February 2008

29 February 2008
Prince Harry in Afghanistan

So, the news blackout on Prince Harry’s deployment in Afghanistan has been broken.  But, I wonder, should it ever have been there in the first place?

The argument seems to be that if the Taliban knew that he was there they would make a special effort to try to kill him and that, therefore, his men (who are apparently much more important than him) would be put at risk.

How thoughtful.

Maybe, maybe, but should the Taliban rise to the bait wouldn’t it put their men at risk too?  And isn’t getting the Taliban to bend their whole strategy out of shape exactly what we want?

For all those interested in the travails of Newcastle United I rather liked this piece by James Hamilton.  He reckons it’s being teed up for a sale.

25 February 2008
Fairtrade or Feartrade?

I’ve been enjoying the free-market wonk tag-team ambush of Fairtrade Fortnight as evidenced by the efforts of the ASI and the Globalisation Institute’s Alex Singleton.  OK, so it smacks of co-ordination and planning - precisely the sort of things that free-marketeers are not well known for - but, still: heh!

However, one really shouldn’t laugh.  Alex’s piece in the Telegraph inspired this comment from Henry Cave Devine:

I was the acting Chief Exective of the largest independent coffee and tea trader in the world in the early 1990’s and found all that you have mentioned and even worse to be true. I want to highlight some of your points toward the end of your article to make clear that the mega-growers also ship and sell their lower quality beans into the Fairtrade markets through brokers and receive the subsidized “charity price” from the “socially responsible” rather unquestioning public. This is exactly what was meant to be avoided, and it is done in huge volumes.

Which he then followed up with this:

Three of my field agents were killed in 1991 because they tried to track down illegal shipments. It is a nasty business at times.

Titter ye not.

21 February 2008
Tesco calls for a ban on cheap alcohol

Ho hum.  There’s been a big media campaign7 on this this week.  They seem to want some sort of restriction on the sale of alcohol - although whether this involves higher taxes or a higher age limit I really don’t know.  My guess is that Tesco is simply jumping on the bandwagon before it’s too late - although it must be said this seems a tad out of character for Tesco - usually they’re pretty keen to keep out of politics.

Now as a libertarian I tend to be rather against this sort of thing.  In principle6 I would like to see no restrictions on the sale of alcohol8 at all and in theory I believe that this would make the world a better place.

What’s interesting is the coalition of motivations that’s been assembled.  On the one hand are concerns about public order - teenagers getting legless and causing trouble3 - and on the other worries about an “epidemic”1 of alcoholism.

The second point is easy to deal with.  My health is none of the state’s business.  Except, of course, that it is - by virtue of the existence of a state-funded NHS whose casualty wards groan with the results Chateau Laffite abuse.  For me that’s just another reason to abolish it2.

On the point about public order, well, this is not a simple one.  My guess is that a lot of the problems are caused by the welfare state combined with compulsory education4.  However, I’m not immune to the idea that underneath the surface the British aren’t all that civilised and that drunkenness is simply what they do5.


1. “Epidemic” indeed!  What a misuse of the English language.  Now that’s something that ought to get added to the list.
2.  Yes, that’s the NHS that should be abolished not Chateau Laffite. See Against the NHS.
3.  Yeah, I know, if they’re truly “legless” they’re not really going to be in a position to cause trouble but you know what I mean.
4.  See Brian Micklethwait’s Abolish the Welfare State and restore some Respect.  See also The Trouble With Child Labor Laws by Jeffrey A Tucker which is sort of related.
5.  My understanding is that England was for a long time an astonshingly violent society and that the low levels of crime recorded in the century before 1970 were something of an aberration.  Think Gin Lane in the 18th Century - no welfare state, cheap booze, mass disorder.
6.  See Why I am a Libertarian
7.  In both senses of the term
8.  I think most of the same arguments as used in the drugs debate would apply here.  See Sean Gabb’s A Neither Profound Nor Original Article on Why the Sale and Use of Recreational Drugs Ought Not to Be Illegal.

20 February 2008
LA Conversion: The Inevitability of Prejudice

This pamphlet by Axel Davies (see here for original PDF) is one of my absolute favourites.  Coming at a time when political correctness (can someone think of a better term?) was at is height it was a breath of fresh air, doing exactly what it said on the tin. Is that a mixed metaphor?



You see, Sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to confess, that we are generally men of untaught feelings; that instead of casting away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree ... we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them. ... Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved.1

— Edmund Burke


This article continues...

12 February 2008
In support of the Premier League’s International Round
You can find football fans
in the oddest places

Am I the only one(3) who finds the idea of Premier League teams playing regular season games abroad rather fun? I think it maybe because I see it as a way that capitalism can win over nationalism.  Up to now the ultimate stage has been the World Cup, an event that seems to do little other than serve up sub-standard football, put the process of male evolution into reverse and squander the talents of greats like George Best, Kevin Keegan and Liam Brady.  What if the ultimate stage was something that was actually quite good and something everybody, regardless of origin could buy into?  And it would give FIFA a well-deserved slap in the face - surely something we can all get behind. If I have one complaint it is about the way the Football Association has chosen to sell the idea.  It is all corporate stuff like “promoting the brand” and “exploting new markets”.  Had it never occurred to these guys that exploiting new markets and hence making more money is a good thing in itself(1) and that therefore the thing to do is to stress the benefits?  Why not: “This will give millions more fans the chance to see their football teams.  It will allow the Manchester United fan in Bangkok, the Arsenal fan in Sydney and the Watford fan in Bangalore the unique experience of seeing their favourite team in the flesh.” One of the crazier arguments against this scheme I heard over the weekend was the one that very few ordinary fans (as in, from the place after which the team is named) will be able to get to see their team when it plays abroad.  The irony seemed to be lost on these people.  This was the very weekend when people were commemorating the Munich disaster - a consequence of the pioneering spirit of Manchester United in entering the European Cup and playing in the oh-so-accessible Belgrade(2)Notes 1.  See Profit is Good. 2.  I haven’t looked up the sums but I would guess that is probably easier for the average Manchester United fan to travel to Sydney now than to Belgrade back then. 3.  See my friend Johnathan Pearce for an example of the vitriol this has induced.

02 February 2008
LA HTML Conversions: Political Notes 141

You know that Filing Cabinet I was talking about?  Well, it hasn’t gone away you know.  In fact I’ve even gone to the trouble of re-jigging it (well, creating another one) so that one entry equals one post - previously, one post could contain multiple entries.

Anyway, I’ve started filling it up. I haven’t quite got round to migrating everything over from the previous version but I guess I’ll get round to that eventually.  One article that justified an entry was an old Libertarian Alliance pamphlet by John Hibbs.  Unfortunately, it’s one of the rather annoyingly large number of LA articles that’s only available as a PDF (aargh!)  Anyway, annoyed at this I stumbled across a way of converting it to HTML relatively quickly.  “Ah!” I thought, “Sean will be so pleased.”  But then I thought, well, it might not be in exactly the format he’s looking for and, anyway, why don’t I publish the thing myself - at least that way it’ll get out there. So, here goes…

Town Planning versus the Plans Of The People

John Hibbs

This article continues...