Helping the Taxpayers’ Alliance


9:24 am - December 19th 2008

by Don Paskini    


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In a victory for common sense against possibly the worst idea I have heard all year, councillors in Stoke on Trent voted down a proposal by a ‘Libertarian Lib Dem’ councillor to invite the Taxpayer’s Alliance to ‘scrutinise the whole of the City Council’s finances in preparation for the Budget Council to be held on 26 February 2009, with a view to identifying waste and needless spending’.

But while the Taxpayer’s Alliance will be disappointed at not having the opportunity to waste the time (at considerable expense to the, um, taxpayer) of council officers in conducting a review, in order to compile one of their shoddy reports and take the piss out of Stoke on Trent council in the Daily Express, this has given me an idea.

As one of the commenters on their website noted, I suspect that councillors didn’t reject the offer of consultancy because it was free (as the Alliance believes), but rather because they didn’t think it would be very good. After all, the Taxpayer’s Alliance’s “research” is regularly full of errors, exaggerations, and distortions, all in the service of a particular ideological agenda.

So to help them out, and increase their chances of persuading councils to enlist their assistance, I am prepared to run some training in how to do research to any members of the Taxpayer’s Alliance’s team who are interested in acquiring these useful skills. I’d be happy to cover research methods, research ethics, and any particular bespoke training which they request. If other Liberal Conspirators would be able to help with this challenging but rewarding project, that would be great.

I would, of course, have to charge for this training, but I would be able to offer it at a competitive market rate, and I am sure the Taxpayer’s Alliance’s wealthy backers would not object – after all, they already pay for a Research Director, Research Fellow and two Policy Analysts. Imagine how much more effective an organisation it would be if their staff know how to do research or analyse policy, rather than churn out crude partisan propaganda.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Reader comments


If the TPA was demonstrably independent they may represent a good way of providing an effective external counter-balance to internal council budgeting procedures, but they aren’t, so they don’t.

As with most things what looks good in theory doesn’t look so good in practise, but that doesn’t mean there is no merit in the idea. However, if scrutiny of council procedures is subcontracted to outside ‘experts’, what is the point of having democratically elected councillors for the locality?

Is Cllr Gavin Webb the first example of a Turkey who does vote for Christmas? Give the man credit for bravery, but is it not foolhardy?

2. Mike Killingworth

It might have been more amusing if Stoke had voted for them to go ahead… perhaps we could have a Xmas game of trying to work out what the TA would have recommended… I’ll kick off:

– scrap all communication and publicity budgets: the people don’t need to know what their Council is up to;

– scrap all councillors’ allowances, public service should be freely given;

– dismiss each year the same proportion of Council staff as lose their jobs in the local private sector economy;

– close the housing waiting list and sell Coucil housing on the open market as it falls vacant, applying the income to the relief of the rate fund (what is this prissy distinction between capital and revenue, anyway – it’s all taxpayers’ money, dammit)

– charge £14/hour for home helps (hey the SNP do it already)

– charge £100 a subject for entering kids in GCSE/”A” levels – people say they value education, let’s get parents to put their money where their mouth is.

And when the Chief Exec says it’s all illegal the TA can bang on about red tape strangling enterprise….

Hi Mike,

That’s good, also there must have been something about gold plated pensions for council workers, surely the Taxpayer’s Alliance would have had something to say about getting rid of those?

“the Taxpayer’s Alliance will be disappointed at not having the opportunity to waste the time (at considerable expense to the, um, taxpayer) of council officers in conducting a review”

So you’d prefer the council to hire PWC at a cost of several million a year instead, as so many of them do these days? An interesting choice….

5. Mike Killingworth

[3] Hi Don – shush! I live on one of those, let’s not get too close to home!

[4] False choice. As you well know.

LfaT – if forced, I think I would rather have PWC than the Taxpayer’s Alliance to come and give consultancy advice. But even better would be a “Third Way” of hiring neither of them.

LfaT: both local universities have Business Schools who would probably be more reliable than the Taxpayers’ Alliance. That said, given the dysfunctional nature of local politics in Stoke, I’m surprised the proposal was voted down.

PS: Mike – you left out ‘cut all discretionary spending on the arts’ – always a good standby for proving your tough on ‘waste’.

Thing is, your argument totally falls apart if anyone bothers to follow the hyperlinks on which it depends, only to discover that they prove nothing more than that several people disagree with the TPA. Which is indeed all they do show. In particular, the Channel Four one is astonishingly tendentious for a supposed fact checking article.

The thing about the Taxpayers’ Alliance is, they’re not so much an alliance of taxpayers as of a few individuals who were mostly members of the Conservative Association at Imperial College. The phrase “representing nobody but themselves” was rarely so apt. But they have the money to issue a lot of press releases…..

Indeed. C4’s central claim is that… duhh… local government has other sources of funding than council tax. Doesn’t stop it being true that a quarter of all the COUNCIL tax take is spent on pensions.

Peter, from the FactCheck article:

FactCheck rating: 4

How rating’s work

Every time a FactCheck article is published we’ll give it a rating from zero to five.

The lower end of the scale indicates that the claim in question largerly checks out, while the upper end of the scale suggests misrepresentation, exaggeration, a massaging of statistics and/or language.

In the unlikely event that we award a 5 out of 5, our factcheckers have concluded that the claim under examination has absolutely no basis in fact.

I can only remember seeing 5 out of 5 on claims that had no factual basis whatsoever. This is C4 saying the TPA is talking a big pile of steaming crap, misusing stats and misrepresenting the truth.

The TPA could’ve been a great campaigning organisation, if they’d managed to put their ideology at the door. But they didn’t.

They’re effectively shown to be ideologically motivated misrepresenters, which is a shame.

Donpaskini,

Its hard to no where to start with a post this arrogant and full of ad hominem. You link to three articles that you believe prove we don’t know how to research:

1) Is an article by yourself where you insist that using the RPI to adjust for inflation is like using a random number generator. Which is wrong. We’ve had the argument in that thread, I assume you’re hoping people won’t read the comments.

2) Is an article by some researcher at Channel 4 who insists that it is dishonest to quote spending amounts as a percentage of council tax, rather than council spending. Given that we were writing a report indicating how cuts in various council costs could make way for lower council tax, a percentage of total spending would be meaningless. Spend £10 less and you can cut council tax by £10. The Government grant is, with respect to that decision, fixed and that 75% of council funding is therefore irrelevant.

3) Is Dr. Crippen putting words in our mouth. We compiled a list of the best paid senior officers in the public sector. It was accompanied by this, quite reasonable, quote:

““While ordinary families are suffering in the financial crisis, the public sector elite are enjoying record pay packages. Far too often, senior officials get massive pay rises and generous bonuses despite serious failures on their watch. Where someone is earning huge amounts at taxpayers’ expense they must be accountable to the people who pay the bill and who rely on the services they run. We all deserve to know how our money is being spent, and people should have the right to decide if they are getting value for money. Public services will never improve if people are being rewarded for failure.””

Dr. Crippen then insisted that what we were really saying was that “[The Head of Great Ormond Street Hospital] is a wastrel, a taxpayer subsidised fat cat”. We never said anything of the sort. If you make up a message for us, sometimes it will be unreasonable by no fault of ours.

If that’s the best evidence you have I think we’ve done pretty well.

Peter and Nick,

Thank you for checking Donpaskini’s hyperlinks. I hope anyone else reading this post will do the same and read them with an open mind.

Best,
Matthew Sinclair

I would encourage people to look at the links, that’s why I, um, included them.

One link which you didn’t mention which I included is to taxpayersalliance.org, which has another 34 articles commenting on different aspects of the work of the Taxpayer’s Alliance. Happy reading!

Matthew – does that mean you don’t want the research training, then?

We’ve had the argument in that thread, I assume you’re hoping people won’t read the comments.

You did indeed have the argument in the thread – but you lost, very obviously.

MattGB, I’ve already said I think the Channel Four article was astonishingly tendentious for a fact checking piece. What more could I say to indicate I think it unpersuasive? To illustrate how ridiculous it was, consider a man who works part time for an annual salary of £10,000 but also rents out properties for £40k total. If he spends £2,000 on alcohol that year, presumably Channel Four would think it disingenuous, misleading and dishonest to say he spent a fifth of his salary on booze?

John B,

Given that Donpaskini retreated from just about every position in his original post, I’m not sure what argument you think I’ve lost.

Donpaskini,

I assumed you chose the best three articles from that site. Again, if that’s the best you can do, despite us putting out several reports a month for some time now, then I think we’ve done alright.

M.

Donpaskini, if you’d simply said: “not everyone likes the TPA, you know – and some of us have offered alternative points of view in response to their research” I don’t think anyone could possibly disagree. That’s really your only point here. But by instead overselling ad hominem attacks and mere disagreement – basically a few articles that would only persuade people who had already made their mind up to hate the TPA – as proof of errors, distortions, exaggeration and poor research I think you damage your own credibility more than the TPA’s. I’ll certainly be more cautious next time you claim someone distorted something for example.

Peter: Are you happy to willingly ignore the level of the TPA research that is simply wrong? There isn’t a case of “an alternative point of view”, it is simply wrong.

Isn’t it Taxpayers’ rather than Taxpayer’s?

Lee, definitely not. What I am doing is making precisely that distinction: Donpaskini links to piece after piece that offers a contrary point of view and then acts as if individually they prove the TPA to have been factually wrong. No think tank – no report – is ever likely to command 100% agreement, but that hardly makes it impossible to write factually accurate reports. I didn’t see a single factual error identified in those links. It was all “Oohh they’re very tabloidy! Aren’t their donors rich people? Wouldn’t it be best to give that figure as a % of GDP?” and so on.

The answer to all these questions could be ‘yes’ and it would still be no proof of distortions or dishonesty.

21. Mike Killingworth

[15] Peter said

consider a man who works part time for an annual salary of £10,000 but also rents out properties for £40k total. If he spends £2,000 on alcohol that year, presumably Channel Four would think it disingenuous, misleading and dishonest to say he spent a fifth of his salary on booze?

I should hope they would. It makes no sense to hypothecate arbitrarily one fraction of income onto a particular fraction of expenditure. It would only make sense if the property, say, was all in some country whose currency wasn’t fully convertible into sterling (and the booze was bought in the UK).

Let’s take another, far more realistic example. A retired doctor has an income of let’s say £35,000 a year of which just under £5,000 is her state pension. She spends a similar amount on presents, mainly cash gifts, to her dissolute grandson of whom she’s uncritically fond – wow! a scandal! State pension spent on teenage drug orgies!!

Not even the Daily Express newsdesk would swallow that…

So Mike, when a tax-raising politician increases, say, NI by 1p, promising to spend any additional revenue on the NHS, are they being dishonest, too? Or does that only apply when a tax-cutting organisation suggests cutting a particular form of spending would allow a particular tax cut? What if a local council promised to fund a doubling of its pension spending? Would it be dishonest to note that this would require a 20% rise in council tax?

Come on.

Peter, you seem to confuse dishonesty with spin and smearing of figures. Or more aptly, you seem to not mind spin and smearing of figures to make a point that isn’t actually relevant?

hmm, shouldn’t it be a basic question of openness that anyone could at least look at the accounts for any public body (obviously with some exceptions) to learn where money is being spent, what it is being spent on etc. At the very least this would mean it was easier to demolish Daily Mail stories about billions being spent on free cars for immigrants etc.

25. Robin Levett

@Matthew (#12):

An interesting post.

You were not writing a report detailing how that part of Council spending that is funded by Council Tax could be cut so as to fund reductions in Council Tax; you specifically accept in the report that the only part of the pension contribution that is within the local authority’s control is discretionary additional years’ contributions. Oddly, you give no figures for this expenditure, even though you recommend that all such payments, in any circumstances, whatever the reason and however deserving the case, should be stopped immediately.

The balance of your recommendations relate to reform of the LGPS as a whole; and to imagine that reduction of the non-discretionary element of pension provision would not entail at least a matching reduction in central government support for local authority spending is to live in cloud cuckoo land.

To be fair, you do make the point that Council Tax is only part of the funding that local authorities receive; also being fair, however, at no point do you acknowledge that while it is the most visible part, it is only a minor part of local government funding. Again, no figure appears in your report for total local authority funding. What is the fair and reasonable reason for this omission?

I’d challenge your assumption that local government workers, having been underpaid throughout their working lives on the basis that they would be provided for in retirement, should instead have that underpayment carried into retirement despite their years of public service.

Robin,

I think that reducing councils’ non-discretionary costs could be a key part of cutting council tax bills, and wouldn’t have to be recouped by central government. Clearly, new requirements for local authorities from central government have created upward pressures on council tax. This is one of them.

In the end, the key problem with almost all local government debates is that councils accuse the government of imposing too many burdens upon them and not providing enough grant, then the government accuse councils of being inefficient. There are no real facts out there for ordinary people to come to a view about who is right and that confusion is toxic to accountability. That’s one reason why something like a Local Sales Tax, that allows councils to become self-funding, is attractive. Our view is that the truth is probably that it is six of one, half a dozen of the other. So we wrote reports on both government actions that require financing by council tax and council spending – where savings could be made – that requires financing by council tax. We gave a percentage of council tax figure for pensions to show how significant they could be in contributing to the financing of cuts in what is an extremely socially harmful tax.

As to the percentage distribution between council tax and central government grant. It could have been in there. I don’t think it would have changed how the report was received or the picture the reader gets from reading it. Including that breakdown is a reasonable suggestion but I don’t think it is critical. The media, who we are accussed of manipulating, certainly know quite well that council tax only finances around a quarter of council spending.

Best,
Matt

Mike,

“Let’s take another, far more realistic example. A retired doctor has an income of let’s say £35,000 a year of which just under £5,000 is her state pension. She spends a similar amount on presents, mainly cash gifts, to her dissolute grandson of whom she’s uncritically fond – wow! a scandal! State pension spent on teenage drug orgies!!”

Suppose your retired doctor was an objectivist and resented needing a state pension. If she were looking around for ways to avoid needing to take it, cash gifts to her dissolute grandson would be a reasonable place to start, wouldn’t they?

Matt

“Suppose your retired doctor was an objectivist and resented needing a state pension”

This is a lovely illustration of how mad right-wingery breaks down when confronted with reality. In our hypothetical example, the objectivist doctor doesn’t resent *having* a state pension. She rejects *needing* a state pension. Similarly, it’s very annoying that people *need* healthcare, education and the whole panoply of complex national infrastructure that’s funded out of taxation – but they really do, and until they stop needing these things, the TPA’s case will remain pretty weak.

29. Mike Killingworth

[28] Thankyou, Tom. I have no idea what an “objectivist” is but I think it highly unlikely that a doctor of all people would be one – if it’s got anything to do with what I think it’s got to do with.

If Matthew Sinclair believes what I think he believes, part of that belief is that market prices represent value. In other words, that cosmetic surgeons who nip and tuck celebrities/WAGs contribute more to society than a midwife who delivers the babies of the poor. Even if this was straight thinking, its moral implications speak for themselves.

The only reason that people hold Sinclair’s views, or some variant on them, is because they consider themselves better (morally superior) than other people, and, more particularly, better than those who don’t consider themselves to be better than others. Since the latter category includes, inter alia, saints, it follows that they consider themselves to be morally superior to saints.

Now, shall I find a link to an on-line thesaurus or can you all manage without?

Tom,

You’re attacking a complete straw man. That doctor is my hypothetical creation in order to illustrate how – if this were extended to councils who, we hope, resent burdening their residents with council tax – the comparison between her pension income and a particular item of spending is relevant. I was responding to Mike’s analogy – that’s all.

Matt

Matt, it was the specific idea of “resent[ing] needing a state pension” that I was focusing on – I thought it was an interesting and revealing form of words.

Mike,

What on Earth are you talking about? A liberal economic philosophy is based around the belief that people, if freed from the controls and burdens of the state, will often rise to the opportunity and better their own condition. The idea this is dismissive of the capacity of other people is frankly absurd. The view that you are better than everyone else leads to aristocracy or the kind of nannying socialism that the TaxPayers’ Alliance very much stands against.

I think market prices represent information about the interplay between the price at which people are willing to provide something and the price at which people are willing to purchase it. This isn’t a matter of morality but simply about information that allows and encourages people to efficiently provide for each other’s needs. To the extent it has a moral component, I do think it is moral that people are encouraged to think about the needs of others – which the market forces us to do in order to make a living by selling products or our own labour.

Matt

Matt is forced to make a living by selling shoddily-researched briefings to the Daily Express. It’s the way the market works. Pity him.

“A liberal economic philosophy is based around the belief that people, if freed from the controls and burdens of the state, will often rise to the opportunity and better their own condition by exploiting others who don’t have the education/contacts/opportunities/privileges/talents [delete as applicable] that they have.”

Fixed.

Tim, are you seriously suggesting that all the wealth the market creates is through exploitation? That all this wonderful stuff was just sitting around here in some communal utopia until some greedy capitalists ran around sticking price tags on them? They created it all first: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yOt6rUkU5xY

36. Mike Killingworth

[32] Matthew Sinclair wrote

A liberal economic philosophy is based around the belief that people, if freed from the controls and burdens of the state, will often rise to the opportunity and better their own condition

Even in its own terms, this is a very poor defence of economic liberalism. It assumes that all the State does is “control” and “burden” although it is hard to believe that economic liberals really believe that – to give just one example – state, or “public” as the Cousins term it, education is either controlling or burdensome by nature (I agree it may be so in deformed practice, but only in the same ways that private education may be). It therefore assumes that there are no costs associated with deregulation. (If Matthew thinks this, someone should sit him down, pour him a stiff Dutch gin and tell him, in a very soft, loving voice what’s been going on the world of central banking lately.)

Matthew’s case therefore collapses to the idea that the costs of deregulation in any given case – amongst which we must number, of course, the impact on that section of the population which for whatever reason cannot “rise to the opportunity” – will be less than the benefits. I don’t know how he knows this, I’m certainly not aware of any economist who thinks so – even Friedman saw a role for State intervention in certain circumstances*.

Most people in fact aren’t in the least bit entrepreneurial or innovative – perhaps our eductation system is at fault here, but if so, it’s noticeable that pro-marketeers have had little to say on the matter – indeed, many of them believe that such skills are “innate” and therefore ineducable.

*One such case – although I’ve no idea whether Friedman ever considered it – is that of the destruction of potential wealth by act of gift. The most obvious case is that of Sir Tim Berners-Lee and html, without which none of us would be talking to each other. Sir Tim persuaded his colleagues that, since they were on the public payroll when they wrote it – a slightly awkward event for those who believe that public sector employees can’t and don’t innovate – they should act in the public interest by placing it in the public domain. This obviously destroyed at a stroke a hue potential income stream from licensing fees and the loss of economic welfare from the multiplier effect. Yet for some reason the likes of Matthew never excoriate Sir Tim for his behaviour. As Keynes so nearly said, when the facts change it’s best to dream up some more fantasies.

***

Anyway, as regular readers know, I think there are vast areas of social life in which neither State nor market can provide solutions that meet human needs and aspirations. And one thing Matthew and I do have in common is that neither of us are working in the market sector.

#35

Sigh. What I was suggesting is that without the “burdens” and “controls” of the state, some people might better themselves and their communities, but others would (and do) abuse their freedoms to get ahead by exploiting others. I thought Matthew (Taxpayers Alliance)’s statement was so incredibly naive and simplistic that it needed bludgeoning with a healthy amount of refreshing cynicism.

Of course not all wealth created is through exploitation. There are productive elements in society. But your suggestion that the market creates wealth is at odds with Matthew’s assumption that the market is a neutral arbiter. Do you mean “wealth created by people”?

I would, however, guess that anyone who describes themself as a “wealth creator” is (in addition to being a dick), a worthless, unproductive member of society who (in all probability) does exploit others.

Get rid of all race relations co-ordinators, diversity officers, outreach workers, drug counsellors who were once drug addicts themselves and all these other phoney jobs that have been created by Brown and his ilk. Only empire builders in the town hall want them; hoping to suck up the gravy of the new form of corruption that is sweeping Britain.

Yes, drug counsellors who have been drug addicts themselves just encourage kids to take drugs in the knowledge that they’re guaranteed a job as a drug counsellor when they finally quit.

The taxpayers Alliance is nothing but a nasty little right wing pressure group, and the idea that a Lib Dem Councilor should try help them shows how out of touch the Lib Dems have become.

Yes, Sally, of course it does. We’ve had the ‘broad church’ discussions in at least two posts you’ve contributed two, did you bother to read them?

Also, if you look Gavin up, you’ll find he’s well known in Lib Dem circles for being, well, a committed libertarian with a tendency to annoy his colleagues (he got expelled from his council group recently for being, well, a libertarian).

I disagree with Gavin, and he’s nowhere close to the mainstream of the party, but he’s a lot less disreputable than, say, having John Reid or Ruth Kelly in your party. At least he’s consistent.

“At least he’s consistent.”

Of course he is not being consistent.

If he is a libertarian then he should not stand as a Lib Dem politician. He is certainly not being consistent if he stands as one thing (Lib Dem) and then acts like someone from the tax payers bullshit party.

And Sally demonstrates her complete ignorance of terminology and thinks that in some way libertarian is a word that excludes being liberal.

Several contributors to this site are libertarians. I’m a type of libertarian. It’s a label applied to a certain outlook, and can have left wing, right wing and lunatic fringe adherents.

Do try to at least know the basics of what you’re talking about? It’d make the world easier. Google is your friend

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=left+libertarian+“chris+dillow”
http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=left+libertarian

sally,
the basic skill set of a politician prioritises flexibility. I take it that you aren’t a politician. I also take it that you’ve never made a decisive contribution to a debate.

I have direct experience of cutting wasteful council spending. As an executive councillor on Cambridge City Council (2004-6), I was responsible for analysing my portfolio budget in detail to try to find year-on-year efficiency savings of around 3%. It’s a difficult thing to do, involving a lot of close, detailed work and difficult decisions.

If the Taxpayers’ Alliance had any analyses or guiding principles that might make it easier to achieve such savings, that could be a valuable contribution to local governance. Having looked at their website, however, I am disappointed. I could find nothing that addressed the real issues of finding efficiencies in local government.

The only study I could find that was relevant was their analysis of publicity costs. This has a number of basic flaws: most egregiously, it ranks councils by absolute spend rather than spending as a proportion of total budget, and it compares years apparently without adjusting for inflation.

Furthermore, it presents this data without any insight into what this money might be being spent on. A council which is taking on extra streetsweepers to provide cleaner streets will spend money to advertise these positions – is this something the TPA object to? A council that is forced to freeze recruitment due to massive financial mismanagement will spend less money on advertising jobs – would the TPS approve of this council? Or, to pick an example from my own experience, when I introduced a new waste and recycling system to Cambridge, it was important to spend money on publicity so that people would be informed about the changes and would be able to use the new system. That meant an increase in publicity costs, even though the changes on the whole introduced significant efficiency gains. Does the TPA disapprove of the extra publicity costs, or approve of the efficiency gains? It can’t have both.

This analysis, as a whole, is laughably bad and I would be disinclined to take advice on governance from anyone willing to put their name to it. If I were still an executive councillor I would oppose any effort to bring the TPA into budgetary decisions, not for any ideological reason, but simply because they are obviously crap at it.

Mike @ 36 wrote:

One such case – although I’ve no idea whether Friedman ever considered it – is that of the destruction of potential wealth by act of gift. The most obvious case is that of Sir Tim Berners-Lee and html, without which none of us would be talking to each other

This and the following paragraph is utterly nonsensical. I say this only because you seem like a fairly intelligent person who can learn from his mistakes, but you’ve basically just publicly put your name to a whole set of opinions which bear no relation to reality.

TBL didn’t invent HTML out of nothing; the concept of hypertext had been around for quite a while, and HTML itself is merely a vocabulary of the pre-existing SGML standard. Creating an open standard out of it was not a special act of public spiritedness and nor did it have anything to do with his status as a public sector worker (it is hard to imagine that HTML would have been worth anything if he had sought to own the intellectual property, even if it would have been possible to do so). There has long been a system of standardising data formats for data interchange, much of this work done by corporate vendors. Would you give the same praise that you give to TBL for gifting HTML to the world to JP Morgan for doing the same with AMQP? Or were you just trying to score a point in the hope that nobody who actually understands this stuff was reading it?

Right, to repost since it got deleted last time…

Matthew:

“The view that you are better than everyone else leads to aristocracy or the kind of nannying socialism that the TaxPayers’ Alliance very much stands against.”

The trouble is that the taxpayers’ alliance isn’t asking the government or councils to spend their money better, they’re asking to be taxed less. There is some middle ground to be found on waste, but I’ve never seen the TPA be reasonable in their demands for taxation cuts. As such it’s very much seen that you are essentially wanting to keep your “own money” at the expense of those that rely on welfare and services, and potentially at the expense of things like the environment.

If that isn’t a statement of your individual needs being more important than other people’s, and thus that you are better than them, I don’t know what is.

“There is some middle ground to be found on waste, but I’ve never seen the TPA be reasonable in their demands for taxation cuts. As such it’s very much seen that you are essentially wanting to keep your “own money” at the expense of those that rely on welfare and services, and potentially at the expense of things like the environment.”

I think you are seeing things in a slightly two dimensional way there though. It is not just a question of more efficient services but also of which services can best be provided by government, and also EVEN IF government has to be involved in some way, whether it should be in the sort of unitary way that services are provided now with a ‘council’ organising everything from rubbish collections to Christmas decorations.

Why, for example, other than for historically contingent reasons, must rubbish collections be organised by local government when food provision isn’t. And to be against government spending/taxation isn’t to be opposed to the environment either. The TPA might just favour private property solutions to pollution and other environmental problems, the sort of solutions that can only emerge if government disengages. The assumption that you need government and a large bureaucracy to manage all these problems has to be challenged.

Nick, you’re right that a lot of services provided by councils could either be done better elsewhere or just left to individuals to chose, but your example is, well, easy to answer:

Why, for example, other than for historically contingent reasons, must rubbish collections be organised by local government when food provision isn’t

Everyone needs to eat. Not everyone feels the need to dispose of their rubbish properly.

Fly tipping remains a public health hazard, even with free council waste tips—my local council is looking into extending opening hours and putting signs up with maps in prominent fly tipping problem areas.

If you have to pay a private contractor to collect your rubbish, why not instead throw it over the nearest cliff or into someone else’s back garden? It became a duty of councils to collect waste when it was obvious too many people were ducking their responsibility to dispose effectively, and enforcement was pretty much impossible.

I would love to be in a society where everyone truly took responsibility for such things. But we’d need to start with things a lot closer to things people won’t obviously shirk on first.

One approach might be to mandate manufacturers and bill them for collecting their waste regardless of where it ends up—pretty sure deposit schemes on a lot of packaging, especially bottles, would soon become the norm. But even then you’d have some stuff you couldn’t deal with in that way.

“And Sally demonstrates her complete ignorance of terminology and thinks that in some way libertarian is a word that excludes being liberal.

Several contributors to this site are libertarians. I’m a type of libertarian. It’s a label applied to a certain outlook, and can have left wing, right wing and lunatic fringe adherents.”

Sorry, but I don’t believe anybody who claims they are a libertarian. I have met many such people, quite a lot in America, but they quickly show that they are not when you start asking them basic question about how much of the state they want to get rid of. Libertarians are usually all for getting rid of things they don’t approve of, but keeping their own pet projects or beliefs going.

Sorry, but I don’t believe anybody who claims they are a libertarian. I have met many such people, quite a lot in America, but they quickly show that they are not when you start asking them basic question about how much of the state they want to get rid of. Libertarians are usually all for getting rid of things they don’t approve of, but keeping their own pet projects or beliefs going.

Most so called libertarians are sanctimonious hypocrites in my opinion.

So, based on a sample of “people you’ve met” you’ve decided that there’s no such thing as a real libertarian?

FFS, don’t you see how daft a position that is?

Is Chomsky lying when he calls himself a libertarian? Chris Dillow? And how is “there’s no such thing as a real libertarian” helping your point about it being impossible to be a Lib Dem and a libertarian?

Did you even bother to read the top results of my links? The stuff by Dillow (who writes here regularly) is a fairly good overvue.

No it is not just based on people I have met, but also reading and listening to many so called libertarians. And i think most of them are frauds.

Claiming to be a libertarian is the easiest thing in the world. Any half wit can do it. Actually carrying it out , well that is the interesting bit.

“The TPA might just favour private property solutions”

They might, but in reality whenver they get the chance to say “this tax needs to be cut, why are we paying tax?!” they say it. It’s never got a deeper message, it’s always “cut tax, we don’t want to pay!”

Sally:

Well, claiming you believe something is pretty hard to carry out in practice.

They might, but in reality whenver they get the chance to say “this tax needs to be cut, why are we paying tax?!” they say it. It’s never got a deeper message, it’s always “cut tax, we don’t want to pay!”

Wow, Lee has finally said something I agree with. He has managed to climb off the fence and make a stand.

“Wow, Lee has finally said something I agree with. He has managed to climb off the fence and make a stand.”

I’m glad you’ve taken the blinkers off for a second to actually see reality. Welcome to it, maybe you can actually contribute to this site now.

I came across this thread by accident and fear that the Tax Payers Alliance research gurus sadly won’t be around to read it now, but if you are may I offer a piece of advice for free? (I’m far more public spirited than Don Paskini y’see…)

If you have a press office you should probably sack them now. If you don’t you should probably watch that episode of the West Wing where Josh gets involved in a slagging match with the Drudge Report because, frankly, this thread doesn’t make the Tax Payers Alliance look a very clever or serious organisation.

In this thread and in the one that Matthew thingie-gummie mentioned in comment 12 (http://don-paskini.blogspot.com/2008/11/taxpayers-alliance-fact-check.html) the senior researchers at the TPA seem to have admitted that they pick the economic measures that they score research against pretty much randomly from a bunch of options (“Now, you can make a reasonable case for using the GDP deflator or, I believe, the RPI. Neither is really right or wrong.”). This doesn’t exactly give the impression that the organisation does serious, hard-core research.

No doubt I’ll get responses citing very serious-minded stuff with lots initials/acronyms and calculations. I don’t care. In fact, I’d like to get a response like this from the TPA because it will demonstrate my point more eloquently than I can manage.

The fact that TPA researchers have nothing better to do than post on blogs, in between whipping off the odd press release that fails to mention what measures their research is scored against, suggests the TPA’s comms people aren’t maintaining an adequate control over the message. In turn, this suggests the TPA comms people are pretty shit.

It is possible that posting on random blogs, getting suckered into debates that appear to expose the weakness of the TPA’s research, and looking like a bunch of geeks that have nothing better to do at 1am is part of the organisation’s deliberate comms strategy. If so I think Don Paskini and his mates can rest easy.

After all, people want real help right now. The public’s not so interested in do-nothing whiners.

Well, Sally, I believe ideally in no state whatsoever, and I am a libertarian. The libertarians I hang out with tend to believe the same or believe in a minimal state (police, courts to enforce individuals basic rights and consensual contracts, a standing army depending on status of foreign relations). There is nothing especially fraudulent about holding that sort of belief. At the same time you get libertarian leaning leftists and conservatives who have a notion of the limits of government action but have a wider scope of the areas that it might have to be involved. It is probably those libertarian conservatives that you have read/met etc..

Mat – sensible points. Without a stronger sense of property rights/responsibilities, rubbish would be a difficult thing to manage without some state action. But I still think alternative solutions to monopoly provision are possible evenfrom our current circumstances.

Interestingly, there’s a parallel debate about the merits of TPA research going on at ConservativeHome – some Tories are having their own doubts. See:

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/localgovernment/2008/12/publicity-spend.html

and

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2008/12/cllr-ken-meeson.html


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