Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tory funding rises

There have been stories recently of big donors dissatisfied with Cameron's leadership. Fortunately, this anecdotal evidence seems to be well off the mark and Conservative fundraising has risen heavily in the last quarter off last year compared to a heavy fall for Labour. While some Tory donors may prefer to fund their own ideological playground of a party it would appear that most prefer the Conservatives with their new found electability.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The world's favourite nation

Apparently we are the most liked nation in the world. Despite our various military ventures and despite, or possibly in some quarters because of, our imperial past when ranked on politeness, culture, education, quality of investment environment, as a tourist destination etc. etc. we come out as the nation people most like. This result is true on all sorts of criteria and across huge swathes of the world.

The press release from the pollster contains dollar valuations of national brands which have to contain a fair bit of arbitrary information but the sample is very large and reasonably broad although presumably biased towards those with Internet access. These results provide additional evidence for one explanation of part of Britain's relative economic success recently. We do well out of being a place where lots of highly skilled and talented people want to live, they bring money and achievement with them. The Mittals, Abramovichs and Madonnas of this world are an extreme example of a trend which has been of huge benefit to Britain.

A victory for the Single Market

Marks & Spencers have won their case in the European Court over group offsetting. UK companies now face the same tax risk when investing elsewhere in the EU as they do when setting up a subsidiary in the UK. This has to be a victory for the Single Market as it reduces the distinction between a UK company and a European company.

Worries about a loophole are ever present but would seem more of a problem for group offsetting, whether in the UK or abroad, than international group offsetting in particular. Allowing tax benefits from loss making subsidiaries creates the risk. Offsetting is worth this risk as it is an important tool to allow businesses to expand and challenge in new markets without facing greater tax risk than it does in its core business. Existing companies in other markets are in a good position to enter into insufficiently competitive markets and encouraging this kind of action is good for consumers and efficient business.

The concentration of financial services in London has been a huge benefit to the UK and is one of the key trends behind the strong performance of the UK economy over the last decade and the improvement in the public finances which we are seeing right now.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Holocaust denial laws

Holocaust denial laws are a bad idea because holocaust denial is a phenomenon that is best dealt with in the open. Making martyrs of idiotic fascists is far less effective than simply pointing out the incontrovertible facts of the Holocaust and then letting holocaust deniers make fools of themselves. Political Muscle notes that in the final balance David Irving conceded defeat in the argument over the holocaust and that this is a far more complete victory for truth than prosecuting a defiant holocaust denier.

The argument on Let's Be Sensible, that this is a case of defending holocaust survivors from libel, is a little specious. Most important cases of free speech involve calling someone a liar or an incompetent. If being wrong in a debate over history or politics is a crime then that debate necessarily becomes stunted and overly cautious.

The accusations from Islamists that that these indicate a double standard, as reported by Chris Cauldwell, are, however, equally suspect. Holocaust denial laws were not put in place thanks to a threat of violence from the Jewish community and have been implemented democratically. As such challenging them is best done through democratic debate within Austria and the other European countries with these laws. By contrast, the denial of free speech created by the violent response to the cartoons of Muhammed, the Satanic Verses, the film work of Theo van Gogh etc. is not democratically accountable and, as such, can only be challenged by editorial bravery. There is no double standard in the liberal case.