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Sunday, April 15, 2012

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  Mark Wadsworth highlights how our PC Puritans are banning again. 
A London university could ban the sale of alcohol from parts of its campus because some students consider it to be "immoral".
Malcolm Gillies, vice chancellor of London Metropolitan University, said he was considering the move because a “high percentage” of his students see alcohol as “negative”.
  This has family resonance for me & I commented
My father, about 1950, was the Student president of Glasgow University Union. According to the history it was he who persuaded the worthies of the University Court to allow the Union to open a bar on the floor below the tearoom. Merely as a temporary experiment in the interests of science you understand, to test whether there was enough demand to match that for tea.
The experiment was never concluded, but anecdotally, the market does seem to exist.
Who would have thought that the 60s generation and their successors who now run things would have turned into po-faced puritans who would make the 1950s look like a rave?
On EU Referendum

 I think these scares are inherent in the maintenance of massive government bureaucracy and state parasitism. To quote Mencken (as I am fond of doing ) "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."
The failure of scare stories will mean the collapse of governments taking half the nation's money. We can see this in the American elections where Tea partyists set the agenda and may well beat Obama. Even if they don't achieve a majority this time it is clearly coming.
Just as the state's method of solving the debt crises is more debt their solution to the failure of their scare stories is bigger scare stories. Such trends cannot continue forever. So far their is no sign of anything more fearsome than the discredited CAGW fraud so I hope we are on the cusp of reducing government from a fearful master to a useful servant.

[Since I wrote this it looks virtually certain that Mitt Romney will win the republican nomination. He was not my choice but he is a self made billionaire, which bespeaks considerable competence. Ann Coultar, who supported him from the beginning, points out he was the "conservative" runner against McCain (who brought in Palin) 4 years ago, so there is no reason to suppose he is an overly soft option. She is an intelligent woman who does not fear to oppose the "consensus" and I have previously discussed here support of the radiation hormesis theory and of her discovery that Obama's hit man was behind the smearing of Cain.]
On John Redwood on the growth of China:

“Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice: All the rest being brought about by the natural course of things.” 
Adam Smith
China’s growth has been almost exactly 10% on average since 1980. Electricity production went up from 240 TWH to 2400 TWH between 1980 and 2005 – a rate of 9.64% annually. That correlation over that period of time is remarkable by any standards. China during this period has become a distinctly free market economy, unforced or restrained by overgovernment.
The future may be China’s for the taking but they have not done anything difficult. We could have & indeed still could do the same and since it has been historically easier for richer economies to grow than poorer ones we could still outpace China.
Al Fin does an article on railguns as replacements for conventional weaponry. I comment:

This looks like it would work for purely kinetic (no explosive) bullets. These should be invulnerable to laser systems designed to destroy shells in flight (or aircraft). If so this would be not one but 2 qualitative leaps beyond what western armies, other than Israel, have.
John Redwood on infrastructure building. I answer:

The government’s role in energy is entirely and very strongly negative, which is rather a shame because any possibility of getting out of recession depends on cheap energy. It is possible, though not likely, that with Huhne gone his promise to stifle the shale gas industry may no longer be operative.Shale gas is what is bringing the US economy out of recession but the EU generally seems to be intent on preventing that here.
Their role in airports is similarly entirely Luddite.
The problem with roads is that the transport budget is largely devoted, for purely ideological reasons, to rail whereas almost all travel is by road. If road funding were given most of the money taken in road taxes and run at arms length (whether through private companies or a quango) it could be properly funded.
However almost all government infrastructure projects suffer from the fact that around 7/8ths of their budget go to governmental bureaucratic parasitism (or alternately a combination of government parasitism and outright fraud). This is shown in the fact that the new Forth Bridge is 8 times the cost of last one even after correcting for inflation and that the London sewage outflow tunnel costs £100m per km when Norway can cut & outfit road tunnels at £5m per km.

[A Luddite regular on there asserted that America's growth is nothing to do with the shale gas exploitation, which is happening now, like the growth, but entirely to Obama's $1 trillion stimuli, which happened earlier, as recession continued. When pressed he, as is normally the case with such, declined to produce any evidence,]

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“””China during this period has become a distinctly free market economy, unforced or restrained by overgovernment.””

So China which does not allow private ownership of land, and where for example the largest coal mining, steel making and shipbuilding companies are state owned and where many other companies are crony capitalist is considered to be ‘free market”. This guy must have a different definition of free market then me since I don’t think that state owned or crony industries count.
All these things are comparative. China is not as free market as Hong Kong, except for Guandong province, but it is certainly much moreso than Mao's China or Cameron's Britain. State ownership is not incompatible with a free market (eg Singapore Airlines) so long as competitors are free to compete with it. I don't think anybody could claim that in Britain electricity producers, if they are nuclear, come withing a thousand miles of being able to compete with David Cameron's father in law's windfarm.
While I agree that its a matter of degrees, I very much disagree that a state owned company can ever be considered to be part of the free market. They are a cancer that undermines the free market in that they not only destroy free market competitors but also cause many free market companies to become crony companies in order to get the same benefits of the state owned company. .

They do this by receiving numerous benefits such as low cost financing, access to state information, limits on liability, access to government land and resources, reduction of regulations. This often even occurs when state owned companies are “privatized” since special treatment by government is often transferred to the new privatized company.

And so while I agree that its a matter of degrees and its very hard in this government dominated world for any company to be pure free market, when it comes to state owned companies I think that if they are not rejected by the free market they will destroy that free market.
My position on the free market is that it works, rather than to it aqs a matter of princile so i do not share your opposition to state owned businesses - if they work. This happens rarely but it does happen as per Singapore airlines. (I believe they have since sold off at least part of the shares but that does not change its success under state ownership).

In any case this barely impinges on the question of whether China, compared to other real world examples like Britain, or its previous history, has become comparatively free marketist.

I would certainly say that it has moved in a market directionj and the fact that it still has substantial state industries has not prevented or reversed that process, though it may well have slowed it, so the coexistence of state and private businesses is clearly possible.
All these things are comparative. China is not as free market as Hong Kong, except for Guandong province, but it is certainly much moreso than Mao's China or Cameron's Britain.
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