A blog by Patrick Crozier

June 30, 2003

The ruler's tragedy
Patrick Crozier

I am sure Frank Johnson hasn't written anything interesting for 10 years but in last week's Spectator he said something rather profound. He started by pointing out that mixed in with the bad, Mussolini, Franco and Peron also managed to do some good. Then he said:

We often hear about Nazis to whom Argentina gave refuge, but not Jews. It is Politically Inconvenient. None of this is to deny that Mussolini, Franco and Perón were also bad. But ancient historians had no difficulty in grasping that bad rulers could also do good. To the ancients, many rulers, perhaps most, were both. The ancients wisely saw this as the ruler’s perennial condition; tragedy even. By comparison, modern historians have declined into infantilism.

June 29, 2003

State Failure #1: The Osbourne Judgement
Patrick Crozier

I had thought that the Osbourne Judgement was the judgement that legalized strikes - or at least, meant that strikers couldn't be sacked - and hence saddled the United Kingdom with 70 years of industrial unrest. But, reading this essay, it would appear that that is not the case.

What I meant (or at least what I thought I meant) was the Taff Vale Judgement. But it seems I was wrong there too.

So what was the Osbourne Judgement then? The Osbourne Judgement was the ruling that (at the time) made it illegal for trade unions to make donations to political parties. Now, you might well think that bankrupting the Labour party was a good thing, but this would be wrong. What a society does with its money is entirely a matter for it and its members. What Osbourne (the trade union member who brought the case) should have done (assuming it was a possibility) was to have left the society.

As it happens the Osbourne Judgement was a "bad thing" but not, perhaps, the sort of monumental state failure I am looking for. So #1 on the list needs replacing. Damn, how embarassing.

I suppose I could always replace it with the Soviet Union.

June 28, 2003

The influence argument
Patrick Crozier

The argument British European federalists most often use to justify their case is that we can only have influence in Europe if we first demonstrate that we are committed to the federal end-goal. They acknowledge that we have lost every argument that we have ever had but put that down to our timidity rather than Franco-German opposition. The implication is that everything will be fine "when we are married".

One might counter by pointing that in real life things are rarely so fine after the ceremony but my real bug bear here is the argument about influence. Because I think Britain would have far more influence on the EU if she withdrew.

Just imagine it. Britain withdraws, the EU embarks on a headlong dash for socialism now and within half a generation has got trapped in a morass of regulation, recession, unemployment and unrest. Meanwhile, plucky Britain has just sailed on much as ever. At which point our example starts to have enormous influence. At which point EU countries start to introduce precisely the sort of liberalising measures we have long been calling for.

There's more than one way to influence people.

June 27, 2003

German Education
Patrick Crozier

...it's not what it's cracked up to be (according to Brian Micklethwait quoting from Terence Kealey).

Kealey is one of my favourite writers. Actually, he's one of my only writers - I am not a great reader. A pamphlet by him (on university science funding) for the Centre for Policy Studies from 1988 survived several purges and may still be up in my mother's loft. At the time he was (and for all I know still is) the only person to dare to challenge the state-must-fund-science orthodoxy.

June 25, 2003

War on drugs kills 6 Brits
Patrick Crozier

Some interesting lines from the Telegraph's report on the killing of 6 British soldiers in Iraq:

The willingness of the Shi'ites to embrace the British occupation masks Amarah's role as one of the main centres for the smuggling of heroin from Afghanistan...

...Yesterday's incidents began with an attack on a police post, suggesting that they were related to crime rather than to activity by Ba'athist loyalists, who have few supporters in the area...

...No Iraqi policemen were killed, indicating possible collusion...

...British troops have been mounting anti-drugs patrols along the Huwaizah marshes east of Amarah on the border with Iran and the Iraqi police have been ordered to crack down on crime...

By whom, I wonder?
There has been a growing problem with tribesmen who have refused to hand over their weapons. The Royal Military Police have been at the forefront of the drive to cut crime and round up weapons.

Oh yeah.

So let's get this right. We deprive them of their main means of self-defence and then we deprive them of their livelihoods. And we wonder why they start shooting at us.

June 23, 2003

Another 100 State Failures
Patrick Crozier

Actually, I never got to 100 in the first place. But never mind here's a few more nominations along with their proposers:

  1. Scottish Water - Andrew Wood
  2. Scottish Parliament - Andrew Wood
  3. Hearth Tax - Jackie D
  4. State-produced cannabis - added 21/9/03
Any others?

June 20, 2003

CrozierVision sound bite of the day
Patrick Crozier

The strange belief of many modern liberals [is] that chains of cause and effect are always associated with objects rather than with people (as indicated by the obsessive use of the phrase "gun violence," as opposed to, say, "teenage violence" or just "violence.")

From Photon Courier

The Beckham move
Patrick Crozier

So David Beckham has finally packed his bags and left Manchester United for Real Madrid. For many of us, this has long seemed inevitable. David Beckham is a talented player and while there must be many compensations in plying his trade in the undemanding backwater of Old Trafford it could never be long before he would yearn to be playing at the highest level.

While Man United fans will quite legitimately mourn his loss they can hold their heads up high reminding themselves that it was their team that provided the stepping stone for Beckham as he prepared for the crowning glory of his career.

I remember what it was like when John Barnes left Watford for Liverpool.

June 19, 2003

What's it really like in France?
Patrick Crozier

Over the last few days there have been a number of blog postings eg here and here, based on reports from people based in the country, on the situation in France suggesting that things are very grim indeed and that a 6th Republic/4th Monarchy is just round the corner.

But is it true? I too have a correspondent I can rely on. His name is Freddy, he lives in Paris and I have known him since my schooldays. He writes (and I hope you will forgive the imperfect English) thus:

* yes, there are strikes. A lot ? Well, as compared to strikes in Singapore (country that I know a bit), there are a lot. For me, it is just normal when there is a right wing political party on duty. It is now the third day of strike. The problem is with the public transport (which are not involved in the eventual new law about retirement and pension) : they are on unlimited strike, which means that anyone can be on strike when he wants. In France, you can only be on strike when you have warned in advance.

* barricades ? are you joking ? French people are now too lazy to do so. However, there are actions from activists of the left left revolutionary wing. It is just hooliganism.

* rubbish : not everywhere. There, it is again bizarre. The new pension calculation would apply to civil servants. But rubbish collection are hired by the towns, not by the state. This proves, if necessary, that it is now a political issue. Even people which are not involved want to complain. Does it sound like real French attitude ?!

In a lot of town, rubbish collection is outsourced to private companies, which are not on strike. We will not suffer from third world deseases this summer !

* I have not heard of people beaten by anyone, except by policemen when necessary.

Saturday, there was the first protest of associations of anti-strikers in France. Media have advertised a lot this protest because it shows that France state of mind may change. But summer will come. France will be on leave in August, plenty of time to cool down in the sun on the beach (!).

In France, strikes are predictible : either for the O Levels (baccalaureat, June) or at school restart (October). People complains : there are french after all. But when there are in front of a big decision outside of their country, they are able to gather. I guess you will have understood that when there is a decision to be taken with influence inside France, then there are troubles.

So, to sum up, situation more or less normal, strikes a bit more political than usual but don't try to corner the market in guillotines just yet.

June 18, 2003

How expensive is Tokyo?
Patrick Crozier

It's a more or less annual event: the publication of statistics once again confirming Tokyo as the most expensive city on earth (see the Times).

I spent only three days there so have very little to go on. Train fares seemed much the same while beer was considerably more expensive. But what really did it for me was when I met up with a friend in Shinagawa, to the south of the city.

She had promised to take me to a noodle bar but obviously the plans had, at some point, changed and she had decided to book us a table at the hotel - housed in one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo, next door to one of its busiest stations. It was a very good restaurant she informed me.

I must have turned white. Plush restaurant, landmark building, expensive city. There was nowhere to turn. If I was lucky I was going to get taken to the cleaners. If I was unlucky my card was going to max out. I decided the only way out was to enjoy myself and hope the judge showed leniency.

In the end I was only half right. We had a great meal and the bill came to the princely sum of £15 a head. And the tip? This was Japan - there are no tips.

June 16, 2003

Shadowing the deutschmark
Patrick Crozier

Do you remember way back when the issue of the day was whether we should be "shadowing the deutschmark"? Perhaps, you even remember the days when the issue was whether we were shadowing the Deutschmark.

I am reminded of that time by the appearance in the Telegraph of an article by Nigel Lawson - Chancellor of the Exchequer in those heady days.

The argument at the time was between, in Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson, the two most powerful and opinionated members of the government. Lawson wanted us, not only to shadow the deutschmark ie ensure that Sterling closely followed the German currency, but also join the Exchange Rate Mechanism. His view, if I recall correctly, was that British politicians lacked the will to control inflation on their own and needed the discipline of the Europeans (and especially the Germans) to do it. To lick inflation we would have to import the cure.

Which is funny, because not only are we about to enter our twelfth year without a serious inflation scare but also our twelfth year since we last tried to fix the pound against the deutschmark or any other currency for that matter.

The Good Lady was right.

June 15, 2003

State Failure #91: Exploding Russian televisions
Patrick Crozier

I am sure I read about this somewhere but my understanding is that in the decade before the fall of the Soviet Union one of the main causes of death - aside, that is, from exploding nuclear power stations, exploding fuel pipelines etc, was exploding televisions.

The TV factory had a quota to fill and the costs of failing to fill the quota far exceeding the costs of killing the poor bastards who would have to use them. Meanwhile, the absence of a free press kept unwary Russian TV viewers, well, unwary.

At least I think that's what happened...

Unless you know different.

A suitable case for vigilantes
Patrick Crozier

Chris Cooper* writes:

I haven't been out today – no farther, anyway, than into my back garden to hang out washing that should dry well in the fine day that seems likely. A little later I shall walk the dog. Then I might discover whether there have been any attacks overnight...
There are some vandals about. Chris concludes:
The attacks are a puzzle. One thing is clear to all of us, though: the police will be no help. But one night, I hope, the vandals will run into some of the men of the wronged families lying in wait and get the kicking they deserve. Then the problem will be how to defend the good guys from the police and politicians who will try to victimize them for presuming to defend themselves.

June 14, 2003

So, that's why Tokyo's streets are so clean!
Patrick Crozier

Last year I commented on Japan's astonishingly low crime rate. Some of the Times's reporting of the trial of a British citizen might go a long way to explaining why:

“His treatment has been barbaric, something out of the Dark Ages. He’s been held in solitary confinement for months and can be punished even for making eye contact with a guard or combing his hair at the wrong time of day...

Japan’s courts have an extraordinarily high conviction rate of 99 per cent. Prosecutors are usually armed with a full confession from the accused, often achieved after a period of solitary confinement and reduced rations.

And from another report in the same paper:
Prisoners are not told of most of the rules and learn them only when other inmates tell them or a guard punishes them. For much of the day, prisoners are banned from talking or looking at each other. Making eye contact with a guard usually results in instant punishment.
There are times when I wonder whether juries and fair trials are truly compatible with a low crime rate, and, if so, if forced to make a choice, which I would choose.

Our day will come
Patrick Crozier

It is one of the guiding "principles" of New Labour (and, for that matter, a whole bunch of other governments down the years) that if there is an institution or tradition that has been around for a while, getting on with the job and generally minding its own business, then it must be "modernised". Thus we have seen the abolition of the House of Lords, compulsory metrication and, now, the abolition of the post of Lord Chancellor.

I look forward to the day when a reactionary government comes to power bringing back the hereditaries, reintroducing pounds, shillings and pence and banning the word "metre".

But I also hope that it'll bring back some of those stupider laws, customs and posts, just for the hell of it. Bear baiting, the Lord Chamberlain (Lord knows someone's got to get rid of the rubbish littering the London stage) and compulsory cannabis cultivation are just a few examples that spring to mind.