Monday, 24 September 2012

Nick Clegg is an Utter Arse, pt 2

Nick Clegg is demonstrating his cretinous stupidity once more. Apparently, people earning more money should pay more tax, and he's intimated that taxes on the richest 10% in society should be raised.

Sounds fair enough, except when you consider that the top 10% basically consists of anyone earning about £50,000 or more. Given that the current threshold for Higher Rate Income Tax is £42,475, this means that the 10% that Nick is talking about is already paying a top rate of 42%. That's 40% Income Tax and 2% Employee National Insurance.

I say this as someone who earns around £18,000 a year, so I'm well aware that someone on £50,000 is considerably better off than me. But I'm also aware that, as we have a progressive tax system, where the rate increases in bands as you move up the income scale, most tax in this country is already paid by people who are better off.

So, first off, we already have a tax system that is pretty fair. The lowest-paid in society pay a substantially lower share of tax than the richest. So what's the problem?

Well, of course, the problem is that we're running a deficit. So Nick proposes to close that deficit with extra taxes. Ah, but before we prescribe the medicine, hadn't we better check the symptoms?

The ONS and HMRC have confirmed that receipts from Income Tax have risen pretty steadily over the last 14 years. Graph detailed below, lifted from their figures. Receipts were £86.5billion in 1998-99, rising pretty steadily until 2007-08, where they levelled out at around the £147billion mark. Since then, they've been pretty steady.


This is no massive surprise, given that Labour successively rose Income Tax during this period. You'd expect the receipts to increase, especially when combined with a growing economy. However, the rate of increase slowed from 2006-07 to 2007-08, before the recession really took hold. On top of that, receipts actually held up in 2008-09, when the country was really in the throes of recession. There was a slight dip in 2009-10, but they bounced back the following year.

So, what this graph shows is that, although allowing fiscal drag to effectively increase taxes over the last 15 years has produced a rise in revenue, we're now basically maxed out. We're at the peak of the Laffer Curve - we're squeezing as much money out of Income Tax as possible.

So the problem is not that we are not taking enough in tax.

Yet we are still running a deficit.

Therefore, the only possible explanation for this state of affairs is...

(drum roll)

The Government is spending too much.

The answer, therefore, is not to tax people more, but to start spending less.

Of course, dear old Cleggie, what with being the Deputy Prime Minister and all, is in a far better position to know this than little old me. Yet I managed to figure it out all by myself, on account of it being fucking obvious. So that means that either Little Nicky is really, really stupid, or...

He's fucking lying to us.

Yes, you are.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Free Speech and Kate Middleton's Baps

The Duchess of Cambridge
The news that some French paparazzi has taken some photos of Kate Middleton in the buff has raised the thorny issue of free speech once again. The magazine in question is testing the boundaries of the free press. Should a free press be held accountable for invading someone's privacy? Where do you draw the line? Taking pictures of someone in the nude? Or hacking into a dead girl's phone?

My position on this is a very difficult one to explain, so I'll do my best. First off, a few fundamental declarations:
  • I think free speech and press freedom are central tenets of a healthy democracy;
  • They are principles which should be upheld without condition;
  • I am fundamentally opposed to any form of State censorship.
So my position on the pictures of Kate Middleton's baps is clear in that regard: their publication should definitely be legal. There's an argument that as she didn't give her active consent in the making of the pictures, then she's potentially the copyright holder, and therefore any royalties from their publication are due to her, not the magazine or the photographer, but that's a separate issue.

And here comes the big qualifying but...

Is the publication moral? In other words, is any great public good served by this disclosure?

There are a few instances when a publication of such material could be deemed in the public interest. If - totally hypothetically - an heir to the Crown was caught knobbing someone other than his wife, for example, such a disclosure would be in the public interest. This would be on account of it reflecting on the behaviour and character of a future Head of State.

But as far as I can see, pictures of the knockers of a British Princess who isn't of Royal Blood whilst she is on holiday with her husband have absolutely no bearing on anyone's behaviour, and therefore their disclosure has no public interest whatsoever. The only purpose they serve is to titillate the masses, and allow the editor and the photographer to make a bit of money off the back of exploiting her.

So, no, the publication is not moral. Legal, yes, and it certainly should remain that way. Notwithstanding any debate about the ownership of the photos. Moral? Unquestionably not.

Is this grounds to censor the photos? Definitely not. Last time I checked, we live in a society based on the Rule of Law, not the Rule of Morals.

Censorship is always shit.
So how do we respond to this? Banning their publication would be wrong, yet their publication in itself is also wrong. The answer is pretty simple: we make our own individual choice. We can do that, as we're all moral agents in our own right. Therefore, I choose not to buy these pictures or seek them out. I refuse to condone the behaviour of the photographer and the editor. In fact, I condemn their willing exploitation of a young woman simply to make a fast buck. I will not call for them to lose their jobs, but I will make my own conscious choice not to support their actions.

It makes me wonder how many other people will make the same choice. It bothers me that searches for the pictures on the Internet have already risen considerably. But it also makes me realise that, in a democracy, we get the press we deserve. We get the politicians we deserve as well. I look at the grasping, amoral scum that run our newspapers. I look at the mindless filth they churn out on a daily basis. I look at the sycophantic lickspittles that walk the corridors of power in Westminster.

There is something very wrong with this country. And you know what? We have only ourselves to blame.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Manage the Economy Like the Olympics?

'Those union barons are so fucking dumb...
Dealing with Klingons is easier!'

So, I see the economically illiterate dinosaurs in the TUC still seem to think that we're living in the 1940s, demanding that we 'manage the economy like the Olympics'. Their contention is that the (largely publicly-funded and centrally-planned) Team GB effort shows that the private sector isn't the answer to everything, and that State planning and control can play its part.

Cue the obligatory Captain Picard facepalm.

Well of course it bloody well can. But just because you can do a thing, does not necessarily entail that you should do a thing. We could solve starvation in Africa by murdering everyone who lives there, but it's not really classed as a viable solution to anyone other than the die-hard maniacs like Idi Amin that pop up every now and again. He was a socialist, by the way. But I digress...

The reason that a centrally planned Statist approach to the Olympics worked so well is because it has fixed, measurable targets, and an established method of hitting those targets. The target was to come 4th in the medals table, ergo winning as many gold medals as possible. Very nice and clear cut. The next stage was identifying the sports that we were likely to do well in, and targeting funding at those areas to maximise our chances. The funding paid for personal trainers, medical staff, dieticians, training equipment and facilities, living expenses for the athletes and so on. Lo and behold, it worked. So why can't we do that with the economy?

Because there is no clear-cut goal for the economy, and no established method of reaching such a goal even if we had one. Which we don't.

You might argue, 'we need economic growth!' Really? From what sector of the economy? Construction? Agriculture? Retail? Dare I say it... banking? All of the above? You might find that the focused activity needed to create economic growth in one area may be the diametric opposite of the requirements for creating growth in another. In short, we have a strong element of uncertainty, which makes it very difficult for any single organisation - even one as complex and well-resourced as the State - to formulate any serious centrally planned economic management. For further details, see the Soviet Union, 1970s onwards.

So, if a centrally planned system can't assign funding and resources properly, on account of the variables simply being too complex to work out, what's the alternative? Well, the alternative is to let the people in the relevant industries exchange goods and services at their own rates. That way, resources and labour will focus into the hands of the people who are best-placed to produce the most efficient outcomes.

In the real world, we call this a market.

Here endeth the economics lesson.