Tag: United Kingdom

Michael Savage: Still Banned in the UK

In my Policy Analysis “Attack of the Utility Monsters,” I noted that U.S. talk radio host Michael Savage had been preemptively banned from entering the United Kingdom, for fear that he would incite hatred on arrival. I also noted that the ban had been rescinded – which, anyway, it appeared to have been at the time. Today I read that Savage’s travel ban is back on again.

What had Savage done that was so terrible? I’m not exactly sure, but here are some things that he’s said:

On homosexuality, he once said: “The gay and lesbian mafia wants our children. If it can win their souls and their minds, it knows their bodies will follow.”

Another of his pet topics is autism, which he claims is a result of “brats” without fathers.

He has also made comments about killing Muslims, although in one broadcast he cited extremists’ desires to execute gays as a reason for deporting them.

None are sentiments I agree with. In fact, I think all of them range somewhere from foolish to idiotic. Which is exactly why I’d welcome Michael Savage into a liberal, tolerant society: Let him contend with his betters, and he will lose. Treat him like a danger, and the tolerant society will appear weak – and intolerant.

Where’s Our Bailout Vote?

It’s easy to forget that the financial crisis was not simply one of American financial institutions getting into trouble; banks around the world found themselves on the brink of failure.  One of the more interesting cases is Landsbankinn, a privately owned bank in Iceland.  Landsbankinn also operated a branch in Britain and the Netherlands called “Icesave.”  When Icesave failed in 2008, the British government rushed in and covered the deposits of its British savers — a move that was neither requested by Landsbankinn or the government of Iceland.  Now the Brits are demanding that Iceland pay them to cover those expenses.

For a brief moment it looked like that was exactly what was going to happen, as the legislature in Iceland passed a bill to pay off the Brits.  Sensing the public opposition, Iceland’s president blocked the bill.  This is likely to lead to a public vote by the people of Iceland on whether they want to cover the losses of British depositors in Icesave. 

Britain had no legal basis for seizing Icesave assets in the UK, nor did depositors in Icesave have any right to have their losses covered.  If England wants to bail out its citizens, that is its business.  Asking Iceland to foot the tab afterwards sets a dangerous precedent.

But then at least the citizens of Iceland are getting a vote on whether to bail out or not.  By comparison, both U.S. Treasury Secretaries Paulson and Geithner have decided that U.S. taxpayers must honor foreign investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even if those investments were explicitly not insured by the U.S.  government.  Perhaps the U.S. could learn a little about democracy and accountability from Iceland.

Cost Overruns: It’s the Same in Britain

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has published a new study examining a sample of 240 government capital projects in Britain, including weapons systems, highway projects, computer upgrades, health care spending, and other items. The results mirror the serious cost overrun problems we have in the U.S. federal government.

The Alliance study found that 32 percent of projects sampled had cost overruns, while 24 percent came in under budget, but that the projects with overruns were generally much larger. As a result, the average net cost overrun on all the projects was 38 percent. Thus, when the government says that a new project will cost taxpayers 1 billion UK pounds, on average it will actually cost them 1.38 billion.

The study also explores the reasons why UK government projects run into trouble, and I have observed that most of the same problems are also chronic in our government. To me, this provides more evidence that the inefficiencies in government stem from deep, structural factors, not the skills of the particular politicians or administrators in office.

The New Threats to Free Speech

In a new Policy Analysis, Cato Research Fellow Jason Kuznicki examines the ongoing threats to free speech both at home and around the world, from hate-speech laws in the United Kingdom and Canada and university speech codes in the United States, to the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam:

The result is not more happiness, but a race to the bottom, in which aggrieved groups compete endlessly with one another for a slice of government power. Philosopher Robert Nozick once observed that utilitarianism is hard-pressed to banish what he termed utility monsters—that is, individuals who take inordinate satisfaction from acts that displease others. Arguing about who hurt whose feelings worse, and about who needs more soothing than whom, seems designed to discover—or create—utility monsters. We must not allow this to happen.

Instead, liberal governments have traditionally relied on a particular bargain, in which freedom of expression is maintained for all, and in which emotional satisfaction is a private pursuit, not a public guarantee. This bargain can extend equally to all people, and it forms the basis for an enduring and diverse society, one in which differences may be aired without fear of reprisal. Although world cultures increasingly mix with one another, and although our powers of expression are greater than ever before, these are not sound reasons to abandon the liberal bargain. Restrictions on free expression do not make societies happier or more tolerant, but instead make them more fractious and censorious.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday Links

  • Cato senior fellow Tom Palmer filing a lawsuit to legally carry firearms in Washington D.C.
  • Podcast: How some on the right-wing are doing everything they can to defend torture. Let’s just call them “enhanced justification techniques.”

U.S. to Share Biometric Data With Foreign Countries

In the name of fighting identity fraud, the U.K. Home Office has entered into a biometric data-sharing agreement with Canada and Australia.

“The USA will be joining the agreement shortly, and New Zealand is considering legislation to join in the near future,” they say.

It would be nice to learn what commitments have been made to the U.K., justifying this statement.