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Friday, April 08, 2011


   This is my latest article on Brian Monteith's ThinkScotland site. Please put any comments there:

I recently said this about the Scottish Renewables lobby organisation in a letter in the Scotsman
Its membership, on their online site, shows a large part of their subsidy comes directly from government departments & quangos. Most disgraceful is subsidy by the Scottish Development Agency whose £350 million is nominally to develop the Scottish economy rather than subject it and us to power bills 10 times larger than they need be.
Government is using ever more taxpayer's money to finance "independent" organisations (known in the blogsphere as "fakecharities") who propagandise for ever bigger government bureaucracy taking ever more taxes to solve what are usually non-existent problems.

There is barely a scare story, whether it be about global warming, passive smoking or salt which cannot be traced back to some government funded front organisation.

As Mencken said "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

I have a high opinion of Mencken and regard this as his single most profound statement. So how widespread is the reach of government funding in organisations which daily tell us we should be seeking more government regulation.

A few years ago I ran a checklist, linked here, of organisations taking stalls at one of Scotland's non-socialist party conferences and found "looking at the list of exhibitors sponsoring the conference. Of 26 such 7 are openly government depts. or quangos; 9 are what are known in the blogsphere as "fakecharities" i.e. getting between 10% and all of their money from government; 2 are unions of government employees & 2 are lobbying for an "industry" whose existence depends entirely on the fact that they get more money from government subsidy than from selling electricity, their nominal product. There are only 6 charities which are real or of unknown provenance.

There is also a website, fakecharities, which lists a small part of the many charities which receive government money.

There is some dispute as to how much of an organisation's money has to come from government before it can be assumed not to be fully independent. I assume that any charity getting around the same proportion of its money from the state as it spends on advertising and public relations, which in a well run charity, should be around 10%, cannot be considered truly independent.

While almost any organisation issuing reports and press releases of their "findings" will have a website where you can learn everything they want you to know about them not all of them put their accounts online or say who their sponsors are as Scottish Renewables did. They can be checked through the Charities Commission but life is short. One could simply assume that any organisation not willing to list its donors is likely to have something to hide but this may be unfair. I tend to take it that if the website does not have a prominent call for people to give it money but does for people who want to be employed by it, a very common phenomenon, it is almost certainly being funded from the taxpayer's bottomless wallet.
Some are obvious like the Carbon Trust. Some are apparently radical and vaguely subversive apparent foes of established government like Friends of the Earth whose European organisation is largely funded by Eurocrat organisations and is a preferred lobbyist in Brussels, lobbying for more regulation & controls. Some have barely ever had an independent existence, like the Terrence Higgins Trust, established by Terry's parents (for that is the name they knew him by) and heavily briefed by civil servants in the early 1980s, back when there was still considerable doubt by both the media and ministers that AIDS was, as threatened, going to kill millions in Britain by the year 2000. Some are ancient and widely respected like the Royal Society, who get £45 million a year from the government. Some are really quite small like the curiously named charity CASH (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) who appear to be the original source of the curious media "consensus" that we are eating dangerous amounts of salt - they survive on £240,000 a year, £30,000 from the Food Standards Agency and £200,000 from Nissan"! Some are international "N"GOs like those that found the Ukrainian election, won by someone we opposed, a few years ago to be dubious but not the Georgian one, won by our ally with 82% of the vote or the Montenegrin independence referendum won by "us" with 55.5% of the vote (they needed 55%). Some are very local like Housing Associations.
Of course it can be argued that just because government pays the piper that does not mean they call the tune. Indeed that is precisely the argument I have recently had from the BBC when I complained that their assertion that "there is no part of science in which there is a stronger consensus" than catastrophic global warming, even among "independent" scientists. When asked to support this claim by naming any scientists, at all, anywhere in the world who support this "alleged" consensus and aren't paid by the state they failed to find even one to go with the one I had named. But no matter - there may be zero such scientists independent in a financial sense, BBC responded officially, but merely because a body is not "independent of government funding" if it can still be described as "outside of the framework" of the state it should be treated as "independent of government influence." That may sound different from how the real world works but it is the official BBC position. Which presumably justifies the fact that the BBC regularly headline "reports" from government funded bodies pushing for more government. Such media power ensures extensive publicity not available to those to those who are independent in the traditional sense.

And who funds the BBC?

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