Sunday, 20 December 2009

Tis the season of giving afterall

I thought it might be interesting to direct everyones attention to this Daily Telegraph article that appeared several days ago. I find it particularly interesting that this story did not appear to be picked up by most of the mainstream media as far as Im aware of. Which given the the recent scrutiny of of Westminster MP's expenses I found worrying indeed.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

A Case for the Legalisation of Drugs

When discussing libertarianism with people I find that one of the most common issues that crops up is the use of recreational drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. As a result I have collated a group of important points that I always try to put forward to people to explain why the legalisation of drugs is infact both practical and far more sensible than the current “war on drugs”.

A fundamental libertarian belief is that you own your body and that the government should not be allowed to dictate what you do with it. Can it be morally defensible for a distant third party to have the right to instruct you as to what you can or cannot personally ingest?

For many years the answer to this by those in power has been an emphatic yes, despite most academic research pointing to cannabis being no more harmful than alcohol or nicotine and is certainly far less addictive. What all authoritarian governments fail to realise however is that they cannot control all aspects of the market and no matter how hard they try, they cannot police every aspect of an individual’s personal life. This is where many of the current problems with drugs begin. The crushing of legitimate outlets for substances that produce highs, yet at the same time the demand for these highs remaining in place always results in a large increase in black markets.

It is from these black-markets that most of Britain’s modern day drug problems occur. Often people confuse crime caused by the supply of illegal drugs under a black market as being because of the drugs themselves.

The total amount that that Britons spend on illegal drugs amounts to £8 billion per year (1) , to put this figure into perspective, it equates to 40% of the alcohol trade in Britain. All of these sales currently go straight into funding criminal gangs. Imagine how many legitimate jobs that the legalisation of drugs would create through the growing and distribution of these substances. The idea that prohibition fuels organised crime is nothing new, it is now universally accepted that the prohibition of alcohol by the US government and the subsequent rise in those buying it on the black market was what funded the rise in inner city gangs and organised crime in the 1920s. With these gangs comes the increase in other forms of crimes that are often confused for being the reason to prohibit the use of drugs in the first place.

It is often stated that cannabis is sold in stronger strains than ever before and that as a result, any potential health risks are far greater than ever before. The public have then been led to believe that this is exactly why the government and police must increase their efforts to keep it off our streets. This is infact a totally fallacy, if cannabis (or any other drug for that matter) were legalised and produced by legitimate companies, then consumers would be able to see what strain they were buying, the purity of the drug and much more consumer information that is now shown on all products such alcohol and processed foods. Again, countries with strict alcohol licensing laws prove this to be the case. Those that purchase alcoholic drinks on the black market face far greater health risks such as alcohol poisoning and going blind.

A common argument used by those against the legalisation of recreational drugs is that it is proven to lead those users into other forms of crime. Again while statistics show that currently true, it is again purely down to the fact that in order to access recreational drugs, consumers must now be in contact with criminals were they would have never choose to before. Many drug dealers now impose a “minimum purchase” in order make users by far more than they can afford thus forcing these users to start dealing to others.

With the government’s war on drugs has come a huge divergence of resources from other areas of law and order. Many thousands of police and court hours are used up trying to catch and prosecute users and dealers. Currently 14% of those serving sentences in the Scotland are for drug convictions (2) despite prison numbers bursting at the seams. How can this situation possibly be justifiable when these resources could be put such better use? Lengthening the convictions for rape for example; which frankly are currently nothing less than a national disgrace.

The final and most potent “nail in the coffin” on Britain’s drugs policy is the simple truth that despite all the millions that are spend trying to keep drugs off our streets is the simple truth that anyone who wants to get them can do if they are willing to look for them.

I would like to conclude by stating that often those who are against any form of legalisation are not doing so because that they are frightened that they themselves would end up taking drugs, they realise that they themselves are rational human beings and are capable of making their own decisions. No, instead it is a fear that other people would not be able to manage these decisions for themselves and it is for the “greater good” that others need to be protected.

I hope this helps many of you to put forward the case for the legalisation of drugs to the general public and will encourage people to question governmental policies with greater scrutiny nomatter how well established these policies may be.

Duncan Soutar
Scottish National Coordinator


Monday, 30 November 2009

Message From NZ Libertarians

To Chris Mounsey - on behalf of Libertarianz, the New Zealand Libertarian Party, I would like to extend congratulations on assuming the leadership of LPUK. We libertarians from the Antipodes have been following the fortunes of the LPUK closely, and we wish you all the best.

To Ian Parker-Joseph - thank you for your efforts in getting the LPUK off the ground. So many people have never even heard the word 'libertarian', can't pronounce it and don't know what it means. Hopefully over time, thanks to people like yourself, and (hopefully) we Kiwi freedom fighters, more people will switch on to the ideas of personal liberty and minimal government.

Hope your recent conference went well.

Richard G McGrath * Leader, Libertarianz Party

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Glasgow North East

Just a quick note on the recent Glasgow North East by election on the 12th of November.
I realise that many of party members were very keen to to put forward a candidate for Glasgow North East. However, as many of those who know the area suspected, the final results from it showed that this was never going to be a good constituency for the LPUK to fight for.
I personally feel that though it may have been frustrating to be watching from the sidelines instead of being out campaigning for the party, the decision to sit this one out was probably the correct one.
Glasgow North East has always been a safe Labour seat, the Conservatives were pushed into relative obscurity and UKIP didn't even bother to field a candidate because of their poor record there.
Our resources could definitely be put towards more fruitful endeavours in the near future.
The time will come when the LPUK contests in an election in Scotland. In the meantime it is important to be patient and lay the essential groundwork beforehand.

Duncan Soutar
(Scottish National Coordinator)

Friday, 23 October 2009

Reading List

This post is currently more of a “work in progress” at the moment. Eventually I hope to have a libertarian reading list as a permanent link on the side bar of this blog. I would prefer however to others make contributions and suggestions to the list beforehand.

Fredric Bastiat – The Law
Jagdish Bhagwati – In defence of Globalisation
Johan Goldberg- Liberal Fascism
Milton Friedman – Capitalism and Freedom
Milton Friedman – Bright Promises, Dismal Performances
Thomas Friedman – The World is Flat
F.A Hayek – Individualism and Economic Order
F.A Hayek – The Road to Serfdom
Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson
Richard Maybury – The Money Mystery
Richard Maybury – Whatever Happened to Justice?
Alan Moore – V for Vendetta (Comic Series)
Robert Nozick – Anarchy, State and Utopia
George Orwell - 1984
Ron Paul – A Manifesto
Ron Paul - Pillars of Prosperity
Joseph Stiglitz – Globalisation and its discontents
Benjamin Tucker – Instead of a book by a man too busy to write one
Ludwig Von Mises – The anti- capitalist mentality
Ludwig Von Mises – What has government done to our money?

I'm looking for people’s recommendations; whether they’re for books that are as yet not on the list, books on the list you feel are substandard or just recommending anything on here as a “must read”.

All input is appreciated.

Duncan Soutar
Scottish National Coordinator

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

LPUK Conference 28th November 2009

The Annual AGM/Conference will be held at the Gladiator Room, Gloucestershire Cricket Club, Nevil Road, Bristol BS7 9EJ 10.30am- 4pm November 28th 2009

The Conference will deal with matters of policy and constitutional matters to be put forward by members via their regional coordinators, and the election of officers for 2010, plus party organisation, aims and objectives

A business meeting dealing with end of year accounts and hand over to the new NCC will be held in January.

We need to know numbers attending by November 2nd. There will be a £5 charge to defray costs on registration so please help us by registering early, and as ever Donations will be happily received.


The Sportsman Pub is nearby where I understand the usual fare can be obtained.

There is carparking available for 100 vehicles.


By Road

From the North:

Exit Junction 19 on M4 onto M32 to Bristol

Exit at Junction 2

Take the 3rd exit off the roundabout, keep in right hand lane and follow brown
tourist signs to County Ground. Continue on Muller Road for approx.1 mile.

Turn left into Ralph Road, opposite Bus Depot.

At T junction, turn left and then take first right into Kennington Avenue.
At top of road, turn left (signposted) into Nevil Road and drive through the Grace Gates into the ground.

From Central Bristol :

From St. James Barton roundabout in the City Centre, take exit marked Horfield (A38)
Continue along Stokes Croft Road and onto Gloucester Road

After approx. 1.5 miles turn right into Nevil Road (Signposted)
The Grace Gates are at the end of Nevil Road

By Rail :

Bristol Temple Meads is in the centre of Bristol, approx. 2 miles from The County Ground
Bus no. 8 or 9 will take you from the station to the bus station and then take any of the buses as below

Bristol Parkway is on the northern side of the City and approx 4 miles from The County Ground

By Bus :

The Bus Station is located in the centre of Bristol.

Outside the Bus Station from The Travel Inn, services, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76 and 77 will take you along the Gloucester Road. The stop is Nevil Road, which is within 100yds from the Ground.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Monday, 19 October 2009

Edinburgh Trams

The current state of the Edinburgh tram works appears to have taken on the form of most modern governmental building projects of late; over budget, delayed and now will not be nearly as well built as first planned.
This latest saga however has less to do with mismanagement and more to do with the complete disregard for the individual’s property rights. In order to complete the works, electricity poles have to be erected next to the lines, of which the council are trying instead to join to the nearby houses. What really smacks of hypocrisy is that large numbers of these homes are grade-A listed buildings, which amongst other regulations are restricted from having outside adornments such as satellite dishes. These strict regulations however do not appear to apply if it is inconvenient for the council.
Some owners in the area quite rightly have pointed out that such attachment could have an adverse effect on the value of their property and that they should not have to bare the financial brunt personally. The council however appear to be steamrollering ahead and have responded by taking anyone who has made any objections to court. This is yet another example of one rule for those in charge and one rule for the rest of us.

Duncan Soutar

Scottish National Coordinator

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Something To Be Really Worried About On May 6th 2010.

I listened to Radio 4 this morning, to Austin Mitchell after his fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference yesterday. Eight people turned up at his meeting, and one of those was his wife.

I saw the empty seats, the closed off areas at Brighton

I saw the photographs of half dead, half asleep Lib Dem supporters whilst Cleggy gave his all at the Lib Dem Conference.

UKIP and BNP are in dire straits financially; the LPUK is examining the pointlessness of contesting seats at Westminster in favour of building a grass roots local authority base.

Next week I am going to be watching the glassy eyed adoration of no policies Cameron and the Conservatives.

Basically Party Politics has collapsed in this Country, dwindling party memberships, over centralisation into Westminster, the recession, the expenses scandal etc has traduced democratic politics that has taken four hundred years to build up in less than twenty years.

The Public know it’s a fix, the Public want Radical Change and a New settlement, that was evident at the Forum on Modern Liberty, but that clamour for real progress has been stymied by the big three parties, and the growth of smaller Parties and pressure groups will never have a voice under this Electoral system. The British just don't do the 'Summer of Rage'

The Public has withdrawn from even voting, because ‘the Government’ always gets in. This has produced the bizarre situation where corrupt faux aristocrats lead the Labour Party. Has it really got to the point where Mandelson is the saviour of the Socialist Left? Is there nobody left in the Labour Party that can see what a travesty this is. We have now got a situation were Esther Ranzten and a baggage handler from Glasgow, are now seen as the authentic voice of politics. Don’t get me wrong anybody who takes on somebody who is trying to explode a car bomb has physical courage, but I am not sure that I want my politics to be along the lines of ‘fisticuff’ Prescott. A man who can barely string a coherent sentence together.

Politics is dead, the only option on offer is Mandelson’s ‘post democratic’ age. This is just an Oligarchy by another name with the rest of us condemned to the role of exploited serfs.

Unless the Radical smaller Parties start to coalesce around the concept of a new constitution, a new settlement and a new voting system, we are going to see the gradual sapping of the life blood in our democratic institutions, with the Police and the EU taking up the slack and running the country by default. The Army is now a degraded institution, loved and respected by the people. Hated and kept short of funds by the political classes and sent to fight illegal wars and to occupy foreign countries, the police on the other hand seem to have no shortage of equipment and helicopters, because the political classes see them as the only thing between us and them.

I spent the weekend as a Libertarian, with a Socialist, a near BNP supporter two Tories and a Liberal Democrat. We discussed politics we all had strong points of view that we could never agree on, but we had a forum to discuss politics because we had respect for each other and ‘ground rules’ that everybody was entitled to their say. What we did agree on that this was not replicated at either National or Local level. There is no forum. If nobody is prepared to listen to my point of view, why the hell should I listen or engage to somebody who wants to talk ‘at’ me about their politics.

That is the position that the Public now have with the current political structure.
There may be only 646 of them and sixty million of us, but nobody is listening to the sixty million, only to the 646, and pretending that this the body politic.

Personally the prospect of a Cameron Government on May 6th fills me with dread, as it will not be any different to Blair/Brown.

Irrespective of each of our political standpoint, we have to fight for a New Constitution, one that comes from below not imposed from above.

Our Politics are Moribund, and worse still has absolutely no mandate from the people of this Country.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Passport Control Set Up For UK Domestic Travellers at Prestwick

Unless Young Alec Salmond has declared UDI at lunc, why has Stratclyde Police set up a Passport Control post at Prestwick ?

Or is this just another example of unelect Chief Constables getting out of control ?

Whats the Laland or Gaelic for Ausweiss Bitte.


We sent an email to Strathcyde Polis, Alan Johnson and the Home Office

I have just had a stroppy inspector on the phone from Strathcyde in response to our email

Whats the problem with showing your passports

I know nothing about this

Are you upset because you are English

I'm not scared of politicians

There must have been a security operation on

They would have been asked professionally and politely

What is the Law on showing your ID to the Polis when asked then.

If you have got a broken window I can help

You are better off contacting Pitt Street Glasgow, because I can't help you

They are out of control- This one incident alone is justification for elected Chief Constables.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Borders and LPUK Scotland

I would like to take the time to both introduce myself as well as provide assistance that I can with regards to LPUK Scotland. It was great to see some members on August 1st in Edinburgh and I am appreciative of the distance, time, costs and personal commitments members have in being able to make meetings.

Further to this, and as you should already know, Donal Friery was asked to become Media & Press representative and Duncan Soutar has accepted the role of National Co-ordinator.

My involvement in Libertarianism started after I had left my birthplace of N.Y. to start a new life in Scotland and had the the unique perspective not often afforded to my fellow Americans. I now often offer up the notion that stepping back from a situation and viewing it from the outside provides insight not just on the topic but of one's self. Having watched with great discomfort the political and individual tides roll in against what I believed was right and just for a people I sought knowledge and discovery into what it was would be the solutions. In doing so I had to also accept that I may not know the true causes and must equally learn to understand them. In accepting that my perspective in such matters could be incomplete, thus lacking the ability to fairly make judgement(s), I became involved.

Like so many I have met since I looked at such places and people as Campaign For Liberty, the Mises Insititute, Liberty Alliance, Hayek, Bastiat, Rothbard, Dr. Paul, Griffin and so many others. I considered in matters of state what was being offered, what was being provided and what was being taken. I would not be the first and hope that I will never be the last to have a passion grow from this and would be willing to share, to those that so choose to listen, what I have learned to help them make better sense (if not a more informed decision) in such matters as individual liberty, personal responsibility and freedom from government.

What became of this passion? What use did I find of it in my life? What would I do with this ever increasing knowledge? I started responding, as so many have done, first in conversation then in writings and contributions. I found myself speaking infrequently on national radio to voice what I had learned and to show that there were, are and remain more options, more information and more questions that should be raised. Considering my passion I looked at the forms of government around me and sought to find something that truly represented my beliefs and philosophy. I stumbled upon an up and coming party called the Libertarian Party United Kingdom or LPUK. Understanding individuality the party offered regional representation and local government thinking. Going along to a recent meeting at the beginning of August showed me that the ideals of Libertarianism was not just an early American notion nor was it United Kingdom notion but rather, in true form to what I had long believed to be the case, it was an individual notion. Since joining and expressing my understandings of Libertarianism I was asked to become the LPUK Scotland party secretary.

I recall, as noted in so many places, the words of Thomas Jefferson "Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." With all of this in mind I write to shine the light on the growing involvement of Libertarianism not just in America but around the world and, more specifically, Scotland. I also have chosen to afford others the opportunity to learn, ask questions and consider the options Libertarianism offers to each in an up and coming forum to be held in the book retail chain Borders in the city of Dundee, Scotland. When I initially approached Borders I did so with the understanding that this would afford both a meeting place for members as well as an Ask the Libertarian approach to those that show interest. This could be followed up by further forums or to answer individual questions as well as assist in enrollment in the party or provide donations. Borders Dundee have offered a monthly slot should the turnout prove well.

Currently I am organizing a brief set of topics to cover to allow for questions. In discussions with Neil I noted that this would be about what Libertarianism is and not to enter into political conflicts with the audience. I would also, once confirmations are made, ask if members could promote this event through their blogs, forums and websites. Borders will present material on their website and promote this up to one month in advance in there store to help increase visitors. Further to this conversation, I asked if other Borders stores might take such opportunity and Neil said he didn't see why there would be objections and would ask. This could make the travelling easier for some and allow for more contact to be made. I should make it clear that, when I spoke about having such meetings I did represent I reflected LPUK Scotland as well as other like-minded libertarian groups. I am seeking both literature and backing of several inclusive of such groups as the Libertarian Alliance.

Steve Sexton
LPUK Scotland Secretary

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Meeting 1st August

Post to follow

Good to welcome David Farrer from the Libertarian Alliance

Duncan Soutar has agreed to become National Coordinator Scotland, Steven Sexton Secretary and Donal Friery, Press & Media

Friday, 24 July 2009

Open Your Mind

LPUK Scotland First Meeting Edinburgh 1st August

We are meeting at 12.30pm at Cloisters 26, Brougham St, Edinburgh,EH3 9JH

A brisk walk from both Waverley and Haymarket Stations.

This is as much a social to meet people and get LPUK Scotland moving as an independent entity.

Hope to meet a goodly number of you.

Monday, 20 April 2009

LPUK grows up - getting ready for elections

Reposted from the LPUK blog:

On the 1st of January 2009, the Libertarian Party celebrated its first Birthday. From its inception at the beginning of 2008 support for the Libertarian ideals laid out in our manifesto has been steadily growing, and today we have taken the first major steps from that single national structure into regional Branch formations.

We have formally launched the South East Branch this morning, to add to the one we have in the North West, and new Branches throughout the country will soon follow, as will the names and details of our first PPC's and Local Election Candidates, which will continually be updated as new candidates are taken through our selection process.

As this country slips further into Authoritarian rule the support for Libertarian ideals has never been stronger, or more vocal.

However, as people who are coming to LPUK are telling us in no uncertain terms, the Conservative Party has no room for Libertarian thought, Cameron has made clear that he will be continuing on the present path to a Federal Europe and will not be walking with Libertarians , Osborne is providing more Keynesian economics, and William Hague has refused to commit to a referendum if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. In other words, more of the same under a disguised 'nudge'.

Those who have come to us from the LibDems tell of horrific infighting, with the SDP controlled leadership squeezing the Liberal element out of the party, marginalising them at branch level and suggesting that there is no room in the modern LibDem party for them. The LibDems have lost their Liberal roots and become the Social Democratic party, set to continue where Brown leaves off. More of the same.

Both LibDems and Conservatives are on a collision course with the British people, 57% of whom have now indicated that they no longer wish to remain in the EU. They are looking for a genuinely free society, services that work, lower taxes, much smaller government, less nannying and laws that are Made in Britain.

The voters of Britain are not stupid people, they are not happy about being led on the road to Authoritarian rule, and they are more than aware that the Libertarian Party is the only party that offers a direct rebut to the path we are currently on.

Like all political parties the Libertarian Party relies on donations to keep it going. We urge you to make generous contributions to allow us to continue to mount the challenge, to provide the voters of Britain a voice for Liberty against this backdrop of Authoritarian politics.

To those who continue to spin the State line that we are still a free country, I would suggest a quick review of the facts that would tell you otherwise.

Iain Dale published Damian Green's wife's top ten tips on what to do if your home is being searched by the Police. How has it come to pass that we now consider this an every day event?
How has it come to pass that we consider the list below every day events?

Ballot Boxes are interfered with
Voting registers go missing
The Police can kill innocent people and get away with it
You can be put in prison for 42 days on pure suspicion
You can be put in prison indefinitely on the word of a politician
The State can torture people
Your children are monitored at School by Political Officers

Your children's fingerprints are taken without your consent by willing teachers
Their behaviour is logged on a State database for their entire lives
Your innocent fingerprints, iris scans and biometrics are held by the State
You do not have the right to remain silent
You are watched on 4 million CCTV cameras
You may not photograph the Police

The media is controlled by the State
You do not have the right to protest peacefully
Curfews exist for entire communities
Your travel movements are logged and monitored
Who you vote for is logged and monitored
Your shopping habits are studied and logged by the StateY
our emails and telephone conversations are recorded by the State

Your Bank and financial details are accessed by the State
Your passport can be withdrawn at the whim of the State
Government agencies can use lie detector tests on you.

List of life in the UK from Old Holborn.

Is this how a free country works?

If like me you think the answer is No, then join the Libertarian Party, help us to work to give you those lost freedoms back.

If you want to make a donation to LPUK so we can continue to stand for your rights, and I will be very honest here, yes, we need your money, click here.

If you want to stand at Local Elections or as a Member of Parliament yourself to make that difference, then email us at

No, we don't have all the answers, anyone who tells you that they do is lying, but we believe that we are putting forward far more credible options than the Conservatives or the LibDems.

The world is a very fluid place at the moment, there is an air of uncertainty over Economics, military posturing, the real threats of terrorism, energy security, food security and much more as governments around the world are forcing us into Global governence, Global financial control, unelected european control.

We are looking for your help to get the LPUK ready for the Local Elections and then General Elections, we intend standing, we intend fighting this battle at the ballot box, for we are no longer prepared to stand by and watch our Country destroyed from the inside out.

n.b. LPUK will not be standing in the European Elections. Until the people of Britain have made a decision on EU political union through a referendum, we consider that the European Parliament is not a legal institution and we shall not provide it false respectability.

by Ian Parker Joseph, leader of the UK Libertarian Party

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Rest in Peace

Wherever we are on the political spectrum, I think we can all feel immensely for the loss of David Cameron and his family. I send my condolences and sympathy. RIP Ivan Cameron.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Travesty of the Edinburgh Trams

Building continually delayed, costs soaring, contractors going on strike, road congestion almost unbelievably bad - say hello to the Edinburgh Trams project!

From first-hand experience, I can attest to the scheme's major public inconvenience. For much of last year I worked as a barman in La Tasca in the Omnicentre in Edinburgh, and I would come from my dad's flat in Leith. Normally, you just jump on the 22 or 16 and you do the journey in 10/15 minutes. When the tramworks were in full-swing, you were looking at something closer to 40 minutes at times. That is, 40 minutes to get from the bottom of Leith Walk to the top. Sweating like a sardine in a tin for forty minutes, packed on a 22 bus, the summer sun beating down and making you feel as though you were in a greenhouse, did not leave me smelling particularly fragrant for my tapas-eating and sangria-swilling customers.

May I recommend this excellent post on the newly-discovered A Place to Stand blog (I really do need to get a blogroll in order). In it, he writes:

"Last Friday the contractors on Edinburgh's tram project said they were going on strike for extra money. In the tradition of air traffic controllers they had chosen to announce this strike immediately. Prince's St, Edinburgh's main street, had been closed to traffic to let them work.

The whole project has always been a boondoggle - the local council are putting up £100 million & the Scottish government £500 m to put a single tramline from Leith in the east to the airport in the west. Since it goes through the main streets it will do absolutely nothing to reduce congestion there, its ostensible purpose, simple removing buses but replacing them with trams, whose use & routes are less flexible. But trams are, for ideological reasons (publicly owned & working off electricity made by fossil fuels [& nuclear} while buses use fossil fuel directly) more politically correct.
The sensible options would either have just been to let the free market provide
bus services, which do all the same stuff except costing £600 million & digging up the streets, or an automated overhead monorail system which would cost more, or at least more than the necessary cost of trams, to build but, being automated, far less to run. At least half the cost of buses is the driver. Obviously sensible options were not desired."
Quite so - £600 million as it stands already, with these contractors striking to demand another £80m? What is all this?

The author of the blog, Neil Craig, goes on to link to a letter he got published in The Scotsman, reflecting on the mad amount of public money that has already gone into the trams scheme:

"There has been little discussion of the fantastic level of these costs. Melbourne built the Box Hill extension, 2.2km, opened in 2003, for £12.5 million; and the Vermont South Extension of 3km in 2005 for £13.5m. On that basis the Edinburgh tramway, at 18.5km, should be costing about £105m pounds or indeed quite a lot less because of economies of scale. British public works have a long record of being grossly overpriced. Those in charge refuse to provide any explanation of this and they should."

What is it about public works projects here that they are never completed on time, on budget - indeed, tend to be instead massively delayed and massively overpriced? I pose that not as a rhetorical question, but an open one - can someone please try explaining this to me? The real travesty is that those in charge will not - we've once again been robbed blind of our money.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Well said ...

Brian Monteith, in a well-crafted article for The Scotsman, hands out some pearls of wisdom on the economic crisis and the folly of the proposed solutions, describing politicians as trying to hose us down with kindness, but unintentionally drowning us:

"The most inappropriate people to be bankers are practising politicians, for they are in the market for votes – not the market for nurturing money. If money were water, bankers would ration it through careful control of its supply, using its price to ration it to customers.

Politicians just get the hosepipe out and try to soak as many people as possible, preferably in front of the cameras whilst uttering meaningless words like stability, long-term, boom and bust (the end of). There are lots of policy wonks with ideas for how politicians can shower us with our own money – geeks bearing gifts that we have paid for!

One American example of how politicians make bad bankers explains how we are all in this mess. Back in the Nineties, during the glorious reign of Bill Clinton, the president exerted a great deal of pressure on the government-subsidised mortgage providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide easy loans to people who previously had been considered too high a risk. Clinton was in government and he was there to help. So, in 1999, the threshold was dropped and the sub-prime mortgage market expanded exponentially.

To cope with the greater demand, the US housebuilding industry expanded, borrowing more from the banks to finance the expansion.

Needless to say, people that bankers had previously thought too risky to lend to eventually showed why they had been categorised as sub-prime and started to default on their mortgages.

Foreclosures multiplied, the construction boom collapsed and a lot of "bankers" were left with egg on their faces. They had gone against all their own banking disciplines and the bailout of banks followed – organised by the very politicians who had caused the problem. Once again, they were there to help us."

Mr Monteith has neatly illustrated the deficiencies of President Clinton's 1995 Community Reinvestment Act and its ensuing consequences - political action mimicked across the pond here in the UK too. That's not to put the blame for our current predicament entirely on Old Liberal Bill Clinton - this crisis emerged from several different factors. But, to my mind, those who point at our current economic woes as evidence of the crisis of capitalism and the bankruptcy of free market theory are missing something rather crucial: there hasn't been a free market, and most certainly not in the housing and banking industries, which even before the crisis hit were two of the most heavily-intervened-in sectors of the economy in the US. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for example, were quasi-governmental insitutions , changing mortgage-lending standards for political reasons. I didn't hear any of the blowhard Keynesians now dominating the airwaves telling us that something might be amiss in the economy - no, it was free-market libertarians like US Congressman Ron Paul and economist Peter Schiff who predicted this crisis, years ago.

Mr Monteith ably sums up by saying:

"Winston Churchill once observed that "for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle". I believe the same goes for borrowing. You cannot solve a debt-fuelled crisis by borrowing more – but that's what Obama and Brown are trying to do.

Nor can we take solace from Alex Salmond – his solution is to drown us with kindness too. His hose is undoubtedly smaller than Gordon's – but size doesn't matter – and we shall be drowning in Alex Salmond's kindness.

The politicians should be turning their hoses off, letting the addicts dry out and lessening our burden so we can lift ourselves, and each other, up from this recession – from outside that bucket."

He's right, and thus it's doubly depressing that all our mainstream politicians, from First Minister Alex Salmond up to Prime Minister Brown all the way up to President Obama are proposing nothing but more and more expensive and inventive ways to make a bad situation worse than it already is.

Libertarian Party Video

Friday, 23 January 2009

Adherence to the EU or public safety?

I (in a post on my other, rather less restrained blog), and others, including the estimable (but equally, or perhaps more unrestrained) Devil's Kitchen, have already been heavily critical of the proposed EU working time directive. Now we have another reason to be opposed:

"Scotland's fire service is under threat from EU working hours regulations, according to a senior fire officer.

MEPs have been criticised for ending the UK "opt out" of the Working Time Directive, which prevents people from working more than 48 hours a week.

Grampian Chief Fire Officer David Dalziel said the rules would prevent fire stations using retained staff.

In Scotland, most fire stations are staffed by part-time fire fighters who have other jobs.

Mr Dalziel said restrictions on how long people can work could spell the end of the retained service and jeopardise safety.

It would also have a huge cost implication with budgets soaring to pay for more full-time staff, he claimed."

The Fire Brigades Union, as to be expected, branded it "scaremongering." Hmm, seems like a fairly realistic, facts-based observation of the situation by Mr Dalziel to me, but then I'm just a blogger. I mean, it's only 321 out of our 391 fire stations that are staffed by part-time retained fire fighters, that's not that many, is it?

EU directives should never fly in the face of public safety; I wish the UK had retained its opt-out from this one.

Ah Kenny, it gets better ...

Following on from my previous post on everyone's favourtie authoritarian nationalist dunce of a Scottish politician, Kenny MacAskill, it seems some in other quarters aren't too happy with him either:

"Attacks on Scotland's justice secretary for not attending a knife crime summit have been dismissed as "ludicrous"."

Of course it's ludicrous, Mr MacAskill's a busy man! Never mind that knife crime is one of the most pertinent violent-crime issues of the moment, in the whole of the United Kingdom, never mind just Scotland. Rather than be seen to be actively participating in a knife crime summit (how ludicrous!), oor Kenny is busy drafting a bill to criminalise fetishists ...

Extreme Sexual Images?

I'm two days late with this one, but I thought I'd pass comment nonetheless, on this article, relating to an issue I alluded to in a previous post - the legislation against "extreme sexual images" being brought forward in the Scottish Government's Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill.

"DOWNLOADING images of rape and possessing other forms of "extreme" pornography will be punishable by up to three years in prison under new laws to be unveiled next month, The Scotsman can reveal.

Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, has for the first time revealed details of his proposed crackdown on owning hardcore pornography that he claims is sexually and physically abusive and degrading to women."

Admittedly, it almost seems eminently reasonable at first glance. But, of course, the problem is, if "images" of rape or extreme sex are in fact performed or recorded between two consenting adults, this law is essentially interfering with what private individuals choose to do among themselves. If it could be proved that images of "rough" or "extreme" sex were not consensual, then that would be a wholly different matter, but that's not going to happen in most cases.

So the civil liberties question here is that of the Scottish government trying to regulate what individual adults watch in privacy. Are people who are, for example, into bondage, going to be criminalised for their fetish even if no one is harmed by it, with a possible 3 years spent in the nick for their "crime?"

Kenny MacAskill's justification is that of the typical moralising statist:
"We are intending to send out the message that this is frankly totally abhorrent. This is far from a victimless crime. Previously you could close down bookshops; now everybody has access to the internet. What is being portrayed in a number of these sites and DVDs is not erotic art – it's fundamental abuse of an individual and to consort with it is to support it."

It's abhorrent because the government says so. It's not a "victimless crime" either, because the government says so. Actually, it's not a crime at all, because the bill's not been put into law yet, so in his pomposity Mr MacAskill is getting a little ahead of himself, but that's besides the point.

It is, in the main, victimless, in that those who work in the porn trade, whether amateur or professional, do so out of choice. The minority that may be forced into it are undoubtedly suffering terribly and deserve justice, but that is what the police should be there for - as opposed to politicians criminalising the many.

But, Kenny tells us, what is being portrayed is not "erotic art - it's fundamental abuse of an individual." Besides from the fact that I never knew Mr MacAskill was such a keen observer and expert on "erotic art", although I'm sure such knowledge would intrigue the tabloids, he fundamentally misunderstands what constitutes "fundamental abuse of an individual". Abuse of the individual is, pure and simple, when he or she is coerced by external forces, and thus the sanctity of his/her free choice violated. If someone consents to being in a bondage or rough sex scene in a hardcore porn flick, how is he/she fundamentally abused? It's nonsense. Mr MacAskill is justifying this proposed law based on his morals and value-judgements - that this type of erotica isn't "erotic art", that it is "abhorrent". Well why are your morals better than mine, Kenny? I say people should be able to watch whatever images they want in the privacy of their homes, so long as no one else is harmed. If they are, that's a different kettle of fish, but that's the job of law enforcement to sort out, not for the law itself to brand all extreme fetishists as evil criminals.

Ironically, then Susan Smith enters into the article, on the government's side, explaining how it didn't take her long to find "scenes of brutality" on the internet, but proves my point about victimless crime by saying:

"While the videos I found were clearly not of real rapes..."

Before, of course, going on to moralise about how terrible it is that these videos nonetheless are glorifying rape. Firstly, you know what, I think it's pretty nasty myself too. But you know what I'm going to do as a result of not particularly being a fan of extreme BDSM porn (Bondage, Domination and Sado-Masochism)? Here, wait for it, drum roll ...

Not watch it.

Because at the end of the day, it is fantasy, images, supplying a very miniscule niche of (in my opinion - not that it matters) very weird people with what they want, in the vast majority of cases doing no harm to anyone else. I'd rather they spent their time watching imaginary rape as opposed to going out and doing it themselves. And I'd rather the government weren't moralistically claiming the authoritarian right to snoop in on people's homes for what they watch within the privacy of them. Why is imaginary rape worse than imaginary murder? What's next, banning all Jason Statham films because they glorify shooting people and battering them to death?

Becky Dwyer, spokeswoman for CAAN, hits the nail on the head:
"There are sites out there depicting real abuse; evidence of real crimes being committed. Instead of going after those, catching the perpetrators and putting an end to real harm, the government has gone for the easy option of criminalising pictures of mostly legal activity and demonising a bunch of adults whose main crime is the desire to interact with one another in the privacy of their own homes."

Perhaps Mr MacAskill, expert on "erotic art" that he is, can tell us why he hasn't identified the sites depicting real abuse and gone after them to the full extent of the law, as opposed to making our lonely spotty lanky-haired teenagers watching bizarre stuff on the net wanted criminals?

It's depressing how, day by day, the SNP seem to be no less - in fact, probably more - nannying and authoritarian than their Labour predecessors. Why bother with independence? What would be the damn difference?


Today, The Scotsman is reporting on the publication of MSP expenses for last year - or at least it was kind of published, although "much of the detail" of extra claims "was hidden", apparently. Super. Nice and transparent.

Of course, all this was the cue for the parties to start sniping at each other, trying to claim moral superiority for having milked the taxpayer slightly less than opposing parties, but really just ending up looking pathetic and petty.

A Lib Dem spokesman had the gall to scoff at Jim Mather, Enterprise Minister, for spending £256 quid on books, saying:

"We now know why Jim Mather hasn't been speaking in parliament much. He's been too busy reading these books he's asking the taxpayer to pay for."

This, when six out of the top ten claimants were LibDems, and their leader Tavish Scott at numero uno with extra claims of £54,000. The bleated excuse is that Mr Scott has to fly to and from Shetland. So, of course, does Alastair Allan, MSP for the Western Isles, but somehow he's managed to only spend £36,000.

Hell, at least Mr Mather is reading; he might learn something. Though perhaps not, if, as reported, he's sticking to autobiographies of luminaries of waste-of-space economic buffoonery such as Alan Greenspan.

The Scotsman also informs us that:

"There were some eyebrows raised at some of the claims, in particular a five-fold increase in the party leaders' allowance from £5,776 in 2006-7 to £27,193 in 2007-8.

Much of the detail of this was hidden, but parliamentary sources said that most of the extra claims were down to support costs for former Labour leader Wendy Alexander and ex-Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen."

Everyone's favourite fraudster, i.e. Wendy Alexander, appears to have been at it again. As for raised eyebrows, I can tell you that both of mine are so raised that they've crossed my hairline and are no longer visible.

What the hell's with the more-than-quadrupling of the party leaders' allowance? Oh yes, I forgot, the details "are hidden."

Nice to know our lawmakers in Holyrood are tightening their belts along with the rest of us.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

A Very Belated Happy New Year from Scottish Libertarians!

From Scottish Libertarians, and more generally the UK Libertarian Party, I wish you all a very belated Happy New Year, and hope it brings you good things and goodwill. I must apologise for my distinct lack of presence over the last few weeks - I've been on what might be described as an extended festive hiatus, darting between Glasgow (where I work and study), Edinburgh (where a lot of my friends are), North Berwick (the closest thing I have to a hometown), and my family home in the East Lothian countryside. And I think it's probably fair to say that, from Christmas Eve to about the 2nd January, when I wasn't travelling around I was probably drunk. Then me and a couple of friends piled into a car and when on a little road-trip jaunt down to Manchester and then Newcastle on the 3rd, which was very good fun.

Now though, I'm back at Uni and all's set to continue this blogging lark.

So, with the Libertarian Party having just past its first-year anniversary, I'll give you my take on how things have been going, for us and the country, and the highs, lows, trials and tribulations of a nascent political party.

I think, overall, it's been a good year for libertarians in the UK. We now have a party we can belong to without having to hold our noses. Many libertarian-minded people talk about trying to change bigger parties (Tories, LibDems, UKIP etc) from the inside, but I'm fairly doubtful about the possibilities of managing to do that. I feel the statism is far too entrenched in every one of the big three parties, plus the SNP in Scotland, for significant change towards a more libertarian stance to occur. I'd personally rather be member #78 of the Libertarian Party, small as we may be, than number 20002 of the Tories. The influence I, and every member of us who wants to be active in the party, can wield over policy discussion, events organisation, media co-ordination, allocation of funding, etc etc, dwarfs beyond all comparison any such influence I could have in any other party - libertarians in other parties tend to be sidelined as "maverick" types. Such proximity to the day-to-day running of the party that we have as members really means it can feel like our party. A strong sense of internal democracy has arisen from the debate and discussion we have on, well, pretty much everything, and every member who is willing to put his two cents in has his opinion valued equally. Knowing the power each of us has in the party, and in turn, the responsibility, really does motivate you to get on and do whatever you can in whatever time you can find to get active, and participate.

I've amazed myself with the amount of time and effort I've been willing and able to put in for the party, from organising the formation of Scottish Libertarians, to blogging, to leafletting, to trawling the streets of the East End of Glasgow to get 10 signatures for our (failed) attempt to get on the by-election ballot, to going to party meetings and get-togethers in England, to chatting about the party in the pub. It's a great feeling to find a cause you believe in like that, where you're willing and motivated to work for something greater. It's sometimes difficult to gauge general public opinion, esconced as I often am in blogosphere, but I do think libertarianism is finding a wider audience, and the word, at least, is entering more into the public consciousness, as well as some of the ideas. David Davis came out and said, bizarrely, that "The only Libertarian Party is the Conservative Party" - shortly following our invitation to Davis to join us after his pro-civil-liberties stand on 42 days detention . David Cameron felt the need to come out in his party conference and expressly tell us "I am not a libertarian," before totally misinterpreting the basis of the philosophy. This, as opposed to saying "I'm not a socialist", which his grassroots may have found a little more reassuring.

There is widespread disillusionment with a lot of what has been going on in this country; I think we're seeing the beginnings of an anti-government backlash from the bottom-up, centred around ideas of individual freedom, with our money, our private transactions and activities, our personal data, and our civil liberties. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm far too optimistic. But only time will tell.

We saw widespread support for David Davis when he resigned and won re-election based on an anti-Big-Brother-state platform. We've seen continuous opposition to our expensive and wrong military adventures abroad. We've seen revulsion at Gordon Brown, well, in general, but mostly at his profligate spending, high-tax regime, and his disregard for liberty and democracy, primarily, I think, through the non-referedum on the Lisbon Constitution.

It's quite clear that this government has been in power for too long. Bloated, corrupt, illiberal, incredibly wasteful, deceitful - we've seen an opposition MP detained by 20 anti-terror police and taken into custody for 9 hours; we've seen anti-terror legislation abused to financially interfere with Iceland; we're seeing our Treasury embarking on a ludicrous policy of economic recovery that merges ultra-Keynesiam with a sort of refined Mugabinomics. We need to face facts: you can't spend your way out of a recession. Gordon's spending can explain in large part why Britain is so far down the shitter next to our first-world neighbours. In fact, we actually have no money left to spend anyway, we can barely fiddle our interest rates any lower, and borrowing from abroad is going to become increasingly difficult as our national credit card approaches "Maxed Out." The solution from the government? Turn on the printing presses, or as its known institutionally, commence "quantatitive easing". And then, pardon my french, but we're really b*ggered.

In the 1930's, Hayek won the Nobel Economics Prize for showing how Roosevelt's policies prolonged and deepened the Great Depression. The current downturn is almost a textbook case of the central premise of Austrian economics - the most well-known being Ludwig von Mises - the theory of the business cycle, which explains how central banks use their levers of power - the power to set interest rates - and induce artificial booms and busts through the flow of credit (or lack thereof), which cause "bubbles" - distortions in the markets where the easy credit is most used during the period of credit expansion (in the case of this recession it was primarily in real estate, although we also saw it in commodities too) and which, eventually, pop, as the housing bubble did following the Federal Reserve, and other banks around the world, tightening their monetary policy - i.e. raising rates.

Yet, it seems, nothing has been learned, and the policies of Brown and his fellow "progressives" - Barack Obama, for example - such as slashing rates, spending, borrowing - are on course to take us to, like a film director releasing a terrible Hollywood sequel into the cinemas, "The Great Depression II: This time it's really bad." If we see any sort of recovery as a result of these policies, it will, I think, merely be a brief and illusory one. I pray I'm wrong, but adherents to Austrian economics usually aren't. One such man, Ron Paul, who ran for President, has been predicting with striking accuracy for years the crisis we're now in. Peter Schiff is another one.
Couple this gloomy economic outlook with the ascent of "communitarianism" - a sort of Rousseau-ish ideology, brother of socialism, that sacrifices individual liberty and democracy for the good of the community. Very prominent in the EU, who have taken it to a grander scale, willing to sacrifice the sovereignty of nations for the good of the "European community" - no matter what we peasants think. In the UK, our personal details are stored on massive databases, easily abused and "misplaced", with some of the most god-awful data protection in the world. We have been branded an "Endemic Surveillance Society" by Privacy International, with unaccountable faces watching our steps on city streets, one camera for every 14 of us. We have more CCTV than any other nation on Earth - and no, not per head. More.

Things don't look pretty. But I think this is where the backlash has come, and will continue, to come from.

One of the most successful things we did in the past year was our 1984 campaign on November 5th, when we co-ordinated the delivery of a copy of George Orwell's prophetic work to every MP. The campaign escalated into something much bigger than we could have predicted, with well over a thousand books going out, only 71 actually sent by party members. Jacqui Smith, apparently, got six copies! Despite our best efforts, only 3 MPs mentioned they'd received it - Glasgow's own Tom Harris, plus Kerry McCarthy and Paul Flynn. News of the campaign flew around the net (just google it) but sadly the Mainstream Media didn't pick up on it, though I rather think they won't pick up on much we have to say or do until we have some sort of electoral presence.

Anyhoo, November 5th became Liberty Day, and on top of the 1984 campaign, some of our members, and some non-members, went on a little jaunt to Downing Street dressed all funny, and got stopped and searched by a squadron of PCSO's and Policemen - you can view the excellent photos from the day here.

It is things like this that make me think we, and the libertarian ideals, may have a future - the idea that you own yourself, that you are sovereign, and that you should be given the freedom to make the choices that affect you - not government bureaucrats - in what you consume, what you spend your own money on, what you do, how you look, and so on and so forth, provided you do not harm the reciprocal rights of others.

But it's not easy for the LPUK at the moment. We're, comparatively speaking, tiny. A few grand in the kitty - barely enough to run a Westminster or Holyrood by-election campaign. Our membership, though it has been increasing steadily, has not risen at a pace some of us had perhaps hoped. On the media front, as I've alluded to it has been slim pickings for us. Alex Singleton at The Telegraph dismissed us as "undermining liberty", but what is it that they say about all publicity? Some of our leadership have been involved in a few radio interviews, and one televised debate on Sky News, all of which you can browse here, and the claim to fame of yours truly was my published letter on behalf of the Party in my local paper back home. We've also had a few stalled attempts at election campaigns, but now I've think we know what we're doing on that front, and we plan to stand candidates in local elections later this year - and, if Big Brown deigns it fit sometime this year that democratic mandates should come before his "long-term vision", perhaps in a general election too.

As the Beatles were fond of saying, it's a "long and winding road, tha-at leads, to your door (Gordon)." Who on Earth can possibly say if we'll ever get there? On Yahoo Political Q&A forums, someone posed the question, no idea who:

"Do you think the UK Libertarian Party will get very far?

I mean, they are in favour of free immigration. Isn't that something
the island doesn't need. Already, people are saying that too many people are
moving to Britain. Wouldn't that go against the libertarian party?"

To which one person replied: "No, I don't think so."

Oh well.

But funnily enough, our immigration policy is one that seems to have disgruntled a few, as although for us the end-game is an open borders policy, we currently favour a points-based system until the welfare state is overhauled. For this, we've been dubbed "ex-BNP members in disguise", "scum", "closet racists in denial", and "patently NOT Libertarian."

Which illustrates rather neatly that you cannot please everyone, and certainly not every Libertarian - I think the formation of the Party in the first place was a monumental achievement, as Libertarians are renowned for being notoriously difficult to organise. "Herding cats" is, I believe, the common meme. We have our Randians, or Rights Theorists, our Consequentialist Minarchists, our Republicans, our Monarchists, our Anarchists, our kind-of-Lib-Dem-supporters, our pro-choicers, our anti-abortionists, our lefty-libertarians and our righty-libertarians, and probably plenty more I've neglected to mention. But such is LPUK life.

All this said, it was a good year for us. A long, hard year, yes, but I think we're all thoroughly enjoying ourselves - when we're not undergoing one of our periodic bouts of anxiety at the state of the nation. Our last meeting was our AGM in York, which was a fun affair - a constitutional amendement there, a speech here, and then a long stop-off in the pub afterwards, where it emerged that our Party Leader, eloquent and passionate though he may be, is no pool shark - I slaughtered him on the pool table.

What's ahead for Scottish Libertarians? Well hopefully, as The Joker put it, "there's a lot of potential for aggressive expansion." I hope to get us registered as an official regional branch of LPUK in the coming months, and to increase membership, continue to try and establish the blog, and engage in debate with people across the political spectrum. I'm under no illusions that libertarianism has a particularly wide audience in Scotland at present, but it would to change that, even incrementally. In the short-term, watch this space for posts on, among other things, a proposed meet-up for Scottish Libertarians, probably in Edinburgh, and probably sometime in February, and also a post or two on the incoming Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill in Scotland - I received some generously informative e-mails from Consenting Adults Action Network (CAAN) on passages in the Bill concerning extreme pornography that seem distinctly unreasonable and authoritarian.

In the meantime, if you support us but aren't yet a member, hell, why not gies us yer tenner and join? I can do with all the help I can get!

Join LPUK link

Or if you fancy helping boost our funds, hell, feel free!

Donate to LPUK link

Onwards to 2009!

Dan Vevers

Scottish Libertarians