November 2008

27 November 2008
Why we are getting tax cuts

So the Stealth-Taxer General is all of a sudden cutting taxes.  Did be perhaps take a walk in the general direction of Damascus?  Or did he instead read Taxation is Theft and think “How could I have been so stupid all this time?”

Well...no.  Gordon Brown is not someone who lies awake at night wondering if he could, you know, just possibly be wrong.

His problem is with the Depression and his attempts to avoid the unavoidable.

Assets are not worth what they once were.  So anyone who took out a loan on one of these assets is trying to pay it back as quickly as possible and cut their losses.  On the other side of the lending bargain banks are increasingly reluctant to lend.

All this will lead (for complex reasons) to a contraction of the money supply and, hence, deflation or falling prices.  Hooray, you might say.

Alas, modern-day politicians are slaves to the doctrine that deflation is bad.  So they are desperate to avoid it.  So they need to create inflation.  Under normal circumstances this is easy enough - reduce the rate the central banks charge the retail banks for money and let the money supply rip.

But the banks are increasingly reluctant to lend.  Even the ones partly owned by the Government.

So, we get tax cuts paid for by the printing presses which they hope will cause inflation.

There’s another side issue here. If you inflate your currency and on one else does then your exchange rate goes down like a stone.  So, what you need is for everyone to doing roughly the same thing at the same time.  It’s called co-ordination and is the principal reason for the calling of the G20.

Incidentally, I have grave doubts whether this will work on its own terms - it certainly won’t on anyone else’s.  My guess is that anyone given free money will simply put it in the bank.

25 November 2008
Raico replies

Following on from yesterday’s posting on Ralph Raico’s article on Churchill, Professor Raico was kind enough to reply as follows:

There is no contradiction regarding the welfare state. The beginnings were in the early twentieth century, as set forth. The cradle-to-grave welfare state was initiated following World War II, also as set forth.  None of this is controversial among historians.

Neither is there a contradiction regarding the British empire. As a libertarian, I’m hostile to British imperialism. But Churcill wasn’t, to say the least. To the extent that participation in World War II contributed to the end of that empire, Churchill acted against his own deepest values.

Of course I did not say or imply that Churchill forced Hitler into implementing the holocaust. (You really should learn to read more carefully.) Again, it was a question of World War II, which, as Goebbels wrote, provided the necessary smokescreen.

The comment regarding the deaths of German civilians owing to the naval blockade is incoherent. Leaders of belligerent nations are morally required not to aim at the death of civilians.

Churchill’s embrace of Stalin during the war helped the Soviet Union to dominate Europe following the war.  Such dominance, however, did not mean that Stalin was aiming at limitless expansion or require a cold war.

David Irving’s earlier historical work was praised by Gordon Craig, among others. You might look up Fuller’s works in the catalog of the Library of Congress to get an idea why he is considered one of the great military historians of the twentieth century.

I am not really inclined to reply further as I think all it will achieve is the initiation of a flame war and flame wars are pretty pointless.  Suffice to say his comments leave me unmoved.

But I’d still like to hear from the commentariat. If you think I’m wrong then please tell me where and why.  And if you think I’m right then tell me that too.  I’m nothing if not vain.

24 November 2008
Re-re-thinking Churchill

Ralph Raico wrote an article attacking Churchill’s reputation.  I thought I’d enjoy reading it as I think Churchill’s reputation probably deserves to be attacked.  But I didn’t enjoy the article.  To be frank I thought it was rubbish and wrote a comment to that effect.  This is what I said:

I’m not very happy with this. Not because of any particular reverence for Churchill but because if his reputation is to be taken down a peg or two then it has to be done well. That means that criticisms have to be consistent and well-justified.

For instance, one criticism is that the Second World War allowed the creation of the Welfare State. But earlier on in the essay we have the criticism that Churchill helped create the Welfare State before the First World War. Well, which is it?

Another criticism is that Churchill helped destroy the British Empire. I thought libertarians were generally-speaking against empires. Or did I miss that memo?

Then there’s the complaint that Churchill was an opportunist. Well, golly, an opportunistic politician, who’d have thought it.

Then there is the whole issue of responsibility. Churchill is responsible for Churchill’s actions. Fine. But who is responsible for Hitler’s? Because the suggestion is made that Chuchill forced Hitler into starting the Holocaust. What god has walked among us? Exactly the same mistake is made when referring to the Blockade of Germany in the First World War - the claim being made that this led to the deaths of 800,000 civilians. OK, but what does that say about the Kaiser? If he had cared about his citizens he could have surrendered at any point. But he didn’t. And if the Kaiser didn’t care for the citizens of Germany why should Churchill have?

There is also the whole excursion into the “If Only” school of history. If only this one decision here had been different then all that nastiness could have been avoided. Maybe but equally, maybe not. Sometimes shit is going to happen no matter where you stand. Actually, not a bad metaphor for the 20th Century.

But really Churchill’s reputation rests on two questions: was he right to continue the war in 1940? and was he right to warn of the Soviet threat in 1946?

The latter should be fairly simple as throughout this essay the complaint is made that for most of the wartime years Churchill was being too soft on Russia. So, how he gets criticised when he sees the light in 1946 I just don’t understand.

On the question of the War there is, I believe, a reasonably respectable view that Britain should never have gone to war in 1939 and should have sought terms in 1940. It is possible that (uniquely) Hitler didn’t mean what he wrote about the United States in the Second Book and it is possible that alone among agreements he would have kept those he made with the UK. But what were the chances?

I think the author takes the pacifist view that all war and even self-defence is wrong. Maybe, but it’s a controversial view and I think has to be thoroughly justified every time it is aired.

I notice that Major-General J F C Fuller (member of the British Union of Fascists) and David Irving (Holocaust Denier) get a mention. You know, if I were going to mention either of these two I would do so with a health warning.

As I said, I think Churchill’s reputation deserves to be taken down a peg or two but this inconsistent scattergun approach riddled with inconsistencies is not the way to do it.

So I start off believing X, the article also makes the case for X but does it so badly I end up believing -X.  That’s quite an achievement.

07 November 2008

Somebody has compiled a list of the 10 most irritating phrases and it would seem that I use almost all of them*, “24/7”, which I guess makes me “fairly unique”.

I will make a defence of “I personally”.  A lot of the time in the media people are not speaking personally they are speaking collectively, in other words on behalf of organisations whether it be the government, business or pressure groups.  So, it is reasonable to make the distinction when the views you are expressing are genuinely your views and not those of the organisation you represent.

* The one I don’t use is “With all due respect”.  No prizes for guessing why.