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If we’re going to argue about the tyranny of the majority, I will win

So, we’ve finally left the EU. But this hasn’t stopped a few ardent remainers from trotting out some of the arguments they’ve been making for the past three and a half years.

The one that fascinates me most is the one that goes something like “x voted to remain”. You’ve seen the claims. “Scotland voted remain” or “London voted Remain”. Sometimes they’re grouped together, for impact, like this tweet from a disgraced member of the corporate press:

This always seems to me to be a strange argument, but one I’m actually happy to back (although they won’t like the support I’m giving it). It’s one of those points that you know they just haven’t thought about enough. They cannot have thought it through, or taken it to the next stage (never mind its logical conclusion).

Let’s do that for them.

They’re point must, for they wouldn’t have said it otherwise, be that this is somehow important. That x (let’s use Scotland) voted to remain. That the people of Scotland (a subsection of the broader referendum area) are being overruled. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that this was a UK referendum. There were no constituencies, no cities, just one big vote, winner takes all. This wasn’t a first past the post vote for a number of seats, like in a General Election. Any area that remainers are speaking of is arbitrary (unless it’s the whole of the UK). So why are they doing it?

Is it that it’s bad for a larger population to govern a smaller one? To somehow dictate terms to people who don’t want decisions imposed on them? Because I say let’s take this further. You talk about Scotland. Not everyone in Scotland voted to remain. Many voted to leave. What about them? If it’s not ok for the larger part of the UK to dominate a smaller part, why is it ok for the larger part of Scotland to do the very same thing?

I love the idea that a larger group should not impose its will on a smaller group, which is exactly what they don’t realise they’re saying.

If Scotland shouldn’t have to listen to therest of the UK, why should Glasgow have to listen to the rest of Scotland? Why should a village with a Glasgow postcode listen to the rest of Glasgow? Why should households in that postcode listen to the rest of them? In fact, why should any individual listen to any majority? Why should anyone have power over another, simply because they’re larger in number?

This is the logical conclusion of their argument.

It also helps us to point out that the larger the democratic area, the greater the number of people who will be disappointed. So why do they use it to argue for membership of an organisation that has the ability to impose its will on multiple countries every time a new law or regulation is passed? Indeed, if your argument is against the tyranny of the majority, you should logically be calling for the smallest possible majority to prevent any unnecessary tyranny whatsoever. Which leads you to the democracy of one: The individual.

This is why I’m all for their argument. Why should people tell you how to live your life because they outnumber you? Why should any group impose their morals on a group of lesser members? Why should a number of people have power, authority and control over any smaller number?

Let’s not play the democracy game. It’s easy to talk like Brendan O’Neill and say that we should always rely on the wisdom of crowds, that we should trust in the democratic will of the people and that we should put our faith in the collective decision making of the entire population. Collective decision making gave us Theresa May and over any reasonable length of time you, personally, will be overruled by the majority for no good reason.

Instead, let’s play them at their own game and play to win. Yes. You’re quite right. The rest of Britain shouldn’t impose its will on Scotland and nobody else should impose their will on me.

 

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

Facebook wants regulation because it wants to strangle new ideas

There are many motivations for starting a company, but most of them involve having an idea.

It might not be an original one, but that idea is what fuels the company.

That idea is a way of providing a service or a product that will be successful and have demand.

You might have an idea that you know will only make a quick buck. You might have a game changing product that ultimately will influence an entire sector or culture.

You might just think you can do something everyone else is doing, just cheaper, or better.

But while you’re doing it, while your setting up the company and as you start to trade and continue to grow, you aren’t looking for the hardest and most expensive way of doing it.

You maintain your idea, but in the most efficient and value intensive way.

If it costs more than you can sell it for, then you might as well shut up shop, unless you can see a way to reduce those costs through scale, investment and technology.

What you don’t do, is embrace or encourage burdens on your business.

Yet that’s what regulation is.

Regulations are what a start up business has to find a way to fund. They are a direct cost to the business.

You might have raw materials, labour cost and the cost of manufacturing, shipping, marketing etc.

But you also have the regulatory cost. The cost of compliance.

And this is where regulation favours the large business, with its economies of scale and deeper pockets than the plucky start up.

It’s why you’ll never see a small business ask the government to regulate them.

It’s why the founder of Facebook just asked for the government to regulate it.

Look at us, we’re on your side, we are actually asking for rules to play by. We can’t possibly be evil.

Yet if Facebook wanted to protect its users, it could. If it wanted to invest in technology to filter content, it could pump billions of dollars into it.

The plucky little start up social media company can’t afford to do that.

And that’s why Facebook wants it.

They get to “work with governments” and governments get to say they “worked with industry” to set regulation and “protect” us. From whom, who knows.

But the sad irony, the counter intuitive fact of the matter, is that if government regulates Facebook (or rather the entire social media industry) then it has unwittingly done Facebook’s job for it.

It’s put a massive extra cost on being a social media platform, and thus instantly made it billions of dollars more difficult to become one.

Who do we want to challenge the Facebooks of this world? Only other global business leviathans with the means to navigate and pay the costs generated by regulation?

Or do we want real competition.  From new businesses of any size. From those that want to change and pivot quickly.

Facebook just asked to be regulated. Governments will now clamour to do so, when all they are doing is helping sustain and augment a monopoly.

Yet we should want those with new ideas to be able to disrupt.

To challenge.

To innovate.

The best way of coming up with something better than Facebook is to unleash the potential of those new ideas.

Free from constraints.  Free from burdensome regulation that only the large incumbents will push for in order to create barriers for those to challenge them.

Of course Mark Zuckerberg wants new regulation.

The problem is that no one else asks why.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Brexit isn’t threatening our constitution, Theresa May is.

It’s easy to say we are going through a constitutional crisis.

The assessment is a lazy one.

But this issue is bigger than Brexit (although that was the trigger) and dare I say it, it’s bigger even than the overturning of the clear democratic mandate of the referendum.

In most people’s eyes Theresa May, or indeed any Prime Minister that were to replace her, has the responsibility to implement the result given.

But there is something, I think, even more sinister happening that threatens our entire system of government, and that’s the overthrow of the executive in favour of the legislature.

In our system, as distinct from the US and others, the executive is appointed from members of the legislature. In particular, the vast majority are members of parliament, rather than members of the house of lords.

So they are each elected by their constituents, part of a political party, and on the winning side before they are then chosen by the Prime Minister to serve in the government.

But what happens if parliament “takes back control”. Well this is what media pundits like to tell you, although I’m not sure in its history it ever actually had the control it is purported to be taking back.

But the point is a serious one and it’s also important to understand who is enabling it.

One Theresa May.

Yes, we have a Speaker who doesn’t respect the office he holds, turning it into a specifically political and therefore ultimately party-political position.  The is dangerous in and of itself.

But it’s May who is continually letting MPs now call the shots.  MPs who lost. MPs who haven’t been chosen to form a government. MPs that’s function is to scrutinize law, not rule.

The Bill has been defeated. That should be it.

She could withdraw it. She could end this parliamentary sitting and reset proceedings.

But instead she enables potential policy outcomes that she says she is against while attempting to prevent the one outcome that is still government policy (just leaving).

In my eyes this now transcends Brexit.

This is about process. And process is important.

Not least of which because we need to hold our elected officials to account, but also because big constitutional change surely needs democratic support. Say… a referendum on what organisations and structures govern us and whether we have sovereignty?

This parliament with the support of Bercow and May, egged on by Anti-Democrats on all sides, is neutering the executive, but without a credible or warranted alternative.

So while Brexit is the catalyst, or at least the trigger of this spasm of protest and sudden flexing of muscles by MPs who five minutes ago were happy to be ruled from Brussels, to me it doesn’t matter that it’s about leaving the EU.

To me, in any circumstance where the executive feels it is being usurped, it should defend itself, and our very system of government, with its checks and balances and separation of powers.

I may not agree with the amount of power our government holds in general, but exchanging one set of useless despots for another is not my idea of liberal reform.

The larger mistake that Theresa May is making, and this is obviously saying something, is letting MPs over rule not only the referendum result, but the government’s control of negotiations with the EU when they have no authority to do so.

And the fact that she blames MPs now publicly for the mess she is in, just shows how delusional she has become and how she’s forgotten what it truly means to hold the office of Prime Minister and defend our constitution.

Photo by Deniz Fuchidzhiev on Unsplash

People’s something – where have I heard that before?

Albania. Bulgaria. Czechoslovakia. Hungary. Poland. Romania. Yugoslavia.

What do they have in common?

How about Ethiopia?

Add in China and North Korea.

All have been or currently are countries that started their name with “People’s”.

Most of them liked to add “Republic” after that and some added “Democratic”.  All gives a certain legitimacy doesn’t it.

If we say it, declare it, name it, then it must be so.

Of course most people recognise that it is farce.

It is the mark of the authoritarian regime.

Clothe yourself in talk of the people and indeed in the people having a vote and surely everyone will buy into that?

No, they don’t.

For starters, let’s observe how many of those countries I’ve listed still have “People’s” in their title. Very few.

But yet with absolutely no irony – with dead straight faces in fact – was the “People’s Vote” campaign launched.

True democrats (God isn’t it depressing when you have to put “true” or “real”, “genuine” or “proper” in front of a term because it’s been distorted to mean the opposite?) have easily recognised and can explain away the call for a second referendum.

Yet as we approach Brexit Day, with only weeks to go, the mask seems to have slipped in the People’s Vote campaign.

Sure we can easily label it the Loser’s Vote, the Politician’s Vote, an affront to democracy etc. But actually none of those things need saying any more.

Whereas for over 2 years the opponents of leaving the European Union have couched their language in terms of “having a final say”, “making sure” and other such nonsense – all the while of course repeating that they “respect the outcome of the referendum” – they now have lost that campaign message discipline.

They now just say it like it is. Dammit we need to stop Brexit.

We were all too stupid the first time. We need to Remain.

Guardian journalists were predictably first.

Jonathan Freedland (what an ironic surname) says now is the time to just campaign for remain. No ifs or buts.

Polly Toynbee has gone one better by claiming that now some old people have died, their votes must be discarded.

Heaven forbid that the oldest in society might have the most experience and better judgement than those just starting out.

Of course democrats or generally sensible people don’t campaign for the votes of younger adults to be halved or discounted. They believe in the basic principles of one person one vote.

I thought we could all agree on that. But then the EU referendum occurred and the true colours of the opposition were shown.

Legal challenges, mud thrown, campaigns for overturning democratic decisions.

But we shouldn’t be surprised should we?

It’s a “People’s” Vote after all.

Photo by Dirk Spijkers on Unsplash

We don’t need a general election, but MPs do need to resign

In his recent Spectator piece, Stephen Daisley outlines the political conundrum of Brexit well: the voters want Brexit, the executive wants Brexit, but Parliament does not want Brexit.

Now taking face value that the executive does actually want Brexit (Theresa May certainly doesn’t), Daisley explains that with the problem being the make up of the house of commons, that we need a general election to get a new batch of MPs.

But a general election is much like a second referendum, in that it lets MPs off the hook.

Even when given a clear decision on what to do, MPs (and Ministers, and Prime Ministers) can dither, prevaricate, delay and obfuscate until there comes such a time when they say “sorry, this is too difficult, back to you”.

Of course, what this means is that they didn’t like the decision that was handed to them, and they want a new one. Is this how we should let them behave?

MPs have a problem with Leaving. They wouldn’t be calling for a second referendum or a general election had the country voted majority Remain. They like Remaining.

But it’s also more than that. It’s about the fact that these MPs who call for a second referendum are putting their politics first, before democracy.

Yes, we have witnessed a clash of two kinds of democracy – Direct in the form of the referendum, and Representative in the form of our MPs – but after voting for the referendum bill itself, and again in triggering Article 50 of the Treaties, they are choosing to dump the decision made by the people in favour of their own personal views.

There is a dilemma here for MPs – there is no doubt about that. They are elected by their constituents to make decisions, to make law, to scrutinise government, to be in government.

But they are revealing, quite clearly, where they rank the decision made by the majority of the country compared to their own views as elected representatives.

Remain first, democracy second.

Of course, what they are hoping for, by dragging out this process for so long, is to make Parliament and Government look as dysfunctional as possible. They want to be able to say “See, this is too complicated, we need you to have your say again – look how we are mucking this up”.

This may have the effect they desire, with voters becoming ever more frustrated with their politicians, but they are missing the point. Brexit was a vote against the establishment, and the status quo. By making the establishment seem incompetent (revealing that it is?) that sense of disenfranchisement only strengthens.

Populist sentiment will only increase. If Leave isn’t delivered in any kind of meaningful way (like signing a Withdrawal Agreement that is more Remain than Remain) that sentiment will rise again.

Undo the referendum result entirely and stop Brexit and things could get nasty.

If MPs don’t want to implement the decision given to them by a national referendum, then they should resign as MPs.

They should make room for someone in their constituency who is willing to represent that decision and implement it.

There is another way of changing the make up of the House of Commons, and it’s not a general election, it’s a by election. In this case, potentially hundreds of by elections.

The problem, as identified by Daisley, is indeed the logjam of parliament. But a general election just means the same candidates trying to keep their jobs and to convince you of their views, not the other way around.

These MPs say more democracy is the answer, but if they had any sense of democracy whatsoever, they would be resigning in their droves, to make way for representatives that would indeed represent the voters, and who had the guts to implement what they have already decided.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Remain won, so why are we leaving?

To say this period of politics in the UK is interesting is an understatement.

Remain supporting politicians want us to stay in the EU. That much is clear.

They are also using every parliamentary trick in the book (including relying on their mate Mr Speaker) to effect their cause.

But I often think about what life would have been like in an alternative version of history. One where Leave didn’t win.

The day the result is announced, Prime Minister David Cameron resigns stating that even though he said he would stay on as leader if Remain won and enact the will of the people, he had changed his mind.

Sajid Javid becomes the leader of the Conservative Party and new UK Prime Minister, after Michael Gove declares his support for Theresa May early in the contest, only to stab her in the back later by splitting the vote in the next round.

Javid is a remain voting leaver, so remainers like him, but leavers do too for only supporting remain reluctantly.

In forming a cabinet he decides to unite the country by splitting his cabinet down the middle with 50/50 remain and leave supporters.

Leading remain supporter George Osborne is put in charge of a newly created department called “The Department For Reforming the European Union”.

Other prominent remainers are put in charge of Foreign Affairs and another new department for Global Trade.

Leading leave supporters are put in the treasury, home office, transport, health and education. (Michael Gove comes back as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after 6 months of loyal back benching).

In a surprise move, Javid delivers a letter personally to the EU Commission President triggering Article 50 and asking George Osborne to negotiate the deal that David Cameron always should have, for a new reformed relationship fit for the UK.

Javid makes a public statement on the steps of Number 10 explaining that the referendum result was so close that he couldn’t possibly ignore the 48% of leave voters and that therefore he was aiming for a specific half in/half out relationship with the EU so we could finally move on as a country.

Remain MPs are furious. Gina Miller starts legal proceedings.

The Liberal Democrats demand a second referendum even though they won the first one. They argue that a decision this big can’t be made by MPs or the government.

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn produce 18 different policies on how the relationship with the EU should look.

While George Osborne is negotiating the softest possible deal with Michel Barnier, PM Javid announces immediate no deal preparations (with a full 20 months left to go of the article 50 process) and Dominic Raab the Chancellor of the Exchequer announces sweeping cuts to corporation and personal tax rates. In his conference speech Raab compares the UK to Hong Kong.

Steve Baker the Global Trade Secretary finds and exploits a loophole in EU law that effectively nullifies the Common External Tariff and announces an immediate unilateral reduction of all trade tariffs to zero. Countries queue up to sell us their cheap goods and envoys are sent around the world promoting the UK service industry.

The EU are furious and immediately launch a judicial review by the ECJ on the UKs actions, although this will take at least a year to resolve, during which time food and clothing prices in the UK plummet.

Along with the Raab tax cuts, the poorest in society end up proportionately being helped the most by having more cash in their pockets.

David Davis, newly appointed Minister of Deregulation, slashes red tape by eliminating 73 different quangos over a period of 6 months.

The subsequent 6 months see the largest expansion of new businesses the UK has ever seen and employment among under 45s hits 92%.

George Osborne resigns from the government along with the Foreign Secretary Theresa May a week later. In her resigning speech in the commons May sites the clear referendum result and that remain should mean remain.

The new Reforming the EU Secretary Jeremy Hunt negotiates a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and a unique Associate Membership that recognises the UKs supreme sovereignty as well as a mutual recognition of standards and regulations.

This withdrawal agreement is put to parliament but as Jeremy Corbyn can see full freedom from the EU in his sights, he announces he won’t support the agreement. In public he gives a speech stating that as a remain voter he has a duty to protect the UKs status in the EU and that the withdrawal agreement is Leave in all but name.

There isn’t a majority for the withdrawal agreement and the bill fails in the house of commons because Jacob Rees Mogg, who refused a cabinet position in order to lead the ERG leads a last minute group of Conservative MPs against it.

The UK leaves the EU, the Euro drops in value and Trump announces a trade deal with the UK that is “great, just great, huge”.

The day after, Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve join the Liberal Democrats.

Ok so that was both self indulgent and a lot of fun to write. But is it any crazier a course of events than has actually happened? I don’t think so. Yet here we are.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

200 MPs cheered a lame duck Prime Minister, and nothing changed

Why did they cheer?

Last night 200 MPs got to their feet to make some noise. But in their frenzy they forgot something.

They are the minority.

Those 200 MPs are the only ones out of a parliament of 650 that support the prime minister.

That they have a majority of their own party is irrelevant.

And this is the state of politics post 2015. Leaders that nobody really wants, that certainly don’t represent the collective views of the electorate.

Last night John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, thought nobody would notice when he pointed out how many of her own MPs didn’t have confidence in Theresa May as leader of her party.

How convenient that he’s forgotten that his own leader ignored a similar vote that he overwhelmingly lost.

But this is business as usual in the UK Parliament. If you don’t like the outcome of a vote then you try to ignore it.

Often you pretend that nothing actually happened or that somehow you are strengthened by the loss.

Are these days numbered? Will we actually get back to some semblance of normality, any time soon?

With no date set for a vote on the withdrawal agreement and the EU showing no sign of caving on the NI protocol it feels to me like Theresa May could end up being the person who leads us out of the EU with no deal. And that Jeremy Corbyn could just continue to vacillate without getting anything he really wants.

Will we be in exactly the same position in 12 months time? Article 50 extended or cancelled, Theresa May still “negotiating” with both her backbench MPs and the EU and Jeremy Corbyn still demanding but not getting a general election.

The Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition seem to have one skill in common. Doing everything they can to hang on to their current positions regardless of whether their MPs or the country want them to.

I don’t see that position changing any time soon.

Photo by Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

Is Jeremy Corbyn the political genius he’s being made out to be?

When it looked like Jeremy Corbyn would win the Labour leadership election in 2015, pundits and commentators were essentially speechless.

Sure, they could point to the Momentum movement, and a desire by members to try something different. They could easily identify the new leadership election rules and allowing £3 “members” to vote as having a huge and unexpected impact.

But essentially no one knew what to make of him.

I think most people were genuinely shocked when, after the general hilarity that he had actually won, the reality of having John McDonnell as shadow chancellor sunk in.

But still, the prevailing view at the time was that this must be the gift that it seemed to be to the Conservative Party.

And in the short term it was. For all his faults, David Cameron was at ease against Corbyn at the despatch box. It was merely sport to each week point out the attempted coups, the splits and the absurdity that the Labour Party had become.

Dressing improperly, not singing the national anthem and having no idea how to handle the media (Seamus I don’t think this is a good idea…) all fed into a comfortable narrative that Jeremy Corbyn and the new Labour leadership just weren’t credible.

And let’s be clear this is excluding all mentions of the IRA, anti-semitism, and dangerous socialist policies.

But then came the EU referendum and subsequently Theresa May.

JC was virtually silent during the campaign. As was TM. Both I think for different reasons.

JC, a long time advocate of leaving the EU, realised he would alienate his party if he came out in favour of leave.

TM, in one of her more canny political moments, realised that this thing could go both ways, and better not to piss off the leavers in case there was a chance to grab the throne.

She was right. And the staggering fumbling of the Tory Brexiteers ensured she became leader and Prime Minister.

Fast forward one disastrous general election (for the Tories at least) and a failed EU withdrawal negotiation and the politics of the UK couldn’t be more different.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party could be accused of being consistent it would be in their inconsistency, in particular with EU policy.

At first it was highlighted as gaff by the media. Hang on, didn’t that shadow minister say the exact opposite of what Corbyn said yesterday?

Wait, Corbyn has now contradicted what he said last week.

And so it continued.

Now after months and months of this, commentators are starting to say that this is Corbyn’s genius. That he is actually a smooth political operator.

6 impossible tests. What a trap he’s laid.

By being all things to all people he has become the every-person leader. A man of all the policies.

Agreeing with everyone and disagreeing with the Tories.

We know he never thought he’d ever get this far. We know it’s McDonnell that we should be really worried about ever coming close to power.

And it doesn’t take a political genius to see that every move they make is about seeking power, at any cost.

But I’m reminded of the Soviet Union in the Cold War, when there was a genuine nuclear arms race between them and the west.

Western intelligence agencies could only find derelict and old missile silos. But how could this be when the rhetoric was that they had the most powerful arsenal in the world?

The intelligence agencies of the day concluded that the Russians were being so clever that they had indeed developed better weapons and the ability to make the other side think they hadn’t.

Ironically this hardened the resolve of America and its allies as they rushed to develop counter technologies to win the arms race.

History showed us that this was essentially unnecessary. The silos and missiles were exactly as they seemed. Dilapidated and under maintained. No match for their opponents.

So is Jeremy Corbyn wearing the Emperors new clothes? Political observers seem to think he has not only tapped into the current zeitgeist but is using his savvy political skills in a way that must be sheer genius.

Who else would come across as so untrustworthy and inconsistent. He must know something we don’t know.

The concern is that they are right. Not because he’s principled and just, but because the electorate will somehow be sucked in.

But I still can’t bring myself to believe that it isn’t anything other than Labour Party incompetence.

The 2017 election was a shock to me, having accurately predicted the previous 4 elections. I trusted the people to make the right decision.

Now I’m not so sure. I want to believe that the voters will, if presented with a Socialist Labour Party, will reject it, and we’ll all go back to saying how politically inept the whole experience was.

But with Theresa May at the helm of an increasingly interventionist Conservative Party, botching Brexit, with no credible free market, Liberal alternative in sight, I fear voters will waver, as I am, as to whether to vote at all.

And if voters become non-voters, then this absurdity, no matter how intentional, may yet be proved successful.

Stated Preferences Vs Revealed Preferences

“I’d love to be able to play the guitar.

“I wish I was slimmer.”

“I should pay more tax.”

How many times have we heard statements like these? Too many to count, I’d wager. In fact, you probably rolled your eyes when you read them. You’re sure to recognise such statements for what they are: nonsense.

If someone really wanted to play the guitar, they could. It would take lots of time and effort, but it’s possible. The same with losing weight. Paying tax is the easiest of all, you can simply donate to the treasury (not that many people do).

The point is that people say these things when all evidence suggests that they don’t really mean them. That’s why there is a specific term for these kinds of statements. Economists call them “stated preferences”. If someone says they want to do something, that’s a stated preference.

Handily, there’s also a term for the things people actually do. Economists call these “revealed preferences”. A stated preference might be someone saying that they’d love to be able to draw. However, their revealed preferences show that they don’t spend any time doing so, which would indicate that they don’t really mean what they say. This is the difference between a stated and a revealed preference.

Now, any economist worth their salt will always ignore, when possible, stated preferences. There will be some occasions when stated preferences are all that exist. For example, if revealed preferences are skewed by the law like they are in illegal drugs, but for the vast majority of the time, revealed preferences are the ones to look at.

Unfortunately, these days this is not usually the case. Most economists tend to be left leaning, Keynesian ideologues. People who want to do something. Sadly, the sorts of people who recognise that people can run their own lives better than anyone else rarely choose professions like economist. Or politician. This being the case, there is a tendency for most economists to ignore revealed preferences and just go by what people say, as that enables them to do what they want: interfere with things.

Take the recent sugar tax in drinks. Plenty of surveys were cited, stating people want to decrease the amount of sugar in their diets. So tell me, what was stopping them? Sugar free diet drinks have been available for decades. Why not drink those if you want to cut down? I love Coca-Cola. It’s a guilty pleasure. I rarely drink it as I like to keep in shape (which isn’t as easy now I’m in my forties), but every now and again I like to sip from a bottle of ice cold coke. Why should I be taxed more? More importantly, why should people who suffer from diabetes be taxed more when sugar can be life saving for them?

It’s the same with tax. I’ve seen so many surveys where people state that they should pay more tax. Well, why don’t they? I made an FOI request recently and received information back about how much money people voluntarily donate to the state. I discuss it in a recent podcast but, spoiler alert, it’s virtually nothing.

The Germans have a fantastic word that springs to mind: verschlimmbessern. It roughly translates as “the act of making something worse whilst trying to make it better”. This is what happens when economists and politicians look at stated preferences instead of revealed preferences, when they look at feelings instead of facts, and when something that sounds good to them takes precedence over something that has been proven to work.

Go back to the first few statements at the beginning of this article then ask yourself: Do we really want to base government policy on what people say?

This EU madness is nothing new

“Seldom in history can a British government have shown such feebleness in defence of Britain’s interests, securing nothing of substance in return for concessions on a grand scale.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this statement had just been written. I suppose it could have been written any time in the last year with the way the current government has been capitulating negotiating.

I suppose it could also have been written at the time of when David Cameron went cap in hand to Brussels in order to present a choice between leaving the EU and a “reformed EU”.

But this wasn’t written about the current Brexit crisis, and it wasn’t written about a Conservative government.

It was, however, written about Europe.

The writer was none other than William, now Lord Hague. Former leader of the Conservative party, former Foreign Secretary and de facto deputy to David Cameron.

But he wrote it in 2009. That’s nearly 10 years ago.

Here it is in full where he writes in reply to a piece by the then foreign secretary David Miliband on defending Labour’s record in Europe.

Hague is of course speaking about the Lisbon Treaty – the friendlier name adopted by Brussels bureaucrats and European leaders for the EU Constitution.

All three major political parties in the UK promised in their general election manifestos of 2005 to a referendum on the EU Constitution.

What a wheeze it was to rename it, take out a few bits and call it something different so that that promise would not need to be honoured.

I remember at the time of the signing of the Lisbon Treaty that all media attention was focused on the Tories. What would they do? Would they commit to a referendum still? Would they withdraw from the treaty if they came to power?

I found it odd that rather than putting the necessary pressure on the Labour Party for essentially lying to the public and taking us deeper into the EU that, because the Tories are the ones seen to be “banging on about Europe”, they were the ones who needed pressure and scrutiny.

The response was simple if a complete waste of breath.

Hague himself stood up at a press conference and said “we will not let it end there”.

Arguably they didn’t, which is why we are where we are now, but I remember feeling the start of the notion of being politically cheated.

If the UK had not ratified the Lisbon Treaty because the UK public had rejected it in a referendum, then I don’t believe we would be in the situation we are in now.

Its too simplistic to try and pin the blame on the current mess on any particular person or event.

Gove for knifing Boris in the back so we ended up with May negotiating?

Cameron for thinking his weak renegotiation would be enough to sway the British people.

Blair for reneging on his promise to hold a referendum on the treaty.

Major for promising to stay in the ERM and then leaving it only days later.

The let’s not forget Facebook’s newest employee Clegg whom I remember demanding an “in/out referendum” on the EU long before it was a commitment by the Tory party, but as soon as it was a prospect, quickly changed his tune.

Now of course all the people who didn’t want a referendum on EU membership (apart from Clegg who just fence sits whenever he can) now advocate a new referendum.

Call it what you like, a people’s vote, a politicians vote, a losers vote. You just have to look at the views of the people who want it to understand their motivations.

Their plan is straight out of the EU playbook of either ignoring the results of referenda or for repeating the question until the public capitulates.

Whatever political leaders say about the record of those they oppose, one thing is certain and that is that history shows that no British government of any stripe has successfully negotiated anything with the EU.

For those of us in the real world this not only seems crazy, but shows in stark relief that the state is incapable of any meaningful change while the current political elites are in power.

Our electoral system may protect us against extremism, but when freedom from the state is seen as an extreme view, it’s going to be hard for anyone considered to be radically liberal to get the votes needed to start untangling us from this mess.