Wednesday 18 November 2020

A Doctor Writes (it's Toby Young)

"Day by day, the coronavirus edges ever closer to extinction. Time to get back to normal"

Yes folks, Toby Young, noted medic and epidemioligist, mathemetician of distinctiveness, has just tweeted another idiocy, made in a Daily Mail article (so I haven't read it).

The 0.1% is a repetition of a dubious claim made in a Telegraph article of 25th June 2020 where nork-loving Tobez told us that "It's becoming clear that the social distancing rules – even if the new one-metre rule – are unnecessary."

Friday 13 November 2020

We have one last chance to stop Britain's descent into a post-Covid socialist nightmare

Allister Heath, editor of the Sunday Telegraph, channels Senator Joe McCarthy in one of his rare but always naff editorials.

The man who gave us "America’s class war election should be a wake-up call for Boris Johnson" a fortnight ago goes full commie dogwhistle with his latest effort. Splendid stuff, reproduced below for your entertainment.

This ought to be a time for hope, for optimism, for celebration even, and yet it is hard to shake off a sense of impending doom. The end of the Covid emergency is finally in sight, but that doesn't mean that all will soon be for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

Yes, the vaccines may allow Britain to return to a society with most of the trappings of normality, hopefully by the spring. But that is where the Panglossian vision ends. It is never possible for a traumatised country entirely to turn back the clock, vaccine or no vaccine, and any politician presuming otherwise is in for a terrible shock. We will emerge from lockdown a permanently scarred country. The old Britain is gone, replaced by a jaded, poorer, more indebted, more risk-averse and, above all, more collectivist economy.

The story of the past nine months all over the Western world is one of state failure on a colossal scale, ended only by the extraordinary capitalist miracle that is Big Pharma: the script could almost have been written by Ludwig von Mises or Ayn Rand. Yet this risks not making any difference to the Left-wards, socialist shift triggered by the virus and our response to it.

Swept up by a tornado of unintended consequences, we are on course for permanently higher taxes, more red tape, greater paternalism and less freedom. This will apply across the developed world, of course, with the national debts of France, Spain and Italy all soaring by roughly the same amount as ours. But the difference is that Britain, as the least social-democratic and the most culturally entrepreneurial and risk-taking of all the large European nations, has the most to lose from the trend to higher taxes and less individual responsibility.

The British economy may well return to the size it was before the virus struck by late 2021 or early 2022, but that would still leave it 2-3 per cent smaller than it would have been in the absence of the coronavirus and the accompanying lockdowns. That missing growth will never be caught up, punching a permanent hole in the public finances.

The answer, as far as the Resolution Foundation, a purveyor of the centre-Left technocratic consensus in economic policy, is concerned, is eye-watering tax hikes, a move which would further depress long-term growth. In time, at that rate, we would become a self-governing version of Italy: a country that has stagnated for two decades.

The dream of a dynamic, post-Brexit buccaneering Britain would be dead and buried: there is no path for the UK to thrive, no combination of other ingenious Tory policies that can save us if our tax and spending levels end up at Continental levels. Forget about levelling up: we would end up dragged down to the level of the worst-performing European nations unless we begin to react very differently.

There is sadly as yet no sign of that. The report from the Office for Tax Simplification on capital gains tax (CGT) is predictably grim: it was commissioned by the Treasury and calls for a large increase in the tax's scope, including on owners of small businesses and private investors. A raid on the petite bourgeoisie and capital in general can only reduce Britain's performance further. It is true that the current system is broken, and unfair in many ways, but there are ways of fixing it that don't lead to the double or triple taxation of some income and that don't chase billions of pounds out of the UK.

The 2020 Tax Commission, an optimistically named body that I chaired and which published a comprehensive report eight years ago, recommended the total abolition of capital gains tax, replacing it (and several other levies) with a flat tax of 30 per cent on all income from capital (dividends and rents) and labour (pay and bonuses). That is the sort of reform we should be looking at after Covid, but it would require public spending to be forced back down (the Tax Commission called for 35 per cent of GDP.)

It's not just the spectre of post-Covid tax hikes that threatens to finally destroy what is left of the Thatcherite-Blairite-Cameroon consensus. The scale and duration of furlough – a necessary policy given lockdown – means that millions are now addicted to free money. There is widespread lockdown Stockholm syndrome: a JL Partners poll finds that 48 per cent of the public don't want restrictions to be lifted even when a vaccine is rolled out.

The culture has changed: Britain now loves and expects a bailout. Welfarism has gone mainstream, as has the idea that the Government doesn't have a budget constraint, and that the Bank of England can simply print money. Lockdown has made self-employment and small business creation less attractive, and working for the state a lot more so.

At some point, the Government must remake the case for self-reliance. In the meantime, it is struggling to fend off ever-louder calls for an extension of the welfare state. First it was free school meals, next it will be unemployment and then every other kind of benefit. Other reforms are also under threat, including the drive to increase standards in schools.

But while the situation is grim, both Right and Left should avoid descending into a defeatist declinism of a sort last seen in the Seventies. Remainers believe that Britain is doomed because of Brexit, and many Brexiteers that we are doomed because of Covid, a social-democratic drift and the Government's environmentalist obsession, all of which they fear will prevent us from leveraging our strengths and making the most of our newfound independence. Both sides can and must still be proved wrong.

But that requires the Government, next year, to come up with an entirely new economic strategy that goes further than simply spending borrowed money on Northern infrastructure. It must seek to undo the damage from Covid and to bolster our competitiveness.

We need a plan to reboot all of Britain, to reignite our animal spirits, to attract foreign investment, to create millions of new firms, to increase our trend rate of GDP growth and, above all, to cut the state down to size. The Government may not wish to call this austerity, but it is Britain's last chance to fight off the spectre of post-Covid socialism.