstream as well, and it is here wherein lies his power.  Perry is seen by his supporters as proving that one does not have to be a wishy-washy moderate in order to appeal to mainstream Americans.  Whether they are correct is yet to be seen.

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is in the Pawlenty school of candidates in that he is running and yet it is difficult to get too enthusiastic about him.  Although known for his confrontational style of politics, he has failed to show that style in recent debates, and has failed to make a significant impression on the race so far.  The former Senator for Pennsylvania has solid conservative credentials, but often fails to offer anything particularly unique.  He is a fiscal and social conservative who was also a Senator for a while; but that’s about it.  Additionally, many conservatives are bothered by certain statements he has made in the past; for instance, while speaking on the Boston Catholic Church sex abuse crisis, he placed some of the blame on the shoulders of Boston cultural liberalism, declaring “it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”  Although such statements are rare, they could provide the final nail in the coffin of a candidate who already doesn’t offer a great deal.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Conservative's Guide to the Republican Primaries: Part 1

Although the Republican nomination for the next Presidential election will not be chosen until early 2012, those who intend to run for the position are beginning to make themselves known, with two notable debates taking place over the last month. Over the next two article, I’m going to give a brief rundown of some of the main candidates.

Mitt Romney

If you were a betting man or woman, the wise money would be on Romney. The former businessman and governor of Massachusetts was a strong candidate for the 2008 nomination, but just missed out to John McCain, and therefore has been named “the establishment choice.” Strong in debates, good with the media, generally solid on conservative issues and with a somewhat presidential look about him, he has the potential to be a strong candidate for 2012. He has three big problems facing him; the first is the Massachusetts’ healthcare law he passed, dubbed “Romneycare”. With one of Obama’s weaknesses being his unpopular healthcare reforms, Romney will find it difficult to take advantage of that particular weakness due to the similarities between the two laws. His second problem is linked to the first – many conservatives are sceptical about whether he is a “true” conservative; with commentators pointing both to Romneycare, and to his flip-flopping on the subject of abortion. Finally, his Mormon faith – although more common in the USA than the UK – is still perceived by many Americans as weird, and will also make the evangelical segment of the conservative grassroots uncomfortable. Romney is still the bookies favourite, but he is by no means perfect, nor is he a shoe-in.

Michelle Bachmann

Unfairly, Congresswoman Bachmann was, until a few months ago, seen by many as a poor man’s Sarah Palin. A darling of the Tea Party, the ex tax attorney and mother of 5 (as well as foster carer of 23) was known for her strong conservatism, combatative stances on issues, and fiercely polemic rhetoric against the Democrats and the current President, and was seen as much more of a fringe candidate – possibly second in line to Palin. Yet her performances in the Republican presidential debates have been outstanding, and she was considered by many (including this writer) to have easily won the most recent debate. A lot more straight-laced and less folksy than Palin, and with a fiercer, clearer speaking style as well as a successful record of leading and getting things done in Congress, Bachmann has the potential to be a powerful candidate. She is still an outsider, but as is a rising star within the GOP who is even beginning to eclipse the once mighty Sarah Palin, it is by no means impossible that she could gain the nomination.

Tim Pawlenty

In any set of candidates, there is always one about whom there is little to say. Tim Pawlenty fits that role perfectly. The governor of Minnesota is running on a strongly conservative campaign, but it is sometimes difficult to tell due to his flat language and often poor delivery. His emphasis has been on social issues, specifically on opposing gay marriage and on limiting abortion for all but the most extreme cases. This could easily be a misstep, as the conservative mood at the moment tends to be less concerned with social issues and more concerned with the economy. Also, however socially conservative he may be, Bachmann will always match him, and do it convincingly. Some conservatives have also questioned his conservative credentials, pointing to some large tax-hikes as governor, a state-wide smoking ban and mandatory ethanol mixtures with gasoline. Ultimately, Pawlenty is supported by those who believe that all that is needed to win 2012 is to elect a standard candidate who won’t rock the boat and who will point to Obama’s failings. Those of us who believe that it will need more than that to beat Obama will want someone other than this uninspiring governor.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul is the true radical of the Republican Party; he is best described as an out and out libertarian as opposed to a conservative. Famously given the motto by The Onion – “Fiscally I’m a right-wing nutjob, but on social issues I’m f**king insanely liberal”, this sums up Paul’s strengths and weaknesses at the same time. He has shown himself to have a broad base of support that reaches out well beyond traditional areas of Republican support. His fierce dedication to the free market and his small government, low tax economics makes him attractive to conservatives, while his isolationist foreign policy stance and social liberalism on issues such as gay marriage and drugs (but not abortion – he is pro-life) opens his appeal up to many on the left as well. Yet, while he has been winning straw poll after straw poll, leading many to believe he can win the nomination, his broad base is also his potential weakness. A Ron Paul presidential run risks falling between two stools by failing to appeal to conservatives due to his socially liberal policies and pacifist foreign policy, while failing to appeal to the left due to his economic policies. Simply put, a Ron Paul run would be an enormous gamble, and could result in a landslide for the Republicans, or an easy second term for Obama – there is no middle ground with Ron Paul.

Herman Cain

The Baptist minister and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza is easily the character of the bunch so far. Sounding strangely like Samuel L Jackson (one is waiting for him to yell “They speak English in What?” at any moment), Cain has won many people over with his straight-talking yet jocular debating style. The unique appeal of the only black candidate currently running lies in his success in the private sector: he boasts that he is not a know-it-all politician, but instead a business man who knows how to get the right people in to get things done. In a straw poll as to who won the first Republican presidential debate, Cain won easily and has support from both the Republican mainstream and from the Tea Party. His strength is certainly his private sector experience, as well as his excellent debating style which leads many conservatives to believe he could destroy Obama in the debates. His biggest weakness is that his jocular style means people don’t take him seriously as a candidate. Additionally, his unusual claim that he would be uncomfortable appointing Muslims in his Cabinet as they may support Sharia Law is one that has drawn criticism from all sides of the political spectrum, and leaves many wondering whether Cain is a lunatic disguised as a legitimate candidate. Cain is still an outsider, but not be dismissed outright.