16 November 2005

Eating Humble Pie.

I've changed my mind. I now think the government's ID proposals are unworkable. You were right, I was wrong. This blog is no longer in favour of the government's scheme, we are back to there being no blogs in favour that I can find.

I'm sure some of you will be laughing at me for my climbdown and the length of time it has taken for me to change my mind. Fair enough, what can I say, the weight of your argument has finally won me over.

The clincher for me has been recently discovering the sheer weight of opposition to the scheme from within the IT industry itself, an industry which has much to gain financially from the government's proposals. The fact that even these people can't support it, swung the pendulum massively against.

Also Chris Lightfoot's (and others) recent point that non-consensual recorded information will be made use of, made me realise that there are just too many holes in the government's scheme for it to be defensible. If recorded biometric information taken from photographs, is stored and used on the NIR without people's consent, then I am against that as well. 'Live' biometric information could be protected but not information from photographs. Sorry everyone who mentioned this, for not understanding this point earlier.

I still think an ID scheme potentially holds massive benefits for the UK. The objections on the ground of privacy are mostly trivial (apart from the point above), and the cost and benefit figures do add up to an overall benefit, but the evidence suggests that biometric technology is just not ready, and without biometrics, the benefits of the scheme are just too limited. I now realise that even a 0.1% failure rate is not good enough for this large a system. For the time being the project should be put on ice.

I think the government are going to have to come to the same conclusion as me, sooner or later. I can't see how there can be anything other than a massive climbdown. Following from this, I also can't see how the new passports can be made to work properly either.

I've not taken this decision lightly. Coupled with the new, badly drafted government proposals on education and health, this has shaken my belief in New Labour's credibility. Obviously the Iraq war decision never helped the situation. Although, I've always been a critic of the government in some of its more visible folly, these latest debacles are more fundamental.

This government has done a hell of a lot to improve this country by introducing a minimum wage and other statutory employment entitlements, by targeting areas of poverty both here and abroad (particularly child poverty), increasing health, education and transport spending and giving independence to the Bank of England.

And the Labour party has a lot to thank Tony Blair for. Winning three successive elections as leader is no mean feat, but I think even amongst Labour MPs themselves, they are beginning to realise that the New Labour project has come off the rails. This has to be remedied quickly.

The Tories are still extremely right wing and the Lib Dems are hinting at a Tory/Lib Dem coalition. This cannot be allowed to happen, it is time for this Labour government to reassess where it is going and win back the public's support.

37 comments:

  1. That's one of the most remarkable things I've read on the web. If you're ever in Cambridge, let me buy you a drink.

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  2. Neil I think I can speak for Peter Clay, squeezeweseal and a few others
    in offering to buy you a drink. I think I'm geographically closer to
    you, so I suspect it should be my responsibility. Do you have an email address?

    James.

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  3. No! *I'm* buying him a drink. Can't we just buy him two?

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  4. Right - you can add me to the list of people queueing up to buy you a pint, and by the way, This government has done a hell of a lot to improve this country by introducing a minimum wage and other statutory employment entitlements, by targeting areas of poverty both here and abroad (particularly child poverty), increasing health, education and transport spending and giving independence to the Bank of England.
    I totally agree - and it's easy to lose sight of these things - all the more reason not to be wasting money on the ID scheme.

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  5. Thanks for the offer of a few drinks, there really is no need.

    Thanks for taking part in the debate, I hope, despite increasing a few people's frustration, it has given us all more knowledge of the subject. I feel I know quite a bit about it now, you eventually persuaded me I was wrong about the govt's proposals.

    This is what blogging is all about for me. Garnering as much information as possible about a subject and if you are wrong changing your mind.

    Cheers again to both of you for offering to buy me a drink. Maybe it should be me buying the drinks for being enlightened.

    Just before you get too carried away though, I need to remind you I am still in favour of ID cards overall, just that I now feel the the govt's specific proposals on the NIR are too dangerous to privacy to be allowed and that the biometric technology is a long way from being reliable enough, so is unworkable.

    I've just read this blog, which mentions that the govt claims no-one outside the secure zone will have access to the NIR information, but will just be given a positive or negative answer to an enquiry for name and address.

    This has allayed my fears on the NIR, but generally the main point is that biometrics are currently unworkable on this scale, so you lot are still right. Until biometrics can work at a much higher level of accuracy, the scheme is doomed.

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  6. Don't worry I suspect of the No2ID people are in favour in favour of a scheme like the LSE scheme or indeed that which chris describes, which offers all of the perceived
    benefits of the current scheme, subject
    to the biometrics working of course, with
    out the NIR and without many of the civil liberties implications. People have said
    time and time again that it is this
    particular scheme that is the problem.

    I have no problem what so ever in there being a technical method by which I can easily prove my citizenship, I suspect I
    would find it useful, it's the huge land
    grab of the NIR that was the problem.

    James.

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  7. The Devil's in the Details, huh? I, for one, at least respect you for basing a point of view on what you know, rather than what you want to believe, if that makes sense. I also would have much less of a problem with an ID system if it just, say, proved who I was, rather than provided authorities with details of every time that I used it. (Think of one big RSS feed.. mmm...)

    Between all the offers for pints... have you written to your MP yet? ;)

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  8. I haven't written to David Lepper yet, but as you probably know, he is in favour of ID cards, so I'm going to be asking him a few things.

    First and foremost, I will want to ask him whether he really feels this scheme can work considering how inaccurate biometric scanners are at the moment.

    And secondly I want to be told a lot of details about how the anonimity of people on the NIR will be protected.

    Knowing what I do now, I am going to need some pretty good answers. Basically I can't believe the govt can go ahead with this scheme. It will probably be dropped at some point, if they want to stand a chance of winning the next election.

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  9. I too am absolutely in awe. Nobody ever changes their opinion on the net. I think we all agree on the benefits of some sort of standard ID document but the NIR, with or without a compulsion to carry, is a step too far.

    One thing which I think we need to bear in mind is the damage that this is doing to the Labour party. I was brought up in a unilateralist socialist household (I still remember delivering food parcels to families outside a US airbase in the Midlands) and used to vote Labour. I'm now a genuine card-carrying Tory on account of the ID card issue and a few others.

    It cannot be helpful to the progressive cause to have committed, thoughtful people defecting in a desperate attempt to save their civil liberties. I begin to wonder if David vs David might actually be a contest to find the next Prime Minister.

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  10. Anon, I think this triangulation obsession of Blair, where he always positions Labour to the right of the Tories on security issues has gone too far. It is quite clearly beginning to be counter productive when Michael Howard is on the side of civil libertarians in for example, the 90 days without trial debate.

    I think you are wrong to trust the Tories on this though. I can't believe civil liberties are the reason you left Labour for the Tories. That just doesn't make sense to me. There must be a bigger issue that attracted you?

    And why the Tories? The Lib Dems have been far more consistent on civil liberty issues and the Greens have been exemplary. Even if you look at the Labour ranks there are more civil libertarians than in the Tory ranks. Remember the party with the most MPs to vote against the Iraq war(amongst other things) was Labour.

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  11. Neil I fear that ID cards are symptom rather than a cause of the maliase in the labour part at the moment. Leaving aside the fact that historically left wing goverments tend to be the ones that bring in authoritarian schemes like ID cards, I think the problem with Tony is that he's been there too long. One of the things our polictical system doesn't do well is provide political grandees with real information. You start to beleive your own spin, and worse people are too afriad to tell you. Tony is more vulenerable to this because when he set up the machineary of state he put a lot more emphasis on the executive than previous goverements in an attempt to overcome the conservative (small c) influence of the civil service. Now these people insulate him from the real world. A shame, but since I think the tories are probably now to the left of the labour party, I'm willing to given them a shot.

    James.

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  12. Anon: *Cough*. The Tories are about to elect David Cameron their leader, a man who wrote their last manifesto and was policy 'advisor' to the disastrous Norman Lamont who was chancellor during the ERM debacle that lost the UK billions of pounds.

    You've got David Cameron's henchman George Osborne looking at the possibilities of plainly ridiculous and electorally suicidal, flat tax system that will make the rich even richer.

    The Tories are a party that has voted against nearly every redistributive measure (including things like the minimum wage) and you are seriously telling me that they are to the left of Labour?

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  13. ......so I'm going to be asking him a few things.

    First and foremost, I will want to ask him whether he really feels this scheme can work considering how inaccurate biometric scanners are at the moment.

    And secondly I want to be told a lot of details about how the anonimity of people on the NIR will be protected.

    Knowing what I do now, I am going to need some pretty good answers.

    I wish you luck - and I mean that in an earnest and non-ironic way - hope you get more joy than I did from the Home Office. Please keep us inofrmed - and thanks.

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  14. I think you are wrong to trust the Tories on this though. I can't believe civil liberties are the reason you left Labour for the Tories. That just doesn't make sense to me. There must be a bigger issue that attracted you?

    Well, I confess that the immediate trigger for joining up was the sight of Walter Wolfgang being bundled out of the conference by Straw's bouncers. Pretty much everyone who has deserted Labour seems to have a similar story to tell.

    On a more general level, I think that my dissatisfaction stems from a sort of philosophical queasiness about a government which doesn't ever question what it's there for, or consider whether it should limit the degree of its intervention in the lives of its citizens. I suppose that Blunkett exemplified it most clearly, but the whole government is obviously infatuated with intervention.

    I don't really feel, on past evidence, that the Tories are any better than Labour in this regard, but hope that their natural inclination towards tax cutting and slash and burn might limit the damage.

    From your earlier posts, it looks like this in an area where we're doomed to disagree. You're a Hobbes man, I'm a Locke man. Fair enough :)

    And why the Tories? The Lib Dems have been far more consistent on civil liberty issues and the Greens have been exemplary. Even if you look at the Labour ranks there are more civil libertarians than in the Tory ranks. Remember the party with the most MPs to vote against the Iraq war(amongst other things) was Labour.

    Several points here. The Lib Dems have now had eight years to try to turn themselves into a credible main party of opposition. Result: with the exception of a few local victories (including here, in Cambridge, where I voted for their candidate this year) not a sausage.

    The Greens are a bunch of crazies, who see no problem with having the perfect be the enemy of the good enough. A conviction that the only solution to climate change is (non-nuclear) renewables* is more likely to see us back in the stone age than some happy sustainable utopia.

    I'm unsure what Iraq has to do with MPs' civil libertarian credentials. To twist your words a little, remember the party with the most MPs to vote in favour of 90 day detention without trial was Labour.

    * although not renewable, I think we can lump in cheap, clean nuclear energy, because there's just so much of the damn stuff

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  15. You've got David Cameron's henchman George Osborne looking at the possibilities of plainly ridiculous and electorally suicidal, flat tax system that will make the rich even richer.

    I wasn't aware that this had gone much beyond a general expression of admiration for our new former Warsaw Pact allies, and their aggressive tax regiemes. Have I missed something?

    The Tories are a party that has voted against nearly every redistributive measure (including things like the minimum wage) and you are seriously telling me that they are to the left of Labour?

    Why do you feel that the taxation system should be explicitly redistributive (rather than merely pragmatically progressive)? Obviously the various regressive elements in the current setup (NI, council tax, road tax, VAT on some non-luxury goods etc) need fixing, but it's a big jump from there to "tax the rich and make them pay".

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  16. Anon (James?): Nuclear power gives a hundred or so years of energy before uranium is all used up in exchange for 10,000 years of dangerous waste problems. The nuclear solution doesn't sound that attractive to me.

    You cite Walter Wolfgang's treatment as a reason for leaving the Labour Party (remember that Walter is still in the party).

    This however is no reason for joining the Tories, a party that have NEVER had any debate at their conference, and have been complete control freakery Nuremberg rallies since year dot.

    The only difference between Walter Wolfgang's treatment and Tory conferences is that Tory members have got so used to having no party democracy that they don't see it as a problem, and wouldn't dream heckle their leaders.

    You may think thats a more libertarian party to be a part of, I do not!

    I find it very hard to describe someone who advocates tax cuts and slash and burn public service cuts as a traditional Labour supporter. What the hell were you doing in the party in the first place?

    You are spot on about the Greens though; 'having the perfect be the enemy of the good enough', sums them up quite well.

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  17. Neil

    Its good to see that sense has prevailed with your views on the current ID card / NIR scheme, and that youve been so open about change of mind based on rational argument.

    Like yourself I do feel the right scheme will work - a scheme that works for the citizen instead of the state, but it needs some fundamental changes in the way British government works and much more accountability & transparancy across all areas of government to reach the potential it could (imho).

    Its been a interesting debate certainly - will you be continuing to blog your efforts at persuading the rest of the labour party ID supporters to come to the same conclusions you have reached?

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  18. Neil, it takes a brave man to admit he is wrong when faced with the evidence. Well done.

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  19. Good stuff Neil. I suspect David Lepper's knowledge of the detail of ID cards, as with most MPs will be enhanced by your correspondance with him. My knowledge has increased immeasurably by following the debate here, so you've done us a good service!

    The Greens are a bunch of crazies, who see no problem with having the perfect be the enemy of the good enough. A conviction that the only solution to climate change is (non-nuclear) renewables* is more likely to see us back in the stone age than some happy sustainable utopia.

    Oh dear... the usual crazy utopians leading us back to the stone-age tag (I much preferred "tofu-knitters" which Tim Worstall used a few weeks ago) combined with the inevitable proposal that nuclear power is the only way forward. It shows the complete ignorance of the policies and beliefs of the Green Party and the issues around nuclear energy.

    Everyone would do well to follow your example: raise the issues, seek information and debate from all sides and judge the arguments on their merits.

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  20. Neil -- splendid news :-)

    Nuclear power gives a hundred or so years of energy before uranium is all used up

    Not quite true. That calculation is based on the assumption that we don't use fast breeder reactors or otherwise manufacture plutonium from the large fraction of U238 present in natural uranium, and then use the plutonium in reactors. In any case the calculation refers to known deposits of uranium; in principle it's energetically feasible to extract trace uranium from the earth's crust, seawater etc., and use that in reactors, though I'm not aware of a workable process for doing this (and people have been looking for one for a while).

    Fast-breeder reactors are feasible now, though, and employing natural uranium in this way gives an increase in duration of supply of the same order as the ratio of U238 to U235 in the Earth's crust: about 140 times longer. (Obviously that's an upper bound.)

    Those who are interested in questions around renewable energy should read David Mackay's essay on the topic, Order of magnitude morality. In case my recommendation isn't enticing enough, here is the abstract:

    "'The earth receives more energy from the sun in just one hour than the world uses in a whole year'. So, does that mean that we can convert to solar and everything is going to be fine?

    "No: I show that the current rate of power consumption of the 'developed' world is unsustainable. The 'developed' world must cut its consumption by at least a factor of 10, and must put all possible resources into developing solar energy technology, which, along with hydroelectricity, is the only significant source of sustainable power."

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  21. Anon (James?): Nuclear power gives a hundred or so years of energy before uranium is all used up in exchange for 10,000 years of dangerous waste problems. The nuclear solution doesn't sound that attractive to me.

    In Greenpeace's dreams. There are a range of alternative fission reactor designs which offer to extend the fuel supply pretty much indefinitely (either through breeding or by the use of some more plentiful fuel such as thorium), while addressing some of the safety concerns. Google 'Energy Amplifier' for one of many examples.

    On the waste front, consider that it is largely the efforts of the environmental movement that have left our high level waste kicking around at ground level for anyone to e.g. crash a plane into, rather than vitrified underground in some geologically stable chunk of rock.

    The environmental movement seem to base their reasoning about nuclear power on an in depth knowledge of the science of 1950's B movies. Take for example the desire to calculate mortality figures from radiation release via linear extrapolation from high-dosage experiments despite the fact that we know that DNA repair doesn't work like that.

    It shows the complete ignorance of the policies and beliefs of the Green Party and the issues around nuclear energy.

    Oh, I don't know, let's take a look at their website:

    The Green Party has long argued that we need to produce more energy from wind power - we currently meet less than 1% of our energy needs from wind, while Denmark is already producing 20%.

    This 20% figure seems to get a lot of press on environmental websites, but according to the Danish Energy Authority, who really ought to know (http://www.ens.dk/sw22709.asp)

    In 2004, the share of renewable energy is equivalent to 15.4 percent of gross energy consumption compared to 14.3 percent in 2003. Wind power contributed substantially to the increase.

    Another interesting piece of data, taken from the CIA world factbook, is that Denmark has electricity imports and exports equal to about a third of it's total consumption. Surely they're not freeloading off their neighbours' baseload capacity?

    Or how about this:

    There is also the National Grid to consider - it is already in urgent need of new investment, new nuclear power stations would put it under enormous strain.

    So the electricity from offshore wind farms would somehow magically not impose a load on the Grid? Now I'm all for local power generation, combined heat and power and all that, but to get anywhere near 20% of our power and anything like baseload capacity, from wind we'll need offshore.

    Or how about this from their 'Greening the Economy' page:

    She is pushing for EU legislation to extend full-time employment rights to temporary staff. Our MEPS have campaigned for a binding legal framework for corporate social responsibility.

    Sweet. I'll just outsource my remaining jobs to India and have done with it?

    Did I say "crazies"? I guess I meant "fantasists".

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  22. Anon: "I wasn't aware that this had gone much beyond a general expression of admiration for our new former Warsaw Pact allies, and their aggressive tax regiemes. Have I missed something?"

    George Osborne is heading a Tory commission looking into the possibility of flatter taxes. The fact they are even looking into something so regressive and electorally suicidal tells us why the Tories are still out of touch.

    "Why do you feel that the taxation system should be explicitly redistributive (rather than merely pragmatically progressive)?"

    Progressive taxation is redistribution. That's what it means. By making the most regressive taxes like NI, council tax, road tax and VAT more progressive, you automatically redistribute.

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  23. Yes, but is redistribution an end in itself, and if so, why, and if not, what is the end to which redistribution is a means?

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  24. Chris, excellent article by David Mackay, thanks.

    It really puts into perspective, the energy crisis we are facing in just a few decades.

    If you add up all the other environental problems we could be facing, its pretty grim.

    So, from your response, Chris, can I safely assume you are a Nuclear power advocate?

    I've read some of James Lovelocks (him of Gaia theory fame) advocacy of Nuclear power that so disappointed the environmental people, which roughly argues the following;

    1. The ecological threat from carbon emissions is so great, nuclear waste/security/accident problems pale into significance.

    2. Nuclear is the only way we can generate enough power to avoid massive wars and mass starvation.

    My answer to this is;

    1. The damage to the climate from carbon emissions has largely been done, so adding all the nuclear problems as well, that will last 10,000 years is a bad move.

    2. By concentrating on energy efficiency, massively encouraging vegetarianism (by incorporating environmental cost into prices), having individual and corporate carbon rationing, we can make our carbon fuels last hundreds of more years.

    3. In the meantime we invest heavily in solar, wind, wave and other renewables.

    4. Poverty breeds. Eliminate poverty and redistribute wealth in the world and watch the world population plummet. Look at how wealth is making the populations of developed countries fall.

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  25. Martin, you argue all this fancy stuff about civil liberties but you don't see a problem with 1% of the UK population having 35% of the (non-dwelling) marketable wealth and the richest 50% having 98% of the (non-dwelling) marketable wealth. Stats here.

    If you look at redistribution on a worldwide scale it is far worse than even these figures and I think 'morally', something should be done about this.

    There are all sorts of ways redistribution is a good thing. We can reduce the world population, reduce ecological damage, increase social justice and human rights all by redistributing wealth.

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  26. You seem to be jumping to unsupported conclusions about my political views again; I'll leave that to one side.

    You didn't really answer my question explicitly.

    I just cannot believe that you think that redistribution per se is a good thing, as you're against regressive taxation. I'm confident that you actually believe that redistribution is good or bad according to whether its outcome is good or bad, rather than independently thereof.
    I hope I'm not jumping to conclusions too.

    You list a few ends (of which you seem to approve) to which redistribution is a means: reduction of population and ecological damage, and increasing social justice and human rights.

    The first two seem to come down to simple wealth/welfare: the better off people are, the fewer kids they have and the less they pollute. I reckon this holds irrespective of how well off they relative to everyone else in society. Do you disagree?

    By social justice, do you just mean equality / minimsation of inequality?

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  27. George Osborne is heading a Tory commission looking into the possibility of flatter taxes. The fact they are even looking into something so regressive and electorally suicidal tells us why the Tories are still out of touch.

    Hang on a sec. Not one week ago you posted an article arguing in favour of a 39% flat tax, which I found myself agreeing with.

    Progressive taxation is redistribution. That's what it means. By making the most regressive taxes like NI, council tax, road tax and VAT more progressive, you automatically redistribute.

    As Martin said, I was trying to get at whether you're after progressive taxation because regressive taxes have problems on a practical level, or because you genuinely believe that the poor have some sort of moral right to the rich's money. Which question you have now answered.

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  28. I wouldn't call myself a nuclear power advocate, but I don't think that any of the arguments against it are showstoppers. That said, the history of the industry in this country does not inspire all that much confidence in its safety or cost-effectiveness.

    I don't have an answer to your other points there specifically, beyond that I don't think it's politically feasible to cut energy consumption sharply in the developed world. However, it ought to be possible to use a market mechanism to force a substitution of non-fossil-fuel sources for those in use at present.

    Mackay argues that you can't really get very far with renewables unless you're also prepared to cut gross energy consumption quite a bit too. There are some holes in his argument (he doesn't consider nuclear; he considers inputs rather than outputs; he doesn't treat wind in as much detail as would be required) but I think it's basically sound as an order-of-magnitude argument, which suggests that renewables aren't going to be enough.

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  29. Flat taxes aren’t inherently regressive( or progressive).
    It depends where you set the tax free allowance. One proposal, from the Adam Smith Inst (disclosure, I write for them but that isn’t why I’m here) for a 12k household allowance would actually be more progressive than the current system.
    Keep raising that allowance (and the actual tax rate itself) and flat tax systems become ever more progressive, at least compared to what we have now.

    Personally I’d like to see a CI, a large tax free allowance and then a fairly hefty (30-40% or so) flat tax . And no, I haven’t done any of the numbers to see what that would mean. We also need to integrate NI and income tax...and I’d want to move the tax base from income to consumption (no, a consumption tax is not like a VAT).

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  30. The Remittance Man20/11/05 7:00 pm

    Neil,

    No laughing here. I'm just glad to see that you have come to see the realities of the ID proposal. It probably wasn't as easy a decision as it was for us right wing loonies. I won't offer to buy you a beer because if you took up all the earlier offers you'd be well on the way to being a raging alcoholic. But welcome to the ranks and I'm sure I'm not the only one to be happy to see you fighting alongside us.

    On the nuclear power issue: I am always dubious when I see people quoting figures like "the uranium will only last 100 years" because there's so much dodgy data out there. I won't clog up your bandwidth but I commented recently on Tim Worstall's site about some very iffy numbers from Greenpeace about uranium supply. I've also commented there at length on mineral reserve predictions and how the professionals derive them. Suffice to say we in the minerals industry usually laugh at such "civilian" predictions of doom. Treat all such numbers with a healthy dose of suspiscion, is my watchword.

    Anyway, welcome to the "good guys" on the ID front.

    RM

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  31. Martin: "I just cannot believe that you think that redistribution per se is a good thing"

    From the present position it is. I'm not saying there wouldn't come a situation where the level of inequality was acceptable, just that with the present levels of world and UK poverty we are clearly not near that level.

    "I reckon [reduction of population and ecological damage] holds irrespective of how well off they are relative to everyone else in society. Do you disagree?"

    With reduction of population, you may be right, but we are a long way from that point of redistribution on a worldwide scale, lets get there first and see what happens.

    "By social justice, do you just mean equality / minimsation of inequality?"

    I mean 'equality of opportunity', which I think everyone bar a few right wingers would agree with. I don't think its possible to have equality of opportunity unless we have a much more equal distribution of wealth and power, without this the barriers to success are just too high.

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  32. Tim: "Keep raising that allowance (and the actual tax rate itself) and flat tax systems become ever more progressive, at least compared to what we have now."

    You are potentially right, but in practical terms the scheme would be politically disastrous because the burden of taxation would fall so heavily on middle earners that without a progressive counterbalance of a CI they would revolt against any tax level high enough to maintain reasonable public services.

    The problem with a flat tax is (although in theory you can raise the allowance level) and help the worst off, in practice it justs moves taxation away from top earners onto middle earners. It is always regressive against middle earners with top earners better off.

    As anon has pointed out, I am in favour of a flat tax, but only as long as it is introduced in conjunction with a CI, which addresses the regressiveness problem of flatter taxes.

    "Personally I’d like to see a CI, a large tax free allowance and then a fairly hefty (30-40% or so) flat tax . And no, I haven’t done any of the numbers to see what that would mean."

    I have done the numbers here.

    What you are suggesting with your figures is the virtual abolishment of the NHS and state education, because there wouldn't be enough taxation to pay for either.

    With the introduction of a CI, we need to put allowances to zero and set the flat tax at almost 40% to pay for it AND maintain decent public services. Disincentives to work won't be a problem because the CI has already removed the benefits trap.

    Theoretically I think there is potential to cut public services and dish out a higher CI to compensate, but some things are just better run when government funded (which is not necessarily the same as government run).

    I think the US demonstrates quite well how relying on private health insurance alone is a more inefficient way of doing things than the European model of healthcare.

    The US use a far higher percentage of their GDP than European countries and yet has a very patchy service with over 40 million people completely uninsured.

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  33. The US use a far higher percentage of their GDP than European countries and yet has a very patchy service with over 40 million people completely uninsured.

    Uninsured doesn't mean they don't get healthcare though, of course, just that people go bankrupt to pay for it. The US has far better health outcomes than, to take a good example, the UK. And those survival rates and outcome stats cover the whole population, even those who are uninsured, so the US must be doing something right, no?

    If you want to talk about this seriously, why not post on it, and let's examine the topic in detail.

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  34. Andrew: just that people go bankrupt to pay for it. The US has far better health outcomes than, to take a good example, the UK.

    Well, I suppose if you don't count bankruptcy as a negative outcome, then it might do.

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  35. No, anonymous, I count death as a negative health outcome.

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  36. Andrew: there are a number of issues that we have drifted onto, here in the comments.

    Flat taxes
    Citizen's Income
    Public Services/Healthcare
    Nuclear Power

    I'm researching a post on nuclear power and you are right, I should do a post on public funding of health vs private as well.

    "The US has far better health outcomes than, to take a good example, the UK."

    Andrew, you are going to have to back this up, the figures I've seen are appalling.

    Despite spending nearly twice the amount we do (14.6% of GDP compared to our 7.7% of GDP), the US has infant mortality rates comparable with the third world in its big cities.

    The US has the best healthcare in the world available for the very rich, but appalling healthcare provision for the large percentage of its population that can't afford the health premiums.

    In terms of cancer deaths, despite their massive extra health spending, the US compares badly with us.

    They have 322 deaths per 100,000, compared to our 254 deaths per 100,000.

    I know there are other factors involved here, but the biggest single factor - smoking prevalence is actually lower in the US. The UK has 26% of adults smoking, the US 21%.

    The UK also has a higher life expectancy.

    This suggests to me that the extra costs in administration that private health firms have of determining and collecting individual premiums and of advertising costs make a massive difference. These are serious inefficiencies that the NHS doesn't have to worry about.

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  37. NO2ID Scotland25/1/07 1:48 pm

    Hi Charlotte here from NO2ID Scotland. Just to let you know that while we come across many people in favour of ID cards we find that once provided with the most basic of information about the NIR (The important bit) They rapidly change their mind. This is a great organisation to be part of as no hard sell required! We are affiliated to no one political party and come from all walks of life. The current information available is the only tool needed to help inform rather than convert! Well done on examining your views further - righteous no mater what conclusion you had come to ! :)

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