The Reality of UK Uncut

What is it like at a UK Uncut demonstration? What do they stand for? What do they think? What are they like to talk to? I set out to find out. I had an opinion in advance, like Richard Carey I was not fond of them. You could say I was looking for problems with them and had made my mind up, perhaps so, but it was not hard to find problems.

As you can see, I found they were actually fairly civilised and put up a good argument when I debated them. Debating them alone was hard going though. Obviously this video focuses on the gaps in their thinking, but they are not stupid. They just haven’t considered all the alternatives or properly thought through what they are doing.

They have managed to undermine the rule of law in this country by pressuring a company active here into paying tax at a rate decided by them, not by law. You might argue that Starbucks already did that, and their dishonesty is part of their problem, but before it was between them and the tax man, now it is a matter of mob rule. This mob is quite civilised, but it can only get worse.

I’m not sure if UKUncut really think about this in a deep way, but advocating for the force of the state to be applied, other than in self-defence, is fundamentally aggressive. They probably see themselves as just talking and “exercising their right of protest”.

Of course, it isn’t universally true that UK Uncut are civil. I was at Vigo Street, but there were people who wanted to violently force their way into the Conduit Street store and even the spokesperson in the store seemed to be being deliberately loud and disruptive in a way that she must have known would have stopped the business trading. There is an interesting philosophical diversion to be had about whether that kind of stoppage, which seems to need force to be resolved, is force as much as tax is, but it isn’t pretty in any case. Vigo Street was also closed and I know they got into the store, but have no idea if it went down the same way.

The main problem I have, and what the video focuses on, is that the numbers don’t stack up. Their avoidance loopholes would save 15% of the deficit if they were closed, but it would take 115% cuts, relative to the deficit, to pay off the accumulated debt in 37 years. Thirty seven years of services being trimmed will not work, I appreciate why they fear that, but what we really need is radical pro-growth policies and alternative sources of funding wherever it can be done. Democracy has failed to run its bank account properly. We need to bail it out, pay off the debt, and cut the responsibilities which we entrust to its institutions.

Simon Gibbs

Simon is a London based IT contractor and the proprietor of Libertarian Home. Working with logic and cause-and-effect each day he was naturally attracted to nerdy libertarianism and later to harshly logical Objectivism. Find him on Google+ 

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  23 comments for “The Reality of UK Uncut

  1. Dec 9, 2012 at 9:10 am

    They are deluded. Force used against the rich is “co-operation”. Once upon a time I used to think that anybody could be persuaded by good arguments, but when you see the prevalence of doublethink – the self-constructed firewall against reality – it’s clear that many people can’t be reasoned with.

  2. James Rigby
    Dec 9, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    We do not need, and indeed it is probably futile, to talk to and argue with organisations like UK Uncut. Rather that arguing with them, we should argue against what they stand for – and these arguments should be held with those who are less committed or don’t appreciate all the issues. Just as there is no point preaching to the converted, there is no point preaching to the unconvertable. We need to stop talking to ourselves; we need to stop arguing with our opponents; we need to start talking to the 99% of the people who are in the middle and can see both sides of the argument – and persuade them that our arguments have more merit than the polar opposite.

    • Dec 9, 2012 at 10:45 pm

      I don’t think I have produced a video aimed at UK Uncut, and that wasn’t my intention. I hoped to show people who are open minded that there is more to this debate than they might have heard before. I hope it will reach people, via you tube in particular, who feel a bit uncomfortable with this UKUncut thing but don’t know fully why. Those people should find a few interesting arguments in the video and hopefully start to look around for other voices.

    • Dec 9, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Still worth filming them though, much more real than the idiot box.

  3. Dec 9, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    A very interesting video. More interesting than some of the mainstream media.

  4. Paul Marks
    Dec 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    The first comment by Right Wing Hippy is basically what I would also say.

    These people refuse to accept that there is a fundemental problem with the unlimited Welfare State – everything can be solved by more tax revenue.

    It is just flat wrong.

    And it will lead to economic (and social) collapse.

    The question that occurs to me is…..

    Is any major Western country NOT like this?

    Or is Western civilisation, in general, doomed.

  5. Dec 10, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Great video and post. Sadly I doubt the system will change anytime soon, economics will ultimately make the change.

  6. Brian Mankin
    Dec 12, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Great video and post Simon.

    5 minutes and 8 seconds in ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=D8YG4BoztzY&t=5m8s ), you asked your male interviewee if demanding money from Starbucks was a form of aggression. He responded that he didn’t see it as a form of aggression and said that all members of a society should pay their fair share.

    I’m sure most reasonable would agree that everyone should pay their fair share. Where we differ is in our interpretation of what that fair share is.

    Imagine going to a restaurant with a group of friends. It’s a fairly mixed group with some office workers, some students, and Freddy. Freddy is unemployed and has the money management skills of a fig newton. You work in the city as a trader. The job is very well paid but even so you’re keen to keep costs down so as to save up some money to buy a house with your fiancé. At dinner, Freddy orders Lobster Thermidore while you order cheapest dish you can find. When the bill comes, Freddy complains that the cost of the dinner will clean him out. He says it’s not fair that he should have to pay so much. Everyone should pay based on what they earn and not what they eat. Is he right?

    Alternatively, imagine two coffee shops on opposite sides of the same busy shopping centre. Both shops are the same size and pay the same rent. Both have been operating for the same length of time. The same number of potential customers pass by each shop. But even so the two shops are very different. The staff in Alfredo’s are rude, slow and often make mistakes. Meanwhile, Bernadette’s staff are friendly and cheerful and service is fast and error free. Bernadette works very hard to make her business a success while Alfredo is an absentee owner who only comes by to collect the profits. Many more customers visit Bernadette’s than Alfredo’s and so she makes a much bigger profit. Since both business owners have the same opportunity as each other, why should Bernadette be faced with a bigger tax bill than Alfredo?

    I think that some members of the UK Uncut crowd might struggle to answer these questions.

    • Dec 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Both interesting thought experiments, and I think there is mileage in perhaps putting a scenario to them next time but problem is that the UK Uncut people were impressively focused. They would have asked why:

      1. Freddy should not get the subsidy he expected just because I decided at the last minute I wouldn’t give it to him, even though we’d voted to subsidize him when we chose the restaurant.

      2. Why I asked about Bernadette at all. In this case Starbucks have tricked the authorities into presenting a lower tax bill (an accurate claim, I’m guessing, since they apparently had a conflicting SEC filing), which means they might not be paying even an equal share. It is as if Alfredo that got the higher bill. As Margaret Hodge said its imorral…

      In 1. you basically get to the Social Contract which I suppose is interesting in this era of progressive taxation (the burdens of the contract were supposed to be equal) but you’ve gone off topic. In 2. that’s an oops.

      As an example of how focused they are, I asked the female spokesperson about UK Uncut’s association with high taxes and by instantly ddisclaiming that posiiton she was able to turn the conversation back to the fairness issue away from economics and I ended up basically recording her opinion about fairness for a minute or two, not her reaction to my opinion about the evils of high tax. As I said in the post, it was hard work and they are not stupid.

  7. harryr
    Dec 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    I’m a former left anarchist and its because of arguements presented to me that I came to realize that a free and open society is far more likely to be achievable with a market economy than with some kind of collectivist one. I do understand this video is aimed at the uncomitted rather than leftists. However I do think attempts at dialogue with left anarchists are worth attempting by emphasising areas of common concern. For example free speech, Expansion of the state, foreign intervention. As far as property is concerned, arguements based on the ideas of mutualism, of either Proudhon or Carson will be more likely to resonate.

    • Dec 13, 2012 at 11:52 am

      Very interesting. Those arguments that were presented, who presented them and how?

    • Fazer Eyes
      Jan 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

      Good argument for market as opposed to collectivist/communist Anarchism at the below link. It certainly made me more interested in Proudhon’s ideas.

      http://www.spunk.org/texts/misc/sp000050.txt

  8. Paul Marks
    Dec 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Proudhon is (of course) a 19th century French thinker who is famous for saying “property is theft”.

    If I remember correctly (I could, of course, be mistaken), Proudhon was also what is known as a “monetary crank” – i.e. someone who believes that low (or no) interest rates can be achieved by credit money expansion (rather than lending out REAL SAVINGS).

    As for “Carson” – well Kit Carson was an interesting man, but I suspect it is is KEVIN Carson who is meant. Kevin Carson is someone who pretends that economies of scale do not really exist and that the only reason that large scale business enterprises (in farming, manufacturing, retail and so on) emerged is because of state intervention. He also supports various collectivist movements around the world (including the alliance of different factions of collectivists that is the “Occupy” movement) against “the capitalists” and “the corporations” (remember, according to this person large scale enterprises, whether corporarte or individually owned, only exist because of state intervention). He also has an irritating habit of mentioning the names of Austrian School economists (such as Hayek and Mises) and then stating opinion that were the opposite of what these people actually believed.

    Someone who draws their arguments from “Proudhon and Carson” is not likely to be a friend.

    More broadly…..

    When the left protests were directed against bankers and other such “financial industry” people it was theoretically possible that agreement might have been reached – after all libertarians are also hostle to bailouts and are (or should be) hostile to credit bubble building (as opposed to lending out REAL SAVINGS).

    Now the protests are targeting companies such as Amazon (a book seller) possibilities of peaceful coexistance (in so far as they every really existed – and I have strong doubts that they ever really did) no longer exist.

    It is also shows that donating to “social liberal” causes does not get you a pass from these people,

    For example the founder of Amazon (a real self made businessman) donated two million Dollars to the “Gay Marrigage” thing in Washington State this year.

    His enemies still go after him (just the same) – he should have kept his money.

    Almost needless to say….

    Private ceremonies (if voluntary and nonviolent) were already quite legal in Washington State and one man could call another man his wife if both parties were happy with that. It was just that no one else (individual or group) had to take any notice of this stuff if they did not want to.

    The Gay Marriage thing is about STATE marriage – and about trial lawyers getting “anti discrimination” extortion money (via FORCED “recognision”). Does not sound very libertarian to me.

    • Kevin
      Jan 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      I have to concur that increasingly liberty is being trampled in the name of “equality.” This happens not only on a legal basis but moreso on a financial one. I take pains to pay ONLY my share of tax but I cannot afford to dole out money for an accountant. Whatever means by which I can legally diminish or altogether avoid a tax I will always take advantage of and this means I have to educate and inform myself every year of changes before I file my taxes. If people really want to end tax loopholes then charge a flat tax. Here in the US I find it a travesty that if you cannot afford an accountant or tax lawyer you may end up paying much more than you should. That fact alone leads me to the realization that the tax system is another fundamentally broken bureaucratic jobs program that can be replaced.

      Bullying companies to pay more will never make up the difference for out-of-control government spending. Our ancestors for the most part took care of themselves and it would do society as a whole much good if we emulated that instead of institutionalized welfare systems. “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have…”

      • Paul Marks
        Jan 5, 2013 at 12:00 am

        Agreed Kevin.

        And, of course, that complex “Progressive” tax code is one of the things that helps the special interests that “Progressives” say they oppose.

      • Jan 5, 2013 at 7:15 pm

        I have often thought that the reason we still have complex tax codes (which we do here in the UK) is because so many accountants and tax officials would need to be sacked if there was serious simplification.

        • Paul Marks
          Jan 5, 2013 at 7:22 pm

          You may have a point Simon.

          It is not true that everyone would benefit from a flat tax (a one page tax code), the whole “tax industry” would lose.

    • Fazer Eyes
      Jan 4, 2013 at 10:14 am

      By property Proudhon means property as it exists under government privilege, i.e. property gained not through labour or the exchange of the products of labour (which he favours), but through the legal privileges bestowed by government on idle capital.

      • Paul Marks
        Jan 4, 2013 at 11:56 pm

        Fazer Eyes.

        What you say he confirms my opinion. Someone who thinks that any property not gained by “labour” is a “government privilege”, and uses terms like “idle capital”, is no friend of libertarians.

  9. Lawrence
    Jan 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Please don’t say ‘Starbucks’ and ‘dishonest’ in the same sentence, it shows that you do not understand the situation. Under EU law, a company may pay corporate tax in any EU member state where they operate. Starbucks pay full corporation tax in Lichtenstein, as is their right. If HMRC allowed me to pay 40% tax in London or 10% tax in Reading, what would be my crime in choosing the town with the lower rate?

    Media dishonesty about the EU tax laws is widespread, all complaining about Starbucks, Google, Amazon as if they are they problem, instead of good, honest companies that sell their wares as efficiently as possible and deliver a great service to millions of customers.

    EU laws and the UK membership of the EU is the problem, nothing else.

    This article entrenches the dishonesty, I expected more from Libertarian Home!

    • Jan 22, 2013 at 3:05 pm

      I’m glad you have high expectations. The comment about dishonesty refers to making contradictory statements to investors:

      “transcripts of investor and analyst calls over 12 years show Starbucks officials regularly talked about the UK business as “profitable”, said they were very pleased with it, or even cited it as an example to follow for operations back home in the United States.”

      http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/15/us-britain-starbucks-tax-idUSBRE89E0EX20121015

      They may have been honest to the UK taxman by legally reporting profit overseas, but then they were dishonest elsewhere. Ooops.

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