Rolf Harris – Beyond Reasonable Doubt?

JS26347022 2 Rolf Harris   Beyond Reasonable Doubt?

Rolf Harris has been convicted and for many that is conclusive proof of his guilt. However, we should not forget that the British justice system is not perfect, it can make errors, as these high profile miscarriages of justice show.

I do not know if Rolf Harris committed the crimes he was accused of. However, I find the fact that he was convicted, based on the evidence reported by the media, alarming.

Let me explain why:

COUNT ONE – VERDICT: GUILTY

“The woman said she was aged seven or eight when she queued to get an autograph from Harris at a community centre in Hampshire in 1968 or 1969. When she reached the front of the queue, Harris had touched her inappropriately with his “big hairy hands”, she told the jury.

The court heard that no evidence could be found that Mr Harris had been at the community centre. He also showed his hands to the jury and denied they were hairy.”

When they say that no evidence could be found that Mr Harris had been at the community centre, they don’t mean a cursory glance turned nothing up. They searched local newspaper archives between January 1967 and May 1974, council records and even conducted letter drops appealing for witnesses. Nothing, not a single piece of independent evidence that he was ever there!

It is hard to see how the uncorroborated recollection of an event alleged to have happened 45 years ago, when the witness was eight, can constitute proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Consider for a moment, what you can accurately remember from when you were eight? I am not as old as the witness but I can’t remember the name of my best friend, my teacher, my birthday party, frankly anything. I have a childhood scar, it must have been caused by a significant trauma. I remember it hurt and bled a lot, but I can’t remember how it happened, let alone where, when or who was with me at the time.

Even if the victim is sincere in believing her own recollection of events, she may simply be mistaken. Memory is not a flawless recording device. It is very common for people to believe they remember things that can be proven to have never happened. If you find that hard to believe there is a very good TED Talk dealing with it here and another here.

As a principle of justice it seems absurd that anyone can be convicted simply on the unsupported “evidence” of someone else accusing them of a crime.

Only a few days ago a trainee barrister was convicted of falsely accusing a former boyfriend of rape. Here is another recent case and another. People make false allegations, for many different reasons; to take revenge on a former partner or in some cases for financial gain. In this case the “victim” made $1.5 Million before admitting years later that she made the whole thing up.

Making a claim against a celebrity is a heads I win, tails I don’t lose proposition for any opportunist!

If the accuser is believed they make a huge financial windfall.  If not, they still ruin their target’s reputation (no smoke without fire) and they almost certainly won’t be charged with making a false claim.

Nobody charged the false accusers of celebrities such as Bill Roache, or Dave Lee Travis or Jimmy Tarbuck or Jim Davidson or Michael Le Vell or the footballers Nile Ranger, Christian Montano, Ellis Harrison, Loic Remy or another 11 innocent footballers here.

No one who wasn’t there can be sure what Rolf Harris did or didn’t do in this case, but I know that there is an £11m incentive for people to make up accusations and without any corroborating evidence there has to be a reasonable doubt in favour of the accused.

COUNT TWO – VERDICT: GUILTY

Another woman said she had been working as a waitress, at the age of 13 or 14, at a charity event in Cambridge in 1975 when Harris had put his arm around her shoulder.

“To start, it was a very nervous but a good feeling,” she said. “However his hand then moved and his hand went up and down my back and his hand went over my bottom and it was very firm.”

Again all we have is uncorroborated allegations.

I know that Rolf Harris said that he had never been to Cambridge and that this was shown to be a false statement, for many this was the silver bullet that proved his guilt. But, failures of  memory are not proof of indecent assault!

Remember, Rolf Harris is 84 years old and has been in show business for 60+years. He has been all over the country for various events and it is not at all unreasonable for an 84 year old man to forget having been somewhere 40 years previously.

Indeed Crime Watch presenter Sue Cook admitted she had forgotten being in the same show

If you think it through it would make no sense for Rolf Harris to deliberately lie about this.
He was not on trial for being in Cambridge and being there is not the same as committing the offence. If he knew he had been in Cambridge he would presumably know it was for a television show. In the internet age  there had to be a chance it would come to light and undermine his credibility as a witness. Why take the chance? If he didn’t believe totally that he had never been to Cambridge why not simply say, “I don’t remember being in Cambridge at that time, I travelled around a lot”

Then there is the seldom mentioned fact that the show actually took place in 1978, three years after the alleged indecent assault incident.

This would make the alleged victim 16 or 17 not the child of 13 claimed. If the accuser cannot remember whether she was a child of 13 or a teenager of 17, can we really ruin a man solely on the strength of her memory?

She also got the location wrong:

The alleged victim had suggested the event had taken place on Parker’s Piece, a large green in the centre of Cambridge.”

The show was actually filmed on Jesus Green a much larger, wooded park about a 6 minute drive north.

Capture Rolf Harris   Beyond Reasonable Doubt?

So the accuser couldn’t remember when it happened (or how old she was), she couldn’t remember where it happened and yet the jury found her 36 year old memory of the indecent assault to be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt!

When we talk about the indecent assault we are not talking about something so traumatic, like rape, that it would understandably be burned into her memory. We are talking about a 17 year old having her bottom touched in the 1970′s, a time where bottom pinching was considered mainstream enough for popular TV shows such as Are You Being Served and on billboards for respectable brands such as Fiat .

Again, nobody who wasn’t there can be sure what Rolf Harris did or didn’t do in this case, but I know that there is an £11m incentive for people to make up accusations and without any corroborating evidence there has to be a reasonable doubt in favour of the accused.

I will come back to counts 3-9, but first lets deal with:

COUNTS 10 TO 12 – VERDICTS: GUILTY

Tonya Lee was a 15-year-old on a theatre trip from Australia to the UK when, she said, the entertainer fondled her.

Ms Lee has waived the right to anonymity granted to alleged victims of sexual offences. The three charges relate to one day in May 1986.

She said he asked her to sit on his lap before moving his hand up her leg and assaulting her.

“He was moving back and forth rubbing against me,” she said. “It was very subtle, it wasn’t big movements.”

The jury heard that Harris had then patted her on the thigh and moved his hand upwards. She said she had “started to panic” and rushed to the toilet.

When she came out, she said, Harris was waiting for her and gave her “a big bear hug” before putting his hand down her top and then down her skirt.

Harris denied ever meeting Ms Lee.

It was also revealed that she had sold her story for £33,000 to an Australian TV station and a magazine. She said accepting the money had been a “huge mistake”.

Here we have the uncorroborated accusation of a woman who has already cashed in, to the tune of £33,000!

She also claimed in her evidence that the sexual assault caused her to lose six kilos in weight during the six week theatre tour. It was then proven in court that the alleged incident could only have taken place in the final week of the tour!

As the defence QC pointed out:

“Are you really saying between this alleged incident on May 30 and six days later that you lost all that weight….in six days? You have blamed the loss of weight and inability to eat upon Rolf Harris.”

At best it appears that the witness has a confused recollection of events, not surprising after 28 years, at worst she was simply lying for financial gain.

Again, we don’t know what Rolf Harris did or didn’t do in this case, but I know that there is an £11m incentive for people to make up accusations and without any corroborating evidence there has to be a reasonable doubt in favour of the accused.

The remaining allegations concern the childhood friend of Rolf Harris’ daughter Bindi.

COUNTS THREE TO NINE – VERDICTS: GUILTY

Seven of the 12 charges related to a childhood friend of Harris’s daughter Bindi. Six charges related to alleged abuse when she was aged between 13 and 15, and the seventh to when she was 19.

The court heard that the abuse began when she had been on holiday with the Harris family at the age of 13. Later, the woman said Harris had performed a sex act on her at the Harris family home, with Bindi asleep in the same room.

Further assaults took place at the Harris home and in her bedroom at her own home while her parents were downstairs, she said.

The convicted celebrity admitted having a sexual relationship with the woman – but stressed that it had been consensual and had begun after she had turned 18.

However, the relationship had “ended in a very acrimonious way,” he said.

The court was shown a letter Harris sent to the woman’s father in 1997, after the end of the relationship.

The letter said: “I fondly imagined that everything that had taken place had progressed from a feeling of love and friendship – there was no rape, no physical forcing, brutality or beating that took place.”

Here we do have actual evidence, of sexual activity between an older man and a much younger woman.

Rolf Harris admits to having a sexual relationship with her when she was 18 years old. She is now 49, so at the time Rolf Harris would have been 53, an age gap of 35 years.

To many of us such a large age gap seems unnatural, but it is certainly not unusual for famous older men to have relationships with younger women: 73 year old Patrick Stewart Recently married Sunny Ozell, 38 years his junior Michael Douglas is 25 years older than Katherine Zeta Jones. James Woods has a girlfriend 46 years his junior, Alec Baldwin’s wife is 26 years younger, Doug Hutchinson is breaking up with his wife who is 34 years younger, Woody Allen’s wife is 35 years younger than him, Dick Van Dyke’s wife is 46 years younger and the biggest age gap I could find was Hugh Heffner whose wife is 60 years his junior.

The fact that large age gap relationships make most of us uncomfortable, does not make them a crime, or evidence of sexual abuse. Some women find famous, rich or powerful men sexually attractive regardless of their age and almost all men find at least some 18 year old women sexually attractive!

The letter evidence proves a sexual relationship that we may disapprove of, however, it is not evidence of criminal activity.

If the alleged abuse started when she was 13 it was in 1978. They had, by all accounts, a consensual relationship from when she was 18 in 1983 until it was ended in the 1990′s when she was in her late twenties.

They had an adult sexual relationship for around 10 years, whatever trauma she alleges she had suffered, she had clearly forgiven him. Or could it be that there never was any abuse? At the age of 25 or 26 she was clearly an adult, so why stay in a sexual relationship with a former abuser?

The relationship ended acrimoniously, so she certainly had a motive to turn vindictive.

There are a number of issues with the statements of this witness:

Firstly, during the period of the alleged sexual assault on the family holiday, the victim kept a diary. Here we have a written record, made by the alleged victim at the time. Far from being distraught at these alleged sexual assaults the diary recalls a very happy holiday. The entry for the actual day of the alleged assault was that “The day was great”

Now it is of course possible that a diary might not contain the full details of a sexual assault, but is it really credible that the whole diary of the holiday period would portray a happy holiday and that the day of a sexual assault would be described as “great”?

Secondly the story told by the witness changed. The victim claimed in court that she had been molested twice at the side of the Harris family home. Her statement to the Police stated it had only happened once.

Thirdly, there are some other minor parts of her statement that are at best questionable. She claims one assault happened in the afternoon after sunbathing on a Jetty at the Harris home. Evidence was submitted that the Jetty is in shade from 10:00am onwards.

She claimed that she was assaulted one morning on holiday as she came out of the shower in her hotel bedroom. How would Harris have gained access to her (presumably locked) hotel bedroom while she was in the shower! Bindi testified that she shared the hotel room with her and that the only way somebody could gain access to the room was if they were let in.

There was also the testimony from Bindi about the holiday, she told the court that her father paid the two girls little attention, that the girls were stuck together like glue during the holiday and that she saw no change in her friends behaviour.

It is not disputed that the alleged victim had asked Harris for $45,000 although she disputes it was an attempt at blackmail as Harris claimed.

“The court has previously heard that she was an alcoholic by the time she was in her late 20s

There is, considerable scientific evidence that alcohol abuse is linked to confabulation (also called honest lying) where people make things up and honestly believe them

The standard of guilt in a criminal trial is supposed to be, beyond a reasonable doubt.

The only evidence is the statement of his accuser, which contradicts her own diary of the time, her previous statement to the police and the evidence of two other witnesses. (Rolf and Bindi Harris). Some of the claims also contradict common sense (appearing in a locked hotel bedroom as she was getting out of the shower, or sunbathing in the shade)

Without any corroborating evidence of under-age, on non-consensual, sexual activity can it really be beyond reasonable doubt that this could be a vindictive attack by an ex-partner, or a confabulated tale from a confessed alcoholic, or an attempt to gain financial advantage from somebody who admits previously asking the accused for money?

Some will doubtless say that even if individually these are not compelling, when taken as a whole they paint a picture of an abuser.

This is a very dangerous conclusion, lots of nonsense is still nonsense:

Many people have claimed to be abducted by aliens. Individually their accounts are not compelling, but (even though there are lots of them) taking them together they still don’t paint a picture of extra-terrestrial attack!

The media, in its orgy of “Savilization”, has been encouraging people to come forward. The press is also awash with stories of compensation for “victims”, if any social climate was perfect for false accusers to try their luck, this would be it.

I really don’t know (and nor do you!) whether Rolf Harris is an evil paedophile monster or an 84 year old national treasure who has been ruined by greedy/malicious opportunists.

I do know that if  all it takes to send a man to prison and ruin his life is an uncorroborated accusation from 45 years ago,  then no man is safe under British justice.

 75654214 line2 Rolf Harris   Beyond Reasonable Doubt?
Posted in Current Affairs | 756 Comments

In Defence of “Rape Porn”

prude 300x207 In Defence of Rape Porn

Sex is a certainly popular on the internet. 25% of all online searches are pornography related and 43% of internet users view porn online. So, like it or not, viewing pornography is a pretty main stream activity.

As a libertarian my views on pornography generally quite simple. As long as only adults are involved and nobody is forced to make it, or forced to watch it, then its none of my business. People should be free to do whatever they like, as long as they don’t harm others in the process.

David Cameron has announced that watching “Rape Porn” will become a crime.
The reason presumably is that he believes this is a particularly terrible form of pornography that does in fact harm others.

I don’t think that view stands up to logical examination for a number of reasons:

Evidence: The Facts About Exposure to Violent Pornography

Lobby organisations like  “End Violence Against Women” and sensationalist news rags like the Daily Mail repeatedly claim that watching violent pornography increases sexual abuse and rape by men.

However, the scientific evidence has stubbornly refused to play along with this view:

U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970) found no evidence of a causal link between pornography and rape

Pornography and rape: theory and practice? Evidence from crime data in four countries where pornography is easily available” (1991) B Kutchinsky

Examined what happened to the rape statistics in four countries (USA, Denmark, West Germany and Sweden) during periods where the availability of violent pornography went from extreme scarcity to relative abundance.

Quoting the report: “The results showed that in none of the countries did rape increase more than nonsexual violent crimes. This finding in itself would seem sufficient to discard the hypothesis that pornography causes rape

More detail on the incidence of rape in the USA during the internet “porn explosion” can be seen in the graph below, taken from Anthony D’Amato, a Professor at Northwestern University’s Law School, essay titled Porn up, rape down Capture 300x217 In Defence of Rape Porn

Another research paper, “Pornography and sex crimes in the Czech Republic” (2011) found:

“Following the effects of a new law in the Czech Republic that allowed pornography to a society previously having forbidden it allowed us to monitor the change in sex related crime that followed the change.

As found in all other countries in which the phenomenon has been studied, rape and other sex crimes did not increase.

Of particular note is that this country, like Denmark and Japan, had a prolonged interval during which possession of child pornography was not illegal and, like those other countries, showed a significant decrease in the incidence of child sex abuse.”

These studies show the exact opposite of what is being claimed. Increases in pornography seem to reduce the incidence of sex crimes. The evidence supports the common sense idea that pornography acts as a substitute for, and not a promoter of, sexual violence.

 Double Standards For Men and Women

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Whether the puritans or the feminists like it or not, it is a fact that many women enjoy rape fantasies as explained by this female journalist.

Erotic literature such as Fifty Shades of Grey featuring bondage, spanking, hair pulling, fisting and pinwheeling generated sales of over £10M in six months, to a predominantly female audience.

On a more scientific level, a 1988 study by Pelletier and Herold found that over half of their female respondents had fantasies of forced sex.

Nobody (quite rightly) suggests that women who expose themselves to this sort of “violent porn” literature, or who engage in sexual fantasies of rape are more likely to go out and put themselves into situations where they will be raped.

People clearly understand that there is a world of difference between enjoying rape as a sexual fantasy and the violent, painful reality of actual rape.

The same reasoning must logically apply to men who enjoy rape fantasy and rape porn. There is a world of difference between enjoying rape as a sexual fantasy and the violent reality of actual raping another human being.

To assert that women can enjoy rape fantasy, porn and violent BDSM literature without harm because they understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but men do not is nothing more than misandry 

Enforcement: The Problem of Defining “Rape Porn”

The legal definition of rape covers a number of circumstances. High street sex shops such as the fairly respectable Ann Summers sell naughty schoolgirl outfits, but presumably watching porn featuring such outfits would risk a prison sentence as representing sex with a schoolgirl is representing sex with an under age girl and therefore rape.

What if the actress is 18 years old but in the authorities opinion she looks younger than 16, could this be “rape porn”

What about porn featuring people who are pretending to be drunk. The legal definition of rape means that if someone appears to be too drunk to give consent it is “rape porn”.

Then we have the problem of Hollywood movies featuring rape. If you have a copy of Oscar winning Hollywood film The Accused or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in your DVD collection are you in possession of “rape porn” ?

David Cameron was unable to define pornography, so who can be 100% sure?

Before falling into the naive trap of assuming that the authorities will use good judgement to decide what constitutes “rape porn”, consider the case of Simon Walsh and his spurious prosecution for possessing “extreme pornography” under Section 63 of the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act.

Consistency: Watch Simulated Violent Murder But Not Simulated Violent Sex

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If people genuinely believe that watching images encourages people to act out what they see, then why is there no outcry to ban horror movies?

Extreme horror movies often depict cannibalism, torture, mutilation and gruesome murder from beginning to end and yet people seem perfectly capable of recognising them as simple escapism.

Indeed if we were to accept the premise that underlies the demands to ban “Rape Porn” then it is a very small step to demand that we remove all violence from television, then all bad language and anti-social behaviour, then all people smoking drinking or eating junk food. Ultimately total state control of the media and the internet.

Whether it floats your boat or not, there is no reason to ban “rape porn”

 

Posted in Current Affairs, General Principles | 5 Comments

Passing Anti-Freedom Laws – Sheeple Manipulation Made Simple

like sheeple like sheep 300x240 Passing Anti Freedom Laws   Sheeple Manipulation Made Simple

The state appears to have a tried and tested method of getting public approval for laws or regulations that the take away our freedoms:

This is the approach that works so well, both historically and today:

Step 1:
Identify issues that invoke outrage, fear or other powerful emotional responses in the public

Step 2:
Wait until a particularly heinous event of the type identified in step 1 occurs, or engineer/invent a suitable event

Step 3:
Allow the popular press to sensationalize and simplify the issues, while whipping the public into a suitably outraged or terrified frenzy, demanding “Something must be done!”

Step 4:
Propose a law or regulations to “Address The Problem” The actual law will in fact take away the freedoms that the state objects to.

Let’s see how it works in practice, starting with one of the states favourite “Hobgoblins” -attacks by terrorist groups. Now terrorism is certainly real, but to put it in context in 2011 you were 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist, 12 times more likely die by accidental suffocation in bed! You are in fact almost 3 times more likely to be killed by a lightening strike! 

The Reichstag fire Berlin on 27 February 1933

1. The issue used, fear of terrorist attacks

2. The German parliament (Reichstag) caught fire, probably as a result of an arson attack by the communists. (Although in 1946, Hans Gisevius, a former member of the Gestapo, indicated that the Nazis were the actual arsonists)

3. Prussian Press Service reports “This act of incendiarism is the most monstrous act of terrorism carried out by Bolshevism in Germany” The Vossische Zeitung newspaper warned its readers that “the government is of the opinion that the situation is such that a danger to the state and nation existed and still exists”

4. The day after the fire Hitler asked for and received from President Hindenburg the Reichstag Fire Decree, signed into law by Hindenburg using Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution: “Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of (opinion) expression, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications. Warrants for House searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

The 9/11 Attacks on the World Trade Centre

1. The issue used, fear of terrorist attacks

2. Two hijacked planes flown into the World Trade Centre in New York, causing the buildings to collapse and thousands of innocent workers and emergency services personnel killed. Al Qaida are widely accepted as having been responsible, but many Conspiracy theories question if the US Government was involved.

3. The event was so horrendous that factual press reporting was enough to concentrate legitimate outrage. However, most US headlines use the phrase “War” versus virtually none that use the more obvious word “Murder”. The Bush administration was very quick to link Saddam Hussein and Iraq to the attack. Despite the fact that Iraq was not involved 4 out of 10 Americans still think the War in Iraq was retaliation for 9/11

4. The US PATRIOT Act was rushed through Congress in just 6 weeks, becoming law on October 26th 2011. Containing 132 pages, it was according to Senators not read.
The Act sweeps away many freedoms including

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: Government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity to assist terror investigation.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Government has closed once-public immigration hearings, has secretly detained hundreds of people without charges, and has encouraged bureaucrats to resist public records requests.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Government may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.

RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION: Government may monitor federal prison jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients, and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes.

FREEDOM FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES: Government may search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigation.

RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL: Government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.

RIGHT TO LIBERTY: Americans may be jailed without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them.

and the US Government has not been slow to use the provisions of the Act against non-terrorists

Another favourite issue, callously used by the State is Paedophile Murder. Again this is a real issue, but putting the figures in context a child is far more likely to be killed riding a horse, playing football or even being a passenger in a car.

The Murders of April Jones and Tia Sharp

1. The issue used, fear our children will be murdered by a Paedophile

2. April Jones  disappeared on 1 October 2012, after being sighted getting into a vehicle near her home. A 46-year-old local man, Mark Bridger, was subsequently arrested and charged with Jones’ abduction and murder. Tia Sharp was reported missing from the home of her grandmother in London, in August 2012. Police discovered her body in the loft of the house seven days later, Stuart Hazell a former boyfriend of Tia’s mother was charged with Tia’s murder.

3. The press simply assume that watching porn caused the murders. Psychologists have been trying to demonstrate that violent porn increases rape for many years, both with direct experiments and statistical analysis. They repeatedly, find that there is no such link there is even evidence that watching porn acts a substitute and reduces the incidence of sexual crimes. 

4. David Cameron announces a raft of measures, designed presumably to ‘protect us from child murderers” but instead amounting to default Internet Censorship (Not of Child Pornogrpahy, that is already illegal) but any pornography and sites that involve: Smoking, Alcohol, Web Forums, Anorexia, Suicide and other sites deemed offensive. Backed with the threat of legislation if the ISP’s don’t tow the line. The next step, following the Australian experience will be to block the sites of political groups and down the slippery slope to the sort of government censorship common in less democratic countries.

Other examples of scandals used in attempts to remove fundamental freedoms include:

The “Phone Hacking Scandal” and attacks on freedom of the press and the “Parliamentary Lobbying Scandal” and  attacks on the freedom of trade unions

When it comes to taking away our liberty, there is nothing the state likes more than a Tragedy/Horror/Scandal to outrage the sheeple and get them bleating for “something to be done”!

Unfortunately, as often as not, the something is done to them, rather than for them.

Posted in General Principles | 1 Comment

The Scale of UK Government Debt Explained

Politicians are more than happy to throw around terms like £Billion and £Trillion when talking about Government spending or debt. (Although many don’t know the difference between the deficit and the debt)

At the time of writing The UK Government debt is around £1.2 Trillion.

But what on Earth is a Trillion, what exactly does £1.2 Trillion look like ?

Lets start with something that we all recognise, the £50 note. The highest value unit of currency we have in a physical form. Most of us would agree a £50 note is quite a large amount of money, but physically it is very thin (0.113mm to be exact).

So let’s see how big a stack of these valuable £50 notes you need for a Million, a Billion and finally our UK Government’s debt of 1.2 Trillion…

A £1 Million stack of £50 notes would be 2.26m (7ft 5 inches) high
Which is about the height of a very tall professional basketball player:

Pavel Podkolzin The Scale of UK Government Debt Explained

A £1 Billion stack of £50 notes would be 2.26km high (1.4 Miles)
Which is the height of 5.1 Empire State Buildings stacked one on top of the other:

 The Scale of UK Government Debt Explained

A £1.2 Trillion stack of £50 notes would be 2,712 km high (1,685 Miles)
Which is the height of 306 Mount Everests stacked on top of each other

800px Comparison of highest mountains.svg The Scale of UK Government Debt Explained

If you were the lay the £1.2 Trillion stack of £50 notes on the ground it would reach from London to Reykjavik:

 The Scale of UK Government Debt Explained

You might find it easier to relate to time rather than distance, if so, imagine you were told to shred one of the £50 notes every second; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

You might think you would get through it fairly quickly as you would destroy:

£3,000 a minute
£180,000 an hour
£4.32 Million per day

However, it would actually take you 761 years to get through them all:

Well actually longer now, because in the time its taken you to read this article the debt has increased again:

Posted in Current Affairs | 2 Comments

“Rape is Rape” – or is it?

Eddie Shah has caused outrage by daring to call into question the politically correct and widely accepted mantra that “Rape is Rape”. The same outrage that we heard when Ken Clarke said virtually the same thing back in May 2011.

A key benefit of free speech and internet anonymity is that you can objectively analyse such contentious issues, and even dare to reach an unpopular conclusion, without running the risk of being run out of town by the outraged/offended mob.

So is it true that “Rape is Rape”?
(Including its inferred conclusion, that all rapists should be treated equally severely)

Because this is an issue that arouses such mind-fogging passions, let’s start by examining what we mean generally by the statement “Something is Something”.

We might mean that the two things are identical i.e.

2 is 2 or, as Ayn Rand might prefer  A is A.

In this tautological sense the statement “rape is rape” is true, but it tells us nothing about how we should deal with it. Not only is it true by this logic that “rape=rape”, it is also true that “crime=crime” and that “human action=human action”.

Nobody would seriously suggest that all criminals should be dealt with the same because “crime = crime” (with the possible exception of Draco).

The person who parks on a double yellow line and the serial killer are clearly morally different and deserving of different punishments in any rational legal system. Taking it even further if we must treat all human actions the same because “human action = human action” then the murderer and the life-saver are morally no different!

Clearly this cannot be what advocates of the doctrine “Rape = Rape” mean.

The other sense that we use “Something is Something” statements is slightly more subtle and means;

An entity is a member of a group (and therefore we can infer it has all the properties that define the group.)

This is the meaning that I believe the “Rape is Rape” advocates have in mind. What they are trying to articulate is the following argument:

Premise 1: This specific rape is a member of the group of actions called rape

Premise 2: It is a defining characteristic of the group of actions called rape that they are all terrible crimes

Premise 3: All terrible crimes should be punished equally severely

Therefore:

Conclusion: This rape should be punished equally severely with all other rapes

However in this argument, premise 2 is demonstrably false.

The definition of rape does not explicitly require the attribute “terrible crime”, the definition is simply: Sexual penetration without legal consent. This covers a wide range of different circumstances, some of which are clearly terrible crimes, other acts caught by the definition are not particularly terrible at all.

At the most terrible end of the spectrum you have the stranger who snatches and aggressively penetrates a woman, overpowering her physical resistance with violence.
(What most people are thinking of when they use the term “rape” in everyday language. What Ken Clarke referred to as “serious rape” and what Eddy Shah termed “Rape” Rape)

At the least terrible end of the spectrum you have the emotionally mature 15 year (and 364 days) old girl, engaged in enthusiastic and willing first time sex her with her 16 year old, long term boyfriend.

Or

The horny husband who lovingly wakes his highly sexually demanding wife with gentle penetration, without waking her up to gain explicit consent first.

(What Eddy Shah calls “Technical Rapes”)

If you really think these acts are equally terrible crimes then your moral compass must have been hijacked by the Feminazi movement.

I have deliberately dealt with the two extreme ends of the spectrum to demonstrate the logical error as clearly as possible, but many real cases fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Certainly more terrible than a teenagers assignation, but also less terrible than brutal abduction and violent forced sex by a stranger:

Examples quoted by Clark and Shah were date rape, the circumstances of which are not always clear cut, or a 15 year old girl (40% of who are already sexually active) who may look like she is in her 20′s,  lies about her age, and willingly engages in sex with an older celebrity.

With such a wide range of different circumstances caught by the legal definition of rape, it makes no more sense to treat all rapes exactly the same as it does to treat all crimes exactly the same.

To be crystal clear to those in the outraged/offended mob, who cannot follow a reasoned argument, but are never-the-less rushing to put on their white hooded cloaks and tweet death threats to me:

I am not for one moment suggesting that legal rape is not usually a terrible crime and deserving of the severest punishment, nor am I saying that cases that fall in the middle of the severity spectrum are not serious or that those convicted should not be be punished.

I am simply saying that there is no logical case for treating all actions legally defined as rape the same, without reference to the specific circumstances of the case. The worst offenders should get the worst punishments, the less worse offenders a less worse punishment.

People who blindly support the “Rape is Rape” position are probably committing the fallacy of equivocation and conflating their mental image of rape (violent forced sex by a stranger) with the legal definition of rape (any sexual penetration without prior legal consent).

In reality, the argument (and its unspoken implication that all rapists should be treated the same) has no rational foundation or logical underpinning.

Posted in General Principles | 26 Comments

75% of my £500 bonus went on Income Tax, VAT, Duty, Etc – How Much is a “Fair Share” ?

Lets Imagine I am a top rate taxpayer and I receive a £500 bonus, if I spend it all, how much goes into the real economy to buy goods and how much is taken by the government in taxes, duties, etc as its “Fair Share”:

     Tax     Goods 
Bonus  £  500.00
Income Tax -£ 250.00  £  250.00
National Insurance -£    10.00  £    10.00
Cash Received  £  240.00
Fill Car
Petrol -£    21.04  £    21.04
Fuel Duty -£    21.08  £    21.08
VAT -£      8.42  £      8.42
Buy Pack Cigarretes
Cigarrettes -£      1.64  £      1.64
Tax -£      5.83  £      5.83
Buy 2 Bottles of Whisky
Single Malt Whisky -£    35.00  £    35.00
Tax -£    25.00  £    25.00
Buy gift for wife
Cost of Gift -£ 101.66  £  101.66
VAT -£    20.33  £    20.33
 £           -  £  340.66  £  159.34
68.1% 31.9%

So it would appear that a “fair share” for the state of my hard earned £500 bonus is 68.1% ?

But, that’s not the whole story, because the £159.34 of “goods” is paid to the companies that produce them and a good part of the cost of those goods is made up of tax.

Assume that the companies involved pay 50% for materials, 40% for Labour and make a 10% pre tax profit:

Revenue  £ 159.34
 Tax   Goods  
Materials -£  79.67  £  79.67
Net Pay To Workers -£  45.79  £  45.79
PAYE -£  11.45  £  11.45
Employers NI -£    5.95  £    5.95
Employees NI -£    0.55  £    0.55
Pre Tax Profit  £   15.93
Tax -£    3.19  £    3.19
Dividends  £   12.75
Income Tax on Dividends -£    1.27  £    1.27
Dividends Received  £   11.47
 £    22.41  £ 136.93
14.1% 85.9%

So the state’s “fair share” is up to (£22.41+£340.66)/£500 = 72.6%

But there is more:

The raw materials of £79.67 purchased by the companies represent the revenue of the companies for whom the raw materials are the outputs and are increased in cost because of tax. So assume 14.1% of that amount also goes in tax, another £11.15 for the state.

(£22.41+£340.66+11.15)/£500 = 74.8%

Allowing for the fact that this process continues further still down the supply chain  It does not seem unreasonable to assume that ultimately the state will take 75%+ of the bonus.

I get to keep just 25% of the value in free market goods and services and the state takes the rest. Yet, still the left demand higher taxes so I pay my “Fair Share”!

 

Posted in General Principles | 4 Comments

The Libertarian Criminal Legal System

This is my final post in answering @simonr916 questions on the practicalities of a libertarian legal system which looks at the mechanics of a free market criminal law system.

To cover all the theoretical nuances is simply not possible in a single blog post. For anyone wanting to study this area in depth I highly recommend: “Anarchy and the Law” which is a fantastic collection of essays on the subject by a number of leading libertarian thinkers.

I am including links to the text and audio or video material to make it a bit easier to digest for those who don;t want to read it all.

A good place to start is Morris & Linda Tannehill:  Chapter 9: The Market for Liberty

Followed by Rothbard – Police, Law & Courts, Chapter 12: For a New Liberty

David Friedmann – Police Courts & laws on the market. Part 3 II – The Machinery of Freedom


There are also a number of societies throughout history that have operated forms of private law without a state. The most interesting ones are:

Iceland between the 10th and 13th Centuries

Irish Celtic Brehon Law from the bronze age right through to the early 17th century

Kapauku Papuans of West New Guinea

 

Posted in General Principles | 1 Comment

Libertarian View of Crimes & Criminal Justice

@simonr916 raised some questions about how could the law, police, courts, etc function in a libertarian society. I dealt with the issue of civil law in my previous post and now move on to criminal law.

Before tackling possible mechanisms of implementing a libertarian criminal justice system (Which I will do on the next post) I need to clarify how libertarians define crime and criminal justice.

What is a crime?

The only things that are considered crimes in a libertarian society are violations of the Non Aggression Principle. The invasion of private property (including the person) using force or the threat of force.

So, crimes include, murder, assault, rape, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, fraud, etc.

Many things that are considered crimes in the statist world are not criminal to the libertarian.

“Victimless Crimes” are not considered crimes in a libertarian society, so taking recreational drugs, driving without a seat belt, smoking in a business establishment if the owner gives permission, unforced prostitution, consumption of pornography, polygamy, etc are not crimes.

Exercising legitimate property rights is not a crime, so refusing to allow people onto your property, even if based on racism, sexism, homophobia or a hatred of people in blue boots, is not a crime. Owning an assault rifle is not a crime, growing drugs is not a crime. Exercising free speech that others find offensive is not a crime.

What is Criminal Justice

In the statist world the criminal commits crimes against the state. He is tried by the state, pays fines to the state and is, in some cases, imprisoned by the state. The principles guiding the state are punishment for the offence, deterrence of other offenders and rehabilitation of the offender back into society.

Libertarian justice in contrast is guided by the principle of restitution. The criminal has wronged the victims and has to make good that wrong, not to “society” but directly to the victim(s). The costs of administering justice, and creating deterrence are also borne by the criminal.

The difference is best explained with an example.

An man robs a pensioner of her life savings of £25,000.

In the statist system he is sentenced to 4 years in prison. After 2 years in prison, if he behaves, his “debt to society” has been discharged and he is free to go. If he has been successful at hiding his loot, he can enjoy his ill gotten gains. The pensioner has still lost her life savings and innocent members of society have had to pay to catch, prosecute and incarcerate him.

In the libertarian system he is “sentenced” to repay the victim the £25,000 plus compensation for her distress, the costs of catching and trying him and an amount to deter other criminals. The criminals assets are sold off and he is detained and put to work until the victim is restored and compensated and all the costs of the crime are paid for. The victim is fully compensated, no innocent members of society are forced to pay anything and all the costs of the crime are suffered by the criminal.

Now we are clear on what libertarians mean by a crime and criminal justice, we can move on to look at how a private system of criminal law enforcement would operate.

For a more in depth exposition try this

 

Words by Murray Rothbard

Posted in General Principles | 13 Comments

Questions For Libertarians – How Would Civil Law Work?

A couple of questions on this from @simonr916

In a minarchist state:

How would such a government come into being and who would
run and administer this organisation? How would decisions on spending money be made? Who would draft the laws, choose the judges, appoint the police officers and so on?

Alternatively In an Anarcho-Capitalist Society:

In such a country, each man would be left to defend his own property and rights. You’d live in constant fear of a larger, or better armed, group taking your property by force. If you choose to have no government, how does the honest man protect his property from those who wish to take it?

I am going to deal with this in a slightly different way because the first set of questions are also important in an Anarcho-Capitalistic society. The questions really boil down to how would a system of law operate in a libertarian society and how would laws be enforced.

There are two distinct types of law, civil law relating to the enforcement of agreements such as contracts and criminal law relating to violations of property rights (including the physical person). I will address civil law in this post and criminal law in the next.

Civil Law in a Libertarian Society

In a libertarian society people would be free to contract under any set of rules they agree on. To a large extent such a system of multiple legal systems already operates. It is quite common in commercial contracts between businesses operating in different countries (which have different legal systems) to include a contract clause that says the contract is to be construed in accordance with the laws of for example, England & Wales or Switzerland. The only difference in a libertarian society is that rather than being restricted to the laws passed by geographic states, they would be free to select the laws drafted by private businesses, such as The National Legal Services Company or the Association of Wine Merchants.

One of the benefits is that the laws could be very specific to the trade in question and being drafted by industry experts on both sides, would be likely to function far more effectively in line with the parties needs and expectations than a generic set of laws applying to the geographic area controlled by the state.

In the event of a dispute the conflict could be adjudicated on by any one of a number of private courts. Again this is already taking place. Many contracts already specify the use of  private arbitration companies, rather than courts. Usually because they are quicker and less expensive.

So to answer some of the questions raised, the laws are drafted by private companies, the courts are run as private companies and the judges/arbitrators are appointed by private companies. Market forces work to continually improve the quality of all parts. Since both sides have to agree to any law, or any court they must continually strive to be as balanced and as fair as possible.

In the state system if a particular judge has a prejudice against dairy farmers they have no choice but to suffer the prejudice. The judge has a state ordained monopoly on the administration of justice in his court. In a free market system, such a judge would simply not get any of the dairy farmers business. A totally partisan judge would go bankrupt!

Since the parties involved bear the costs they must continually strive to be efficient or a lower cost competitor may take their business. Courts that start at 10:00am and finish at 3:00pm would be replaced by courts that optimize their operations to reduce the costs to their clients.

How could the judgements of such private courts be enforced? In the current system if one party ignores the ruling of binding arbitration the state courts and the officers of the state will coerce them to comply. If there is no state, to threaten violence how will judgements be  enforced?

The answer is simple. Those who do not obey a ruling of a private arbitration court are simply blacklisted by the entire private arbitration system and publicly named and shamed.  Who would risk making a contract with another party who cannot have any dispute resolved by a third paty impartial judge and who is known not to honor rulings made by arbitration? It would simply be commercial suicide for anyone to flout such a ruling as they would be ostracizing themselves from the dispute resolution procedure required to trade. (In the event of fraud or other criminal activity additional options are open to the victim as for any crime, which are covered in the following post.)

Such a system is not just theoretically possible but historically mercantile law was developed and enforced by private merchant courts as was admirality law, before the state claimed sole jurisdiction. Perhaps a more recent example of a self regulating commercial community is Ebay. Anyone who cheats customers receives negative feedback which makes it, at best much more difficult, at worst impossible to continue to trade with other members of the community.

Most transactions covered by the civil law would be business to business transactions, but this branch of the law also covers the case of consumers buying from businesses.

What about the “poor”?

How can they pay for private arbitration, if a large corporation breaks the terms of its agreement with them to provide, for example a new satellite dish?

There are several options:

Insurance would be available in the free market to cover the costs. Annual legal insurance for £50,000 can be purchased today for £20 a year (5.5p a day) and the price would be much lower under a more cost efficient private arbitration system. This should be within the reach of all but the very poorest. Without a state funded legal system awareness of the importance of such insurance would be high.

Reputable sellers would include the offer of funded arbitration proceedings in the terms and conditions of their offering to demonstrate their confidence in the high quality of their products or services. The poor could restrict their purchases to only vendors offering this protection.

No win, no fee arrangements where a proportion of any damages are paid out to the person taking the case to arbitration would be very common in a libertarian legal system.

Charitable or pro-bono legal representation would also be available to many, as it is today.

For commercial/civil laws there is clearly no need for the state to be involved.

Posted in General Principles | 8 Comments

Questions For Libertarians – Isn’t it inevitable that inequality will increase with every generation

The next question from @simonr916

“Will a Libertarian world not become more and more unequal
as each generation further entrenches the privilege of the few?

Those people who have been successful will naturally wish to give their own children advantages and protections in life. They will pay for education, help their children develop networks of useful contacts, give them resources to use as capital and so on.

Those who were not successful will not be able to do things. Their own children – through chance of birth and no fault of their own – will have much less chance of success, even if they are hard working and clever. They will, of course, have no state education or welfare support.

Many of the most successful people in society have ‘pulled themselves up by the bootstraps’. Poverty is a great motivator. These people do this through hard work and ability, but they also require opportunity– whether that be a state education (which may allow them to shine and
achieve a bursary for higher education), or a public library for
research, or a small amount of capital to start their own business, or welfare support so that every moment isn’t dedicated to base survival”

It is certainly true that each of us has different opportunities, resources and abilities. The children of attractive parents are more likely to be born attractive, the children of intelligent parents are more likely to be born intelligent and the children of rich parents are more likely to have capital to start their way in life.

However, the relationships are complex. Regression to the mean dictates that the children of highly intelligent parents will not be quite as intelligent as their parents, children of highly attractive parents will not be quite as attractive. Over the generations the children tend to revert to the mean.

Many millionaires feel that to give large quantities of unearned wealth to their children would do them more harm than good and leave their fortune to charities instead.

Many who receive large amounts of unearned income lose it all in a remarkably short period of time. According to some sources 1/3 of lottery winners declare bankruptcy 

I can see two possible arguments in your comments:

1. Inequality would increase simply because inherited wealth accumulates
2. Inequality would increase because opportunities for those without any inherited wealth would disappear.

If the first argument were true, it would also be true, albeit at a slower rate, in any society that did not have a 100% inheritance tax.

We have had countless generations without such a tax and yet 80% of millionaires are the first generation of their family to become wealthy!

The reality is that inherited wealth is more likely to be dissipated by inept children than grown further for the grand children. The saying cloggs to cloggs in three generations or the Saudi version: “My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet airplane. His son will ride a camel” reflect the fact that 9 out of 10 wealthy families lose their wealth by the third generation.

The second possible argument makes the unjustified assumption that without state support there would be no opportunities for those born without wealth.

To equate no state education with no education, no public libraries with no libraries and no inherited capital to start a business with no capital to start a business is simply an error.

Private schools already offer scholarships to bright pupils who cannot afford the fees.
Free education at university level is available online at places like Khan Academy , Coursera and Itunes U . There are thousands of digital books available free for kindle users. It is highly likely that low cost education would be available using shared computers, kindles and online resources such as these once the state monopoly on education was removed. Parents and local communities would also club together to provide access to these resources and charities promoting education and industry sponsored schools would also likely be supported for the very poorest.

As a society we value the importance of education, it is in the interests of parents, children, employers, etc so the idea that it would not exist without the state is simply wrong. The free market and charity can do anything the state can do, usually better and more cheaply.

The idea that without inherited capital you cannot start a business is also simply wrong. The traditional way to acquire capital is to save. Work as much as possible, spend as little as possible and save the difference.

If you have a good enough idea you can bring in outside investors for a share of the business, or you can borrow money and pay interest on the loan.

I had no inherited capital but formed a business through personal savings an external investor and some money borrowed on a credit card.

It is therefore not inevitable that inequality would increase with every generation in a libertarian society. As long as opportunity is not crushed at the bottom end of the wealth scale it would not matter if it did. Wealth is not a fixed pie to be divided up, but an infinitely expandable pie with plenty for all who contribute.

As a libertarian the fact that others have been much more successful than me is not a cause for concern but a challenge to do better myself having had my eyes opened to what is possible.

 

Posted in General Principles | 3 Comments