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March 02, 2013

Comments

Sam

From Burning Our Money:

"The cost of hanging on the phone to the tax office was a collective £33m… Figures released by the National Audit Office showed that nearly a quarter of calls to the Revenue went unanswered while 6.5m people in the first six months of this financial year were left waiting for more than 10 minutes for someone to help them."

HMRC: Always putting the customer first!

David

HMRC: Always putting the customer first!

Well, that’s the thing, isn’t it? To the taxman, you’re not a customer, so why should he care if you’re kept waiting, even if he owes you money? You’re more like an irritation… or foodstuff.

WTP

Have you seen our dear second banana's sage advice on home defense?

http://youtu.be/LEsSNjfwRxk

Where would we be without these geniuses and their defenders

http://aphilosopher.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/joe-with-a-shotgun/

rjmadden

Implicit in the wide range of efforts on the left to get government to take over more of our decisions for us is the assumption that there is some superior class of people who are either wiser or nobler than the rest of us.

When individuals make mistakes they can (sometimes) admit them and learn from them.
When governments make mistakes they never admit them and almost never learn from them.

rjmadden

I should have read the whole Thomas Sowell article before commenting. I've practically quoted him without knowing it.

"One of the key differences between mistakes that we make in our own lives and mistakes made by governments is that bad consequences force us to correct our own mistakes. But government officials cannot admit to making a mistake without jeopardizing their whole careers."

I'll get my coat...

David

I should have read the whole Thomas Sowell article before commenting.

But your point is essentially true. And it’s probably worth noting another group of statusful people who can be absurdly wrong over and over again with little, if any, personal consequence – leftwing academics. Among them, Sarah Conly, our cheerleader for statist coercion, and Cass Sunstein, whose enthusiasm for meddling and “nudging” is also quite obnoxious.

Rafi

Isn't advocating authoritarianism what gives a left-wing academic credibility?

David

Isn’t advocating authoritarianism what gives a left-wing academic credibility?

In which case, the consequences are beneficial, for them, rather than corrective. They can be unrealistic, morally obnoxious and credible - if only among people with similarly obnoxious inclinations. But then, advocating dictatorship, mass indoctrination and the internment of dissenters didn’t harm the academic career of William Ayers. The transition from communist psychodrama and “kill your parents” to “distinguished professor of education” was, it seems, remarkably smooth.

Puzzle

I wrote a comment on the soda drink thread back on thursday but it got eaten by the comment elves, so my apologies for not getting back into that discussion. It was a really good comment, too, but you'll have to just take my word for that.

Regarding drinks advertising, though. Are you seriously justifying the advertising of addictive and destructive drugs? There really is no need for it. If alcohol consumption isn't driven by adverts then why have adverts?

JuliaM

"If alcohol consumption isn't driven by adverts then why have adverts?"

So that I, as CEO of Company B, can win away consumers of the products of Company A of course!

Isn't that what they call a no brainer?

Puzzle

Meanwhile normalising consumption. It's not such a big deal with a lot of products, but this one is destroying lives.

Simen Thoresen

Puzzle,

Meanwhile normalising consumption. It's not such a big deal with a lot of products, but this one is destroying lives.

I don't think anyone is arguing for advertizing products that are illegal.

Of course, one could argue for legalizing products that are illegal today, based on the observation that waging a war against illegal consumption of products that have a commercial market only acts as a subsidy to the producers, feeds corruption and professionalizes criminal organizations, but that's a different debate.

-S

David

Puzzle,

It was a really good comment, too, but you’ll have to just take my word for that.

I’ve checked the spam filter and there’s nothing of yours lodged in there. You’re welcome to try again.

Are you seriously justifying the advertising of addictive and destructive drugs? There really is no need for it. If alcohol consumption isn’t driven by adverts then why have adverts?

Don’t you think it’s a little tendentious to categorically describe as “addictive and destructive” something that the majority of users manage to consume, voluntarily, without crippling ill-effects? And likewise, to claim that any advertising of such items needs to be “justified,” as if the default moral position were a total ban on such? Alcohol advertising is already strictly regulated and, as Julia noted, much of the advertisers’ efforts are geared to attracting customers from rival products. The people who advertise Smirnoff aren’t hoping you’ll buy Guinness or Bush Vine Grenache. One might have views on aspects of regulation - regarding children, for instance – but to presume “there really is no need for it” – i.e., for any alcohol advertising - is to sound like a social control fantasist. Who appointed you (or me) the arbiter of what is “needed” - by which you mean permissible - in such matters? Again, there’s the issue of personal and parental responsibility. It’s an elephant in the room. To say, “there really is no need for [advertising]” is to imply that adults should be treated as children by the state. An arrangement that seems rather more troubling than an occasional woolly head.

Puzzle

Someone once said something about tying a millstone round the neck of those who lead the little ones astray. And yes, alcoholics are very, very childlike. Not to mention all the children who are inducted very early on into the drinking culture. You can go on as much as you like about the ability of some or most of us to consume alcohol sensibly, but I live in a city where the children are basically thrown to the alcohol vendors as soon as the school bell goes on a friday night. I know it isn't the only city in Britain where this happens. You talk about personal and parental responsibility, but as soon as I suggest - as a parent and as someone who encounters alcoholics - that measures are taken to combat the destructive drink culture you call me a social control fantasist. How do you suggest alcoholism is fought, since you are so keen to knock down others' suggestions but never offer solutions of your own.

Puzzle

By the way, I believe the lost comment was merely a glitch, I did not think you would censor me!

Tom Foster

Puzzle,

"Meanwhile normalising consumption. It's not such a big deal with a lot of products, but this one is destroying lives."

What do you mean by 'normalising consumption'? People have been drinking alcohol in various forms for virtually the entirety of human history. Has advertising resulted in a dramatic per-head increase in alcohol compared with, say, the middle ages? Tudor times? The Georgian era? Or do you think that consuming alcohol should not be considered 'normal'?

As for 'destroying lives', do you have any evidence that banning advertising would make any difference?

David

Puzzle,

but as soon as I suggest - as a parent and as someone who encounters alcoholics - that measures are taken to combat the destructive drink culture you call me a social control fantasist.

Look at your own words again, and my response to them. Based on what you said, categorically, was my comment so unfair? Taken at our own words, which of us is hoping to control other law-abiding people and treat them as juveniles, while granting the state even more power to interfere and neotonize? There are of course legitimate concerns regarding social disorder and underage drinking, but it seems to me the root problem isn’t advertising or pricing but rather personal and parental inadequacy. And offhand I don’t know how one makes inadequate people less so. Though I wouldn’t start by penalising law-abiding people who like the odd snifter.

Puzzle

If these people are so law-abiding (and here I am thinking of the dealers) then they will abide by a law which says they can't advertise their products.

What on earth do you think the state is for if not to set the laws we live by?

Anna

then they will abide by a law which says they can't advertise their products.

No social control fantasy there. None at all.

David

Puzzle,

If these people are so law-abiding (and here I am thinking of the dealers) then they will abide by a law which says they can’t advertise their products.

Please note I’m not claiming that drunkenness can’t be a problem, but you seem awfully eager to penalise people who aren’t making a nuisance of themselves. What I’m suggesting is that your proposals are wildly overreaching, set a worrying precedent, are unfair and have consequences that you don’t seem to have considered. For instance, a total ban on alcohol advertising would jeopardise free-to-air television in the UK, which is funded almost entirely by advertising revenue, much of it from alcohol advertising.

[ Added: ]

And this is the thing. Those who argue for, say, the minimum pricing of alcohol tend not to comment on how our existing duty on alcohol is among the highest in the EU, or the possibility that actual alcoholics (whose problems are often at least in part genetic) will behave much as before and, thanks to raised alcohol prices, spend less on, say, food. Nor do they tend to comment on how their proposals would affect inflation and the cost of inflation-pegged benefits, or how the imagined drop in consumption would affect excise duty and government revenues. Assuming that “we” should ban something, or ban it’s advertising, or make it more expensive is the easy part – the all too easy part. The consequences of such measures are generally trickier and less often remarked.

Ted S., Catskill Mtns., NY, USA

Regarding drinks advertising, though. Are you seriously justifying the advertising of addictive and destructive drugs?

Government is addictive and destructive. Why do we allow it to advertise itself?

Simen Thoresen

Puzzle,

What on earth do you think the state is for if not to set the laws we live by?

I would argue that when the state first appeared, ruled by clan-chiefs and the early kings, it's legitimacy was founded on it's ability to protect us from bandits outside of the state, and to keep us from robbing each other. Thus, the state was founded to run the military, and the police - both the protect the wealth of the citizens.

Obviously, as institutions evolve and interests grow, that has changed. In many states today, I would argue that the state neither is particularly adept at keeping it's citizens and their property safe from dangers domestic nor foreign.

In that context, I would be tempted to answer your question with 'I don't know. What is the state for today?'

From which principle does the state today derive it's legitimacy?

Assuming a need for something to set the laws we live by, would you accept anything as that something, or would you have a preference for limits, boundaries or a founding principle for that something?

I've had friends argue that there was too much choice around (electric supply-plans, insurance-plans, phone operators, detergents and shampoos, etc), and that this wealth of choice was bad.

Strangely, no-one has accepted my offer to make the required choices for them, at a rate of (converted) 5UKP pr choice and per person.

In essence, they have wanted someone to make the choice not so much for them, but rather to reduce the choice for all.

If you want someone to forbid alcohol-consumption, or to tell you which soap to use, by all means - I'll do it for you. This first time I'll even do it for free.
1. Don't consume alcohol, it's not good for you.
2. Pick the first item of soap you see when you're out shopping for soap. Ignore the others.

Now go out and live by my laws, and do not break them.

Yours,
-S

Joan

the children are basically thrown to the alcohol vendors as soon as the school bell goes on a Friday night

My kids aren't "thrown to the alcohol vendors" after school and there would be hell to pay if my two tried it. Two words. Parental responsibility.

dcardno

Joan +1

Puzzle - perhaps you would get more traction if you advocated licensing parents, or taking away the children of families who raise them in a way you don't personally approve of.

WTP

Perhaps P would get more traction if he concentrated on addressing the people responsible for the poor parenting and trying to straighten out their thinking instead of lecturing those who advocate responsible behavior and oppose the imposition of the state upon all of us.

Jess1

"the children are basically thrown to the alcohol vendors as soon as the school bell goes on a Friday night "

Please don't tell my kids, as they would be rather upset @ what they missed, that I chose to continue their educations Stateside...

Anna

And yes, alcoholics are very, very childlike.

So the rest of us should be treated as children (or drunks)?

James

If, as I have, you had sat through a hundred or more AA meetings, you would realise that advertising makes no contribution to alcoholism. Alcohol makes alcoholics, end of story.

Similarly, price controls would have little effect: alcoholics in straightened circumstances will switch to cheaper booze, and/or do without other things.

Finally, alcoholics are generally not very childlike, although I suppose selfish, devious and pathetic could in some ways be considered childlike characteristics.

David

Puzzle,

Sorry, I missed this bit:

How do you suggest alcoholism is fought, since you are so keen to knock down others’ suggestions but never offer solutions of your own.

I don’t feel obliged to “fight” or “solve” alcoholism. It’s not something I fret about. I’ve never been very interested in trying to fix people. I did, though, want to point out that your proposed corrective measures would have consequences for a much larger number of people who aren’t alcoholics.

Some time ago, I mentioned an alcoholic woman who’s occasionally seen not far from where I live. She’s a slightly incongruous sight at a bus stop around mid-morning, fag in one hand, can of beer in the other, chugging away merrily and looking a little unsteady. She seems to be harmless and is quite friendly, but she’s not someone you’d want to count on for… well, anything. Having chatted with her briefly, I very much doubt that advertising has been the big problem in her life. And the handful of people I’ve met who were rendered unreliable by their dependence on much stronger substances couldn’t blame advertising because their drugs of choice aren’t advertised at all.

ErisGuy

there is some superior class of people who are either wiser or nobler than the rest of us

There is a superior class of people. Your mistake is in thinking they are human. David Ickes knows!

Roswell! Roswell!

Steve

I'm of the opinion that all this stuff about alcoholism being a 'disease' that can be 'cured' is just an excuse that infantilized people use to excuse their idiotic behaviour.

Am I a terrible person?

elberry

i believe alcohol is (almost) prohibitively expensive in Scandinavia. Friends who live in Finland nonetheless report that it's quite normal to see passed out drunks, in business suits, who the police have to round up lest they freeze to death or are eaten by wolves. One of my Finnish friends drinks a lot and i guess spends a disproportionate amount of his income on it. He seems largely able to take his drink and live a responsible life, in spite of getting mildly wasted when he's not at work (he works for the G). Even when drunk he can speak good English and lucidly converse.

i live in Germany and can buy drinkable red wine for 2 Euros - in England a tolerable red would cost 3 or 4 GBP, so about 4 or 5 Euros. i drink slightly more in Germany than i did in England, because money isn't really a factor anymore; however, i can somehow still function and work and very rarely get more than tipsy. i understand German but remain, as far as i can tell, totally unaffected by adverts.

i'm more likely to buy something if a friend recommends it. So perhaps some kind of secret police is in order, to stop people recommending things like alcohol or chocolate or right-wing literature. A secret police would, in fact, help with unemployment as it would require quite a sophisticated apparatus of informants, agents, officers, police, torturers, special prisons. A substantial proportion of the population could be employed in this sector.

David

There really is no need for it.

Sadly, these authoritarian fantasies are never out of fashion, and we’ve seen the kinds of people to whom they appeal quite strongly. People like the Guardian’s Tanya Gold, who studiously ignores the concept of personal and parental responsibility and is willing to blame her self-inflicted dramas on just about anything and everyone - except of course herself. Likewise, her colleague George Monbiot, whose urges to control, restrict and frustrate leave him typing with one hand. Or, God help us, Madeleine Bunting, the Guardian’s Queen of Perpetual Sorrow, who frets about “hyper-frantic consumerism,” known more commonly as shopping, and thrills to the idea of “a dramatic drop in household consumption” brought about by “the government orchestrating a massive propaganda exercise combined with a rationing system and a luxury tax.” Apparently, “we” need to be rationed, taxed, nannied, spanked… all of us, by the state, and all for our own good.

It seems terribly unwise to give these clowns an atom of extra leverage.

[ Added: ]

Incidentally, New York’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg – he of the ban on large soft drinks – is also an economics genius:

Mr. Bloomberg argued the United States could owe “an infinite amount of money” and there is no specific amount that would cause the country to default. “We are spending money we don’t have,” Mr. Bloomberg explained. “It’s not like your household. In your household, people are saying, ‘Oh, you can’t spend money you don’t have.’ That is true for your household because nobody is going to lend you an infinite amount of money. When it comes to the United States federal government, people do seem willing to lend us an infinite amount of money… They can’t stop lending us more money.”

As Mark Steyn (and many others) have noted,

In the course of his first term, Obama increased the federal debt by just shy of $6 trillion and in return grew the economy by $905 billion. So, as Lance Roberts at Street Talk Live pointed out, in order to generate every dollar of economic growth the United States had to borrow about five dollars and 60 cents. There’s no one out there on the planet - whether it’s “the rich” or the Chinese - who can afford to carry on bankrolling that rate of return.

But hey. Magic money.

Rob

Bloomberg is correct - the US can borrow an infinite amount of money - from itself. As the amount reaches infinity it's value will approach zero.

As for the above discussion regarding alcohol - the belief that banning of advertising will control alcoholism is even the slightest way is pure blood Progressive fantasy. "I declare it, therefore it is" should be their motto. Read Christopher Snowdon's book "The Art of Suppression" - we really are cursed to endure the same fuck ups over and over again.

Rob

BTW I read an extremely disturbing blog post about Beppo Grillo, claiming he believes that the Jews control the world, that all Jews should be 'processed', and other far-Left nutjob whackery.

Is this correct? I haven't been paying attention. No wonder the Guardian seems to love him.

pst314

Rob 14:12 "...that all Jews should be 'processed'..."

I too would like to know. A quick google search did not find the source.

WTP

Granted, not an official news source though I suspect the original source is in Italiano...

Europe's political class is shocked and panicked. They are pretending Grillo is just a "populist" and a "reformer" -- but he also wants to "process" all the Jews in the world, who are responsible for all the evil. Grillo wants to nationalize the banks and abolish interest rates, "just like the Islamic Development Bank."

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/03/how_euro-socialism_set_off_a_fascist_bomb.html#ixzz2Mi0rQLlS

AC1

>There really is no need for it.

I plan on buying a lot of Alcohol tommorow to celebrate a mate getting a bonus. I think that demonstrates a need.

I think what Puzzles comment demonstrates is that he doesn't consider other people's demonstrated needs. I think the history of the left in power and how they treat people has ample documentation so I'll leave it to others to put 2 and 2 together about what I consider Puzzles mental health to be.

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