Category Archives: Bit of politics

I’m so young and you’re so old; this my darling I’ve been told

When I was 15, I was a deeply unattractive specimen. I featured most of my current drawbacks – the arrogance, the lack of height, the fact that without serious gym work, my body tends towards the Tony Hancock look more than the Daniel Craig look – but without the positives that have come with age, wisdom, wealth and Internet celebrity.

[yes, quite.]

But I was also friends at school with a fair number of young gentlemen who weren’t relying on “maybe at sixth form, liking the Smiths will impress some girls” for their romantic lives. Rather, they had Pretty Girlfriends, and recounted their Mostly Made Up Tales Of Sexual Awesomeness for the delectation of us lesser beings.

And in either case – whether it was one of the boys of my caste, or one of the boys of the “has actually put his finger in a girl’s parts” caste – if we’d scored with a reasonably attractive lady in her 30s, that would have been a SUPERDOUBLETURBOMEGAWIN. Kudos would have been given, right up until the end of time.

So I find cases like this one deeply curious. OK, 15-year-old boys are actually pretty revolting specimens; 15-year-old girls only score with them on the grounds that they’re mildly preferable to creepy paedos, and everyone grown-up is embarrassed by the fact that they were once one, or that they scored with one on the grounds above. So a 30something lady fancying 15-year-old boys is a bit weird.

But hell. If we’re going to have any kind of harm-based justice system, which I’m assuming is roughly what a justice system should be (I know that the War On Some Drugs is a counterexample, but even that has a vague deterrent philosophy that “if people are thrown in jail for choosing what to do to their bodies, it’ll deter them from putting stuff in their bodies which turns them into mad granny-robbing loonies”), then how on earth does nicking someone just for having the insanely niche taste of “spotty boys who don’t really know what they’re doing” fit? They’re delighted; their mates are amused and jealous; and nobody else in their right mind gives a fuck.

In short – 15-year-old JB getting some action from a medium-attractive 30something Asian babe – hell yeah. On the other hand, if the woman in question would have gone to jail for the action she gave me, then I’d have been pretty distraught. At 15, everything feels like your own fault; indeed, the main thing you haven’t mastered at that age is “realising that the world is way beyond you, and that you don’t really matter all that much”.

So what we have here is the law taking something odd but harmless, and turning it into something which not only ruins the life of the woman concerned and her kids, but that will also shroud the boys involved in a cloud of depression and guilt forever.

And even Bystander, who isn’t usually an idiot, has fallen from the We Must Destroy The Children In Order To Protect Them bullshit on this one, and thinks that jailing the woman in question is fair play. All very odd. Given that your average 15-year-old boy would fuck the crack of dawn if it had hairs on it, a (bizarrely) willing older lady seems like a reasonable induction, all things considered.

More fun with marginal tax rates

Here’s Felix Salmon Justin Fox standing in for Felix Salmon, on the economic impact of the socialist Truman government’s evil confiscatory tax policies:

During the Korean War, Congress enacted an excess profits tax meant to keep military contractors from, well, profiteering. In its infinite wisdom, Congress defined excess profits as anything above what a company had been making during the peacetime years 1946-1949.

Boeing was mostly a military contractor in those days (Lockheed and Douglas dominated the passenger-plane business), and had made hardly any money at all from 1946 to 1949. So pretty much any profits it earned during the Korean conflict were by definition excess, and its effective tax rate in 1951 was going to be 82%…

It being 1951, Boeing instead sucked it up and let the tax incentives inadvertently devised by Congress steer it toward a bold and fateful decision. CEO Bill Allen decided, and was able to persuade Boeing’s board, to plow all those profits and more into developing what became the 707, a company-defining and world-changing innovation.

(I’ve deleted some of his sarcastic commentary about how a government enacting a similar measure today would be described, so that mine sounds cleverer.)

No, it’s not your bleedin’ money

Money and property rights are both creations of the state. If the state were abolished, neither would exist. The ‘money’ point is obvious, but the same applies to property: the fact that you happened to own a nice house would be irrelevant, because someone bigger than you would come along and tell you to get out of it or he’d kill you [*].

In other words, when people complain about the money that the state takes off them in taxes, comparing it to their pre-tax paycheque, they’re talking complete and utter nonsense. The correct figure for comparison is the amount of money that they’d have in Hobbes-world. Which, apart from musclebound psychotic thugs, would be vastly less than they’d have under any plausible liberal-ish-democratic-ish society.

Now, I’ve met a fair few right-libertarians, and I can’t help notice that they generally fit better into the “amiable geek” mould than the “musclebound psychotic thug” mould. So, all things considered, their take on life is a bit weird.

I wonder if the popularity of the belief “I’d do better in a world with no state”, despite its falsehood for the vast majority of people who believe it, is down to the same kind of overestimation of personal ability that makes people on modest incomes oppose taxes on the rich because, against all evidence, they believe that one day they’ll be in that group?

Or perhaps it’s even more primal than that, going back to playground fantasies of ninjas and sword-battles. Which could possibly explain why libertarianism is rather more popular among men than it is among women…

Probably worth signing off with the obligatory disclaimer that I’m arguing against a specific ideological position about property and taxation, not for a society where the most extreme counter-position holds. Obviously, I don’t think it’d be a good idea for the government to levy tax at a level that left people at [the same level of income they’d have in Hobbes-world + delta], because that would be a terrible idea from the point of view of maximising overall welfare.

[*] what would actually happen, based on historical evidence from all eras, is that eventually people would get pissed off with Hobbes-world and support whichever appalling violent thug was willing to enforce some basic rules that meant they wouldn’t just be murdered and robbed at will – i.e. a hugely authoritarian government. But let’s assume that Hobbes-world is some kind of sustainable equilibrium, for argument’s stake.

Just, worth putting out here

Since I’ve already tweeted that it annoys me, as a left-wing kind of person, that some people in the 1980s hated Mrs Thatcher so much that they opposed the most reasonable and fair war that the UK has ever fought, I thought I’d make clear on my blog that anyone who opposes it is pretty much evil.

I mean, seriously.

I hate Mrs Thatcher’s domestic policies. And she frequently gets slated for the Falklands War. But the former involved a concerted attempt to destroy the working class – which is a bad thing, and which is the thing we should hate her for. The latter is not – it’s one of the most reasonable wars the UK has ever fought.

The Falklands War involved defending a strange, odd outpost of people who spoke English, had red telephone boxes, and did A-Levels (obviously, they didn’t do university, because an island featuring fewer than 10m people isn’t going to have a good university….), and who’d been there for 150 years, and were unanimously convinced that they were all British and not Argentinean, from a dictator who was based in a country 100km away who thought that the island in question ought to be part of his country because, erm, it was nearby. Even though the Falklands had had British settlers on them for longer than his country had even existed.
Continue reading Just, worth putting out here

Taxes on the rich clearly aren’t too high

There are lots of countries in the world that are tax havens. They are short of skilled labour. Anyone earning enough to pay higher-rate tax in a Western country has a skillset that would easily land them a job doing something similar in a tax haven.

Instead, they’ve chosen to live where they do. Definitionally, this shows that they believe the tax is a price worth paying for the quality of life they enjoy there. If they didn’t, then they’d have moved to a tax haven already [*].

So while some rich people might complain that they think taxes are too high, they clearly mean this in a “it’d be nice if this thing was cheaper, but I’m still going to buy it at the price it’s on sale for” way (rather like people buying Apple products), and therefore we can discount their protests.

Taxes on unskilled workers, who don’t have the same advantages when it comes to free migration, are a different story: the poor can’t be deemed to have agreed to the deal in the way that the rich clearly can.

So the morally best way to reform the tax system would be to remove the working poor from the tax net, while ensuring that those wealthy enough to have a choice bear more of the cost. This is even before you consider the massive benefits (on virtually all measures) of having a more equal society.

[*] there is a pragmatic argument that “we’ll be stuffed if all the talented people leave”, and there is presumably a level of tax at which this might be true. However, evidence from the 1960s and 1970s (when marginal tax rates on very high incomes were above 90% in the UK) suggests that the proportion of talented people leaving even at that rate was low enough as to be irrelevant to overall economic growth.

Good answer to a rhetorical question

On a fairly standard CiF article about the death penalty (the Americans are planning to execute a woman who was involved in a plot to kill her husband, but who was demonstrably too stupid to have led it; everyone sane disapproves; everyone evil and vindictive approves strongly), the standard liberal joke question came up:

i’ve never understood how someone can be pro-life and in favour of the dealth penalty.

Obviously, lots of right-wing idiots came up with failed answers. But a liberal commenter called LinearBandKeramik (no relation) actually came up with an excellent one:

Pro-life individuals are not primarily opposed to abortions because of a concern for the unborn child. It is more about maintaining a social structure in which women’s independence is circumscribed by their ability to give birth. If the choice to give birth or not isn’t fully under the individual control of the women concerned then it allows others (other women, men, the church etc.) to have greater power over them. In other words they’re not really pro-life, they’re pro-control.

Such individuals simultaneous support for the death penalty flows partly from a lack of compassion and also from a belief that violence should be the remedial option of first resort, regardless of the problem.

Pretty much 100% on, there.

Easy answers to simple questions, #423

From the comments on Charlie Brooker’s excellent Guardian piece on the insane fuss over the not-a-mosque not-at-ground-zero:

How many Saudi’s would object to a Church being built in one of their cities if they were asked and polled? How many Americans object to a mosque? How many in Switzerland recently voted against minarets? Are they are all reactionary, sexist, homophobic, racist, xenophobic, nationalist, fascist, intolerant bigots?


Well, except for the ‘sexist’ and ‘homophobic’ bits – while those are closely correlated with the other attributes listed, they aren’t directly relevant to the case in hand.

Bonus extra stupidity:

One never knows, there is a definite possibility that an Islamist atrocity may once again occur on UK soil and also an outside chance that a member of Charlie’s family is in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wonder if Charlie, or any of the others supporting this prospective mosque near the Ground Zero site, would have such a positive attitude to this proposed development, if this came to pass.

Yes I bloody would. Because I’m not an appalling, stupid bigot, I’m fully aware that moderate Sufis would have had absolutely nothing to do with such an attack, that Islamist extremists hate moderate Sufis even more than they hate America, and that the best way to combat the ideology that created Al Qaeda is to build bridges with moderate Islam.

Digressionally, Cordoba House would have been a good name for the mosque, given that the Andalusian caliphate was the most religiously tolerant government the European world had ever seen at that time (or indeed, at any point before the 19th century). It was replaced by the genocidal mania of the Spanish Inquisition – a welcome reminder that anyone claiming Islam is inherently less liberal than Christianity is deeply, deeply stupid.