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2 MINUTE RANT: Jennifer Lawrence, liberty, and victim blaming

Libertarian Lou's Blog

People get so confused about what freedom means. The leaked photos of naked celebrities (including, most famously, Jennifer Lawrence) is one of those stories that exemplifies so perfectly that double standard – although it’s far from the first. Dismissing the story because it’s celebrity news, or because talking about it is publicising the existence of the pictures still further, is missing the point (and the latter verges on victim blaming).

The double standard I’m talking about of course is the unapologetically oppressive way victim blaming serves to control and restrict individual liberties, yet at the same time, those that perpetuate it so often pretend to be on the side of “freedom.”

I have free speech, cry the misogynists who like to shout at people they don’t know in the street about the shape of their bums or breasts. I have freedom of action, whine the creeps who like to grope…

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On @JohnRashton74

John Rashton is head of the Faculty of Public Health and he had a bad night on twitter, for which he has now apologised:

Rightly so, I think. Although I think that it’s his scaremongering about e-cigs that he should reconsider and apologise for. Being inappropriate on twitter is less than ideal, but scaring people away from a safe alternative to smoking (should they be so inclined as to want one) is not what a Public Health professional should be doing.

Responses to his apology (from vapers, one assumes) were uncharitable. Let’s gloss over those which were every bit as abusive as his own tweets..

More often, it was suggested that he should lose his job over it all..

Politely, that’s bollocks. He should probably be reprimanded over it, but whilst he states his employer in his twitter profile, it’s not an official account. The views expressed are his own. If he thinks someone is a cunt then I defend his right to say so. He should no more lose his job over it than any of the people abusing him back should lose theirs.

No no no. If he should lose his job, it would be over using his position to spread evidence-free rubbish about the dangers of e-cigs. He’s free (professionally or personally) to support their banning in ‘public’ places, because that’s a policy opinion. He’s not free to make up reasons in support of that policy. Making the e-cog debate about the people involved in it is a common approach. It’s unavoidable. The ‘antis’ want to make it all about those in favour of a liberal approach being shills of Big Tobacco, the pro-e-cig crowd want it all about the ‘antis’ being shills of Big Pharma. Motives matter, of course, but mud-slinging does not. Nor does a gleeful celebration of an opponent having a bad night on twitter. That conduct raises questions for his employer, but if someone who goes on the radio to lie about e-cigs is fired for swearing, rather than for his real ‘crimes’, then nobody wins.

That guy called me a fascist. Arrest him.

That guy called me a fascist. Arrest him.

I’m not voting UKIP later on this month. I think their rise is amusing, because it’s getting under the skin of all the right people. I don’t care who the UK sends to the EU parliament because I don’t think it matters at all.

But let’s all be clear.. the thing that UKIP have going for them is that they are ‘none of the above’. Other than that, there’s not a lot to recommend them.

Point of order

I got very angry listening to a ding-dong between Owen Jones (from off of socialism) and some American right-wing rent-a-gob on Radio 5 last night.

It was the tax avoidance thing again.

I was angry because Owen (and various callers) kept going on about how big multinational tax avoiding companies were putting cuddly little British companies out of business. Because: corporation tax avoidance.

So here’s the thing, if these cuddly little British companies are paying the tax that the nasty multinationals are avoiding, then they are, by definition, profitable companies. They are not, therefore, being put out of business by anyone. If they are loss making then they are not paying the corporation tax that the multinationals are also not paying.. so whatever advantage the multinationals have over them (and they do have many) it ain’t tax.

So can we put that one to bed, please? Or at least recognise it as special pleading from small business owners who want to be able to keep a higher portion of their profits, like what they big boys do. It’s a fair request, after all. Just drop the emotive bullshit, yeah?

Every little helps..

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So this is something I happened upon in a professional capacity. It’s not the first. The email reads thus:

Halton Borough Councils payment terms are strictly 30 days unless there is a pre-existing contract in place stating otherwise, however, if you would prefer earlier settlement of your invoices then please read the attached flyer informing you of our Early Payment Scheme.

If you decide to join our Early Payment Scheme your invoices will be sent to The Early Payment Team where they will be given a premium treatment, your invoices will be fast tracked through the authorisation stage, payment made within 5days of the tax date on your invoice in return for a 2% deduction for accelerated payment.

One of the things I learned, early on, in accountancy school was that prompt payment discounts are a very expensive source of finance. That is to say, the effective cost (in APR terms) is vastly more than, say, an overdraft. That’s not to suggest they are never the right way to go, just that if you’re offering one then you have at least one of a selection of problems.

Post ‘austerity’, it appears that some of our public bodies have decided to try and save some money by allowing their suppliers to ‘benefit’ from this expensive financing option. This gives those suppliers an escape from the ever-lengthy payment processes that the public sector is so fond of. To this council’s claim that their usual payment terms are 30 days, I merely offer the words ‘yeah’ and ‘lols’.

Is this smart commercial thinking by said public sector? I say no. I say it’s organs of our state, for whom cashflow really needn’t ever be a problem, exploiting those suppliers who cannot afford to wait until the council can be bothered getting an invoice paid. Any large or sophisticated supplier will reject the scheme out of hand, leaving it only ‘attractive’ to those with restricted means.

Note also that this scheme is, as those offered from the client-side invariably are, a discount on the total invoice value. Thus it’s particularly harsh on lower margin businesses. If you operate at 10% margin then 2% of your invoice is 20% of your profit.

The Department for Innovation and Skills has a Prompt Payment Code, a scheme which is about “encouraging and promoting best practice between organisations and their suppliers”. Halton Council need not apply. Small businesses who supply them should be paid as quickly as possible, and shouldn’t have to sacrifice a large chunk of their margin for the privilege.

Aside..

If tax must be evaded to avoid poverty, then what’s the tax doing there in the first place?

Almost Accidentally Useful

The way to deal with falling social mobility is to bring down the quality of good schools by levying a tax on them, apparently.

Longrider points out the first thing that sprang to my mind:

And what does Dr Seldon think that progressive taxation actually does? Oh, yeah, it means that the more wealthy you are, the more taxes you pay

This is true, but the point of ‘progressive’ taxation is that those with more pay more, but we all get the same out. After all, if paying more tax entitles one to better services, then what’s progressive about it? (I should note, at this point, how much I despise use of the word ‘progressive’ in this context.. but that’s for another day.)

Anyway, the tax system is not how people pay to send their offspring to good state schools. It’s the property market that does that. People pay more for homes near good schools. I’ve seen maths, even, showing near-perfect correlations between the premium paid to live near certain schools, and the concurrent implied ‘saving’ on private schooling fees.

So would Dr Seldon’s daft plan have an unintended, but beneficial, consequence? Would it remove the school premium from the price of land? Would it appropriate the gain in house values from proximity to a good school for the state (which, after all, runs the school) instead of it going to the landowner? Would it remove the problem that us childless have if we want to live in those nice areas that have good schools.. namely that we have to pay the school premium too? In the long run, will those middle class patents asked to pay a free be no better or worse off, because their housing cost will fall to cover the fees (or, at least, 2.4 children’s worth).

There is little I’ve heard of Dr Seldon’s proposals that it intentionally right. Most crucially, it is oblivious to the fact that the main reason good schools are good is that good parents send good children to them.

Thoughts on morality and wealth tax

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So I’m trying to work out if I agree with Frances or not.

I try not to be someone who thinks the world should be ordered in a manner that is convenient to me, so I argue with myself about the idea that wealth taxes like LVT and Inheritance* tax should be phased in/up to enable income taxes to be lower. I pay a relatively high level of income tax, and I neither own any property nor have any prospect of benefitting from a useful inheritance – so of course I think this way!

However, I aspire towards having the sorts of wealth that should be taxed. Notably, I intend to own property – that I don’t is a matter of choice, not affordability. In fact, I not only aspire to own somewhere nice to live, I aspire to have it entirely bought and paid for by the time I’m 40 so that I can live a life unencumbered by mortgage debt. I would like the option to move to a less financially attractive career, knowing that I can enjoy the property fruits of my previous efforts. In doing so I would also, as a by product, move to paying less tax.

LVT, therefore, puts a spanner in my life plan. Even if my property is bought and paid for, I must continue to pay my tax at a level commensurate with the property I bought with my income from more lucrative times. This is a feature, not a bug, of LVT. This is an inconvenience for someone with my particular plan, and it’s not an inconsiderable one. I would place significant value on the freedom to earn less money, doing something I find more rewarding.

But is this a moral issue? Is it immoral to prevent us from being free to pay less tax – albeit it’s a ‘soft’ prevention, in that we always retain the right to move somewhere without the LVT burden. We are currently taxed on things we do actively, but LVT is close to being a tax on existing. Someone who retires to a smallholding to live off the land, as removed from society as he is able, is still subject to LVT.

I think that my conclusion is that the tax itself is not immoral, but the implementation of it could be. The blindingly obvious solution to the ‘poor widows in mansions‘ objection is to allow LVT to be rolled up and paid on death. Why not the same for non-widows unable to meet their obligations from cash-flow? Even our man on his smallholding is a beneficiary of the state which enforces his property rights. Further, LVT combined with a Citizens Income ensures that all who pay LVT are also recipients of some of the proceeds, even though they may not cover the whole LVT bill (and if I personally wish to own an ‘above average’ property, we should assume that it will not cover all of mine).

We might also consider the moral dilemma of a transition from one mode of taxation to another. LVT is about replacing some of the rent collected by banks in the form of interest, with a rent paid to the society which gives the land it’s value. Those rents to banks are a sunk cost for all who’ve bought their property already – especially (in materiality terms) those of my generation who bought in the current century. A moral tax can have an immoral impact if it is disproportionately disadvantageous to people who just happened to be born in the wrong decade. If I were burdened with the high income taxes as I accumulated the money to buy property, then the high private rents to my bank, and then the LVT on top. then I might reasonably question the morality of that.

* I often hear IHT called a wealth tax, but I don’t personally see it as one. The person with the wealth is dead. It’s an income tax on the beneficiaries – and, with allowances for spouses and children, I would tax it as income.

Pragmatism, not Idealism

Why does the left ignore the true progressive party – the Greens?

.. asks The Guardian

Is it because most of ‘the left’ is only interested in hating the tories and, thus, pragmatically, throws all support behind the only party with a chance of beating them – even though that party offers nothing different? Isn’t it fun that tory voters have strong enough convictions about certain issues to risk a Labour government by voting Ukip, but Labour voters daren’t do similar*? Isn’t it even more fun that Ukip support is credited with dragging the tories further to the right on issues like immigration, but whilst Labour voters complain that Labour won’t move to the left, they sit back and watch it move in the same direction as the opposition because their only electoral strategy is to be ‘not the tories’.?

The Greens are on board with some things that I agree with (Citizens Income, for a start) and I’m in favour of minority parties crashing the cartel whatever they believe in. Unfortunately, their core aim is to regulate most of us to the agrarian age, so I’m not sure they have all the answers. However, they are prepared to challenge the mainstream centrist corpratist alliance and ‘the left’ should walk away from this bitter (and phoney) war with the tories and embrace real alternatives.

* Excluding, of course, the traditional Labour voters who vote for anti-immigration tickets. Because we’re not supposed to talk about that.