Category Archives: Getting Wealthier?

Societies and the implications of differing racial IQs

The general differences between societies plausibly express the societal differences in IQ: the more complex the society the greater the need for IQ related problem solving; the less complex, the greater the reliance on knowledge based behaviour. That is not to say that complex societies do not rely greatly on knowledge or that the simplest society allows no room for reasoning. Rather, it is that the balance between IQ related problem solving and knowledge is differs according to the nature of the society. If IQ is largely innate this raises some immensely difficult moral questions for any society. Take away sentiment and the hard truth is that on rational grounds no white or Asian society would want to host a large black population because that will substantially lower the average IQ of the society, with all the problems that brings in terms of anti-social behaviour and the loss of national intellectual capacity.

To say that the IQ distribution of a race implies nothing at the individual level may be pedantically true but it does not alter the fact that if a low IQ race is present in substantial numbers most will have low IQs. In a high IQ society that is a problem for such individuals because there is less opportunity to lead a normal life for the low IQ individual. Self-evidently There is not “a place for everyone”.

Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen provide a clear message: some societies, and most particularly those with a predominately black population, simply do not have sufficient people with IQs high enough to sustain a modern society. There are two rational conclusions to draw from their work. The first is that it is pointless for advanced states to keep on trying to modernise countries with low IQ populations which cannot sustain the sophisticated societies needed to maintain an advanced modern state and those populations should be left to find their own level.

The second is that the only active intervention which might conceivably improve conditions in low IQ states is their formal re-colonisation and permanent administration by the advanced states, for that at least would bring order and societies which had infrastructure which worked.

The first course of action has the difficulty of seeming cruel at worst and heartless at best. The second is a political non-starter because of the sacrifices those in the advanced states would have to make in terms of money and personnel and the almost certain guerrilla resistance of at least part of any population which was subject to an attempt at re-colonisation.

Lynn and Vanhanen’s remedy for the problem is the half-way house between decolonisation and doing nothing. They advocate transfers of wealth and expertise from advanced high IQ societies to the IQ deficient ones. Not only is this profoundly unlikely to be something the populations of advanced states will tolerate for ever, but the experience of 40 years or more of vast amounts of Aid being poured into low IQ countries shows that such assistance is worse than useless because it invariably produces corrupt regimes and large Aid dependent populations.

If Lynn and Vanhanen are right, the cold reality is that there is currently no way of radically changing the nature of low IQ societies. Indeed, by feeding them with Aid the donors are making matters worse because they help to increase the low IQ populations vastly beyond the level at which a viable society for the population could exist. However, low IQ populations may not be forever because even if IQ is now substantially innate it may not be so in the future. It is probable that within the next fifty years genetic engineering, chemical manipulation, surgical alteration and cybernetics may provide humans with the capacity to raise the IQ of those with low IQs. This would of course raise immense moral questions as well as practical difficulties such as who would provide the expertise and materials needed to change the IQ of hundreds of millions of people.

Other things being equal, the vast majority of adults would seek the highest IQ for their child, or if the alteration could done after birth at any age, to seek the highest IQ for themselves and their children. It is also true that in a society where there was any meaningful democratic expression it would be impossible for a government to deny such engineering to those who wanted it.

But it probably would not be left to the individual. If some states positively insist on altering the IQ of their entire populations, this would lead to fears that any country which did not follow suit would be left behind in the competitive struggle between societies. Alternatively, manipulation of IQ could be selfishly used by elites to create a permanent advantage for them. Not a pretty future to contemplate.

IQ and life in more complex societies

 The more complex a society the greater the need for high IQ. As the number of humans living in social proximity increases more sophisticated social structures are required. A settled way of life amplifies this need further. The variety of occupations increases and, most importantly, the amount of stored knowledge becomes both larger and, once writing is available, more stable. Social organisation becomes looser and informal social support lessens. In place of a single world view competing ideologies vie for supremacy. Change and innovation become much more probable. There is so much more to potentially think about and learn, although any individual may actually have to know less than the hunter-gatherer to survive because of division of labour.

 The individual in such a society is required to both learn more complex and less immediately obviously practical skills and knowledge and to deal with a greater range of human personalities and ideas. A man’s life contains less physical activity. As he works with his brain rather than his hands, his focus of attention changes. Knowledge becomes obsolete through innovation and consequently the need to learn throughout life increases. There is less certainty and fewer simple cultural mooring posts. The individual has to make more intellectually demanding decisions.

To live in a more complex society requires a qualitative change in mental abilities. There is an ever increasing shift from learning that which is concrete to that which is abstract, both in terms of understanding the whys and hows of the natural world at a level beyond mere surface observation, for example, the extraction of metal from ores, and in contemplating the organisational problems posed by larger associations of human beings. Much of what is to be learnt has no connection with the natural world and consequently no innate interest for Man who has to persuade himself intellectually that such things should be learnt because they lead to useful outcomes.

The existence of writing enhances such behaviours but it does more than that. The storing of information in a stable form means that information can be disseminated more widely and more certainly. Oral traditions inevitably result in variation. So of course do written records but they are far less prone to change, especially where moveable type printing exists. Moreover, a written record is a permanent statement of what was thought or claimed at one time. It can be compared with later written or oral accounts of the same subject in a way that a society with a purely oral tradition can never compare past and present accounts. In addition, written documentation allows not only a vast increase in what can be handed down from generation to generation but also much more complex information. It also greatly extends the time over which information may be transmitted. According to Plato, Socrates lamented the use of written records because he believed they stifled the intellect, but what would we know of Socrates today if no written records had been made of his thought? The answer is nothing.

As societies become more complex the way in which people learn changes. Instead of invariably learning by personal instruction and example, human beings often have to learn without direct human assistance, for example by reading, or by listening to the spoken words of others without any practical demonstration. This is because in modern industrialised societies the number of people who really understand the technology which is in general use is seriously inadequate. This means that people are routinely expected to use technology without a proper understanding of it because there is no one to instruct them in its use.

The cuts which are beyond the Pale for Britain’s political elite

We are incessantly told by the Coalition government that massive cuts must be made to British public spending.  They say this  will mean large cuts in public servants, reduced legal aid, fewer courts, higher fares on trains and buses as public subsidies are lowered, pensions,  both taxpayer funded and private,  reduced by moving from the Retail Price Index  to the Consumer Price Index  for annual inflation uprating, massive hikes in student fees, severe reductions in benefits and a re-shaping of our armed forces in a time of war which not only leaves Britain  seriously deficient in the means to defend herself or meet her existing commitments, but has made her a laughing stock by  the proposal  to have two new aircraft carriers, one of which will never have any British aircraft on it and the other which will have to wait until 2020 before their planes arrive.  

But while cuts are being made to almost all of the  public services which Britons most need, plenty of money is being found for things which the majority of the population  do not wish to fund.   Let’s have a look at them:

–          £15 billion in higher Treasury per capita  payments to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland  

(http://englandcalling.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/celtic-hands-deep-in-english-taxpayers%e2%80%99-pockets/)

 –          Foreign Aid £6.3 billion  (rising to £9.4 billion by 2013)

 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1322361/SPENDING-REVIEW-2010-Foreign-aid-increase-37.html)

–          UK Gross gross contribution to EU  £14 billion ( rising to  £19 billion 2015).

            (net contribution £6.4 billion rising to £10.3 billion in 2015)

(http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100058636/european-parliament-demands-a-higher-eu-budget/)

Much of the EU contribution which is returned to Britain is spent on things Britain would not choose to fund if the decision was made by Westminster. But  even if the net EU contribution is taken, these three items alone come to more than £27 billion this year. Take the gross EU  contribution and it is £35 billion.

 Those figures are solid. There are others which obviously involve large sums but which are difficult to tie down exactly.

 –          The cost of the war in Afghanistan in 2009/10 is estimated at   £4,200m.

 (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1288062/Cost-Afghan-Iraq-wars-rises-20billion.html)

This does not include the pay of service personnel or the long term costs of providing for the wounded and dependents of those killed, but includes some foreign Aid. The absence of the wages is reasonable in that the armed services would probably be as large even if we were not in Afghanistan.  However, those on active service receive enhanced payments which would defray the Aid expenditure.   WE could probably save £5 billion a year if we left Afghanistan.

 –   Spending on politically correct initiatives. In 2006 the Metropolitan Police spent  £187 million – six per cent of their  budget – on equality and diversity issues.  

(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-412948/Outrage-police-spend-450m-equality-diversity.html#ixzz14o254LHk)

This type of expenditure will almost certainly be repeated throughout public service both at national and local level, because the last Labour government institutionalised political correctness within public service by placing a legal obligation on all public bodies and private companies and not-for-profit  corporations such as charities to demonstrate that they were not discriminating on the grounds of race, gender or sexual inclination.  The potential sum to be saved if such an obligation was removed  would certainly be billions.

 Removing politically correct expenditure would not only save the money spent but improve efficiency by allowing staff to concentrate on their work without the distraction of having to be politically correct. It would also improve morale amongst the large majority of public employees who presently live in fear of being accused of a pc “crime”  which would mean a very real risk of losing their jobs.

 – Leaving the EU – Apart from saving our contribution, it would also save Britain considerable amounts by allowing her to remove many  legal and bureaucratic  costs. In their “The Great European Rip-Off”  David Craig and Matthew Elliott estimate that our membership costs Britain £118 billion a year between such costs and  our contribution to the EU budget.  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/6198708/EU-costs-Britain-118bn-a-year.html)

Leaving the EU would save other substantial amounts. Having regained control over our own borders we would no longer have to allow any person legally resident in the EU to come to Britain and be treated as a British citizen. This would allow us to end mass migration which would have three  major effects. The first would be a freeing up of jobs taken by immigrants  for Britons which would reduce our unemployment and benefit rolls. The second would be the removal of the legal requirement to treat EU migrants to Britain as if they were Britons for the purposes of state funded services such as health, education and council housing. That would both reduce public expenditure and reduce pressure on  public services. Third, fewer immigrants in Britain would generally reduce competition for goods and services especially housing.  

Withdrawing from the EU would also have beneficial effects on our relations with the rest of the world. We should be freed of the European Court of Justice, which in practice implements the  European Convention on  Human Rights when making judgements. Britain would still be a signatory to the Convention and the European Court of Human Rights could still pass judgements which in theory Britain would be bound to follow, but in practice such judgements could be ignored because, unlike the European Court of Justice,  there  would be no legal sanction the court could enforce.  Moreover, outside of the EU Britain could repudiate the Convention in whole or part.   Other benefits would be Britain negotiating all treaties on her own behalf, something particularly important when it comes to trade, rather than leaving this to the EU and the end of much of the foreign Aid from Britain being funnelled through Brussels.  Generally, our departure from the EU would lead to a culture  change whereby our political elite had to ask through force of circumstances,  not what is good for the cause of liberal internationalism but what is best for Britain.

Why is the entire British political elite keeping quiet about such savings? Why do they prefer to impoverish their own people and leave them without the means to defend their country?  Because they are all wedded to the liberal internationalist fantasy, the desired end of which is a world bereft of national boundaries and loyalties.   Our political elite  are Quislings in the service of globalism.

The “Taxing the rich produces little money” lie

 A favourite elite mantra is  that “taxing the rich brings in little money”.  Let’s have a look at that claim. Research by CoreData Research UK (http://www.burning-pants.com/2010/10/im-alright-jack/) published in September 2010 suggest s that   a minute  1.1% of  UK households  have combined wealth of well over a trillion pounds.   

The research  concludes that there are “284,317 individuals/households  in the UK with more than £1 million in net assets (excluding an individual’s/family’s primary place of residence)” and their total wealth,  not  including main residences,  is put at a cool £1.28 trillion.  To put that in context ,  2010  UK GDP is calculated by HM Treasury  at £1,474 trillion. If the value of main residences was included the wealth of the millionaires would probably exceed total UK GDP as it is reasonable to assume an average of £1 million per  property.  

The official government debt figures as at 2010 are: 

“Public sector net debt (excluding financial interventions) was £842.9 billion (equivalent to 57.2 per cent of GDP) at the end of September 2010. This compares to £687.5 billion (49.0 per cent of GDP) as at the end of September 2009.

“The unadjusted measure of public sector net debt (including interventions), expressed as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), was 64.6 per cent at the end of September 2010 compared with 58.5 per cent at end of September 2009. Net debt was £952.0 billion at the end of September compared with £821.5 billion a year earlier.” http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=206

(Those figures give an idea of the frighteningly rapid  increase in British public debt.)

If a ten per cent on their accumulated wealth was levied,  it would produce in the region of  £130 billion (or £150 billion if the value of main residences was  included ).  Tax their wealth (excluding primary  residences)  at 70% and it would clear the official current UK national debt (excluding financial intervention such as bailing out the banks)  and if the primary residences  were included, such a tax would clear the debt including bailing out the banks and their ilk.

Of course making paper calculations is one thing, collecting the tax quite  another.  The rich can generally work their way around taxes by using tax avoidance experts or engaging in evasion by moving money abroad. Nonetheless, that is largely due to the nature of the taxes they avoid and evade and the often complicit behaviour of British politicians and Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue (HMRC).

 In a country such as Britain, all personal taxes from income tax to capital gains are so surrounded by exceptions ranging from allowing people to take remuneration as capital gains instead of income to outright surrender by HMRC whereby the truly rich come to an ad hoc agreement with the British tax authorities which essentially comes down to what the rich individual is willing to pay. (The Telegraph – 9 11 2010 – reports that there are more than UK 1,000 tax allowances  –  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/georgeosborne/8118719/George-Osborne-set-to-close-tax-loopholes.html).

What is needed is a tax  which has no exceptions and which can be levied on assets which are not easily portable.  A wealth tax with no loopholes  is the best bet.  Easy to understand and as it is targeted at the rich,  it has the immense political advantage of avoiding the usual problem associated with increased taxes, namely,  significant effects on  the lives of large numbers of people .  Hence, no large number of disgruntled voters at the next election.

 It also has the advantage of being a tax not levied by many  governments in the developed world. This  would in principle make it much easier to levy on assets outside of Britain. There are many reciprocal arrangements between Britain and other developed economies to prevent double taxation, that is, to prevent tax being taken on the same liability in two different jurisdictions.  If the other jurisdictions do not have a wealth tax, then there would be no clash of taxation and Britain could levy a wealth tax without disrupting the present  double taxation agreements. A wealth tax being a wholly  new tax would also could also be outside  the present  taxation exemptions for the  non-domiciled, that is, those with the right to reside in Britain but who live abroad for most of the year and nominate their domicile as somewhere other than Britain.  

There would also be various measures that a British government could take that would at least apply to assets held outside of the EU and to Britons living outside the EU. (The position within the EU is unclear, but I suspect that the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights would come into play to adjudicate on whether levying tax on assets within EU  countries other than the UK  was legal. If  Britain left the EU, the problem, of course,  would dissolve).  

If Britain had regained her sovereignty by leaving the EU,  it would be possible to do such things as impose criminal sanctions on those who placed assets outside of Britain and failed to pay a wealth tax or  make British citizenship dependent on the payment of the wealth tax. The latter would  catch those who went abroad with their assets.

 At worst , the British government  would be able to levy money on assets held  in this country , which would include at least a substantial property, something that could not be rapidly  converted into cash and even if a property was sold the tax liability would remain. Indeed, the tax liability could be attached to the property so that even if  it was sold,  the tax would be liable from any purchaser.  If foreign property purchases

But there are good reasons for believing that much more could be done. It is no small matter to uproot a  family and take them to a foreign country, a particular difficulty if you have children of school-age or dependants such as aged relatives or relatives who are seriously disabled.  A spouse or partner may not wish to leave the country;  children may play merry hell at the idea of leaving everything they know or the disability of a dependant may be of a nature which precludes moving either because of the demands of the condition or because would-be receiving countries will not allow the disabled person to settle there.  These considerations could apply to both Britons and foreigners who have been in the country for a substantial period of time.  

More generally, there is the problem for those raised in Britain  of having, in effect,  to make the choice of a change of nationality for their children. This is a very emotive issue.  The Pilgrim Fathers sailed  for America because they had left England for Holland because of  religious persecution and after several years began to fear  their children would  become Dutch. That decided them to leave Europe for the New World.  Parents generally want their children to be part of the world they have known, to replicate their experience.

Doubtless if a wealth tax was announced in Britain there would be a tendency for the rich to say they would leave the country for friendlier fiscal climes.  Many of the  uber rich would probably   leave the country in many instances.  However, that would not be the position of the majority of people, let us say those with  capital in the £1-5 million range. It is one thing to say you will go an live in Germany, France, Switzerland or the USA if you are in the billionaire class. It is quite another when you have only a few million to play with, especially  if you choose a country where free at the point of use services such as education and healthcare are not available or if available nothing like as comprehensive as those provided by Britain.

The objection would be raised that this would drive the rich abroad and this would mean a great loss to Britain . There are two responses to that.  First, as a proportion of their income,  the rich pay little direct tax in Britain and their accumulated wealth suffers no regular deduction. Second, their  accumulation of capital slows the rate of circulation of money because  the rich as a class, contrary to popular myth, do not propel economies forward by lavish spending. Take a million pounds and give £1,000 each to a thousand of the poorest people and they will rapidly put the money back into circulation by spending it on a wide variety of basic goods and services. Give a millionaire a million pounds and most probably most of the money will simply be invested in one or two bulk investments. Of course, the millionaire’s million would l eventually filter through to the general economy where it will be distributed more widely,  but the rate at which it reaches the wider economy will be much slower than the million pounds given to the thousand of the poorest.  As consumer consumption is, for good or ill, the prime driver of  our economy, this is not a small consideration.  The rich also inflate asset prices,  most damagingly, those of property.

Would a wealth tax cause a great upheaval? Louise XIV’s minister Colbert  famously said “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to get the most feathers with the least hissing.”  Suppose the tax was a one off charge of 5 per cent followed by an annual  1 per cent a year . Would that be likely to cause a mass outflow of the rich?  There is no reason to believe it would. There are many great advantages to living in an  advanced and sophisticated country such as Britain and  developed countries which have used a wealth tax have not experienced a mass exodus of the wealthy. What I have proposed is a tax designed not to frighten the millionaire horses and that alone would stop sudden and massive asset depreciation as there would be no need for a fire sale. The rate I suggested for a yearly tax is well within the range of wealth taxes levied by first world countries without catastrophe occuring.

Disagreement  with the idea of a wealth tax may be made  on ideological grounds,  but  not on the ground that it would not raise a great deal of  revenue.

How Britain supposedly got richer and its people became unhappier

I was born in  England in 1947 into a world  where the national watchwords were  “make do and mend” and “waste-not-want-not“.   That was in part attributable  to  post-war austerity ,  but mostly  it was simply a continuation of what had always  been the case.

Packaging was still in its infancy.  Most  things which are now ready-wrapped , especially food, were  sold  loose.  People  routinely took their purchases away  from shops and market stalls in their own bags.  Where stores provided bags they were made of paper  which decomposed rapidly and naturally. .

Many glass bottles were could be  returned  to retailers for which the person returning them was paid a penny or two a bottle. The retailer then sent them back to the manufacturers for re-use. If not returned for re-use bottles , together with jam-jars were, commandeered to store home pickled fruit and vegetables ,  conserves such as chutney, jam and marmalade and  home brewed drinks like  elderberry wine.  Milk was  almost always supplied in  glass bottles which were commonly  collected by the milkman and  re-used more than once

Paper was commonly re-pulped.  As with bottles,  paper  could  be collected by private individuals and  sold  either to those collecting it for re-pulping or  to businesses which used paper as packaging.  Where it was not  sold it was frequently used around the home in functions as diverse as insulation, the lighting of fires and the preservation of food  (fruit  such as apples could be made to  keep throughout the winter by  wrapping  each individual fruit in paper which  cut off the supply of oxygen.)

Clothes and  footwear  were not considered things  which should be thrown  away at the first sign of wear. Instead, they  were repaired, normally in the home,  when torn. As they became worn clothes  and shoes  would be relegated from best to workaday to suitable for rough work involving  manual labour .. Or they might be given away or sold  to second hand dealers.  Even the rich were not as profligate  as they are now ,for they frequently passed their clothes down to their servants or  donated them to the poor.  Material which was beyond further use  as clothes or  household items such as sheets  was pulped to make cheap paper  re-worked into fresh cloth.

What applied to soft goods   was generally the order of the day . Hard durable  household goods, from crockery to  electrical  items were used for as long as possible. If they broke down,  became damaged or worn through use they were repaired.

The Rag and Bone man was a familiar sight, a breed of men  who  hoovered up  all manner of things now sent to landfill and incinerators., sorted them and sold them on  to anyone from the general  public to dealers in anything from clothes to scrap metal. 

There was  a strong second-hand trade in virtually all  durable manufactured products. Today  the second hand trade in everything apart from motor vehicles and furniture  is a pale imitation of what it was 60 years ago, being largely confined to charity shops and  car-boot sales.    

There were far fewer machines, both in the home and the workplace. In 1948 even a middleclass home would  be unlikely to have  more than  a refrigerator,  boiler for the water, a  radio, a cooker, a telephone, an electric fire  and  a washing machine and many would not have as many machines as that.  In a working-class home  a radio, cooker and fire would be the most which would be found and a  minority  would have no machines at all, gaining their power from the burning of wood, coal, paraffin  or coke.

Britain manufactured  most of  what it consumed . Where the country was not entirely self-sufficient   it  had a manufacturing capability  for  every  widely used manufactured product and all of the essential ones.   Unlike now,  Britain built its own ships, aircraft, trains  and road vehicles using British-owned and controlled  enterprises.   Our manufacturing base  was so comprehensive  we could   supply our  armed forces with virtually everything  they  needed.  Of course, a  larger manufacturing base meant  more raw materials were imported  than now,  but that entry on the debit side of the green ledger  was dwarfed by  the savings  on the  import of  manufactured goods,  even when the greater export of  manufactured goods  then than  now is added into the balance.

Most of the food consumed was grown in Britain and much of  it was consumed locally. It was rarely wasted because it  took  a larger proportion of the average family income than now  and  refrigerators and convenience foods were  not the norm.  The lack of refrigerators  meant food was brought  as it was definitely required  not  in anticipation of when it  might be  required, while the fact that  most  meals had to be prepared from scratch provided a natural check on preparing more than would be eaten because of the time and effort involved. .    What was not eaten ended up re-appearing on the diner table on another day or was re-constituted into another dish.  People, even  those in towns and cities, often grew  some of their own vegetables and fruit  with urban allotments and gardens being an important source of  many a family’s food.

Cars were  still  comparatively few in number and, consequently , for most  public transport was the order of the day. People tended to  work within easy travelling distance of  where they lived, frequently  walking to work.  When people went on  holiday it was  normally in Britain  and often not that far from home. International travel was still very much  the province of the better-off.

Public transport  even outside the  larger urban areas was adequate  and  much   goods traffic went by rail in the pre-Beeching days when the  railway network was truly national. and there were no motorways  to promote the use of gigantic  HGVs. 

Oil consumption was low compared with  today because  of the small  number of private vehicles,  the widespread use of  coal. and the relatively primitive state of the chemical industry  –  plastics were in their infancy – which  meant oil derived products other than  petrol diesel  and paraffin  were few. 

The widespread use of coal meant more carbon dioxide going into the air, but against that  most of the coal was produced from British mines  which greatly reduced  the need to transport  the raw materials of  energy  to and within Britain.  Industrial pollution was less  tightly controlled than today  with  much dumping of waste into  rivers.  However, that is balanced by  the fact that farming was much less reliant on chemicals   which today are  a major cause of environmental contamination.

The general mentality of the population was  to get  full value  from whatever they owned.  There was no widespread  desire  to  replace things with the latest  model simply because the thing  a person had was out of date.  Of course, people wanted new devices such as televisions  and washing machines, but once they had one they expected it to last for a long time.

People   paid cash for almost everything and  if they wanted something  saved for it. Sixty years ago credit was difficult to get. There were no credit cards, mortgages were given out very grudgingly after an extended  period of saving with a building society   and a bank loan  was something  only  readily  available  to the  middleclass, the majority of working people not having bank accounts.    Even hire purchase was  far from easy to obtain if you  were not in an employment which you had occupied for  at least  a year or two.

There was a general horror of debt.  Bankruptcy was seen as little better than theft.. Most people lived  from payday to payday. The welfare state was  in its infancy and  provided far less than  it does today. All of this meant that people had  to take responsibility for their own lives.

Advertising  was  far less potent in 1948. It  had been  growing in strength since  the rise of the popular press in the latter part of Victoria’s reign, but  sixty years ago it was still an infant  compared with what it is today.  Not only was there no Internet, there was no commercial radio or television  and  newspapers and most magazines were thin and drab. Full colour, high quality printing  for general consumption was  a long way in the future.  Cinemas were more important than today as advertising conduits, but  these were places people went to perhaps once a week and the advertising was fleeting and hidden amongst a host of trailers, shorts,  government sponsored propaganda films such as “This is life”  and  the normal double bill of two full length features.  The opportunities  for companies to  create a “must have  more and must  it now” mentality were very limited.

The world today  – how we got from A to B

Today we have a society whose watchword is throw it away if it is not brand new and buy something else.  Manufactured goods are   discarded  not because they are worn out but because people are tired of them; items which could be repaired are not repaired because it  is cheaper to buy a new  and “improved” model;  large amounts of food are  thrown away;  most things come in packaging  derived from petroleum products which do not naturally degrade; debt is taken on in astonishing  fashion without a  visible qualm and bankruptcy is commonly seen as nothing more than a shame-free  and legitimate means  to avoid paying your debts;  our industrial base  has withered, we import nearly half our food  and  most people appear to  have no sense of   wanting to get  full value from what they buy   by using  what they  own to its fullest extent.

Why have things changed so much in sixty  years?  It was not a rapid  reformation for the  make-do-and-mend, waste-not-want-not   mentality  took a long time dying.  Even today   older people  find wasting food and discarding things  which still have wear in them  unsettling  – I  do  myself.

The rot really began to set in during the Thatcher years  in the 1980s as the post-war British political  consensus  dissolved  and  Thatcher began the process of   deliberately dismantling private British industry  through the removal of protectionist  barriers, most notably  by her agreement to the Single European Act. At  the same time  Thatcher ruthlessly diminished  directly provided public services  by  means ranging from the wholesale privatisation  of  the  nationalised utilities to  piecemeal  disengagement  by allowing  private firms to take on vast swathes of work previously done in-house by the British state. Some of the newly privatised industries  such as ship building and mining , which other states still protected , were,  unsurprisingly rapidly destroyed by the  removal of state protection.   The Thatcherite mantra  was continuously repeated: Private enterprise good,  public provision bad. The work of Thatcher has been  religiously continued  by Major, Blair and Brown.

The consequence of  a quarter of a century of Thatcherite economics allied to liberal internationalist politics has been the wholesale   export of jobs to the Third and Second  Worlds., most notably to China.  Manufacturing  has suffered most,  but increasingly  service jobs have been  lost.  In the past ten years the middle-class have discovered that  their jobs are at risk as well as those of the working-class. 

Job availability and security has also been attacked  from within. Immigration has run riot since  Labour came to power in 1997,  especially since  new countries such as Poland joined the EU and were allowed free access to  Britain to live and work. This recent  immigration has put intense pressure on scarce resources such as housing and healthcare and undercut the wages of  many  Britons, especially  those in manual trades and unskilled and semi-skilled jobs.  Often Britons have not merely been undercut  but have found themselves wilfully  excluded from jobs because employers prefer to employ  immigrants because they are easier to control.

The transfer of much of our manufacturing capacity  by both off-shoring  British operations and the simple substitution of  home-produced goods with imports has produced   very cheap consumer goods  in certain areas, most notably  clothing and electronics. This has certainly been the main cause of the constriction of  the second hand  trades  and  one of the  prime drivers prompting  people to change goods more regularly.

These policies  have  created  of a large  reserve army of indigenous  labour, mostly   from within the working class,  whose natural employments  had been destroyed wholesale, and  a general   feeling  that nothing is permanent any more. This sense  of   insecurity has been religiously fed  by  the political elite. For a quarter of a century British Governments  have  routinely spoken  of  “being in a global economy” and   that “there is no such thing as a job for life now”  and how  “people must retrain several times within their lifetime”. In the past 15 years the elite  generally have taken up the  cry.   Most morally damagingly perhaps,  the British  have been  constantly told  by those in positions of power and  influence, directly and by implication,  that  to be rich  is  the ultimate  end of life, that the pursuit of  wealth  is morally  desirable without regard to its consequences, a mentality summed up graphically by Gordon Gecko in the film Wall Street with the line “Greed is good“.  Life, the neo-liberals  imply,  is   no more than a  web of economic  relations.  

The sense of powerlessness  felt by the  ordinary person  has been  enhanced by the growing power of the EU over British affairs and  the persistent denigration of the nation  state by those with access to the mainstream media, a denigration which was  couched by the political elite in terms of how the nation state was a thing of the past  at best and   a positive evil at worst.

Most damaging in the long term  is mass immigration. This  both introduced a fracture into British society  which had never existed before and  provided the  liberal  elite  with the means to  suppress native  disquiet   about  the immigration  and promote the internationalist creed under its new title of multiculturalism. The message of multiculturalism was stark and simple: all people from wherever they come and whatever their  culture and  loyalties have equal rights and  the indigenous population of  Britain has no special place or rights within their ancestral land.  Those who opposed the new creed  – and the vast majority instinctively did – were censored,  threatened with the criminal law, lived in fear of the loss of their employment and were subjected to a totalitarian tide of  “anti-racist” propaganda.   Unsurprisingly, overt  public opposition of any sort  was rare  and those amongst the elite who were disturbed by what was happening  remained entirely mute.  The natural  emotional mooring posts of a society  were cut down and the individual left to drift in a  soulless materialist world. 

At the same time as their  world was made impermanent and  feelings of insecurity grew and they  were denied the comfort of  both feeling part of a nation and of expressing their sense of belonging, , the majority became steadily  richer, despite the high inflation of the late eighties and early nineties and the housing slump of the early nineties.  The average wage increased  remorselessly in real terms  until recent years,  and those who managed to get on the housing ladder before, say,   2000  saw their  equity  in the property shoot up  dramatically , a most significant fact because  around  70% of the adult population now live in properties in which they  have  some equity, in most cases substantial equity. A  significant part of  that equity has been  released. through the taking out of second mortgages or other  borrowing against the property.  The consequence of rising wages and equity release  was an immense amount  of money swilling around in the economy.  To that must be added the vast  growth in  other credit .

The home ownership boom was driven by  two main developments. In the twenty years after 1979 mortgages  became  virtually granted on demand  as  lenders relaxed the rules and made ever laxer checks on the information given by applicants.  The multiplier of a person’s  income  rose from the traditionally cautious  two times  salary to three or four times by the late nineties.   Deposits were reduced until  100% mortgages were common. Eventually, a healthy market even developed in mortgages for more than the value of the property as lenders gambled on the  seemingly ever rising house prices rapidly covering the difference.  The second  driver was  the introduction of the Right-To-Buy  law which  transferred  large amounts of public housing  to private ownership by giving those in public housing large discounts on the market price of their dwellings.

Similar irresponsible  behaviour was seen in  the other credit markets. Private individuals  were bombarded by  offers of credit cards, bank loans  and store cards . Even more than in the case of mortgages  the lenders were lax  in  checking  the veracity of the information given and people frequently managed to obtain  a dozen or more credit lines, the repayment of which were utterly beyond their resources. 

Add together  the growing sense of  uncontrollable impermanence, the suppression of  national expression, the incessant pro-laissez faire propaganda   and  the rising disposable wealth  and  it is not surprising   that rampant consumerism  took  hold.  

Can the mentality  change?

Will we go on  in this fashion or  is there a possibility that we might return if not exactly to make-do-and-mend  to a  less economically  hectic way of living?  There are good reasons why we might. Governments  including our own are starting to acknowledge the dangers of being dependent on foreigners for   fundamental things such as  energy and food  and the frighteningly large recent immigration  has at last forced  some honest public discussion of the  ill-effects of   massive numbers of foreigners having free  entry to our  country.

To this may be added  the uncertain state of  both the British and the World economy. Due to an abdication of  responsibility for controlling credit  by  governments  throughout the advanced world, and nowhere  has been  more culpable than Britain,  there is now a general contraction of  credit.  In Britain we have the frightening spectacle of a  bank created out  of a converted building society , Northern Rock, being   actively  financed  by the taxpayer  via the Bank of England  to the tune of some £25-30 billion as  I write (December 2007)  with a further £25 billion or so of  the Bank’s deposits  being underwritten by the  taxpayer through Treasury guarantees.  To  put this in context  total UK Government spending  for the financial year 2007/8  is estimated in the  Red Book as £586 billion. (The Red Book is the Treasury publication which contains the budget details and the  estimates for government spending and revenue  in the financial year to which the  budget refers).

The fact that a single bank has produced a government commitment of  8-10% of total  Government spending  should put the fear of God into the Government and cause them to keep credit tight. (If they do that it  will probably be by keeping Bank Rate high rather than  targeted credit controls such as restrictions on the multiplier of  income  which mortgage providers  may offer). However, do  not bet on it because  modern Governments have made a God of growth and higher rates mean lower growth. The fact that  the supposedly independent Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee reduced Bank Rate  in December 2007 despite rising inflation suggests that  this Government may continue to behave irresponsibly.

But even if the Government does not  act to tighten credit the market  may  do the job sufficiently to make things unpleasant enough to  change  the public mentality. In fact, it already  has, with restrictions on the granting of   credit  to private individuals ,  both by a  higher level of outright refusal and by  less attractive terms for  mortgages and personal loans  for those  who can obtain credit. At  the corporate level,  credit is becoming more difficult  to obtain and  expensive  where it can be obtained. Small businesses  are  finding it particularly  hard going.. Even  clearing banks  such as Barclays have struggled to obtain enough credit  as they  reduce the amount of  inter-bank loans.  It is also interesting that the  Bank Rate cut in  December 2007  did not  produce an equivalent drop in the short-term lending rate  between the banks which is what is causing the immediate problem. It is a moot point whether  the central Bank’s prime rate is still  an effective credit control instrument.

Unless  the credit crisis  is  quickly overcome it could well drive the world into a serious recession or even a full blown depression.  Even if it turns  out to be  a temporary phenomenon , there are still plenty of other reasons why  the  British economy could be in trouble.  The countries which have been producing   manufactured goods   at absurdly low prices  are rapidly getting richer. This has the effect of both raising their prices  to meet higher wages and  of creating  an ever greater international competition for raw materials  and skills  In Britain  today only one of the four  material essentials of life –   shelter, food,  energy and clothing  –   is  still cheap and even that  one (clothing)  is starting to  rise.  People are  starting to get poorer. They may  be rich in trifles such as  an array of cheap electronics  undreamt of by earlier generations,  but  in the things that really matter, especially  housing, they are poor.

There may be a another  reason why thing may change.   For a quarter of a century the people have been fed on bread and circuses through the concentration on trivial materialism,  but that is a diet  which has little nourishment in it   Perhaps most  are becoming sated with  choice, especially when that choice concerns non-essentials, many of which are either a burden to many  because of the learning process needed to operate them, for example, mobile phones,  or of passing interest and soon discarded. Perhaps people would prefer  a government which defended their  jobs even if this was at the cost of higher  prices.  Perhaps they would prefer to be more secure and a little poorer

On a moral level does it matter that we now live in  a society  where most seem to have  little sense of valuing  what they own , of being  obsessed with things which are essentially trivial such as having the  newest mobile phone?   I think it does because  people have substituted  to a  significant degree    the  worship of  the trivial gods  of material possessions  and  the immediate gratification of   wants  (note wants not needs) for the fundamental  gods of  the family, the local community and  the nation .

The test  by which such questions should be judged  is simple: has the change in mentality  produced a more settled, coherent  and happier society than what went before?    It is difficult to see how it has. The birth rate has dropped below  replacement level  and people are more insecure than they were sixty years ago . Most noticeably, the native population  now live in an atmosphere of fear generated by the successful enforcement of political correctness by the British elite. Sixty years ago there simply was no fear of  losing your job or being prosecuted simply for expressing an  opinion about politics and society. 

The indigenous British generation  which is now reaching adulthood  have a  bleak future before them  if things do not radically change:  home ownership is  an impossible dream for most ,  higher education is  increasingly the  province of the rich, the chances of a secure job paying enough to live a normal life become  less by the day, public provision being  cut back  ever more ruthlessly and  the control of their ancestral land  being steadily handed to  foreigners by  a Quisling elite who serve the forces on internationalism   A fine inheritance.

IQ and national wealth

 In their books “IQ and the Wealth of Nations” and “IQ and Global Inequality” the psychologists Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen advance the theory that the economic state of a society is to a substantial degree reliant upon the IQ distribution within the population, with a tendency for higher IQ populations to produce stronger and more sophisticated economies than lower IQ populations. But there is not a simple relationship between IQ and economic development, for example, Asians probably (see section 2) have a higher average IQ than whites, yet it is whites who have produced the richest and most economically sophisticated societies to date. Moreover, there is no uniformity of economic development within races. Lynn and Vanhanen’s thesis is that IQ is a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic development. Put another way, societies with a high average IQ have the potential to progress to a sophisticated economic state but those with a low average IQ do not.

 Such a conclusion is unsurprising because it mirrors what happens at the level of the individual – the lower the IQ of an individual the less likely the individual is to occupy a substantial and significant position in their society. This individual tendency is to varying degrees distorted by the amount of inherited material and social advantage an individual enjoys, but even within social groups with similar inherited advantage, the same tendency can be seen: the lower the IQ the less significant a position the individual is likely to occupy. In addition, there are absolute limits to what someone can do with a particular IQ, for example, someone with an IQ of 150 may or may not take a first in maths; someone with an IQ of 80 will never take a first in maths.

Lynn and Vanhanen’s correlations also suggest that the average IQ of a society will have a significant effect even if a society does not progress to the front rank of advanced states or peoples at any point in time. The Chinese and Japanese did not develop into modern industrialised states of their own volition, but even at the pre-industrial stage they had much more sophisticated economic systems than populations with lower average IQs, for example, compare China and Japan with sub-Saharan Africa at any point before China and Japan were forced into widespread trade with the West in the mid nineteenth century and began to industrialise.

If Lynn and Vanhanen are correct, they have achieved something much more profound than simply discover a relationship between economic development and IQ because the economic state of a society has fundamental implications for its social structure and social structure for the culture of the society. A more advanced economy necessarily requires a more sophisticated social organisation than a less advanced economy, because the social relationships needed to produce it are inherently more complex. An industrialised state requires large scale urban development to produce the concentrated population required to man factories. Urban development allows greater division of labour and increases the opportunity for a wider range of occupations, including greater scope for those which are not utilitarian such as the arts. Large conglomerations of people require extensive public administration and works.

What Lynn and Vanhanen are actually arguing for is a link  between average national IQ and general social organisation: the higher the average IQ, the greater the opportunity for social complexity is the implication of their work. If this is true then the general nature of a society will be governed by the IQ distribution of its inhabitants. Societies will share certain fundamental structural similarities because IQ distribution sets limits to what a society may be, although that does not mean societies with a similar IQ distribution will match each other in the detail of their respective cultures. Take as an example two tribes of hunter-gatherers, one in South America and one in Africa: they will differ in their tribal rituals, the weapons they make, their marriage customs and the means by which they hunt and so forth, but they will share the same general social arrangements which allow them to survive: a high degree of group dependence, the general means by which they live (hunting and gathering), the division of labour between men and women, a nomadic life and so on.

The evidence on which Lynn and Vanhanen base their theory is substantial. In IQ and the Wealth of Nations they examined nearly two hundred IQ studies from around the world to obtain average national IQs for 81 countries. For those countries where the data is lacking Lynn and Vanhanen extrapolated their national average IQs from nearby countries with similar racial populations for which data does exist. For example, country A with no test data has two neighbours B and C with racially similar populations to country A. Countries B and C have test data which allows their national IQs to be measured at 85 and 87 respectively. The national IQ of country A is given as 86, the mean of B and C. Objections were made to this form of estimation by critics but Lynn and Vanhanen found a very high correlation of 0.91 between the 32 countries which were estimated in their first book from neighbouring country IQs but calculated from measured IQs in their second book.

In “IQ and Global Inequality”, Lynn and Vanhanen increased the number of countries for which they were able to calculate national IQs from test data from 81 to 113. The correlation between IQ and per capita income for 2002 (0.68) was  similar to that in “IQ and the Wealth of Nations”.

For their second book Lynn and Vanhanen managed to calculate national IQs for all other countries without test data, thus obtaining national IQs for all 192 countries in the world. They found a correlation of 0.60 between IQ and per capita income for 2002 for the 192 countries. The correlation is close to that in their first book.

Lynn and Vanhanen have probably done as good a job as can be done with the available data in justifying their hypothesis by the correlation of data. However, it will not convince everyone, not even all of those who are not ideologically opposed to their ideas. Is there another method by which their hypothesis can be bolstered? There is – by taking the sociological/ anthropological/ historical and the commonsense route of appealing to what any individual can see for themselves in their everyday life. That is what I shall do over the coming months in a series of articles. These will be accessible as a group by clicking on the  psychology category or the tag IQ.

Such an approach has the advantage of making the subject accessible to the general public, or at least to the intelligent and educated lay reader. This is a vitally important consideration, because the implications of research such as Lynn and Vanhanen’s are as political as it is possible for academic research to be. By definition it is a subject which affects everyone and consequently should be made accessible to as many people as possible.

I have a second end in view, namely, I want to explore the implications of Lynn and Vanhanen’s work if it does represent reality.

Let’s be honest ….everyone’s on welfare

In the hate campaign currently being conducted by the Coalition and the mainstream media  against  the welfare state and the poor, deserving or otherwise,  one very inconvenient fact  goes unmentioned: everyone is a recipient of welfare.  How is this? Because much of welfare is not identified as welfare.

People generally think of welfare as being merely benefits to paid the unemployed, sick and disabled, which include housing and council tax benefit as well as what would once have been known as the dole and incapacity benefit.  The reality is that you are also on welfare if  you receive any of the following:

1. Child benefit.

2. Tax credits , either while working or after retirement.

3. The state  retirement pension – this is far from being fully funded by contributions for the large majority of the population,  even if 30% of  the income tax and  tax and  national insurance contributions  paid  throughout their working lives was notionally deemed to be a pension pot.

4.  Private pensions and other forms of saving which benefit from tax relief.

5. A public sector pension, none of which are anything like fully funded.

6. NHS treatment for yourself or your children  – free dental treatment for children

7.  State schooling for yourself or your children.

8. Private education for yourself or your children  where the school is a charity.

9. University education for you or your children – this is still heavily subsidised despite tuition fees.

10. Carers receiving state benefits.

11. Those in homes for the elderly paid for by the taxpayer or who are  in receipt of taxpayer funded help in their own homes.

12. Those benefitting from taxpayer subsidised rail, underground, tram and bus  fares, especially those with free travel cards.   

13. Those in housing with rents held below the market rate such as council housing and Housing Association properties.  

14 . Those exercising their  Right to Buy a council or Housing Association property at a heavy discount.

15. Those taking advantage of free or subsidised entry to public establishments such as libraries  museums , art galleries, parks, sports fields, swimming pools,  sports centres and youth clubs.   

16. Those taking advantage as a spectator of any artistic or sporting activity subsidised by the taxpayer, for example, the Royal Opera House, National Theatre, the Olympics  and Wembley Stadium.

17. Those taking advantage of the multiplicity of taxpayer funded groups to promote specific activities and parts of the population, for example, women, gays and ethnic minorities.

18. Public service employees who are union representatives  allowed time off for union work.

19. Those who have benefitted from a charity, especially those  which receives taxpayers’ money.

20. Those who have benefitted from a not-for-profit body other than a charity which receives tax breaks and/or public money.

21. Those over 60 receiving the winter fuel payment  receiving.

22. Those over 75 receiving free TV licences.

There are also all the benefits which no longer exist,  but which benefitted millions of people alive today and indirectly millions of their  descendants who inherited their parents’ property and enjoyed a higher standard of living when children because of these massive subsidies of their parents.  

23. Mortgage Interest Relief at Source, or MIRAS

24. Free University education

25. University maintenance grants

Finally, there are the general economic circumstances which politicians promote that  benefit  parts of society disproportionately. They can also be considered welfare in the sense  that the advantage gained is due to government action.

Loose tax regimes  favour the better off, for example, those regimes with plenty of scope for avoidance, and the creation of circumstances which produce increases in the value of  assets favours only those who already possess the assets or can afford to purchase them when there is still steam in the inflationary potential of their value. That is what has happened  in spades with the British housing market over the past twenty five  years. This was brought about by successive governments allowing mortgages to be granted recklessly with little or no deposit and on insane multiples of earnings,  a virtual moratorium on council house building and massive levels of immigration.

A case could also be made for saying any taxpayer funded employment, whether funded through direct public provision or the  sub-contracting of work to private business, charities and other not-for-profit enterprises is a form of benefit because without the state funding the employment would not exist. Beyond that can be included the private business, charities and not-for-profit who profit from the expenditure of public employees.  The last two examples are probably pushing the definition of welfare too far, but they do illustrate how inter-dependent the state and private business is. This is unsurprising when over 40% of GDP is spent by public bodies, both national and local.

Let us have an end to this vicious hate campaign against the welfare state and recognise it for what it is: a fundamental part of our society in which everyone shares to a lesser or greater degree.

Laissez faire economics makes you richer – Oh yeah?

The proponents of laissez faire economics claim that it creates more wealth than any other economic system. There is precious little evidence for this. The one and only bootstrapped Industrial Revolution took place in a Britain which was highly protectionist in its international trade . It was also with a domestic economy which had considerable restraints on the unrestrained operation of  the market in the laws governing the employment of agricultural workers and apprentices, the  lack of easy communications, especially roads, throughout much of the country, the power of custom  drawn from a pre-industrial society and a very powerful social hierarchy.  Every state which has industrialised since Britain has also done so behind protectionist walls.

Laissez  faire did not become the dominant elite ideology until the Industrial Revolution had been running for more than a century. By 1850 Britain was comfortably the dominant industrial power in the world. Between 1860 and the outbreak of the Great War Britain followed a policy as near to true free trade as any country has ever done. The result was her  economic dominance was  broken, most notably by the USA and Germany, countries which were conscientiously protectionist throughout the period. 

From the end of the Great War until the 1930s Britain attempted unsuccessfully to resurrect  the pre-1914 economic conditions until  the economic catastrophe  which became the Great Depression – created under the rule of laissez faire –  finally forced the British elite to abandon the ideology, a change symbolised by Britain‘s departure from the Gold Standard in 1931.  This abandonment lasted until 1979 when Thatcher reintroduced the ideology in a new and arguably more virulent form. 

During the modern period of greater protection  and state involvement in the economy  which ran from the Depression until the 1980s,  Britain’s economy did not cease to grow.  Wages  steadily rose, GDP expanded. 1950s and 1960s Britain was a world in which unemployment reached just about as low as it can (around 300,000 was the fewest to which  it sank) and  living standards were rising rapidly,  Britain made most of the things it consumed,  it was at the forefront of high technology, the country was largely self-sufficient in food and manufactured goods and most of  its  energy was supplied by publicly owned utilities fuelled by a native coal industry.   All of this happened in a Britain where inequalities of wealth and income were steadily declining, a trend which the laissez faire school would have us believe diminishes incentive and hence economic growth.

Whether overall  Britons would have been more prosperous under continuous laissez faire  from 1860  to the present day is a question which is impossible by its nature to  categorically answer. However,  the creation of the first Industrial Revolution  and the strong growth experienced between 1931-1979 , both  in circumstances bereft of uninhibited laissez faire , suggests that at best  it would have made little difference and at worst would have resulted in further economic catastrophes, the cost of which would have comprehensively outweighed any higher profits gained during boom times.  When  the colossal sums being put at risk in the present recession  are considered and placed with the catastrophic losses of the Depression, those sums alone  (and that ignores the other less dramatic economic slumps of the past century and a  half) suggest that a century and half of  stable economic progress  would have left  Britain considerably better off today than it is.

What is highly probable, based on the experience of the period 1979 to  the present, is that unemployment would .have been much higher than it was from 1945-1979. Since 1979 the rate of dole claimants has  never dropped below 800,000 and the real rate of  unemployment is has been much higher than the claimant rates. How much higher is debatable, but  the measure favoured by the government based on a household survey of  those seeking work has remained well over a million and currently stands at  2.46 million. In addition, there are nearly 3 million  on long term sick benefit, many of whom could probably work (the figure of long-term has risen from around 600,000 in the early 1980s) and the very large numbers of people kept off the unemployment registers by being in higher education and very large numbers working part time who  want to work full time. The real unemployment total in 2009 is probably 5-6 million, but it could even be higher. The Daily Telegraph  recently estimated the figure for just those who  wanted to work but could not at 5.7 million (Telegraph 12.11.09 5.7m and climbing: the real unemployment toll  Edmund Conway)

The  prime thing to note about Britain’s periods of protectionism and  state involvement in the economy since the Industrial revolution began  is that, although there were periods of recession as the trade cycle ran its natural course, these economic periods  never produced catastrophic economic failures such as that experienced in the 1930s or that which we are now living through. Even the financial upheavals of the 1970s, which  were caused primarily  by the oil price hike in 1973  and over-powerful unions rather than the economic policies being followed, did not produce anything like as severe a financial crisis as that of the 1930s or the present. Moreover,  the Depression and the present turmoil are not the only severe crises which arose during the time of laissez faire, they are merely the most dramatic, most notably the banking crisis of  1907 when  reputedly bankers led by J P Morgan averted a crash of 1930s proportions.

A fair summation of the experience of the past three centuries is that there is no obvious correlation between rates of  GDP growth and personal enrichment and the balance between laissez faire and state intervention by means of protectionism and  economic control of the domestic market. What can be said is that state intervention  produces a much more stable economy than laissez faire policies. That in itself is valuable for it prevents great economic upheaval . Consequently, even  if it could be proved that laissez faire policies increase wealth in the short to medium term  more quickly than would happen in an economy such as Britain had for the first 30 years after 1945,  there would be a powerful argument that the long term benefit of greater stability of a state interventionist regime might well make that the preferred economic state because it would offer greater security and certainty.

If laissez faire is such a wealth maker  its supporters need to explain why it leaves so many poor in supposedly rich countries.   In Britain, most Britons could not live on their savings for more than a month, approximately 50% of Britons have no private pension provision and around a third of the population live in rented accommodation  despite the criminally lax  mortgage regime of the past twenty five years. If it were not for the safety net of the welfare state, a very large proportion of the British population would be as insecure now as they were 100 years ago.  Indeed, the absurd  cost of  both rented and purchased property  in present day Britain arguably makes it more difficult now for the ordinary  person to raise a family than it did even thirty years ago  because of the need for both people in a relationship to go out to work to pay the housing costs and the shortage of money left over after paying for housing. The vast swathes of poverty in the USA, much of which would not look  out of place in the Third World, tell an even starker story.  The laissez faire advocates also need to explain the success of much more statist economies such as Sweden, France and Germany, who are at least as economically successful as Britain and arguably more successful. 

The laissez faire practitioners have for forty years or more attempted to justify free market solutions on the grounds of “trickle down”, the idea that if  the economically successful are provided with the right laissez faire conditions they will make massive amounts of money which will enrich society in general including the poor  because the creation of wealth will filter down through society to the very bottom of the economic pyramid. It simply has not happened. American blue-collar wages today are much as they were in 1970 and if anything are declining. The picture in Britain is not dissimilar. 

But wealth is much  more than money or property. It is also about free time, a sense of long term security of employment, the ability to comfortably raise a family and a sense that their homeland was just that, a homeland. Fifty  years ago most people had a short trip to work. Their work was secure.  They could  raise a family on a single full time wage and obtain decent housing. The country had not as yet been seriously affected by mass immigration.

 Today anyone under the age of 30 in normal social circumstances will struggle to  provide the wherewithal to start a family and will probably have to live a long way from their work, that is, if they have a job. Their sense of a homeland in which they are privileged has gone. The fact that we have more technological toys does not make us richer. Indeed, for most people it merely adds unnecessary complication and frustration to their lives.

The part of society which has suffered most in Britain  is the white working class. Their natural employments, especially  in the heavy and extractive industries, have been wilfully destroyed.  New council estates destroyed long established working class communities with their informal social support systems,  while massive immigration provided ever more intense competition for jobs, especially unskilled and semi-skilled jobs, and social goods such as NHS services, council housing and schools. In addition, the ever more frenzied privatisation, whole or piecemeal, of the past 30 years reduced the quality and scope of public provision, most notably in council housing, the NHS, the vital utilities (energy and water) and public transport. This of course affects everyone to a degree, but it disproportionately disadvantages the less well off because they are the people most in need of public services.

 To illustrate how  perilous the position is of many Britons wanting work today I  will quote this paean of despair by a middle-aged working-class Briton which I took from the uk.politics.misc  newsgroup:

“Yesterday I saw my husband with tears in eyes again, because he cannot get full-time work to support us. When I met him ten years ago, he was working 12 hour shifts, and even now, he refuses to go on the dole. I don’t understand why you refuse to believe that he and others like him simply cannot find work any longer. He is 50, and the agency books are full of 20-something Poles – what do you think? And don’t say he’s aiming too high – he has always earned minimum wage and still does. He is already hanging his head in shame, and not because he is lying, but because there is simply no work for him, and when there is, he is ignored. He has worked all his life in menial jobs – he cannot deal with not working. What shall I tell him?

“Many of them [Jobs] are advertised in Poland and employees are recruited directly from Poland – see above. This happens because it seems that British employers do not want British workers. Perhaps you can explain to me why there is not one factory or warehouse job advertised here, when the place is full of factories and warehouses, and every person that you pass in the street along these roads where the factories and warehouses are located, are Eastern European, when 5 years ago they would have been British? There is less work now than then, so what is the reason?”

But even if  the “trickle down” had occurred and the poor had got richer in absolute terms compared with what they had in 1979,  that would not be the end of the story. Wealth is not merely about who has what but about the power relationship between the rich and the poor. Money is power and the larger  the disparity in wealth and incomes, the greater the power of those who have the most.

If I am rich I can afford to go to law to harass and intimidate someone who cannot afford such costs. I can protect myself with servants. I can buy influence in government. I can give a poor man employment or take it  away from him.  I can do any number of things  to exert my will directly and indirectly over anyone  who is not rich.

The objective facts say that it is wealth which  primarily determines life outcomes. It allows privileged access to all the goods of life and these then become threaded into the structures of individual lives. To be born to educated parents is a boon which stems in all probability from  those parents having been born to educated parents. To be free of the worries of having enough money for the necessities of life frees the person to do other things. To live in comfortable and uncrowded circumstances  creates a sense of calm and security. Does anyone believe in their heart of hearts that the behaviour of the poorest, least well-socialised  sections of society would not change radically for the better  if they were all suddenly given middle class incomes? Of course they would because suddenly they would be removed from the stresses they experience being at the bottom of the material heap.

As income and wealth inequality in Britain is substantially  wider now than it was in the 1970s, the poor in Britain today have less power in their relationships with those better off than they had thirty years ago. Add in the emasculation of unions, the destruction of the natural employments of  the working class such as heavy  and extractive industries, the use of mass immigration to lower wages and increase competition for jobs and the position of the poorer sections of society is dramatically weaker than it was when Thatcher came to office.

It is telling that Western businessmen  who ostensibly support the idea of the positive effects of competition arising from “free markets” and  “free trade”   never want it for themselves. Instead of rubbing their hands when  this supposedly wealth creating circumstance arises , they always  happily accept   a state subsidy or push for protectionist practices when it is to their advantage.  None of  the US airlines had any hesitation in grabbing billions of  dollars from  the  Federal  government after  911.  Large  companies  publicly complain of government regulation while  secretly welcoming  it because they   can  bear  the  cost  of  it  more  easily  than  their  smaller competitors.  Multinationals shamelessly  play one country off  against another in their search  for massive subsidies and other favours before they deign to operate  in a countr

It has been ever thus.  The two greatest names of the early  Industrial Revolution, Josiah Wedgewood and Matthew Boulton, were   happy to climb on  the Enlightenment bandwagon  with its beliefs in  the  Universality of  Mankind   and advocate lesser tariffs and freer trade –  until  the proposed  freeing threatened their own businesses. What goes for businessmen goes for the individual worker.  Who has ever met someone whose job was threatened by “free trade” speaking in favour of it?

Countries play the same game, cheating wherever they can.  And the more powerful the state the greater the cheating,  both in terms of  helping particular  industries with direct state aid and in the formulation  of the treaties governing world trade. Hence,  the USA  presents itself as the  ultimate  champion of free enterprise whilst being  both  now  and throughout its history one of the greatest of protectionists  and state subsidisers  of  its  industries  –  that it  is   seen  widely  as  an enterprise society is one of the great propaganda triumphs of  history.

Its behaviour after 911 is symptomatic of  the unequal nature of modern “free trade”. The US not only  handed, as mentioned above,  billions to its ailing private airlines,  but put up protective tariffs to  protect its steel producers.

 Abe  Lincoln’s   used  to put this  question to  pro-slavers  who  said slavery  was  a boon for the slave because they were provided  for  and were free of normal responsibilities:  “What is this good thing that no one  wants for himself?”   The question should be put to  the the laissez faire disciples. 

The truth about laissez faire economics is  brutally  simple:  “free markets” and “free trade”  are simply part of  an  elite  ideology and like all elite ideologies  they  serve  the purposes of the elite first,  second and last.  If it does not suit their purposes the elite will exempt themselves from the requirements of the ideology while insisting everyone else continues to honour the official ideological line.  Those not of the  elite who espouse it act merely as useful idiots to promote the interests  of  the elite.

Nailing the “We’re all in this together” lie

Amongst the many obnoxious lies put about by the coalition is the claim that “We’re all in this together”,  which is embellished by their other parrot cry  of “the rich are being hit harder than the poor”.  This is obvious nonsense because the poorer you are, the less discretionary spending you have.  

Let’s take an example. Compare the position of  a banker with an income of £2 million a year against a hospital porter earning £15,000.  Assume they are both single.  If the banker finds his tax bill rises from 40% to 50% tax , he will still take home around £1 million. It will make no meaningful difference to the way he lives.  If the porter finds his tax bill increased by 5% he will lose around £500 taking into account his personal tax allowance.  That would have a significant effect on his life.

The message is simple: the richer you are, the less you will be affected; the poorer you are, the more you will be affected.

The coalition’s behaviour is all the more obnoxious because of the background of its leaders.  These are men and women who are at best genuinely rich and at worst comfortably off. In the case of the three most dominant players – Cameron (NuTory Boy); Osborne (OldTory Boy) and Clegg  (leader of the Party for Adolescents) – all have backgrounds which have handed them the lives of rich men on a plate through the accident of birth.  They are also firmly in the mould of modern professional politicians, being able between the three of them to muster a meagre 10  years of employment outside of politics, and that is stretching it.

Cameron was born into a family which has extensive connections with the financial world, his father being a senior partner at the stockbrokers Panmure Gordon. His great-great grandfather Emile Levita, a German-Jewish financier who obtained British citizenship in 1871, was the director of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China. Cameron’s great-great grandmother, was a descendant of the wealthy Danish Jewish Rée family.

Educated at Eton and Oxford, he  Joined the Conservative Research Department straight after Oxford.  In 1994 he left to become Director of  Corporate Affairs at Carlton Communications, a media company which won the ITV franchise for weekday TV.  He left Carlton in 2001 and was elected an MP in that year.  The journalist Simon Heffer describes his seven years with Carlton as Cameron being employed as “a PR spiv”.   It does seem rather odd that a man without any background in the media should have been appointed to a senior media post at the age of 28. Perhaps this was a case of not what you know but who you know.

Osborne comes from the  an Anglo-Irish family which was  part of the old Ascendency in Ireland. He is heir to a baronetcy. His father co-founded the fabric and wallpaper firm   Osborne & Little He was educated at St Paul’s School and Oxford.   Coming down from Oxford in 1994 he joined Conservative Research Department and remained employed by the Tory Party until his election in 2001.

Clegg’s  father is   Nicholas Clegg,  chairman of United Trust Bank. He has various Ukrainian, Russian and German strains in his not too distant ancestry. His wife is Spanish.  Clegg  was educated at Westminster School, Cambridge,  the University of Minnesota and the College of Europe in Bruges.  Something of a professional student. He spent a gap year as a ski instructor, had a summer working as a junior in an Helsinki bank  and had some short lived work in the media both at home and abroad. In reality, his working career, if it can be called that, did not start until he was 27 when he obtained a post with the  European Commission. He became an MEP in 1999,  which lasted until 2004,  and an MP in 2005 between leaving the European Parliament and becoming an MP, he became a partner of a political lobbying firm, GPlus.

As can be seen, these are people who will never have known any anxiety about where the next pounds was coming from; never had to fret over putting a roof over their family’s heads; never known any insecurity about the future. Yet now they dare to inflict upon those who do know such fears a disproportionate burden of greater poverty, poverty resulting from the reckless incompetence of politicians in allowing bankers and their ilk to behave as the chose and the unrestrained selfishness of the bankers and their ilk who became caricatures of the rootless capitalist. It is also a savage irony that these creatures should bleat on about the wonders of private enterprise when they have so little experience of it.

The massive void between the likes of these people and the public can be seen in the decision to increase the foreign Aid budget by 40% at a time when so much has been cut which will affect the people they are supposed to represent, namely, the British. The Aid budget will soon exceed £9 billion a year.  That £9 billion alone would have funded the cuts in child benefit and provided the money to engage in what is sorely needed, a massive programme of council house building.

The overheated climate debate

NB I wrote this in 2006 but it still holds true, even more so perhaps because of the discrediting of the IPCC.  

 The hysteria

“Britain has 4 years to help cool the planet” shrieked a headline in the Metro (15 9 2006).   It was prompted by a report commissioned by  the Cooperative Bank and Friends of the Earth and produced by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research of the University of Manchester.

The story by Anne Campbell continued in the same purple prose vein: “Ministers have only four years to carry out a major new plan to cut carbon emissions if Britain is to help cool the planet. The claim was made as green campaigners spelt out a new roadmap to saving the world.”

Tabloid journalistic excess grossly distorting research? Perhaps, because scientific research papers are normally full of caveats even if their final message is clear. Putting forward a message at odds  with the sponsors of the report’s views? Sadly no, for commenting on the report, the Co-operative Bank’s director of corporate affairs, Simon Williams,  spoke in the same emotive,  cliched,  hectoring  and meaningless way: “This is more than the yet another wake-up call. Even if scientists take an increasingly gloomy view of the continually increasing  view of the continually increasing impact  on  our environment, this report shows that if we start acting now we can cut carbons. But we need decisive action by the Government.”

The story and its media presentation demonstrates all that is wrong with the debate on global warming: it is hysterical and absurdly alarmist in tone, the report is financed by those with a vested interest in one side of the debate,  debatable ideas are presented as incontrovertible fact and calls are made for governments to  pursue policies without any proper regard to the effects on their own people or the behaviour of other governments throughout the world.

Expert opinion

Notwithstanding the unsatisfactory way the global warming debate is conducted, the large majority of climate scientists agree that man-made global warming is occurring. Can the “experts” all be wrong?  Are we all going  to Hell in a man-made global warming handcart?  I put experts in inverted commas because “expert” advice so often proves to be nonsense and frequently dangerous nonsense to boot.

Here are a few stories drawn from the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs over one month which show “experts” either contradicting previous expert opinion or expert opinion being show to be inadequate. “Trauma patient care ‘may do more harm than good'” (Daily Telegraph 7 9 2006 – study shows brain damaged patients taking anti-inflammatory corticosteroids are 3.2 per cent more likely to die than those taking a placebo), “Counsellors raise victims’ stress” (Sunday Telegraph 20/8/2006 – University of Amsterdam study shows victims of traumatic events  who received counselling displayed poorer mental health – based on such symptoms as depression and anxiety -than those who had no counselling),

“Beta blockers blamed for ‘8,000 needless diabetes cases a year (Daily Telegraph 7 9 2006 – inadequate expert opinion),  DDT in Africa saves babies lives says WHO (Sunday Telegraph 17 9 2006 – this after decades of experts saying DDT is very dangerous), Woman in a persistent vegetative state uses thought to communicate (Daily Telegraph 8 9 2006 – brain scanning shows woman diagnosed as brain-dead is conscious and able to respond to words spoken to her, this after the medical experts have consistently sworn blind that such a diagnosis meant the person was effectively dead. The effect of such a diagnosis is that people have had life support systems turned off and been left to die of thirst and starvation).

Of course these are all newspaper stories not scientific reports, albeit from broadsheets rather than tabloids. The reports may be to a degree inaccurate or give an incomplete picture of the research. But however cautious one might be in taking the stories as gospel or complete, it is difficult to see how, for example, the WHO DDT story could be anything other than true in its basic message that DDT should be used. What the stories illustrate is the fact that “expert opinion” is far from being exact or permanent even when it is dealing with areas which might be broadly described as scientific.

Where “expert” opinion strays into fields which are not scientific, for example, economics, it  is even less credible as superior opinion because its predictive power is poor verging on non-existent. Sometimes the human experts’  bluff is called in the most embarrassing way. In “The unsaid truth: machines are better [company] stock pickers, a  Dresdner Kleinwort “behavioural specialist” James Montier  described  the results of an exercise in which he compared the results of mechanistic (computer) stock selection with human selection and found the mechanistic approach was significantly better (Daily Telegraph 15 8 2006).

When scientific “experts” are shown to have been wrong they will say they gave the best opinion possible on the known facts at the time; that science is a work in progress not a finished corpus of facts.  Emma Dickinson, a spokesman for the British Medical Journal, recently stated this  quasi-official scientific position nicely:  “Science moves from observation to observation and you get scientific progress. There is no end point…It is the nature of scientists to disagree with each other – that’s how science moves on.” (Sunday Telegraph 27 8 2006)

Whether scientists always behave like that and never go beyond the existing evidence or miss obvious flaws in their experiments’ designs, their data collection and their interpretation of data is to say the least very debatable – my mind turns to the recent British cot death cases involving Professor Roy Meadows, whose “expert” evidence wrongly sent a number of women to prison with life sentences for murdering their babies – most disturbingly, his “expert” evidence was wrong because he did not understand basic statistics.

Nor is it true that scientists always present their data in an unsensational and accurate way. Several years ago the Human Genome project was announced as “completed” by the scientists who won the race to publish. This gave a whole new meaning to the word “completed”,  because not only was the function of most genes and the relationship between genes not known,  after the announcement the geneticists involved in the project were still unable to give an accurate number for the genes which make up the human genome.

But even if scientists did by some miracle always behave in the most competent, intelligent and conscientious way, it would not solve the basic problem arising from their get-out clause of “no scientific certainty”. If science is as they say always “a work in progress” and any erroneous “expert opinion” can be explained away by the “best opinion on the available evidence at the time” ploy, they have no responsibility and, by extension, nor do the politicians who accept their advice with the rider “we must be guided by the experts.”

It is in the context of the general fallibility of expert opinion that  we need to judge the climate scientists who support global warming. We should also remember that they are the same class of people who were saying 30 years ago that there would be a new Ice Age (In another thirty years I suspect we shall be back to the Ice Age just around the corner “expert” advice.) Anything they claim now can reasonably be treated with suspicion.

If scientists were simply academics whose work had no  general significance the get-out clause would not matter. They could be right or wrong as often as they liked and their mistakes or ignorance  would have no more effect on society than do the mistakes and ignorance of classicists. But the reverse is true: scientific “knowledge” has a most powerful effect on society.   Politicians and interest groups grab hold of the research which suits their purposes and treat it as objective fact. Often they do not understand the science.   The  consequence is that much public policy is made on scientific claims which are at best the most educated of guesses and at worst no more than wild speculation.

Governments and elites everywhere have a natural tendency towards authoritarianism  and social control and consequently  need  no encouragement to use scare stories to increase their power. Scientific scare stories are the perfect type because the general public is even less equipped to judge the truth or otherwise of scientific research than politicians and is collectively a sucker for “scare stories” –  that is particularly true of  the-end-of-the-world-is-nigh-unless-we-do- this” stories.

But even if the public was not so easy to manipulate with scare stories there would be little they could do even in a supposed democracy such as Britain. In fact, what Britain (and all other reputed democracies) has is not democracy but what academics like to call elective oligarchy. This allows the electorate to do no more than  choose between competing parts of the elite every few years. If the competing parts of the elite have different policies there is some electoral choice and democratic control; where the elite agrees on a policy there is no choice for the electorate.

If an elite has bound a country by treaties into supranational bodies the electorate is even further removed from any chance of exercising their will if the decision is made outside the framework of national politics. That is precisely what has happened to Britain through her membership of the EU and treaties such as the UN Convention on Refugees. In the case of global warming, policy is made by the EU and consequently  while Britain remains within the EU  the  British electorate has no choice to make. Currently, the EU policy on man-made global warming is both to treat it as an established fact and to adopt, at least in theory, severe CO2 reduction measures. More on that later.

But it is not only CO2 which is a greenhouse gas, although it is reckoned to be the most important one. Methane is next on the list of villains. It is produced by for example animals, agriculture, coal mines and decomposing matter  in landfill waste disposal sites. Happily, governments have not as yet decided to place limits on the number of animals, including human beings in the world, but they have started to ban landfills. Again this is a policy forced on Britain by the EU.  

Bringing up the rear are nitrous oxide (5 percent of total emissions), which comes from burning fossil fuels and from some  fertilizers and industrial processes and human created gases (2 percent of total emissions) are by-products of industrial processes. These are also increasingly subject to government controls.

The joker in the greenhouse warming pack is water vapour which can vary from virtually zero to 4 per cent of the atmosphere. This cannot be directly controlled by Man.  

Political correctness

The global  debate is further skewed by the inclusion of  man-made global  warming  within the protective fortress of  political correctness.

Man-made global warming slipped neatly into political correctness because it fits naturally with the liberal internationalist creed which instinctively  seeks “world action” on anything and everything  and starts from the view that the West is only rich and successful (while the rest of the world wallows in various states of social and economic ineptitude) because the West has both historically and now, in some curious way, exploited and abusd the rest of the world.   Indeed, the wealth and success of the West is frequently described as “obscene”  by the man-made global warmers.   At the political level, both within mainstream parties and pressure groups, the belief in man-made global warming is a conduit for liberal angst.

Let me illustrate the mentality of the global warmers with  reference to a couple prominent figures: Frances Cairncross (the president of the British Association and chairman of the Economic and Social Research Council) and  the losing democratic candidate in the 2000 presidential election Al Gore, who has a documentary film in the cinemas at present (Sept 2006) entitled An inconvenient truth.

Cairncross believes that global warming can only be dealt with by “persuading  this generation to accept sacrifices on behalf  of posterity; and persuading countries that will gain from climate change,or lose little, to take action not on behalf of their own grandchildren but of the descendants of people in other nations”‘ ((Daily Telegraph 04/09/2006).

Gore’s film is two hours or so of unashamed man-made global warming polemic, which is delivered in the form of a lecture by Gore intercutwith film from outside the lecture theatre. He gives the ideological game away early in the piece with his statement “Global warming is not  really  a political issue; it is a moral issue”. The reason he considers it a moral issue is made clear in the rest of the film: most of the land which is thought to be most at risk from rising sea levels is in the Third World.

Nowhere in the film is anyone allowed to put the case that each nation should look to its own safety and convenience and not to some  international salvation. This is par for the course for public discussion of the subject in Britain and most of the First World – I have been unable to find any mainstream politician in the West who puts the nationalist case. The nearest one gets to it is the resistance, mainly in the USA and Australia, to the economic disruption which would result from taking the action the global warmers demand. But even here, the resistance is not on the grounds that warming will not affect their country much or at all, but rather it is based either on a denial that warming is occurring or that warming is simply a natural cyclical phenomenon which cannot be affected by any action Man takes.  

The essentially ideological nature of the man-made global warming side of the argument  can  also be seen from the reluctance of many campaigners to address the question of whether Man can adjust to the effects of global warming. Gore makes great play with the fate of New Orleans when it was hit by Hurricane Katrina as a global warming  disaster. In fact, Katrina did not demonstrate that Man is helpless in the face of such climatic events as a particularly violent hurricane. Instead it showed what happens when Man does not plan properly for natural disasters. Katrina was a fiasco because the flood defences of New Orleans (the levees) were inadequate. Had the money been spent strengthening the levees (and this was known before the hurricane hit) the city could have withstood the worst effects of the hurricane. The same applies to the aftermath of the hurricane. The failure at both state and federal level to adequately respond after the hurricane hit was also human failure not a failure to deal with an impossible situation.

What could have been done for New Orleans could be done in principle for much of the land which would be flooded if the global warmers’ most lurid predictions for a rise in global sea levels (20 feet or so) came true. The problem of course from the global warmers’ point of view is that most of the land which would be flooded without man-made defences is in the Third World which has neither the money nor the expertise to build the necessary sea defences or to deal with disasters once they have hit. This knowledge prevents most global warmers from pushing prevention and mitigation as a solution to the alleged threat rather than a reduction in CO2 emissions. Nor, of course, do the global warmers mention the fact that much of the Third World’s problems are caused by uncontrolled breeding and that most of the world’s population now and for the foreseeable future will live in the now developing countries. Responsibility for the global warmers in the first world is a one way street: the first world is responsible for what their peoples do; the peoples of the rest of the world are not. 

Finally take the global warmers’ response to the fact that  Britain’s share of CO2 emissions is tiny,  2pc of the world total. When the point is made that whatever Britain does it can have very little effect on global warming because we are responsible for so little of the CO2, the global warmers retreat to the adolescent moral exhortation of “Britain needing to set an example to the rest of the world”.

The consequences of a quasi-belief in man-made global warming becoming part of the elite ideology are considerable. It means that those who oppose either the idea of man-made global warming or  the favoured elite means of adjusting to it are denied regular opportunities to publicly put it.   Most dangerously it prompts politicians construct policies to deal with the alleged problem, most notably  the Kyoto Protocol (1997) designed to reduce CO2 emissions. Such measures  may be ineffective in achieving their aim but they do place burdens on the countries which  take them seriously and implement measures to meet their treaty obligation. Of course, most countries do not and never will meet such obligations.

The Third World and energy related greenhouse gases.

Apart from their current and ongoing industrialisation,  it  is surprising that no one ever queries the type of claims made about energy consumption in the underdeveloped world as it is now. The global warming campaigners are forever telling us that the Great Satan of Global Warming, the USA, has a per capita use of energy many times that of the toiling masses of the Third World. The rest of the developed world including Britain is less of a demon, but still a considerable global warming villain in the eyes of the likes of Friends of the Earth.

These claims have always struck me as somewhat odd. How is that the five billion or so people who live in undeveloped or developing economies and burn raw fossil fuels straight into the air manage to emit less global warming gases than the billion or so people living in the developed world whose energy waste outputs are generally filtered, whether that be in a power station or in a car?  I am not saying that the current quantificatins of energy use and greenhouse emissions are wrong, merely that it is odd that no one with a public voice ever questions whether they are.

Let’s assume that man-made global warming is happening

Some facts. At the most generous estimate, five sixths of the world’s population live in countries which are either still far from fully fledged industrialised societies (India, China), or are essentially non-industrialised (take your pick from any country in sub-Saharan Africa). The idea that  those countries will not continue with industrialisation is fanciful to the point of madness. If only half of the developing world achieves full industrialisation within the next quarter century their output of the gases supposedly responsible for global warming will utterly dwarf what we have now, especially if the projections of world population rising from 6.5 billion to nine billion over the century turn out to be correct. Most of that increase will come in the Third World.

Even within the developed world it is improbable in the extreme that most governments will  be prepared to take action that will severely affect the lives of their people. The USA and Australia for two are not committed to the Kyoto Protocol. Frances Cairncross,  the president of the British Association and chairman of the Economic and Social Research Council and a man-made global warming advocate, recently admitted this: ‘Miss Cairncross says the Kyoto agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions is having little impact. India and China, representing a third of humanity, have not signed up and the United States “does not take any notice”.   (Daily Telegraph 04/09/2006). Anyone who believes that most of the world will forgo industrialisation or that industrialised societies will de-industrialise is being naive to the point of idiocy.   If the world is going to Hell in global warming handcart nothing is going to stop it.

The worst policy for any developed state would be to take action to pile costs and restrictions on their own societies while most of the world goes its own sweet non-green way.   Yet the British political elite are doing just that. Not only have they signed up Britain to the Kyoto Protocol, Britain, through its membership of the EU, is committed to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which began operating in 2005. Under this scheme each EU member has to set a target for emissions. It then issues permits up to that target to private companies and public bodies within the member state. If the member state’s emissions exceed the permits it has issued, permits have to be purchased from elsewhere in Europe – the permits issued by a member state can also be traded within that country.

In practice this has the consequence of twice disadvantaging Britain. First, we have burdens on our industry and economy which most of the world does not have. Second, there is no equality within the EU because the various EU members set their own targets for CO2 reduction. In Britain’s case that is a more stringent target (12.5pc reduction on the 1990 UK emissions) than most EU members , including Germany. According to an OpenEurope pamphlet “The high price of hot air: the EU Emissions Scheme is an environmental and economic failure (July 2006), this meant in 2005 that the UK had to buy in œ500m worth of additional permits from foreign business rivals while German firms made a profit of £300m selling some of their permits to foreigners, something they could do because their emissions target reduction was significantly less than that of Britain.

There is an irony in the fact that the governments, political parties and many of the interest groups who promote the man-made global warming agenda  are supporters of globalism and consequently supporters of policies which are directly in conflict with any reduction in CO2. At one and the same time these people advocate a world in which goods and people can move freely across national borders and the under-developed world is encouraged to industrialise while insisting that CO2 emissions are reduced.  

 The academics

Any academic who wishes to challenge the man-made global warming orthodoxy faces two problems: he or she will find it very difficult to (1)  get grants to conduct research and (2) get their work published in leading academic journals.   These are great disincentives to go against the orthodoxy because in the modern academic world continued employment,  promotion and academic reputation rests heavily on published work. If those disincentives are not enough, any academic who goes against the orthodoxy is likely to be shunned by his fellow academics. He will not be invited to conferences.

Nonetheless, there are sceptics, for example the Australian based  Lavoisier Group argues that global warming is simply part of Nature.  One of their number is William Kininmonth, a former head of the Australian National Climate Centre. His book, Climate Change: A Natural Hazard, sums up their ethos. The Age 29 November 2004.  

A  different sort of sceptic is Bjorn Lomborg, author of  The Skeptical Environmentalist. Lomburg does not deny that man-made global warming is occurring. Rather, he disagrees with the idea that reducing greenhouse  gases is the answer to the alleged problem.Lomburg’s argument is that even if really savage cuts in hothouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are made over the next century or so, the effect on global warming would be trivial, delaying warming to the levels projected by the global warming believers by a few years at most. 

Lomburg adds to this argument the immense cost of doing what the global warmers want. He argues that this money would be better used by  adapting to higher temperatures and/or diverted to other issues such as AIDS and providing clean water. Most of this money would be directed  at the Third World.   Lomburg is in fact  a  liberal internationalist who differs from the global warmers only in his preferred solution to the alleged problem.

It says much about the quasi-religious nature of the man-made global warmers that despite Lomburg’s liberal internationalist credentials and intentions he is a hate figure in global warming circle. For the true believers it is not enough to believe in man-made global warming you have to buy into the “right” solution. The fact that they are so violent in their response to anyone who dares to challenge them tells you  a great deal about their confidence in the strength of their arguments, namely, they have little actual confidence. Like religious believers they love their faith but know in their heart of hearts that it is not fact but belief and consequently open to challenge. This they cannot deal with emotionally.   

The extent to which the man-made global warming has become the international orthodoxy can be seen from the stance of  the  United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.   Its  chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri is a man without doubt,viz: “One can say scientifically it is human action that is driving the bulk of changes that are taking place today.”  The Age 29 November 2004

The sceptics’ main arguments

The claims of the man-made global warmers fall towards  the wild speculation side of the educated guess/wild speculation spectrum. Even the claims that the world is getting warmer are  far from being rock-solid.   Some global-warming sceptics point out that modern temperature data tends to come from people measuring the temperature near to or within towns and cities, whose temperature is higher than that of the natural (non-urban) temperature of the area.   The rise in temperature which has been measured may be wholly or  largely a consequence of the great increase in urbanisation since the Industrial Revolution.   This consideration would be particularly pertinent where historical records are compared with modern records because the older the record the less urbanisation and the greater the chance that the actual temperature has been recorded. In short, comparing temperatures now with temperatures in the past may be a case of comparing apples and oranges. It is also worth noting that the claims such as that Britain has reliable temperature records going back 350 years are grossly misleading. There are records made by individuals at different places and times which have been collated in an attempt to give a historical temperature chronology. There is no standardisation of measurement or continuity of measurement in any place over the centuries  and consequently even comparisons between recordings of temperature made by different people at different times in the same place are dubious.

Global warming sceptics also refer to the  discrepancy  between  temperature records taken at the earth’s surface and those recorded by  satellites and balloons in the low to mid-troposphere – the atmosphere which extends to about 6 miles above the earth. The  satellite and balloon studies show no warming in the low to mid-troposphere in the past twenty years or so.   This is very strange if warming is occurring at ground level for hot air rises and should heat the troposphere. It is worth noting that the troposphere is not intimately affected by Man’s energy emissions as is the case with measurements taken in or close to the urban heat islands.  The scientific sceptics also attack the global warming thesis on two other main grounds: the fallibility of computer models and the effect of the sun’s activity.

Global warming predictions are made using computer models so GIGO – garbage in, garbage out – applies. As the weather forecasters show, predicting the weather even in the immediate future is fraught with insuperable difficulties. If that is so difficult, why should we believe the climatic future can be meaningfully predicted fifty or one hundred years hence, particularly when  phenomena such as  cloud formation, oceanic heat transport and the mixing of the air are still poorly understood?

The Sun’s magnetic field and solar wind – mainly consisting  of  electrons and protons emitted by the Sun – shields our solar system by from cosmic rays (very energetic particles and radiation from outer space). The shield is not 100% effective and some cosmic rays reach the Earth. Moreover, the sun’s activity is not constant which means the shielding effect of the sun varies because the strength of the shield is dependent on the sun’s activity.

Cosmic rays influence cloud formation. Consequently,  the amount of cosmic rays reaching the Earth affects the planet’s overall cloudiness. Clouds affect the radiation from the Sun which reaches  the Earth’s surface and that affects global temperature. Interestingly, satellite data shows a strong correlation between the amount of low clouds over the Earth and the quantity of cosmic rays hitting the  Earth. The implication is that the Sun’s activity is the major or even sole culprit for global warming.  

Assuming the worst

Let us allow that the world is warming, whether due in whole or part to Man or through natural changes, what should we do? Build sea defences, ban building in threatened areas, abandon areas which are incapable of defence, build stronger buildings, develop new strains of crops to deal with changing environments.  Even the most apocalyptic  global warming scientists  do not project a rapid and catastrophic event such as that depicted in the film the Day after tomorrow. Even if the global warmers are correct, the future is controllable.

How do we decide?

Some history. 10,000 years ago the world was just emerging from the  Ice Age, the last of many ice ages. 4,000 years ago much of the Sahara desert was fertile land. 2,000 years ago and Britain was warm enough for the Romans to introduce wine growing on a significant scale. 1,000 years ago Europe, including Britain, entered a period of considerable warming, warming strong enough to allow Greenland to be colonised by Norsemen.   A few centuries later and the glaciers  re-advanced sufficiently  to  cause the Greenland settlements to fail.   All of these events took place before industrialisation. They represent  dramatic changes in climate and the general environment, yet humanity managed to survive without any difficulty.

Similarly, Man has greatly changed his environment throughout history. The most obvious change has been in the size of the human population. This was tiny 10,000 years ago, moderate 2,000 years ago, large 200 years ago and is now truly gigantic for an organism of Man’s size – we are in the top 5% of land animals by size.

The environmental consequences of Man’s increase has been immense. Large tracts of land have been converted from forest to open land, much of it cultivated. Nowhere is this seen more dramatically than in Europe. Yet despite this qualitative change Europe has not suffered any environmental disaster. On a more local scale England went from a medieval agricultural world which had a large component of open (communal) fields with few hedgerows to a world of smaller, privately owned fields following the various bouts of enclosure in the period 1450-1850. Again, no environmental disaster occurred, despite the fact that greens today are forever warning of a loss of diversity through a reduction in the variety of habitat because of the re-creation of larger fields in England.

Finally, consider this fact: no general ecological scare story has ever come to pass. It may be that the world does warm for a while, but it has done so before and the balance of probability is that the earth and Man will accommodate the current warming without causing any general environmental disaster just as they have accommodated previous climatic change.

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