Beware a botched border

A botched border will be bad for all .

It’s the EU that wants the wall not us – and I wish that our politicians pointed this out more often. The UK and Ireland governments have made great strides in trying to reach a settlement for Northern Ireland and this could unravel  if the  EU are not pragmatic in their approach to the Northern Ireland.

In some recent coverage on the radio along the Northern Irish border there was lots of talk of not wanting the return of the “watchtowers” and the “troops” along the border as we had during “The Troubles” between 1968-1998.

And what irks me about this is two-fold – firstly the UK voting to leave the EU  does not mean we have to put up a military presence along the NI border. The Troubles are long  over and many of the reasons for having the military border have gone.

The second reason and the most important of the two – if the EU insists on a hard border it will not have been imposed by the British, but by the EU. There is not a lot of support for this anywhere in Ireland and the UK government should continue allow Irish citizens to pass freely into the UK,  as they have been able to do so.

Imagine  a scenario where the UK keeps the border much as it is now  – open. And the EU build a customs border on their side. It would not be the UK causing security and customs delays. Instead it will be the EU forcing a border on the Irish mainland. Irish haulers and government would then have to lobby/petition at an EU level to remove the log jam of goods crossing into UK and back again. In this situation the UK position at an EU level would be weaker and we would have to allow the Irish to do our bidding.

The EU fears by keeping an open border between themselves and the UK , that goods from let’s say, America,  could creep into the EU. The UK could simply mandate that all products be labelled as made in the USA like we do already , and then simply let the consumer choose. If they want beer made in Germany with a Texan steak who are we to get in their way ? If free trade is good across the EU then why is it any worse if  we just extend that boundary to include the globe ?

This logic reveals the EU for what it really is, an intra-nation free trade area with a common tariff  border to the rest of the world. As opposed to an international free trade area .

The British and Irish governments have long had a common travel area (CTA) which allows for easy movement of people dating back to 1925 – well before the creation of the EU. Therefore is no reason why an agreement could not be reached on goods crossing the border now.  Electronic customs solutions for goods already exist,  adopting blockchain technology could be used to ensure that there is an accurate record of what has crossed the border. There is no point in re-inventing the wheel for customs clearances , we should adopt technology in lieu of border bureaucrats.

There is nothing that stops the EU making an exception in this case . Such exceptions are already in place along border between Norway and Sweden, and the border between Germany and Switzerland. Both of these borders have components which could be incorporated into creating a no border situation. Not only would this be helpful for NI, but the UK as a whole. Any solution used by the UK and the EU could always be used a template for other accession countries or be used with other nations who want to trade with the EU bloc but want to avoid political entanglements.

As final thought, replacing my economics hat with a political one, we have to consider the actors and their intentions. The border could well be used by Politicians on both sides as a stalking horse.

The Irish could demand that they will forgo a border as long as NI adheres to the same regulatory standards as the Irish have. This would mean that the EU has a border inside of the UK. I doubt that Westminster would go for that. But for the Irish government this would be a win as it would bring NI closer into their sphere of influence; perhaps even realising their dream of a united Ireland again.

On the UK side the threat to build a wall may well force the Irish government to compel  the EU negotiating team to give concessions such as passporting for financial services or generous access to single market etc.

Perhaps this is the real reason that power is not going back to the NI assembly – maybe an ace up May’s sleeve.

First published on stopflyingtheflag.com.

Workers of the Ward Unite!

Modern British trade unions are sorry institutions. They overwhelmingly represent degree educated public sector workers and are led by career radicals rather than respected professionals. The number of employees in Trade Unions today is well below the 13 million peak in 1979.

This was not always the case.  In the mid-19th-century organisations like the Amalgamated Engineering Union represented skilled workers and campaigned for better pay and working conditions. It is important to remember that collective bargaining does not inevitably lead to socialism. As some on the left and right would have us believe.

The Marxist hijacking of labour organisations is perhaps one of the biggest tragedies in modern British history.  To reiterate my point, working people requesting better conditions in itself does not constitute a threat to free enterprise. Many of the labouring poor in the early years of industrialisation put up with truly miserable conditions.

Transitioning from associations of skilled labourers into ideological bodies lost organised labour mass support and legitimacy.

A similar process is taking place in the modern public sector. 2018 is young, and already the public sector is a sea of rage. As it stands Labour is rapidly becoming the party of all public-sector workers. I cannot decide if this has already happened or is in the process of happening.

This is a peculiar feature of contemporary Britain, it has not always been the case. For example, the police force has historically backed the Conservative party. It would appear now that most public-sector bodies are unwilling to endorse the Conservative’s economic policies.

This promises to be a truly terrifying situation. If the public services go from institutions filled with competent individuals to ideological bodies, led by demagogues then disaster will follow.

The Russian Conspiracy

It has been about a year since Trump got elected President of the United States. A lot of people were shocked by this decision of the american voter. Personally, I was not shocked, I expected it. But not because I wanted him to win. In fact I have been a very vocal critic of the Donald. Trump is far from being a libertarian. He is a consequent authoritarian, with a dangerously impulsive, and immature personality. It is a real problem to have someone like him in charge of the biggest army in the world.

And yet, despite my dislike for him, I constantly find myself in the awkward position of having to defend the man. There are very good reasons to criticize Trump, but a lot of the attacks on him are simply ludicrous.

The most bizarre idea is that Trump is somehow working for the Kremlin. Ever since he defeated Hilary Clinton, The media has been full of allegations that Putin and Trump are something like a team, and that the Russians actively, and successfully interfered in the election. Allegation reach from Putin blackmailing Trump with sensitive material, to the Russians hacking files from the Clinton campaign, and manipulating the voters with fake news. The evidence for all of this? Pretty much zippo.

The complete lack of evidence, however, does not seem to bother our journalist elites in the slightest. They have been busily reporting on this “scandal” pretty much non stop for the full year since the election. The level of misinformation reported is quite extraordinary. The only comparable example that I can think of in my lifetime, was the quite obvious lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Back then too, journalists seemed to have been more than keen to uncritically spread the lies being put out by the government.

In the Russian affair, just like with the WMD propaganda, the logic clearly is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Meaning, just because there is no proof that the Russians interfered in the election, does not mean it did not happen. Simply repeating these allegations often enough will eventually convince enough people that there must be at least something to them. And this tactic is working very well. Through the constant propaganda, few seem to be bothered by the lack of evidence anymore.

What are the allegations? Very early on we were told that Putin had sensitive material about Trump, with which he could blackmail him. Apparently, the Russians had filmed the Donald, having sex with prostitutes in Moscow. At least in this case, the absence of any evidence appeared to have bothered enough people, so that it never gained any traction. It also never made much sense. How exactly do you blackmail a character like Trump with such material? Who would care about him having sex with prostitutes? It is unlikely that even his wife would.

And so eventually, the deep state settled for concentrating on allegations, that the Russians were spreading fake news, with the help of the Trump campaign.

Let us not be naïve. Of course the Kremlin cares about who is in the White House. It would be odd if they did not. And it was an open secret that Putin favored Trump over Hilary. Trump openly, not secretly, campaigned on the promise to make the US get along better with Russia.

It is beyond me, why getting along with Russia, is such a terrible idea. Sure, Putin is a psychopathic gangster, who rules Russia autocratically. I would not want to live under his rule. At the same time, however, I do not think that regime change in Russia should be part of a western foreign policy. Whenever the west tries to better regimes, they tend to make things worse. So this is simply impractical. Ultimately, only the Russians can overthrow Putin.

But maybe, or probably, Putin’s autocratic rule is not really the reason why the west cannot get along with Russia. Russia is needed as a big enemy, to justify lots of government agencies. After all, conflict is the health of the state. That means the state does not really have an interest solving all conflicts.

This becomes obvious when we look at the hypocrisy of western foreign policy. The US is friends with far worse regimes than Putin’s. Right now, Washington is helping their dear ally Saudi Arabia to commit an outright genocide in Yemen. Our governments have de facto alliances with some of the worst political groups on the planet. These are groups, like Al Qaeda, who have committed acts of Terrorism, like 911. But we hear astoundingly little about these things. Instead, we are told that what we should be worried about is that the Russians, a country with the GDP of Italy, talked to the voters in the US during the election campaign.

And that is really what the allegations come down to. Russia is accused of using the open political debate in the US, to propagate their own political agenda. May I just ask the obvious question, so what?

Russia is not the only country that is doing this. Many countries have an interest in who is in the White House. Saudi Arabia for example regularly runs advertisement in the US, and talks to politicians, without anyone protesting. And every presidential candidate is always keen to demonstrate how well they get along with AIPAC.

The idea that there could be such a thing as an unbiased political debate is nonsense. The whole thing is even more bizarre, if we consider that most commentators of the issue would describe themselves as advocates of democracy. Isn’t the whole idea of democracy that the people are sovereign, that the voters are capable of making up their own minds? Surely, if the Russian bots are placing their comments in social media, the average Joe can see through that, or can’t he?

If you don’t believe that he can, then shouldn’t we question democracy altogether? In my personal view, absolutely, let’s do that. I am not a democrat at all, I am a libertarian anarchist. So let us question the legitimate role of the government, by all means. But let’s do it in an honest debate, not hypocritically.

The attitude currently spread in the media seems to be, it is democracy if the deep state’s agenda wins. If on the other hand, the voters vote against the establishment, than that is apparently not democracy. We saw the same argument after the Brexit vote. There too, the assumption was immediately that it was a defeat of democracy. Why, because, apparently, the people had been manipulated by evil forces to vote for the wrong policy.

The truth of the matter, however, is that we do not need to bring in the Russians to explain the election defeat of Hilary Clinton. She was very much capable of achieving that all by herself. If you are running as one of the worst candidates in the history of presidential candidates, you should expect to lose. The only real surprise is that she lost by such a small margin. But that can be explained by the fact that she too was running against one of the worst candidates ever, Donald Trump.

The only time the Russians seem to be accused of really having done something illegal is the hack of the DNC emails in July of last year. Hacking into a computer system is certainly a crime. But once again, the problem with that story is that there is zero evidence that the Russians did it. In fact, all the evidence points to the contrary.

Wikileaks has long claimed that the leak came from an insider. From the meta data of the download, we know that the data could not have been downloaded over the internet. The data was simply downloaded too quickly for that. That is to say the internet connection of the server was not quick enough to allow for such a quick download. It very much looks like the data was downloaded onto a hard drive. That however suggests that it was an insider who leaked the files to Wikileaks.

But let us forget the illegality of a possible hack for a moment. What is the allegation concerning the election here? It seems to be that someone informed the voters about the truth of Hilary Clinton. And the truth, as revealed in the leak, is that she is an evil, conniving cow, who stole the democratic nomination from Bernie Sanders. Does anyone want to argue that it is damaging democracy if the voters know the truth about a presidential candidate? In other words, if Russia did this, they did nothing more than to tell the voters the truth. How evil is that?

Quite evil from the perspective of the deep state in the US. As with every election, they were running a quite sophisticated misinformation campaign themselves. And they do not like competition, especially not if the competition is telling the truth. But having run similar campaigns too many times in the past, it appears the voters finally had enough of it. That, in principle, is a good thing. The only problem was that the only alternative was Donald Trump, of all people.

This charade of blaming the defeat of Hilary all on Russia, just because for once, the deep state did not get what it wanted, is a obvious attempt to win back control. And unfortunately, it is working. Being the clueless moron that he is, Trump is right back on track of the deep state agenda. Thanks to these misinformation campaigns, he appears to now be dancing to the tune of the establishment. I have said it before, and I say it again, it is a tragedy that all that precious anti-establishment energy was wasted on the worst possible candidate, Donald Trump. The problem is the establishment in the US, not the Russians.

Libertarians’ post-it policies on immigration

Last night’s meetup afforded an opportunity to poll attendees on immigration. I asked everyone to imagine themselves to be writing a manifesto and to state their policy on a post-it note. The goal of this exercise is to generate on-topic talking points for attendees, and is far from rigorous. 13% did not participate and the sample that did included non-members, first timers, and potentially people with no affection for libertarian ideas at all (the evening’s main topic was artificial intelligence).

I was impressed by the depth and variety of thought packed onto 25 post-its. There were some really interesting ideas that were unique in the sample: fixed price immigration, giving the issue less importance, supporting the local population to ensure they have something to offer. I particularly liked the idea that governance over immigration should be fractured in some way, by devolving it to localities or creating “100+ countries”. That is the ghost of Hayek showing up, I expect.

 

40% of respondents favoured open-borders as their reflexive or only position, with half of those favouring controls while a welfare state (education NHS, etc) continued to exist. One hacker favoured open borders as a means to collapse the welfare state.

28% favoured selection of immigrants according to culture or merit, with the preponderance of those concerned immigrants must adapt to our culture generally, or to some specific set of values such as “individualism”.

56% favoured unlimited immigration so long as those coming were able to pay their way and accepted elements of our culture. 12% of post-its mentioned both culture and merit as selection criteria.

The rights of employers and landlords to hire or rent homes to whoever they pleased was mentioned on 10% of post its. I think support for this idea is artificially lowered by the fact that the question was open ended. I would value asking this question again as a yes/no question and would expect support for the proposition to be high.