Vir Cantium

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Monthly Archives: February 2012

So Farewell The #OccupyLSX Asylum

OccupyLSX defaced walls

#OccupyLSX revolting ... I mean, leading the revolution

This morning St Paul’s emerges from behind the human-scale petri dish that was #OccupyLSX and will be relegated to the pages of history … or, spoken of in reverential tones in two decades’ time in BBC retrospective documentaries in the same way as, not so long ago, was the Greenham Common Wimmin’s Camp. That exercise, too, proved just as pointless and ineffectual, though at least the sisters managed to keep a fairly consistent and clear message throughout their time there, in some contrast to the comparative rookies at #OccupySomewhereAnywhere-AsLongAsWeDon’tHaveToPayForIt.

I thought that as one of my first posts after my annual blogging sabbatical I would reflect on my own visit to the site – yes, I did go there and see it for myself, shortly before Christmas.

Of course, there were others like me surveying the camp, but one couldn’t help but get the impression they were viewing it not in awe, but going to see it out of a mixture of curiosity, quiet amusement and pity. I was put in mind of the old style Victorian mental asylums which admitted the general public as spectators. Surveying the poor wretches, living in their own little world, surrounded by others of the same affliction, convinced that their perception of reality was the truth … yes, I too felt I was having the same experience as those 19th century gawpers.

Ask any spectator what they thought, and the least offensive opinion could be summed up as “meh”.

OccupyLSX remember them?

Occupy St. Paul's ... remember them?

What is noticeable about the SquatLSX camp is the variety of ‘causes’ that have taken up residence there. Now to the organisers this is undoubtedly looked on as a ‘positive’ – yet in fact it only serves to dilute whatever could be loosely termed their original ‘message’. As with so many public protests of the Left, quantity trumps quality. A corner was devoted to protesting about an imprisoned Turkish socialist – what a way to get an obscure issue into the public domain than to hide it among the noise of every other trendy and tired leftist cause. And it is wholly Leftist, for all the talk from the SquatLSX organisers of representing the 99%.

Yet maybe I’m being unfair. Perhaps in the middle somewhere was the Ayn Rand bookshop, or the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tent. Perhaps the Finsbury Square satellite site is where they are holding the Friedman lectures.

I also noticed the portable loos were in place, though their presence clearly hadn’t stopped some from answering the call of nature at the door of God’s house. It was wholly unsurprising to sit in Starbucks and watch some of the nemeses of capitalism taking a seat on one of the evil capitalist comfortable sofas long enough to take advantage of the evil capitalist free wifi.

Now, once again the 99% can enjoy the magnificence of Wren’s creation without the added authentic squalor of Sir Christopher’s London that was provided by the squatters. Oh, and Starbucks can re-open their customer toilets.

I’m Bored. Let’s Have a Go at a Green.

Green Patio Heater

What? It's green isn't it? (You can get them in silver too, I think.)

Darren Johnson is a Green Party member of the London Assembly. He’s a ‘London-wide’ member, which means he wasn’t popular enough to be voted in for an actual GLA constituency.

Anyway, not having to service a constituency means he has time to pen missives to every local paper in London and the surrounds, such as this:

Londoners are facing high unemployment, falling real incomes, soaring rents and fares, as well as environmental problems such as dangerous air pollution and cold homes.

I want the Mayor of London to set a budget which responds to these basic concerns.

Freezing the council tax will help slightly, but Londoners travelling to work are having to pay out far more in fare rises, than they are saving in council tax.

Did you notice what was missing? The one major cost pressure he didn’t list was fuel prices – over half of which are made up of taxes and duties. Oh but of course, cars are evil aren’t they?

Rewarding people for using environmentally friendly public transport should take priority over car driving in London.

In the short term we can lower fares by raising the central London congestion charge for the most polluting gas guzzlers and setting up a new ‘anti-pollution’ charging zone around Heathrow airport.

In the longer term, this may well solve the problems of people travelling in to London, since once the congestion charge has been raised so high that no-one can service the place, they’ll be out of a job, or working outside (Inner) London*. Yes, it will have to go up for every vehicle, since it has always been about revenue-raising and not reducing congestion (which it doesn’t).

This is just one of the ways in which the Mayor could improve our environment, whilst helping the poorest to cope with hard times.

You know, Darren, this isn’t the 1950’s; the era when estates for ‘poor people’ were laid out with no provision for cars because poor people just couldn’t afford, or didn’t need, to drive.

Outside Inner London, there are many people – ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ – for whom a freeze in council tax is worth more than the rise in the fares they pay for their occasional trip into town. Of course, what would really make a difference to their living costs – whether it’s transport (those evil cars) or “cold homes” – is reducing the cost of fuel. That’s the cost, for instance, of filling the car up so they can get to work, since not everyone toils in Zone 1 (and yes, that may include charging up the Pious Prius). The trouble is, Darren Johnson’s solution to that probably involves windmills, and the sort of financially myopic interventionism in the energy and oil industries that would just bring forward the day when the lights do actually go out.

But hey, by then at least we’ll have this global warming licked and we can avoid that traditional spike in demand for sun cream every February.

* Indeed (for the sake of completeness) once no-one can be bothered to use Heathrow anymore because the cab fare costs more than the flight….

That B&B Case: It’s Not About Being Christian, or Gay – It’s About Property

So yes, I’m back, so hopefully you’ll forgive the essay-length post – I get my hand back in soon enough.

Genuine freedom cannot exist without economic freedom. A prerequisite of economic freedom is the upholding of private property rights. Yet are we slowly losing sight of the importance of the right to own property?

I am not simply referring to ‘property’ in the sense of land and building, but private ownership in a broader sense, to include everything from the cash in your bank account to intangible assets such as investments and intellectual property, and even – though I find it sad to have to include it now – your own body.

We are accustomed, of course, to the Left having no respect, or seemingly understanding, of property rights – the simple concept of being able to own and enjoy property without undue interference: wilful damage of property is not seen as violence, private property is seen as depriving another of its use, the state is seen as having first call on property should the “common good” require it – be it anything from the compulsory purchase of land and buildings to the confiscation (even with compensation) of shares in a private company.

An Englishman's Home Is His Castle, sort of...Yet like so much that arose from socialist doctrine – a 1940’s health service, or nationalised postal services, say – there are many Conservatives who either fail to appreciate or actively defend or promote action that erodes property rights.

One key example is in town planning. Many countries might design zoning systems to establish some sort of control of urban sprawl, setting down broad principles of siting and design less open to arbitrary interpretation. The UK, on the other hand, in yet another hangover of late 40’s socialist planning – can even go as far as dictating the design and colour of windows and the seemingly tiniest details of a building (if you are living in a conservation area or listed building). You will find plenty of councillors from all sides who support this system, whether through conviction or the perception that many of their residents do. Everyone wants to be able to do what they want to their own house, but are equally happy to have the council dictate what others do on theirs, beyond that which might genuinely hinder their own enjoyment of their property.

Another example arises from today’s story (not the first such case) which the headline to this post references; a product of the legislative bulldozer that is Equalities. The Christian B&B owners who barred a gay couple from their B&B had been reported to the police – a result of legislation which trumps the right to bar or welcome whoever you like from entering your property. The legislation was a product of the Labour government, so no surprises there. What was disappointing was the Conservative reaction.

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