Correcting the contextualisers

All property is theft

The response of some to the riots which swept the UK last month was to say “Yes, we know this is criminality, but you can’t ignore the cuts/poverty” While stopping short of excusing the violence which left five dead and caused millions of pounds of damage there was an attempt by these people to ‘contextualise’ it.

Contextualising is often little more than pinning the tail of your pet political cause to the donkey of whatever is in the headlines that week. So it was with the riots. As Kristian Neimetz blogged for the Institute of Economic Affairs the riots had nothing to do with material poverty. Neimetz points out that:

“The standard rate of Income Support for a non-working single mother with one teenager is currently £562.60 per month. On top of that comes Child Benefit, currently at £87.97 per month, and Child Tax Credit at £168.90, assuming only the most basic rate. The rate of Housing Benefit depends on where she lives; it is £1000 per month in inner southeast London, £1213.33 in inner east London and £1256.67 in central London (which includes Camden and most of Hackney). Council Tax is also covered. This is at current rates, meaning after the ‘savage cuts’, and ignores other benefits which are a bit trickier to qualify for.”

You can actually live a pretty sweet life on benefits. Beveridge’s safety net has become a hammock.

This isn’t to say we don’t have poverty in Britain, we do, but only because poverty has been redefined to mean having less than half the money of the Duke of Devonshire. The rioters outside my east London flat didn’t look too poverty stricken, wearing Franklin & Marshall gear and filming their mayhem on iPhones. The truth is that in a real sense there is very little material poverty in the UK today.

The contextualisers also said that cuts to youth services played a role in the riots, as though these kids would stop burning buildings down if only they had a ping pong table. It also never seemed to have occurred to the contextualisers that earlier generations of children refrained from rioting when all they had to distract them was a Hula Hoop.

Neimetz dealt with this cuts argument in his blog but, again, we saw the common, utter confusion among the contextualisers about what it is the government is actually doing. It is not cutting the debt but the deficit, which is the rate at which the debt is growing. At the end of this Parliament government spending is forecast to be nearly £100 billion higher than when the coalition took office. So much for cuts!

That’s not to say that there was no context for these riots – there was. Base criminality. According to statistics released this week three quarters of those appearing in court for their part in the riots have previous convictions. They weren’t reacting to poverty or cuts; they were just out doing what they normally do.

This article originally appeared at Global Politics


Big government has destroyed a healthy society and created an underclass


To describe the rioting that took place in the UK recently as “anti-social” sounds so anodyne as to be redundant. Neighbourhoods were terrorized. Buildings were burned. And people were killed. But it still conveys an essential point.

One of the most noted aspects of the riots was the fact that the rioters were destroying their own communities. Whatever this may say about the intelligence of looters who target Tottenham over Knightsbridge, the riots were certainly an attack on society in the areas they live in. Why would they do this?

First, we have to consider what we mean by society. For too long the leftist definition has been widely accepted which sees “society” merely as a substitute term for “state”. In that view, society and social action simply amounts to whatever the government is doing and all it requires of the individual is to hand over his or her taxes when demanded.

In actual fact “society” is both broader and more difficult to pin down than that. One way of defining it is simply to see it in terms of people interacting. And this makes greater demands of the individual than does the leftist conception. It demands active involvement.

All sorts of areas where people interact comprise society while having nothing to do with state action: families, charities, sports clubs, religious organisations and workplaces, among many others.

It can be manifested in something as unremarkable as an ordinary yet friendly relationship with a local shop owner. All of this human action is social interaction — society in other words.

Yet up and down the UK large sections of the population have been absent from these circles of positive social action for years. With broken families and no jobs they are what we have come to term the “Underclass”.

To a very great degree, this underclass is the creation of the state. Welfare handouts have rendered fathers and families redundant in many cases. They have made it possible to live a quite comfortable life without ever earning a penny.

The debilitating, de-socialising effect of this is readily seen. To give an example, one of the mitigating circumstances most commonly put forward for the rioters was the lack of any state-provided recreational activity for teenagers.

It seems to have occurred to depressingly few people that by acting with others voluntarily they could have worked to provide something themselves as was the norm in the days before the vast expansion of the welfare state. The social approach as opposed to the state approach simply never occurred to them.

Welfare and state provision has de-socialised these people by enabling their withdrawal from large sections of the arena of voluntary human interactions. They dwell instead in the entitlement induced passivity of welfare dependency. They attack society where they live because they are not a part of it. They are, in other words, anti-social.

The great 19th century Liberal statesman Richard Cobdensaid that “Peace will come to earth when the people have more to do with each other and governments less”. The recent riots in Britain show that to be the case among individuals within nations as well as between them.

London rioters are the pampered children of the welfare state

A bit more of this please

For the last two nights, like many other Londoners, I have stayed up late watching clashes outside my window between Police and rioters. After seeing the burned out flats of Tottenham I wanted to make sure I could go to sleep safely.

What I saw, a Police car being trashed and a baton charge on Sunday and fighting again last night, was rather subdued by the standards of elsewhere in the capital. Following on from the arson in Tottenham, buildings were burned in Hackney, Croydon and Ealing.

There was always the danger that people on the left would seek to use this unrest as a vehicle for their own pet causes. Ken Livingstone proved again just what an irrelevant lump of 80’s nostalgia he is by blaming, not the current government, but that of Margaret Thatcher. Others have consulted their A level Sociology textbooks and pinned the blame on the rioting youths’ “disenfranchisement” or “deprivation”.

None of this third rate Marxist rubbish holds up if you leave the lecture hall and come face to face with the rioters. It is almost impossible to think of a way these people are disenfranchised. Each and every one of them has the franchise. When they reach 18 they will have the right to vote. They may choose not to use it, but that’s up to them.

Neither did the rioters I saw look particularly deprived. The closest thing they have to a uniform are Franklin & Marshall jumpers which retail for about £60 each. Most of them were filming their rampages on iPhones which can retail at over £400.

The poverty these kids have is moral, not financial. Many of them come from broken families which derive most of their support from the state. Neither they, nor their parents, have ever had to face consequences or take responsibility in their lives. If a girl gets pregnant the state pays. If they’d rather pose about like a gangster than get a job, the state pays. And if they commit a crime state punishment is often a joke. So, they behave as they please.

It is true that they have no hope or aspiration but this is not a question of “exclusion”. They are forced by law to attend state schools.

White, black or whatever else, it is because many of them come from a culture which places no value on education. They would rather emulate some dim witted “music” star than knuckle down to school work. This accounts for much of their poor educational performance which adversely affects their prospects later in life.

And why should they value education and hard work? People who are used to having money thrown at them by the state have seen that you can be rewarded for doing nothing.

Happily, the sociological nonsense has been less widespread than it could have been and than it once would have been.

Tottenham MP David Lammy’s reaction was solid and unspectacular but after the disgusting response of the late, unlamented former Tottenham MP Bernie Grant after the brutal murder of PC Keith Blakelock (“What the police got was a bloody good hiding” he crowed after the policeman had had his head hacked off by a mob during 1985’s riots in Broadwater Farm) we have come some distance.

Even Diane Abbot broke the habit of a lifetime this morning by saying something sensible and backing curfews.

Curfews should be an obvious start. Beyond that, the police should be more proactive, seeking to hit and disperse the rioters — take the fight to them. They should be looking at a range of tools from water cannons to tear gas to rubber bullets. And this is a perfectly liberal response, if you know what true liberalism is about.

The first governments arose out of the need for mutual defence. Over time, particularly in the last century, governments have taken on more and more roles. The state now tells you how often to exercise and spies on your bin bags.

But whether you agree with the state’s new functions or not, it cannot be denied that one of its core functions, before anything else, remains the protection of the people from domestic and foreign enemies. If the state cannot do that then it is well and truly failing.

Even a small state can do this. All but the most fervent of anarcho-capitalist should agree that this protection is the one core duty of the state above all others. There is no reason why a strong government must also be a big government.

One of the defining characteristics of the modern state is its monopoly on violence. It is now time to assert that monopoly. The government needs to act, it needs to act hard, and it needs to act now.

This article originally appeared at The Commentator


A woman in Croydon has to jump from a burning building. Its society’s fault apparently

In fairness figures on the political left have been resiting the temptation to try and make out that the riots in London, which claimed their first life today, are anything more than rancid criminality. However, the loonier lefties, who in their desperate search for allies have yet to encounter anyone giving off a moral stench so gut turning they weren’t able to stand it, have seen in these feral scum noble, oppressed harbingers of the proletarian rising. Here’s some examples from a couple of the nuts I came across in my undergrad days…

Sean Rillo Raczka has been tweeting prolifically…

“People have lost their homes. It’s tragic. The government is putting many many more on the streets though. People won’t accept this #riots” – Today

“I can see increased stop and search, violent policing and the deployment of water cannons coming from all this, not the justice that we need”

– Today

“Inevitably this chaos will lead to further victimisation of poor young people, and even worse militarised & political policing.” – Today

“Govt systematically disenfranchises young people, giving them no hope or education. There is endemic racism. I wonder why there are riots?” – Sunday

A friend has posted on his wall…



Ordinarily you’d take this for a joke…

Elly Badcock, previously mentioned here, has been a fountain of revolutionary fervour in Facebook

“just got back from tottenham. scary stuff. the anger pouring out from a marginalised community against a corrupt police force is something to be reckoned with” – Sunday

“The bullet lodged in Tottenham PC’s radio is apparently police-issue. Looks like that set-up fell through, then. Fucking murdering bastards.” – Sunday

“This from Jo Gough who was around Hackney and Whitechapel last night: “my experience of wandering around: people are targetting corporate shops- overpriced goods and exploit their workers, and banks- made this crisis. A mixture of all ages and people, no violence against eachother. We have to understand people can’t carrying on living with no money and no future prospects apart from the govnt saying we will become poorer. The system is way more violent than anything happening on the streets” – Today

In the real world here are Raczka’s and Badcock’s downtrodded heroes striking a blow for freedom and justice…

This is what happens when you indulge scumbags

Take that, bus!

Tottenham, just a couple of miles from me, is in flames again. The people of N17 are following in the famous footsteps of the Broadwater Farm rioters of 1985 and smashing up the area they live in to “protest” about the shooting of Mark Duggan by the Police at nearby Tottenham Hale tube station on Thursday.

But its always a little difficult to take these riots seriously as some expression of outrage on the part of the oppressed. Like the equally dumb Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992, a great many of the outraged and oppressed are registering their anger with an apparently racist/capitalist/patriarchal Police force by grabbing some flat screen TV’s and Blu Ray players.

The fact is that some people, like those rioting by Bruce Grove train station, are just scum who like a row. When the student protests turned violent a few months ago I was asked by an angry student “Do you think people do this for fun?” Yes, actually, I do. The blokes I see scrapping at football matches don’t, despite the valiant efforts of underemployed sociology lecturers to convince you otherwise, do it for some grand political or social reason. They do it because some blokes find having a scrap exciting. And the scum rioting in Tottenham couldn’t give a monkeys about Mark Duggan, they just want a row. And some free electrical goods.

These scum don’t need much encouragement but it has never helped that there have always been left wingers willing to see in this mindless destruction the stirrings of a revolutionary proletariat. There will be, in the days to come, people telling you that all this is a reaction to ‘social exclusion’ or poverty. And this matters because these people have an influence on policy out of all proportion to the value of what they have to contribute. Seeing the wrong problem they have for years peddled the wrong solutions. Less active Policing and a bit more taxpayers cash will, apparently, solve the problem.

And these lefties, along with the various self appointed ‘community leaders’, will come to blame the fact the area is a dump which ‘socially excludes’ its residents on some failure of the market economy or a government which doesn’t care about them.

Tottenham won’t be a dump for either of these reasons. It will be a dump and remain a dump because of the rioting scumbags of Tottenham. The people who, in the name of ‘Justice’, and IPCC actually started an investigation before Mark Duggan’s body was cold, have smashed their own shops and amenities and burned their own neighbours out are the ones who will be to blame for the fact they have no shops or amenities. The same thing happened in areas like Watts and Detroit after the riots there in the 1960’s. The residents smashed the place up and then complained that they lived in a ruin.

Lets not dignify the destructive morons of Tottenham with some concocted socio-economic rationalisation. This just encourages people who need little encouragement and by distorting policy makes the situation worse. But let them endure their punishment. When they look at the dump they live in remind them, when they cast the blame on capitalism or politics, that its a dump because they smashed it up. To wallow in their results of their own stupidity should be their reward. The tragedy is that victims of the scum are not ‘the Pigs’, ‘the Man’, ‘the Feds’ or whatever imported American term they choose to use. The victims will be their innocent neighbours.

Labour’s listening exercise has told them that Britain’s a conservative country

Is there anybody out there?

In the wake of its defeat at last years election Labour did what modern political parties do and launched a ‘listening exercise’. This week it made its first report and the comrades didn’t like what they heard.

Paul Richards, a self described “a part-time shadow cabinet factotum” whatever that is, reported on Labourlist that British opinion was:

“tough on crime (and to hell with the causes), a preference for money to be spent in the UK’s roads and schools before those of India or Nigeria, a crackdown on benefit cheats and lazy arses who don’t want to work, and a strong desire to see the NHS and school system work properly. Add in a little mild xenophobia towards the continental Europeans and a visceral loathing of MPs and bankers”

To continue reading click here

The law and justice are two different things

Any advance on four years?

The Telegraph today carries a story with a grimly familiar headline; Rapist released early attacked new victim within weeks

It turns out that on New Year’s Day 2006 Fabian Thomas “twice raped and threatened to kill a girl, aged 17, in an alley in Taunton, Somerset”. For this horrific crime he was sentenced to, yes, just eight years in a young offenders institution. He served only four. You wonder if his victim got over it as quickly?

Released in December 2010 Thomas lasted just two months before he “attempted to rape a woman, aged 19, in a supermarket car park while brandishing a hunting knife and wearing a balaclava”

Our government does alot of things that it has no business doing. But one of the basic responsibilities of the state, before education, before telling us what to eat, before packing councils with diversity officers, is to keep us safe. The fact that it cant do that and doesn’t even appear interested in trying is a failure of politics at the deepest level.

Methods and madness part 2 – Legal aid

Hitting the buffers

A little while ago I noted, with reference to housing benefit reforms, how the shrill, hysterical reactions prompted by the coalition’s cuts often seem so out of kilter with the actual cuts themselves. As if to prove the point along comes a storm over cuts to the legal aid budget.

The Guardian yesterday rounded up four people to condemn the Con-Dems.

“If the government persists with these proposals it would represent a sharp break from the long-standing bipartisan consensus that effective access to justice is essential to underpin the rule of law”
– Desmond Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society

“The shrinkage of the justice system inevitably means a painful contraction of access to justice”
– Nicholas Green, chair of the Bar Council of England and Wales, which represents barristers

“People won’t get access to their civil rights. It’s unjust”
– Steve Hynes, director of the Legal Action Group

The fourth was from Scope, the mental health charity. But look again at these three, 75% of those quoted opposing the measures. Notice something in common? They all work in the legal profession, the very profession which is now facing the prospect of less taxpayers money flowing into it.

And flow it has. Mr Hynes once wrote a book called ‘The Justice Gap- Whatever
happened to legal aid?’ The answer is that between 1980 and 2005 the legal aid bill swelled from £138 million to £2.2 billion.

We now have the most expensive legal aid system in the world. According to figures from 2007 legal aid spending per head of population in the following countries is

£1 Sweden
£3 France
£4 Germany
£7 Ireland
£10 New Zealand
£34 England and Wales

A bit of number crunching. The coalition plans to chop £300 million off a legal aid budget currently at £2.1 billion per year. This represents a cut of 13%. Applied per head of population that leaves us with £29.58, still well above the figures for New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, France and Sweden, not countries noted for having hordes of people who can’t “get access to their civil rights”.

It will sharply curtail lawyers access to our pockets. Charles Salmon QC of London’s Hare Court earned £1,058,000 in one year for his legal aid work. Howard Godfrey QC of 2 Bedford Row got just £988,000 while David Whitehouse QC of 3 Raymond Buildings had to make do with just £959,000. These are the people that Desmond Hudson and Nicholas Green represent.

The Immigration Advisory Service received £14,134,000 from the legal aid budget in 2008 and the Refugee Legal Centre got £13,092,000. These are the people Steve Hynes represents.

Think how many nurses/teachers/policemen that money could pay for. Nurses or lawyers earning close to a million? In a real world where money doesn’t grow on trees, those are the decisions which have to be made.

Vigilante Man

When Michael Winner asked the late Charles Bronson if he’d like to star in his new movie Death Wish, about a mild-mannered chap who goes on a rampage shooting scumbags when his family is attacked, Bronson replied “Id like to do that”. “The movie?” Winner enquired, “No”, responded Bronson, “Shoot some scumbags”.

When it was released in 1974 Death Wish stirred up enormous controversy. With its violent rape scene and apparent condoning of Paul Kersey’s vigilante activities, Vincent Canby of the New York Times called it “one of the sickest movies ever made”, claiming that it “raises complex questions in order to offer bigoted, frivolous, oversimplified answers”.

The films message in enunciated best by Kersey in conversation with his wet blanket of a son-in-law; “What do you call people who, when they’re faced with a condition of fear, run away?”. His son sheepishly asks “Civilised?”. In the west, society works on the understanding that when members of the public are done wrong, the State, which holds the monopoly on legitimate violence, takes people’s rights of revenge and retribution on itself. With this comes the caveat that the State is duty bound to exercise this right of revenge and retribution. But, as this film poses, what are we supposed to do when the authorities rescind this right, and by definition the rights of victims and the public, in the face of left wing/liberal notions of fairness for crooks? When the police don’t protect us, who does?

For those who think this film silly, just look at the case of British farmer Tony Martin. Repeatedly burgled and repeatedly told by the police that they were powerless to act, Martin shot one burglar dead and wounded another when his home was broken into again. Unlike the burglars, Martin was arrested and sent to jail. The burglar who escaped was subsequently given legal aid to sue Martin. In Death Wish the police spend considerably more time trying to apprehend Kersey than the scum he is after. This is provocative political film making of the highest calibre, not far behind Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers and Costa Gavras’ Z.

Some criticise the film for the ease with which Bronson finds muggers. As Mark Steyn wrote, “To be sure, he sort of goes looking for trouble. But in 1970’s New York you didn’t have to look far: just go to the park, ride the subway, take an evening stroll”. This great movie loses one star only because it is not quite as good as the similarly themed Dirty Harry.

There are a couple of problems with this movie. Charles Bronson is too macho an actor for the role of “bleeding heart liberal” turned vigilante Paul Kersey. He looks like a killer from frame one, and as a result his transformation is a little hard to swallow. A more normal looking actor might have been more believable, as Dustin Hoffmann demonstrates in Straw Dogs*. It also suffers in comparison to the book. The back story about a gun fighting father, introduced in the movie, is plain daft, and the police investigation in the film, which tracks Kersey down in pretty short order, feels tacked on and ill thought out. The ending of the book is better also. Called Paul Benjamin in the book, the Bronson character is caught red-handed by a police officer. The officer removes his hat, turns his back and allows the Vigilante to escape. Oochoa gets nowhere near him in the book.

Ask yourself the question posed on the back of the paperback version of the book; “What do you do when your life lies in ruins and fear clutches at your heart? Do you shun the city and flee from its violence? Or do you do what Paul did – get a gun, learn to use it and start fighting back?”

* Apparently the movie was originally slated to be directed by Sidney Lumet and star Jack Lemmon. That would have been some movie.

The War on Drugs

Drugs kill people. We hear it so often that we don’t really think about it anymore. But Im not talking about the rich coke heads in the City, or the depressed skag heads on the council estates, robbing to feed their habit. Im talking about the people killed as a result of the unwinnable war on drugs.

In Colombia war has been raging since the mid 1960’s between the various governments and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC. Like much of the contemporary violence in South America, the FARC initially started life as a Marxist force rebelling against a military government, but unlike many left wing movements in south America, the FARC have not embraced electoral politics in recent years. For better or worse, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Alan Garcia have all been elected since 1999, but the FARC have kept fighting because of drugs.

Colombia is renowned as the world centre of the cocaine trade and it is estimated that about half of the FARC’s income comes from involvement in the drugs trade, totaling between $200 million and $400 million a year. This money allows them to fund a campaign which has included massacres, forced conscription of minors and various hideously inventive booby traps. They have freedom of movement in between 40% and 60 % of the country. They are believed to have been responsible for 20% of the thirty thousand deaths this war has caused.

Afghanistan is another country slithering down the same path. One of the few benefits of the Taliban’s brand of ascetic Islam was their crushing of the opium trade, opium being vital to heroin production. In 2000, according to UN officials, Afghanistan produced nearly 4,000 tons of opium, about 75 percent of the world’s supply. Mullah Omar, Taliban head and colleague of Osama Bin Laden, banned the growing of poppies from which opium comes and destroyed opium labs and jailed opium growing farmers. The UN investigation found that in the province of Nangarhar poppies grew on 12,600 acres of land in 2000. The following year poppies were planted on just 17 acres and were all destroyed by the Taliban. But since the US led invasion in 2001 and the toppling of the Taliban, opium production has come back with a vengeance. According to a UNDOC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime) report in 2004, “opium cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 64 per cent compared to 2003” while cereal production fell by 43%.

Why is this? An answer is to be found in the article above. Ahmed Rehman, a farmer who lives with his brothers on less than three acres of land in Nangarhar province claimed that the opium he produced in 2000 brought in $1,100. The crop of onions and cattle feed he planted in 2001 brought him just $300. “Life is very bad for me this year,” he said. “Last year I was able to buy meat and wheat and now this year there is nothing.” In Colombia the high price commanded by drugs has prolonged a brutal war. In Afghanistan, the high price has encouraged men to abandon other crops to concentrate on profitable opium.

It is the high price of drugs that keeps the FARC fighting and Ahmed Rehman from growing food instead of opium. This high price will always be the case while demand outstrips supply. The Taliban were largely successful in throttling supply in Afghanistan but other efforts have met with less success. In 2004, Colombia’s government reported that 340,000 acres of land under cultivation for coca had been destroyed and almost 150 tons of cocaine seized. Sandro Calvani, director of the UNODC in Colombia, confidently predicted that “Considering Colombia supplies 80% of the world cocaine market, we think prices are going to rise starting in 2006” This price rise hasn’t materialized and in March 2005, General Bantz Craddock, head of US Southern Command charged with fighting the war on drugs, was forced to admit to the House Armed Services Committee that “Why there isn’t a price increase in cocaine, I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me.” If I were to guess at a reason it would be that as soon as an acre of cocoa is eradicated in Colombia, it springs up again in Bolivia.

Not only is this military effort having no effect on supply, attempts to squash demand western countries look to be ineffectual. The 2005 British Crime Survey found that between 1996 and 2004, cocaine use among 16 to 59 year olds rose from 0.6% to 2.4%. It is a similar story across Europe with 3.5 million Europeans estimated to take cocaine, a quarter of the world market. However, the United States still accounts for 40% of the cocaine market with 2.4% using the drug.

The war on drugs has been about stamping out supply and demand and neither has worked. It has driven the price up in the west so that addicts are pushed to crime to fund their habits. In other countries the high prices have funded civil unrest. Perhaps its time to look at another solution to the death and misery that the drug wars are causing? Perhaps its time to think about legalization

With drugs legal and the risk of having your crop defoliated gone, cocoa farmers in Colombia will rush to produce cocoa for the drug market, chasing the profits that the high price brings. This increase in supply relative to demand will have the effect of bringing the price of cocaine crashing down. Tom O’Connell MD has estimated that the “market price would probably be somewhere between one third and 1/20th of the illegal price”. Overnight the FARC will be bankrupt and lose much of their war making capacity. In Afghanistan the fall in price will mean that there is very little difference between what an opium grower will get for his opium and what he will get for his wheat and cereal will begin to look a viable option.

In the west, drugs could be taxed as cigarettes and alcohol are taxed. Furthermore, by bringing them under the scope of government regulation in terms of quality, it should be possible to improve the quality of the drugs available. After all, in many cases it is not the use but the misuse of drugs that causes fatalities.

Of course this is no panacea. In the cases of Colombia and Afghanistan, the west will have to end its farming subsidies so that Colombian formers can compete with them and make it worth their while to grow something other than cocoa. But bearing in mind that the war on drugs was launched 30 years ago and has had, at best, marginal results, surely it is time to look for a different solution?