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After the Welfare State

By Sara Scarlett
September 19th, 2012 at 10:00 pm | No Comments | Posted in Economics, Government, Opinion, Welfare State

Social democracy has failed. The fiscal excesses of Welfare States all over Europe have come home to haunt them. My generation has to pay for those excesses and face poorer services than our parents enjoyed. Cradle-to-grave welfare has been an unsuccessful experiment and very few have been brave enough to articulate an alternative vision. One of these brave men is Tom Palmer and his new book, a collaboration with Students for Liberty, entitled ‘After the Welfare State’ is a must read – your future depends on it.

In ‘After the Welfare State,’ Palmer provides a compelling case for a return to mutual aid.  Destroyed in the social upheaval of the two World Wars, mutual aid organisations, also known as friendly societies, thrived in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. The narrative some would like you to believe is that the poor were helpless and bereft of the means to better their lot before the advent of the Welfare State. This is one of the most damaging historical falsehoods ever told. Indeed, the story of America would not be the same were it not for mutual aid. It’s demise was engineered by motivations that were sometimes rascist deliberately seeking to inhibit the self-sufficiency of immigrant and ethnic groups.

These remarkable organisations were vital to communities and provided many different products such as sickness benefit, health care coverage and pensions. Far from being powerless, friendly societies were an efficient, localised and voluntary solution to the everyday challenges facing the working class without interference from a higher class or power seeking to control or engineer outcomes.

Localised solutions beat top-down solutions every time. Despite the best of intentions, modern politicians still fail to do right by the body public because they do not really know ‘what’s best’ and they exist in a system that makes poor short-term decisions the most attractive option. Politicians borrow money to provide services (not to mention bailouts and subsidies); they literally buy the votes of one generation with money that their children pay back with interest. They have a caricatured idea of what it is like to live on a council estate or claim job-seekers allowance because so few of them have lived that life themselves. Despite this detachment they still feel qualified to dictate what is wrong with our personal habits or tastes and wag their finger in judgement.

Some say that people should be forced to help others and some say that individuals should only help themselves. Both have got it wrong. Human beings are simultaneously selfish and altruistic and individuals are happiest when they are helping themselves and others at the same time. This is why trade works so well and is so conducive to the wellbeing of mankind. By trading with someone you help yourself and him or her. The same is true of mutual aid. They are structured in a way that provides a massive incentive for the organisation to make sound long-term decisions and to self-police.

To my generation, I say this – government is neither the cause of nor the solution to all our problems. Not only will government not help you; it can’t help you – but we can help each other.

If you want to learn more about the mutual aid you can download a free copy of ‘After the Welfare State’ here.

 

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Is there a scandal brewing or just a big fat lie?

By Angela Harbutt
July 13th, 2012 at 12:03 am | 16 Comments | Posted in Government, health

Serious questions are being asked today about Andrew Lansley’s stance on the consultation on the standardised (plain) packaging of tobacco.

Before the consultation was announced Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told the Times (13th Apri 2012l)  that the government did not work with tobacco companies as it wanted them to have “no business” in the UK. That set a few warning bells ringing.

Just a few days later, however, announcing the start of the consultation, his stance seemed to be more moderate. Andrew Lansley was insisting that his mind was “open” over proposals to strip cigarette packets of branding as a consultation on the plans was launched.

It is therefore surprising to find that the publicly funded pro-plain packs web site is claiming the Secretary of State is indeed, now at least, a supporter of plain packaging.

It is not clear when he became a supporter of plain packaging, but as this is a government funded body claiming it, I assume that is true? I am currently running the Hands of Our Packs campaign, opposing the introduction of plain packaging (no government money). I can’t imagine claiming that any Minister, health or otherwise, is against plain packaging, without checking with them first – no matter how many additional signatures it might draw into the campaign.

So I think that Andrew Lansley has some explaining to do? If he doesn’t then the campaign asserting that he has already made his mind up certainly does -particularly considering the source of its funding. It is all starting to look very curious indeed.

Angela Harbutt heads up the campaign Hands Off Our Packs. The campaign is funded by Forest – Freedom Organsiation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco.

UPDATE:

A letter has now been sent to the Department of Health requesting a response to the following questions:

1. Is it appropriate for the Secretary of State for Health to be listed as a supporter of plain packs (by a campaign that receives public money) in the middle of a public consultation on the issue and before the DoH has published its report on the consultation?

2. What action will the DoH (or the Secretary of State) take on this matter?

Let’s see what the Department of Health has to say.

It is also interesting to note that two of the authors (including the lead investigator) of the Department of Health’s (emphasis own) “independent academic review of the existing evidence” relating to plain packaging are also listed on the plain packs protect web site as “supporters” of plain packs. The authors – Gerard Hastings and Linda Bauld are identified by the cmapign as being not quite so “independent” in their thinking as one might have hoped.

For more information and further updates go to the  “TAKING LIBERTIES” web site where the story is unfolding..

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Could the increasing popularity of harm reduction products impact cigarette consumption?

By Guest
July 10th, 2012 at 11:55 am | 3 Comments | Posted in Government, health

Not if the Public Health Industry has its way

One obvious failure of the 2006 Health Act is the fact that the much vaunted smoking ban has had no impact on smoking prevalence in the UK. Not that those people who rely on the mainstream media for news would necessarily be aware of this as the pampered public health industry has gone to some lengths to hide the negatives and is even now clinging to patently false claims of alleged benefits. Sadly the media seems quite happy to indulge this penchant for deceit and the DoH has gone out of its way to ensure the outcome of a “review” by paying a tobacco control activist to come up with the “right” conclusions.  Harsh words perhaps, but how else does one explain a scientific advisor with no science qualifications and a less than objective public profile?

Despite the poisonous environment created by the media, the public health industry and the DoH, harm reduction alternatives seem increasingly popular and may therefore be more likely to impact on cigarette consumption than tobacco control inspired crack downs.  These alternatives will certainly not appeal to all smokers but the evidence from Sweden is that significant numbers of people choose safer forms of tobacco given the option. Sweden does not have especially low levels of tobacco consumption but the popularity of oral tobacco in the form of snus mean that it does have a low incidence of male cigarette consumption and also the lowest incidence of lung cancer in the EU

Although the Nordic tradition that contributes to the success of snus in Sweden does not exist in the UK where less harmful tobacco formats are in any case banned, legal smoking alternatives such as e-cigarettes do seem to be increasingly popular as evidenced by the fact that mainstream retail outlets like WH Smith are now promoting them. In a country where government is actively pursuing policies of denormalization and intolerance towards smokers it is perhaps unsurprising that a product that mimics some of the pleasure obtained from cigarettes but can be enjoyed in public is a potential winner. After all, as the marketing blurb says, e-cigs can be enjoyed legally anywhere. This is not strictly true as e-cigs are specifically banned on Virgin flights for example, but as water vapour shouldn’t trigger smoke alarms, vapers might risk a crafty one in the toilets.

Faced with the obvious benefits of harm reduction, we might expect the politicians, the media and the likes of CRUK to embrace snus and e-cigs as safer alternatives to smoking.

They don’t.

CRUKs otherwise often informative Web pages barely mention e-cigs and contain only a short ill-informed and misleading section on snus. This low key and dismissive attitude typifies tobacco control output and partially explains the EUs collectively miserable record on harm reduction which gives Clive Bates former head of ASH cause for concern. Bates criticises public health failure under 3 headings:

  • Public health science ignored and abused
  • Ethics and consumer rights violated
  • EU legal principles disregarded

Jean King, CRUK’s director of tobacco control says:

“There has been little research into how safe e-cigarettes are. And there’s also very little regulation to control these products or their marketing. The only way to be sure of any risks or benefits is through rigorous testing.”

As a product lacking known carcinogens is likely to be relatively beneficial, one would expect the public health industry to have mobilised its vast resources to perform at least some testing as a matter of urgency.

It hasn’t.

The industry is apparently much more interested in its on-going war with “big” tobacco and smokers as evidenced by the vast amount of effort and (public) money it has put into vanity projects such as shop display bans and plain packaging campaigns.  If our divided, fear ridden society is genuinely concerned about exposure of children to the very sight of age restricted products why not consider selling such products in age restricted shops or sections within shops? That way, children don’t see displays or packaging, adults can choose their product without feeling like they are buying a class A drug and our money could be spent on something more useful.  I am not necessarily advocating this policy but I am suggesting that it has not been considered because it is insufficiently aggressive towards the tobacco industry and not as humiliating for smokers as the tobacco control preferred alternatives.

It is hard not to believe based on the available evidence, that the public health industry is motivated more by its hatred of certain other industries and its constant need to satisfy its own justifiably  fragile ego than it is by any genuine concern towards us as individuals. How else can one explain the myopic adherence to its “quit or die” dogma and the breath-taking arrogance of continuing this one-dimensional approach in the light of the historical evidence and human experience?

It is noteworthy that “big” industry in the form of tobacco companies and major retailers are popularizing harm reduction alternatives while the public health industry and UK government pointlessly pursue “plain” packaging apparently as part of a utopian project for a brave new smokefree world.  Utopian projects are, as they always have been, fundamentally and necessarily illiberal.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:  Smokers-State Aprroved hate and Intolerance is UK policy,   Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step” , Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation?What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists and Public Health Success?

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Alcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step”

By Guest
March 26th, 2012 at 4:23 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in freedom, Government, health, Nannying, Nudge Dredd, Personal Freedom

Last week witnessed a remarkable low when the leader of a coalition between a party claiming to oppose top down dictatorial government and another claiming to be liberal, announced his support for exactly the  kind of mass social engineering that most of us hoped had died a death with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Sir Ian Gilmore

As I pointed out in a previous post, minimum pricing adherents are not at all ashamed of the totalitarian nature of their plans and indeed have actively sought to persuade our elected representatives of the “rewards” to be gleaned from emulating Soviet policy on alcohol. They did in the process of course focus on short term successes and completely failed to mention the disastrous longer term consequences of said Soviet policy. Zealots and fanatics rarely allow the truth to get in the way of their endless campaigns which is one reason why it is generally a bad idea to appease them.

David Cameron and his government appear to have ignored conventional wisdom with regard to appeasement by caving in to a deeply dishonest campaign for minimum alcohol pricing spearheaded by the medical establishment. A campaign that has, amongst other unsavoury tactics, seen the public lied to about the real price of alcohol, misled over the number of hospital admissions related to alcohol and kept in the dark about positive trends in both attitude and consumption.

At least I have to assume The Prime Minister’s spineless capitulation is an attempt to appease the zealots as the alternative explanation that he and his cabinet truly believe a 40p minimum price per unit will “mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol related deaths per year by the end of the decade” would be evidence that the country really is being run by fools.

One of the reasons it is generally considered a bad idea to appease fanatics is that it only encourages them to greater excess and also encourages others to emulate them.  On Saturday the BBC ran what should have been an upbeat news item about major food companies co-operating with the DH on obesity by cutting calorie content in their products. It sounds like just the sort of thing that people who care about obesity might applaud but this being a BBC news item it had to feature some rather severe criticism from a spokesperson for one of the myriad obscure “charities” that taxpayers are forced to fund.

According to the BBC, Children’s Food Campaign spokesman Charlie Powell said:

 ”The food industry wants to be part of the solution but altogether refuses to admit that it’s a big part of the problem. And it’s to the government’s disgrace that the food industry is actually helping to set government health policy. I think we should look at what’s happening on the alcohol network and actually the government have decided that the way to go is actually to mandate companies in terms of their pricing. While they grapple with voluntary approaches, we’ll see these weasel word pledges continue.”

Charlie describes himself as “Left-thinking vegan feminist, campaigning for a fairer and more sustainable world.”

Clearly this otherwise gentle soul has scented blood following the government’s surrender on alcohol and will be crusading for minimum pricing or maybe even outright banning of foods he doesn’t think that we should be eating.  I assume that will include meat if he dares to dream that big. After all, all he needs to do is gather support from the more unscrupulous and fanatical elements of the medical establishment and anything might actually be possible.

His first port of call could be Jonathan Waxman, whose words are living proof if more was needed that passing a medical degree is no guarantee of intelligence, humility, decency or common sense.

“Not only do we need to ramp up the public health campaigns that encourage us to ditch the doughnuts. But we will have to go further and ban adverts for high-fat foods. It is wrong that manufacturers can produce mayonnaise with a 70 per cent fat content, so we should tax food laden with saturated fats. 

Some will argue that this is an affront to personal freedom. But the people with the least ability to make informed choices are the poor, who happen also to be more likely to smoke or be fat.”

As Dave and his elitist mates seem to share Waxman’s view that the people in general and the poor in particular are too stupid to be allowed to make their own choices I think it likely that it will not be long before minimum pricing becomes the preferred option to reduce consumption of anything the medics and activists decide they don’t like.

I recommend stocking up on digestives and other “sinful” foods before it is too late.  I wouldn’t worry about alcohol because it is ridiculously easy to make.

By Chris Oakley. Chris has previously posted on Liberal Vision:  Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth , A Liberal Tolerant nation? and  What hope is there for liberty if truth becomes the plaything of political lobbyists.

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Chris Huhne goes, but is this the Rule of Law(s)?

By Tom Papworth
February 3rd, 2012 at 11:34 am | 3 Comments | Posted in coalition, Government, Liberal Democrats

So Chris Huhne (and ex-wife Vicky Pryce)  is to be charged with perverting the course of justice as a result of allegations that the former Environment Secretary Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change allowed or persuaded his wife to accept speeding penalty points on his behalf in 2003.

Mr Huhne strenuously denies the charges (and one can’t help but wonder whether Ms. Pryce will be less keen to repeat her allegations now that she is being charged as well) but it has not saved him. He has been forced to resign from the Cabinet.

It’s an odd business, to say the least. Not the charges themselves – this matter needs to be investigated and, if there is a prima facie case, charges should be filed. What is odd is the fact that he has to resign now.

It is a fundamental principle of the rule of law that a person is innocent until proven guilty. In most walks of life, that would extend to whether one has to resign from one’s job as well. If one is accused of a crime, an employer might suspend a member of staff, to distance itself from the issue, but to sack a person (or expect them to resign) while they try to clear their name is usually considered to be unfair.

What is interesting is that different rules appear to apply to politicians – and to other public figures. On the one hand, there is no process for suspending a minister, or allowing them to step aside temporarily, while the matter is investigated. The minister must quit – end of. I suspect that this is a hangover from the origins of ministerial office, with the minister acknowledging their duty to protect the sovereign from embarrassment. It seems to be a bit harsh in the modern world. Chris Huhne, like anybody else, should have the opportunity to prove their innocence without penalty.

And if he’s guilty, he should be sacked, rather than being allowed to resign.

That being said, it has happened, and there is feverish speculation about who will replace him. Will Ed Davey come into the Cabinet? Will Norman Lamb replace Ed Davey as Employment Minister?

Both would be welcome moves, but people seem to be forgetting one obvious potential promotion. It is widely recognised that David Laws is ripe for a return to the front benches. Is this unfortunate event an opportunity to bring about the return of Laws?

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