20 November 2007

Bloggertarians Are Just So Negative.

Following on from the setting up of the so far excellent leftish LiberalConspiracy and posts at Stumbling&Mumbling, Paulie at NeverTrustAHippy and also at DrinkSoakedTrotsForWar has decided to once again stir up the bloggertarian (negative reactionary bloggers who label themselves as libertarians) hornets nest.

He singles out DevilsKitchen and Longrider as examples of...
a typical blogger who hails libertarianism but only in the negative sense. Paulie is, of course absolutely correct in this analysis and I have been trying to make the same point for years. Paulie likens it to trying to reason with creationists and that is a good comparison because it can be so very frustrating.

I didn't need Isaiah Berlin to come up with a name for (negative and positive liberty) to realise that liberty in a negative sense is not enough.

Bloggertarians mostly seem to think that liberty is just about 'not banning something'. They fail to see how unfair wealth distribution (for example) can restrict liberty or how the state can play a positive role in enabling liberty (by regulating dysfunctional markets to maintain competition and reign in big business). As the freed slaves used to say 'they took chains off me ankles and put them on my pockets'.

The fact that the concept of 'positive liberty' only appeared in the libertarian vernacular in 1958, demonstrates how the wealthy chattering classes have dominated this debate. The internet is the new plaything dominated by wealthy Tory-boy bloggers and they are continuing the long tradition of conservative reaction to anything new.

Traditional conservatives from Edmund Burke onwards have thrived on negative opposition, reacting hysterically to all radical change. Bloggertarians are just the new dismal line in this continuance of reactionary Tories.

Welcome, Paulie and other sensible lefties to this brave old reactionary right-wing world of the bloggertarians and good luck in your fight, you will need a lot of patience, but if we all shout as loud as them, at least we can stop some people both left and right from being fooled by their stupid non-arguments.

40 comments:

  1. Ho hum. LIBERTY IS NEGATIVE LIBERTY and boils down not to, "not banning something" but to being free from the interference of others in your life provided that you are doing no harm to others.

    POSITIVE LIBERTY IS A NONSENSE. It begins as a poor choice of name for the necessary restrictions imposed on a person by the fact that others have liberties as well. Positive liberty then continues into authoritarianism.

    By all means argue your points but don't pretend that liberty is your aim. Trying to explain this to you, (not for the first time either), is indeed like trying to argue with a creationist or a particularly stubborn and incorrect student of semantics.

    Nor are libertarians reactionary, we would, (on the whole, herding cats etc.), like to see a dramatic shift in governance. If we are negative that can hardly be surprising when the current government's actions are, time and time again, diametrically opposed to what we believe in. If the government proposed removing the minimum wage then you would argue against it. This would mean that you disagreed, not that you were reactionary and negative.

    Finally I would suggest that the reason the blogosphere is so dominated by small state, libertarian views is that all the major parties are left leaning collectivists.

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  2. Neil, I am AFAIAA a politically neutral libertarian, I would not consider myself particularly left- or right wing. You've got me down as right wing but that is your judgment. At the time, Adam Smith was seen as 'left wing'.

    Yes, poverty does tend to 'trap' people, to an extent, hence my enthusiasm for Citizen's Income style welfare. It is possible to have a reasonable amount of redistribution with minimal state involvement or perverse incentives or poverty trap.

    As to 'reining in' (not 'reign in' BTW) big business, what have they done that is so terrible? We are customers too and can take our business elsewhere.

    Warming to my theme, the best guarantee of employees' rights is full employment (if your boss doesn't treat you right, you just tell him to fuck off and get a job across the road instead); the best guarantee of full employment is a thriving economy; and the best guarantee of a thriving economy is cutting taxes and red tape.

    Sure, employers who endanger the health or lives of people should be punished (unless the employee knows how dangerous the job is, in which case it's his decision to do the job), but all the other regulations are just crap.

    Doesn't that sound like liberty to you?

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  3. Warming to my theme, the best guarantee of employees' rights is full employment

    A tight market for labour is likely to make employers treat their employees better but a high demand for labour is not evenly distributed across all forms of employments. I work as a senior consultant and as a result my employer treats me reasonably well as there is a scarcity of those with my skills. No so with more menial and casual work, where supply outstrips demand and wages and conditions are consequently poor. Saying that a buoyant economy does way with the need for employment law is a pipe dream, as those benefits will never be evenly distributed across the workforce.

    Sure, employers who endanger the health or lives of people should be punished (unless the employee knows how dangerous the job is

    An employee may work in a steel foundry, which is more dangerous an environment than most offices, but that is no excuse for not regulating the factory with tough health and safety regulations. The employer should still have a legal duty to ensure that equipment is maintained and that staff have had appropriate safety training. There is a grain of truth in what you say, in that some work environments are more dangerous than others, and that accepting to work in some employments necessarily means accepting a higher level of physical risk. But none of that eliminates the need for health and safety regulations to reduce readily avoidable risks.

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  4. The Citizen's Income does away with need for National Minimum Wage and a whole raft of crap, a higher non-means tested Child Benefit automatically compensates mothers for the fact that their earnings are lower.

    Sorting out the education system and having a vibrant economy would help lower earners far more than the current position where the education system is shit, and where people are trapped on benefits and the private sector is being stifled. And no amount of red tape will ever achieve whatever it is that you want it to achieve (which isn't clear to me anyway).

    By definition, no sensible person has anything against H&S regulations to reduce readily avoidable risk, but all this shit like cutting down conker trees and stopping kids from going on school trips and putting cups of coffee in paper bags is completely fucking mad.

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  5. Sorting out the education system and having a vibrant economy would help lower earners far more than the current position where the education system is shit, and where people are trapped on benefits and the private sector is being stifled

    This is completely utopian. The benefits from a 'vibrant' economy have never been uniformly distributed so what makes you think it will be any different next time around?

    And no amount of red tape will ever achieve whatever it is that you want it to achieve (which isn't clear to me anyway)

    Red tape? You mean anti-sex and anti-race discrimination legislation and various other employment rights legislation? What I want to achieve in this context is a reasonably level playing field in terms of basic rights afforded to employees and you can't rely on the vagaries of the market for that. If the libertarian idyll were as effective as its proponents argue then we might expect to see some clear signs of this is the United States between 1870 - 1900 and the first anti-trust laws, when business could do pretty much what it wanted, and often did. I think most of would agree that the working world then was a pretty ugly place. Providing a vibrant economy is important but expecting workers rights to be honoured without regulation is pretty naive.

    By definition, no sensible person has anything against H&S regulations to reduce readily avoidable risk

    You earlier remarks made it appear that you did.

    but all this shit like cutting down conker trees and stopping kids from going on school trips and putting cups of coffee in paper bags is completely fucking mad

    But much of this is fear of litigation rather than 'red tape' as such.

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  6. The benefits of a vibrant economy either accrue to people directly (because there are more jobs) and/or because it will enable a higher Citizen's Income to be paid.

    My vision is in no way Utopian. We have been doing it your way for decades and quite clearly it is not working. Anti-discrimination legislation makes employers unwilling to employ women and coloured people. The education system is shit. The welfare system traps people on benefits. The tax system (VAT and Employer's NI) are a total disaster and the worst taxes of all.

    Quite simple fact of economics ... employers are in business to make money! If the 'basic rights' that you want them to have increase the cost of employing people, then businesses go out of business and there are less jobs. Call that 'the vagaries of the market' if you will, but that's how it works.

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  7. My vision is in no way Utopian. We have been doing it your way for decades and quite clearly it is not working

    It what way is it not working? For many if not most people, the working world is rather better now than it was 100 years ago. Vulnerable employees in low wage jobs still have the worst of it but your vision of a low-regulation world is not going to help them in the least as we can see in economies which have few if any employee rights.

    Anti-discrimination legislation makes employers unwilling to employ women and coloured people

    I can see how rights to maternity leave might make women of child bearing age less attractive as employees for small employers but the effects of this can and are mitigated by state grants. Unless an employer is planning to behave in a discriminatory way why on earth would anti-discrimination laws prevent him from hiring a black employee? Or are you alleging that the first thing a black employee wants to do is get compensation on a trumped up discrimination claim?

    The education system is shit. The welfare system traps people on benefits

    Can we get past these Thatcherite cliches, Mark. When I was unemployed many years ago, unemployment benefit didn't trap me anywhere. It helped to prevent me from starving. Or would you prefer that I had been confined in a workhouse?

    The tax system (VAT and Employer's NI) are a total disaster and the worst taxes of all

    I though libertarians were all in favour of purchase taxes?

    Quite simple fact of economics ... employers are in business to make money! If the 'basic rights' that you want them to have increase the cost of employing people, then businesses go out of business and there are less jobs

    Actually another simple fact of economics would be that profits may be lower. The truth is that employers have been talking this way since the early nineteenth century. End child labour - it will bankrupt us! Old age pensions - they will bankrupt us! The NHS - it will bankrupt us! For more than 200 years, the bourgeoisie has been claiming that workers rights would bankrupt it but it hasn't happened yet.

    Call that 'the vagaries of the market' if you will, but that's how it works

    I call it the same old bullshit.

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  8. *yawn*
    It what way is it not working? For many if not most people, the working world is rather better now than it was 100 years ago.

    Of course things are better than a hundred bloody years ago, don't be pathetic.

    Vulnerable employees in low wage jobs still have the worst of it but your vision of a low-regulation world is not going to help them in the least as we can see in economies which have few if any employee rights

    Er, which is why there are 8 million economically inactive?

    I can see how rights to maternity leave might make women of child bearing age less attractive as employees for small employers but the effects of this can and are mitigated by state grants

    FFS, scrap the legislation and pay the State Grants direct to the mothers! Jesus H Fuck, did you bother to read what I wrote about much higher Child Benefit?

    Unless an employer is planning to behave in a discriminatory way why on earth would anti-discrimination laws prevent him from hiring a black employee? Or are you alleging that the first thing a black employee wants to do is get compensation on a trumped up discrimination claim?

    That is what employers worry about, yes.

    Can we get past these Thatcherite cliches, Mark.

    If you call me a Thatcherite, I'll call you a shithead, deal? In any event, the fucking welfare system is largely as the Thatcher government left it!

    When I was unemployed many years ago, unemployment benefit didn't trap me anywhere. It helped to prevent me from starving. Or would you prefer that I had been confined in a workhouse?

    Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Stupid question! Did you not read what I said about the Citizen's Income welfare system (one of the few things on which Neil H and I agree)? The point is, the marginal withdrawal rate of benefits is too high! I never said that the rate of income support or unemployment benefit in any way was too high! Where did I fucking say that? Where?

    I though libertarians were all in favour of purchase taxes?

    Well, that goes to show how wrong you are!

    and so on, I'm bored now *end yawn*

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  9. ajbtfrtMark, Big business can limit choice by eliminating competition. Either by preventing new competitors from entering the market or by using its wealth to force small competitors out of business. This is bad for all of us and the only way we can protect consumers and workers alike is through the ballot box - i.e the state. You can end up for example with the sort of vested interests protecting the trillion dollar health insurance system in the states which is pretty awfully inefficient, but because the health companies are buying the political parties it will not be changed.

    Stephen is right when he says your classical liberal world has been tried and was proved pretty awful. Can you tell me how your way of thinking would not suggest it more liberal to have child labour?

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  10. Of course things are better than a hundred bloody years ago, don't be pathetic

    Or indeed 20 years ago.

    FFS, scrap the legislation and pay the State Grants direct to the mothers!

    The point of this is to ensure that women of child bearing age are able to pursue a career. So the assistence may be given to the employer to allow her to do that. That may be of scant interest to you but I couldn't care less about that.

    Jesus H Fuck, did you bother to read what I wrote about much higher Child Benefit?

    Yes, I discounted it as it was irrelevant to the question of sex discrimination in the workplace.

    That is what employers worry about, yes.

    Then such bigotry should be countered head on. Appeasing it by repeating anti-discrimination laws would be the wrong message to give.

    If you call me a Thatcherite, I'll call you a shithead, deal? In any event, the fucking welfare system is largely as the Thatcher government left it!

    Yes, that's one of my problems with this government.

    Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Stupid question! Did you not read what I said about the Citizen's Income welfare system (one of the few things on which Neil H and I agree)? The point is, the marginal withdrawal rate of benefits is too high! I never said that the rate of income support or unemployment benefit in any way was too high! Where did I fucking say that? Where?

    Then I withdraw my comment. You are rather excitable. It's no wonder libertarians are unable to drum up much support if they fly off the handle at the slightest provocation.

    Well, that goes to show how wrong you are

    So I am wrong on your position on purchase tax. Big deal.

    and so on, I'm bored now *end yawn*

    And in a nutshell, that attitude is why libertarianism will forever remain a tiny minority obsession

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  11. It would be nice if we all fitted your cripplingly prejudiced stereotypes, Neil, but as usual you're confusing your blinkered dogma with reality.

    Longrider and I both consider ourselves to the left of the current Labour Party which is one of the reasons we left it. The idea of trusting ordinary people to run their own affairs is one that has informed true socialist thinking for ages - I'm with Tony Benn on this. Far from being Tory boys, we are the principled former members of what was once a party pround to look after ordinary people.

    As to being negative, I wear that epithet as a badge of honour coming from you.

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  12. Urko, I knew Marxists who voted Tory. The Revolutionary Communist Party member of the Anti-Poll Tax union I knew back in the late 80s/early 90s told me - 'to accelerate the demise of capitalism we have to vote Tory'. Basically he was just a another middle class reactionary twit. Put yourself where you like on the political spectrum but that won't alter the fact that your views are right-wing on this issue.

    Personally the curtailment of the unions by Thatcher was probably the only thing she did that was worthwhile in the libertarian sense, but probably your only claim to being leftwing is that you are a union man. Unions just protect the vested interests of the reasonably paid most of the time, so they do not interest me in spreading real equality - for that we need government that is independent of both unions and big business. As Labour takes money from both - it is the closest thing we have to neutrality. You and Longrider have acquired your own selfish vested interests with age, this sometimes happens in those who weren't really committed to equality.

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  13. I'm not and never have been committed to equality of outcomes, it is a pointless exercise.

    My goals are equality of opportunity, via school vouchers, Citizen's Income and law and order (crime hits people in poorest areas hardest). Plus the right of people to have fun (providing they do not harm others).

    If people still fail, well Heaven help them because human intervention can't.

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  14. Shurely shome mishtake?

    "we need government that is independent of both unions and big business. As Labour takes money from both - it is the closest thing we have to neutrality"

    That makes Labour dependant on both rather than neither. Between the Government - Union - Government money cycle and the cash for peerages scandle can you see how this is a problem not a solution?

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  15. The internet is the new plaything dominated by wealthy Tory-boy bloggers and they are continuing the long tradition of conservative reaction to anything new.

    1. I'm willing to bet you have more money than me, Neil - principally because I don't have any.

    2. 'conservative reaction'? How is arguing for the size of the state to be slashed 'reactionary'? Quite the opposite. It's considered ridiculously radical, which is why Paulie describes it, and other libertarian ideas, as [I paraphrase] 'not something that any politician could ever reasonably propose at an election'.

    The likes of me, DK and Longrider don't agree about everything, but one thing we do share is a deep dissatisfaction with the current direction of policy - a dissatisfaction, by the way, that goes back more than just 10 years.

    We want to change things, and [to differing extents] change them radically. That may be wrong, unrealistic or even stupid, but it's certainly not reactionary.

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  16. Mr Eugenides,

    1. All politico bloggers are generally wealthier than the general population - both Labour, Tory and others. Regular access to the internet is beyond 30% of the UK population and our anoraky interest in politics make us more likely to be middle class. I admit I am middle class.

    2. It is not necessarily what you argue for, but how you argue it that makes you reactionary. Those who reacted to the French revolution wanted radical change - they wanted to restore what they saw (imagined) as the perfect society ruled by the divine right of the monarch. It was a reacton to positive change. It usually involves looking back to a nostaligic period (that never actually existed) and slagging off the present. I would suggest that you and DK are perfect examples of this backward looking negative philosophy. How many times have you argued of a 'wonderful time pre welfare state'?

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  17. Falco, Labour sadly, ARE dependent on both, but this ironically is better than being reliant on just one - as the Tories are reliant on big business/wealthy donors. The unions in someway do counteract some of the power of the wealthy/big business. Though this is far from a perfect way of doing this. The power that comes with the funding of political parties has to be handed back to the electorate on the ballot paper - tick a box to donate £3 (of your taxes) to a local party or do not tick any box and donate to none. This in conjunction with restricting donations from business, individuals and unions will improve our democracy.

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  18. Mark, equality of opportunity is badly needed yes (and remember we are far from it), but also a decent safety net for those at the bottom.

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  19. Urko ..probably your only claim to being leftwing is that you are a union man

    Just fuck off. Who the fuck do you think you are that you presume to tell me who or what I am? I don't where in your fucking delusional ramblings you made up that piece of my life history, but like most of the utter shit you spout, it's.....well....shite.

    I am really tired of your utterly pathetic small-minded bigotry, as well as your inability to ever conduct or complete any argument using logic.

    I'm sorry I don't fit any of your daft stereotypes - I'm going to stop wasting my time reading your negative dogma on this.

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  20. Neil all that being reliant on both has done for the Labour party is to make them act corruptly in favour of both in different ways. This has not produced any kind of balance, life having moved on from unions vs business as the defining power struggle.

    I cannot say I am surprised by your solution, (more government power can fix anything as we've seen so well demonstrated). If the parties want more money then they should raise it by producing policies that inspire people to join and give them the cash.

    You don't pay someone to mug you and you shouldn't have to fund political parties through taxation.

    Oh and I say again that positive liberty is the very antithesis of liberty.

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  21. Urko, I gather from that tirade that you are not a 'union man'. Oh dear - don't be so thin skinned.

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  22. Falco, we are heading the way of the US if we are not careful. Why should big money individuals, unions and big business dominate our political parties policies? It is too important to let that happen. In an ideal world everybody would join political parties, but we both know it is a minority interest and that even through the ballot box we have a diminishing number exercising their right. It is clear the system is bankrupt. If people object to state funding of political parties then under my suggestion they can donate nothing. If nobody ticked the donation box on the ballot paper, then parties would receive nothing, zip. So how can you object to that?

    All the parties are totally corrupted by big money donations. The worst are the Tories who rely on wealthy individuals who do not even live in this country (so they can avoid tax). I do think that the union influence on the Labour party is bad but at least the unions represent 6 million people. Coupled with individual and business donations at least the Labour party is not pulled in one direction only. The Labour party are the only hope we have to correct this corrupt system. Lets hope they do it.

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  23. Neil 22/11 8.34, I too believe that we need a safety net, which I think is covered by CBI, taxpayer-funded NHS/education (or even better vouchers), decent policing and council housing for the unluckiest/poorest 20% of households. Provided they move out again when their income increases.

    What more of a safety net do we need?

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  24. Mark, If that is what you believe, I can agree with that as long as the CBI is set at a decent rate to cover housing costs etc - i.e £150 a week (more for disabled).

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  25. Neil, great, but here we have to differ, I would see the CBI as somewhere in the £50 to £80 region, with workfare jobs instead of housing benefit. Even disabled people can do something useful - helping foreign kids learn English or something.

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  26. So how can I object to that? Neil, where is the money coming from? I promise you that it is not the spanky lesbian pixie wenches, (amen), so I'm guessing that it's from taxation. Hence there is a problem, it's still publicly funded. Why not encourage parties to have membership drives at exit polls? They'd be in the mood for politics and could choose whether or not to give up their OWN money.

    As for the unions, the money they receive as "modernisation funding" and the amount that they give to the Labour party are oddly similar. The situation is, with the most charitable view possible, a severe conflict of interest. To ameliorate this, why not give each union member a form so that if they want part of their dues donated to a political party they can tick a box to choose which one?

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  27. Falco, when it comes to democracy it is important that it is done in an egalitarian way. That is why we don't let people have more votes just because they have more money (it used to be like that in the past I know). Now the wealthy buy policy and the media and this distorts our democracy. Tax funded political parties are a small price to pay when we are deciding how to spend £500bn, spending £50m (or 0.01% of public spending) on political parties is money very well spent.

    "why not give each union member a form so that if they want part of their dues donated to a political party they can tick a box?"

    That is currently what happens.

    Unfortunately most people do not join political parties and a dwindling amount use the ballot box. Our system is bankrupt and needs fixing.

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  28. Mark, Ahhh! the return of the workhouse - I thought the whole reason a CBI would be a success is because it is non means tested?

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  29. "Our system is bankrupt and needs fixing" and you think spending our taxes on it is the way ahead. I, (no f'ing surprise here), disagree. There are many reasons why fewer people than we would wish get involved in politics but money problems are not the cause but the result.

    I was a member of the Liberal party until I could stand the lack of liberalism no longer. I am not currently a member of any political party because I have yet to find one, (given that there is hardly a wide gulf in policy direction between the big three), that I am happy to support. Hopefully things will change and I will have less of a Hobson's choice. At that point I will happily join up.

    As for the union form I was obviously unclear. I was suggesting contracting in rather than out.

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  30. Nail, the CBI is by definition universal and non-means tested, non-taxable.

    Who said 'workhouse'? I didn't. I'm just saying, surely it is better to pay people £100 a week (if they need more than the CBI, the £100 is in addition to the CBI, of course) for doing whatever they are capable of that is of some benefit to society, than it is to pay them £100 a week to stay at home.

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  31. Mark, a CBI of £50 to £80 would be a great start, but this 'workfare' for housing benefit is going to be more trouble than its worth - the Victorians found that out. It would probably cost more to find work for these people and make them work. What sort of hourly rate could they expect?

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  32. Falco - "and you think spending our taxes on it is the way ahead?"

    Yes, I do. We have governments making decisions on how to spend over £500bn of our money every year and expect the parties that formulate these decisions to rely on voluntary donations - it is madness and not surprisingly totally open to corruption from big business and rich individuals. It is like putting a manager in charge of running your company and then not paying him anything and expecting him to do the job properly (let alone well).

    falco, I am the first one to admit that you face a poor choice in terms of political parties on offer. The reasons for this are manyfold - but there is a catch 22 - you won't join to make these parties better - so they never get any better. People focus on the negative - if they actually got involved in the Labour party they would probably find there is more they agree with than disagree with.

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  33. Neil, now you are getting down to practicalities! Which is good!

    It doesn't matter how inefficient the system is. As long as the value of the work that they do to society is more than zero, it is better for them to be doing it that sitting at home. As to "make them work", if they don't ... well.

    As to hourly rate, I think that if you get £60 CBI plus £100 workfare, that equates to £160, which divided by £5.52 current NMW = 29 hours per week.

    Or if unsociable hours, then 15 hours per week e.g. at after school club, from 3.30 until 6.30 five days a week, or two overnight shifts looking after an invalid etc.

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  34. Mark, it costs a fortune to keep people in jail. Do you really want 2.5m in jail, like in the US?

    If you offer people the minimum wage then fair enough, but I don't think some employers would be happy about that.

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  35. Who mentioned jail? Nobody would be forced to do anything.

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  36. Mark, it sounds good - it would certainly be worth a go, but I would worry about those who refuse to work. Won't we just see a massive rise in homelessness and crime? What if someone has to be sacked because they are not up to it or just messing about?

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  37. Neil, that might indeed happen in a few cases. No system is perfect.

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  38. Mark, these people could be more numerous than you think, would you just let them fend for themselves, get evicted etc?

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  39. Mark, I can sympathise with your "sod 'em it's their own fault" view but the practical consideration is that the costs in crime and social strife are too great. It was tried in Tim 'Edwardian' Worstall's era and it didn't work. You need to curtail people's freedom to achieve such inequality and it is economically inefficient in this technological age.

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