Posts Tagged 'Personal Freedom'

It’s your money, but we want it and are taking it…

Here we go again.  The old chestnut of tax avoidance being equated with tax evasion is back in the papers today.

The paywall-free Mail reports about a number of BBC ‘stars’ who elect to be freelancers and paid as ‘personal service contractors’, rather than work on the BBC payroll.

The benefits are clear.  The BBC doesn’t have to pay tax on the money it pays to the freelancer (other than VAT on the invoiced sum), as the freelancer is a ‘company’ entity and responsible for paying taxes due for the services they provide.  The freelancer can pay a lower effective tax rate than an employee, depending on how they organise their directorships, salary, costs and expenses and dividend arrangements.

But yet again we see the grubbing politicians, who are so preoccupied with hoovering up as much of our money as possible in order to control how money is spent, making moronic statements that demonstrate they are trying to con the public and demonise people who have done nothing wrong.  As the Mail puts it:

There is no suggestion that any of the individuals named have acted improperly but  MPs accused the BBC of having ‘staggeringly inappropriate’ arrangements in place for many employees and said it could be ‘complicit’ in tax avoidance.

Complicit in tax avoidance?  What the hell?  This is the equivalent of criticising drivers for going along a road at 30mph in a 30mph limit by claiming they are complicit in driving within the speed limit.  The argument is completely ludicrous.  The pressure that has been applied to lead to this unnecessary change is an example of excessively powerful government that is out of control.  Personal freedom is being infringed as a result of undue pressure being brought to bear by the over powerful state.

There is nothing wrong with tax avoidance, which is the arranging of your financial affairs so that you legitimately pay less tax.  It is legal and responsible.  Yet some politicians, whose only motivation is wanting more of our money to control and use to service their whims, have even gone as far as coining the expression ‘aggressive tax avoidance’ to describe the active effort to find legitimate ways of a person or company arranging their affairs to ensure they pay as little tax as necessary within the law.  In using this description they are deliberately attempting to mislead people into thinking these individuals and companies are engaging in tax evasion – the illegal and criminal act which is the deliberate failure to provide full and accurate information about income and assets to the tax authorities so tax liability can be correctly assessed and demands applied within the law.

Although it is our money the refrain of the politicians is, ‘but we want it and are taking it’.  We no longer have a Parliament.  We have an elected Court of Robber Barons.

Court of Robber Barons

Court of Robber Barons

And they are doing all they can to bully, threaten and demonise individuals and companies into handing over money they have no legal obligation to pay.  Starbucks being a case in point, having suffered so much reputational damage at the hands of politicians and blinkered campaign groups who believe government should control everything, they voluntarily offered to pay millions of pounds to the Exchequer they were not liable for in order to put an end to the blackmail they were subjected to.  You read that right, Starbucks were blackmailed into handing over money because politicians did all they could to turn people against the company, which was wrongly being painted as abusing tax law.  That should engender fear in everyone.

Taxation has long since ceased to be the process for raising funds to be spent on essential public services and infrastructure.  It is now a form of oppressive control to restrict the ability of individuals to use their money as they see fit.  The funds raised are squandered on whims and discretionary spending to bribe people into voting the politicians back into office, which is not dissimilar to the use of taxes in medieval times to fund the adventurism of monarchs and luxury of lords.

In a classic abuse of language, the politicians hark on about people having to pay their ‘fair share’, even though this invariably means people with larger incomes and who use public services far less than most other citizens, paying the same contribution as many other people combined.  There is no sense of proportion in all this.  They have the money and the government wants it, so it rigs the system to ensure it gets it.  But in their bubble this is supposedly fair.

The only way this country will ever see responsible taxation and use of our money by the government is when the people have the power to block spending plans that service the interests of the politicians rather than the interests of the population.  This road leads back to The Harrogate Agenda, and the fifth of the six demands:

5. No taxation or spending without consent: no tax, charge or levy shall be imposed, nor any public spending authorised, nor any sum borrowed by any national or local government except with the express approval the majority of the people, renewed annually on presentation of a budget which shall first have been approved by their respective legislatures

Only with such democratic control can anyone in this country ever talk about tax in terms of fairness.

Shameless opportunists are seizing upon the murder of innocents to advance their ideological objectives

Following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, the loudest voices have, predictably, belonged to those with a gun control agenda.

In all the column inches that have been written, only a tiny percentage have tried to focus on what prompted Adam Lanza to murder his mother, then go to the school where she had taught and murder as many of her colleagues and pupils as he could, before killing himself.  Much more of what has been written has been about gun control.

Surely it is more important and valuable to explore the significant mental health problems experienced by Lanza and how these were being dealt with.

It is essential to understand what exactly happened prior to the mass murder, where reports have suggested there had been an altercation at the school involving Lanza.  That incident and what either happened after it, or what interventions should have happened, are far more pertinent to this tragedy than the availability of guns.  But instead of focussing on an analysis of the risks caused by Lanza in his prevailing mental state and how these could and should have been mitigated, the anti-gun lobby is focussing attention purely on the risks of the availability of guns and how these risks must be removed by taking away the guns.  And the media is providing them with acres of copy to do that without any balancing argument.

So it was pleasing to see a more level headed analysis of the politics of risk is provided by Charles Crawford today at The Commentator.  While the focus is on one narrow element of the whole terrible incident in Newtown, Crawford reminds us about other issues this raises, and references comments about the morally corrupt encouragement of learned helplessness, which were made by Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic.  Crawford’s piece prompted the following comment from me:

Worse than the kneejerk reaction we are seeing from some in the US – cheerled from parts of the commentariat on this side of the Atlantic – are the opportunist efforts of those whose political ideology esposes learned helplessness in order to restrict self reliance and individual responsibility and press for conformity to the structures they and their ilk have put in place. We need the kind of reasoned responses you have written to try and hold back the statist tide.

The usual argument in response to such challenges is for the anti-gun lobby to declare that without the guns he used Lanza could not have killed as many people as he did.  Their argument therefore boils down to nothing more than a simple matter of scale, while doggedly avoiding any focus on what led to the attack and how that could or should have been tackled.

The difficult point that needs to be accepted is that Lanza could have still killed many people with knives or other weapons.  Being as fiercely intelligent as he reportedly was he could have even chosen to rig an explosive device.  Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and injured over 800 and didn’t use a firearm.  But there is little in legislating against those things beyond what has already been done that extends the government-preferred condition of learned helplessness – something that has infested western Europe – and which increases the power of the state over the people as they are forcibly made dependent on the often ineffective state sanctioned provision for their protection.

Having a disarmed population suits the establishment and ensures they have their desired monopoly on use of force.  But it doesn’t tend to work out well for ordinary people who try to tackle criminals and assailants but are denied the right to participate in their own defence.

Nevertheless there is a shameless opportunism at play, where the use of guns in the murder of innocents is being used as a reason to advance an ideological objective that is alien to the American cultural norm of self reliance and personal freedom; and used as a reason to maintain the learned helplessness in the UK we should be throwing off.  When will there be a focus on that story?

Afterthought: Think back to 1994 and the genocide in Rwanda where around 800,000 civilians died at the hands of government-backed militias.  The vast majority of the killings were carried out with machetes, not guns.  The international community stood by.  Some allege some international actors assisted the slaugher.  The UN troops in the country witnessed the slaughter at first hand, but were barred from intervening and preserving life.

This was one of the most graphic and extreme examples of learned helplessness in action, shaped by the rules handed down by the political class.  The fact is the slaughter only ended when a rebel force, armed with guns, fought their way across the country and forced the militias to flee.  One can’t help but think things would have been very different if the Tutsi population had been able to protect themselves.

It belongs to us

There have been many stories this week, but there are two that have dragged me to my keyboard at a time when I really haven’t felt like writing.

This post concerns the first one, the news on Thursday that the government is planning to introduce charges for FOI requests, perhaps involving a “range of tariffs”.  As our blogging friends at Save FOI explain:

Charging for FOI requests would drastically curtail the ability of ordinary people as well as charities, journalists, businesses and others to hold public bodies to account.

Save FOI goes on to say that this seems a particularly strange move for a Government whose Prime Minister has said “We want to be the most open and transparent government in the world.”  But of course, as readers of this blog have long known – and an increasing number of people up and down the country are at last starting to realise – it is impossible to trust anything most politicians say, and when it comes to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband in particular our default position must be the justifiable assumption that they are lying through their teeth.

But there is a more fundamental point to be made here that even Save FOI appear to have missed, namely that we are required to request information to be made public in the first place.

While there are obvious exceptions where some information has to be kept out of the public domain lest it aids a potential enemy to do harm to this nation, the fact remains this is information that should be released and made public proactively.  The information is the public’s.  It is produced and exists supposedly to serve the public.  We pay for it.  Therefore it belongs to us.

That we are forced to go in search of it (and all too frequently encounter significant obstruction in getting it) is a scandal.  That we may also now be compelled to pay for that which is ours is an outrage.  This reinforces the reality of a them and us society, where on one side we have a self selecting elite operating in its own interest at our expense and on the other side we have the general public, abused and treated with contempt.

If we had genuine people power in this country via system like Referism the inverted master and servant relationship would be corrected.  Power is exercised through the  control of funds.  Under Referism the people would decide regularly where our money is spent.  Representatives would be forced to abide by the public will instead of acting as our masters.  And one outcome would be the end of the pantomime that sees us forced to crawl and beg for titbits of information from those who pretend they are a class apart.

Sign the petition opposing this move to charge for FOI by all means.  But don’t lose sight of the fact that this is our information that should be made public, without delay or hindrance, by default.  That is what we should be demanding, not going cap in hand to the likes of Cameron – whose two faced party (if you can believe the irony / hypocrisy / self delusion *del as appropriate) produced the t-shirt on the right – hoping we can cling on to scraps of information, sometimes supplied when it suits the political class, on request and under sufferance.

We should not be addressing the symptom, we should be fighting the problem.  That is why it is time for disparate voices to combine and declare our demands.  I will be there at the Old Swan in Harrogate with the other people who will be working to frame those demands and pursue them.

With that event in mind, two of my favourite bloggers make essential points that all need to burned into our collective memory.  Firstly, Raedwald who reminds us that we don’t request, rather we demand our freedom, because it’s our freedom and not for others to grant us.  Secondly, Witterings From Witney who reminds us that that the politicians are always the servants and never the masters of the people, irrespective of the fact they behave otherwise.  It is time to make both a reality.

Aidan Burley – censorship, censure and cynical agendas

A look at the ‘news’ on any given day sums up the self destructive idiocy of those who try to hold sway over the rest of us.

Life in this country is now nothing more than a mission to censor and censure anything and everything that falls outside the narrow and bigoted worldview of a small number of spiteful morons, aided and abetted by the useful idiots who are terrified of getting on the wrong side of the thought police.  Even those who are supposed to be well meaning end up doing the dirty work for the control freaks.

Just look at the furore over Aidan Burley MP.  He’s a Tory MP so he’s bound to be an idiot by default.  He attended a stag do where one guest dressed as a Nazi SS officer and another gave a ‘toast’ to the Third Reich.  This lampooning has apparently has been portrayed as grievously offensive glorification of the Nazis.

Aidan Burley, spineless in the face of the politically motivated onslaught against him and the feartie over reaction of his own party leader, lest he lose a single vote by appearing to stand firm against the thought police, issues a grovelling apology.  Clinging on to a job seems to take priority over having principles these days.  But that’s the political class for you.

Since when has lampooning Nazis by playing dress up and throwing mock salutes been cause for such craven behaviour?  Stupid, yes.  But do these thought police seriously think for a moment the party goers were dwelling on the past and longing for the vicious Nazi oppression so many died to put down?  Come off it.  Yet there they are in the media, wetting their pants in their spittle flecked fervour to hound a man into submission and out of a job so a rival they approve of can take over from him.

No doubt some will try to paint me as an apologist, but nothing is further from the truth.  I write this as someone who fights against real anti semitism and hatred.  Someone who rails against the spite filled animosity directed against Jewish people and Israel every week in the pages of the Guardian – which curiously remains free from the ire of those who are demanding the demise of Aidan Burley.  I am proud of the distinction winning roles that members of my family played in the RAF and Army in fighting against Nazi Germany and the battles against extremism carried on by their sons and daughters in the years since.

Did these people at the stag do go to a far right rally?  Did they assemble to lament the defeat of Hitler?  Have they called for the eradication of Jews, gypsies or other minorities?  Do they endorse militaristic domination by an oppressive regime?  Are their political beliefs aligned with those of Goebbels, Himmler and Speer?  No, their ‘crime’ was nothing more than playing dress up and being immature and boorish.  But in a free society that is supposed to be allowed.

So do we see the offence seekers picketing fancy dress shops demanding the removal of Nazi uniforms?  Do they call for re-runs of ‘Allo ‘Allo to be banned because of the uniforms and salutes on show?  Do they rally outside the Guardian’s offices in London demanding the removal of anti semitic rants from the pages of Comment is Free?  Or do they only selectively take offence when someone – a friend of a political rival – puts on a mock uniform and lampoons in juvenile manner the behaviour of a hated and defeated foe that sought totalitarian control of a type some of these offence seekers are exhibiting?

We seem unable to move in this country without someone seeking to take offence at something or other and demanding other people modify their behaviour to suit the wishes of others.  What will it take for people to stand up against these miserable opportunist control freaks and tell them to bugger off?

I don’t care a toss about Aidan Burley or his friends.  But I do care about this accelerating slide towards defacto criminalisation of people, who have done nothing wrong, by a self selecting tribal group of agenda-driven witch finders who are determined to bend everyone to their will and authoritarian groupthink through such cynical means.

Silencing Gilfoyle is an outrageous injustice

After 18 years behind bars, found guilty of a murder he has always maintained he did not commit, Eddie Gilfoyle has been allowed out of prison on parole. However, he has only been allowed out on condition that he does not comment on the case.

Last year, police investigation notes that the Merseyside force had always maintained did not exist, were uncovered. They showed that the doctor who declared Mrs Gilfoyle dead told police that she had died six hours earlier – when her hospital porter husband was at work. Paula Gilfoyle had been discovered dead by hanging and there was a suicide note. The police detectives working on the case argued that Gilfoyle had tricked his wife into writing the suicide note, convinced her to put a noose around her neck and climb a step ladder, and then pushed her to her death.

The information that the time of death coincided with Eddie Gilfoyle being at work was withheld from the jury and never mentioned during his trial. Clearly they would have cast reasonable doubt on his guilt. So they were conveniently left out, which is a travesty of justice.

But the injustice continues with this news that the Parole Board made it a condition of Gilfoyle’s parole licence that he must not comment to the media, either himself or via a third party. Who the hell do these people think they are? Presumably they will argue this is for Gilfoyle’s own good, but you can be certain their motives will be entirely selfish. No one must have their freedom of speech curtailed in this way.

There are safeguards under the law to deal with incitement to violence or slander. It is perfectly proper that there should be. But there is absolutely no justification to silence a man, whose conviction was demonstrably unsafe, from speaking about it. It is an outrageous injustice, a wrongful infrigement of liberty and an example of the censorious nature of bureaucrats in this supposed democracy.

Justice must be done but it must also be seen to be done. But increasingly we are seeing people prevented to telling their story in order to protect the establishment from scrutiny and embarrassment. There is this current instance and there are many instances, as Christopher Booker keeps highlighting, such as families that have been ripped apart as their children have been taken from them in kangaroo court hearings who are similarly gagged from speaking about their cases to suit the interests of the authorities.

This enforced silence is utterly wrong. The right of free people to speak to whomsoever they wish must be protected under the law. But instead the law is being used as a cudgel against the people rather than a protection for them. There is something rotten about a country whose officials abuse the law in order to withdraw the rights of others to suit their own ends or hide their failings. The self serving parasites who seek to operate with impuntiy in this way must be stopped if the people of this country are to be genuinely free.

Will the burqa berks just shut up?

The media is thoroughly enjoying the controversy surrounding Philip Hollobone’s attempt to ban the wearing of the burqa in public places.  A number of MPs and a great many ordinary people think the garment should not be worn in public places, because some argue it reinforces separation within society and is used by some men as a method of subjugating the females in their family.

We’ve had various interventions from people opposing Hollobone’s Private Member’s Bill, such as the lightweight Caroline Spelman, who in classic doublespeak thinks wearing a burqa can be empowering.  We’ve had Damian Green chuntering on about such a ban being intolerant and unBritish because a ban would not be mutually respectful.  We’ve also had Sayeeda Warsi saying it doesn’t prevent women from engaging in everyday life.

But nowhere in these comments is there any sign of the F word or the L word.  No, that isn’t a reference to the television shows, but rather what the burqa debate should be about – freedom and liberty.

For what it’s worth, I don’t like the burqa.  I think donning it is a political statement, an example of intolerance of the society in which these women are living and an attempt to force a cultural difference on people.  Hiding one’s face in our culture evokes suspicion.  It isn’t a cultural norm.  The fact the burqa is worn proportionately more in the UK than in most Islamic countries demonstrates it is a tool for pushing the idea of cultural dominance for political reasons.

However.

I don’t believe it is the place of the State to legislate about the clothing someone chooses to wear.  Hollobone’s Bill might be well meaning, but it’s misguided.  Making it an offence to wear a particular garment, regardless of the motives or rationale for wearing it, is fundamentally wrong.  Where would such law making end?  Such legislation would be another example of an overbearing State that has too much power over the people it should be serving.  As long as no one is causing harm to another person they should be free to wear a garment of their choosing.  The State should uphold their liberty to do so, however much I and others may dislike that garment.

It would have been nice if the politicians who commented on this matter had understood this issue is all about freedom and liberty, rather than tolerance and empowerment.  But then, this is the political class we are talking about and they would rather deal in touchy feely platitudes than make an unambiguous stand against the State erosion of personal freedoms.  As they have so little of substance to say perhaps these burqa berks should just shut up.

More state intrusion proposed by NICE

We seem to be one small step away from having government bottom inspectors telling us to spread them.  The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the same body responsible for deciding which life saving medications can be dispensed by the NHS or withheld from patients, is reported as recommending that parents should allow health inspectors into their homes to check that windows, doors, cupboards and stairs do not pose a danger to children.

The draft proposal says that every family with sons and daughters under the age of five should agree to a home safety assessment. The thinking behind it stems from fears over the rising cost of treating injured children on the NHS. Professor Mike Kelly, of NICE’s Centre for Public Health Excellence, said that serious injuries can have a profound effect on a young child right through to adult life.  But in a clear example of doublespeak, he said:

“Our aim is not to promote a nanny state where children can’t have fun or lead normal lives, but there is an important balance to be struck between good and bad risks.”

It’s doublespeak because such a balance can only be determined by agents of the state going into people’s houses and conducting risk assessments. Under the proposals, all families with children aged five and under would be offered the checks (you can be sure there would be pressure on parents to accept them, lest they are preceived to be trying to hide something or considered not suitably worried about their child’s safety), which will cover a range of domestic hazards, including windows, stairs, taps, heaters and cookers. The proposals recommend checks on smoke and fire alarms should also be included.  One can only guess at the cost to taxpayers of such a system.

The capacity for mission creep is huge.  The proposals represent the next stage of the state’s desire to supplant parents and assume responsibility for the raising and development of children.  What next?  Inspectors visiting houses where children say parents are not convinced by arguments about global warming?  Let’s see where these ideas fit into David Cameron’s vision of a Big Society. 

Somehow I doubt the state is going to get any smaller when its agents are coming up with new ways to confer on themselves power over ordinary citizens.  Ronal Reagan hit the nail on the head when he said the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’  Like Reagan, I don’t believe in a government that thinks its role is to protect us from ourselves.

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