Saturday, 7 May 2016

Brexit: The UK Contribution to the EU Budget

The primary question in the Brexit debate is: is the UK a net beneficiary or a net contributor to the EU budget? The answer is indisputable. The UK is the second largest net contributor to the EU budget, behind Germany. We put in more than we get out. Only a fool would belong to a club where one gets out less than what one puts in.

The Remain campaigners tend to quote the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget. The Leave campaigners tend to quote to gross figure. Which makes more sense?

In 2014, the UK gross contribution to the EU budget was £18.8bn (£361m per week). A rebate is deducted before the money is sent, bringing this figure down to £14.4bn (£276m per week). The EU sent £6.0bn back to the UK in the form of payments to support things like agriculture, regional development and university research, meaning the net contribution from the UK to the EU was £8.4bn (£161m per week), or about £314 per household on average.

Does it make more sense to quote gross or net contribution figure?

At first I thought it was disingenuous of Leave campaigners to quote the gross figure.  However, when tax contributions are quoted, gross figures are always used. For example, when income tax contributions are discussed, the figures are always gross.  It would be strange to say that an individual’s income tax contribution is zero (or negative!) on the basis that it is all returned to him in the form of government services.  Nobody bothers trying to subtract the value of government services from an individual's tax contributions, in order to quote net income tax contribution.  It should be the same for the UK contribution to the EU: the £6.0bn paid to the UK should not be subtracted from the UK gross contribution figure; so it is fair to say that the UK contributes £276m per week to the EU.

What about the rebate? Does it make a difference that it is subtracted before the money is even sent? Perhaps. But on the other hand, the rebate could be revoked at any time, so on that basis it could be argued that it is fair to say the UK contributes £361m per week, not £276m per week.

The 2014 figures are taken from here:

Although it is based on 2010 data, here is a useful infographic showing EU contributions by member state:

Friday, 22 April 2016

Brexit: "Europe" vs "The EU"

The main group supporting a vote of Remain call themselves “Britain Stronger In Europe”. That name is deceptive. The referendum is not about whether the UK (or Britain) should be in “Europe”. It is about whether we should be in “the EU”.

Europe is a geographical location. The EU is a political organisation. It is impossible for the UK to NOT be “in Europe”. We cannot move our island to North America or to Asia. No one is arguing that we should isolate ourselves from Europe. No one is in favor of building a wall in the English Channel to prevent travel or trade between the UK and the people of mainland Europe.

The conflation of the EU with Europe is convenient for BSE. It is in their advantage for the UK public to conflate leaving the EU with isolating ourselves from Europe.

As an example, a BSE leaflet that came through my door a couple of weeks ago states as “key facts” that “over 3 million UK jobs are linked to our exports to the EU” and that “200,000 UK businesses trade with the EU, helping them to create jobs here in the UK”. They leave it up to the reader to consider what will happen to those jobs in the case of a Brexit. They presumably hope the reader will conclude that those 3 million jobs will be lost.

But the UK will continue to trade with the EU whether or not we are part of it, or whether the EU even exists. Those 3 million jobs are not going to be lost; it is possible that none of them will be.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Brexit: The Principle of Secession

On 23rd June the UK is due to hold a referendum on whether to remain in the EU or leave it (“Brexit”). Both the "Leave" and "Remain" camps have started making their arguments, and the official campaigning period has begun. I plan to post regularly on this subject between now and the referendum.

I am in strongly favor of the UK leaving the EU and I will be voting that way.

My primary argument is a very simple principle-based argument. I support the principle of secession, without exceptions. That is, I believe that any group of individuals has a right to dissociate themselves from any other group of individuals, if they so wish. It does not matter what size the group is. It could be a single individual. No one should be forced to belong to any group they do not wish to belong to.

This immediately implies, of course, that I not only support the UK seceding from the EU, but that I also support:

  • The UK or EU seceeding from any world governmental organisation, like the UN, IMF or WTO 
  • Scotland seceeding from the UK, or Catalonia from Spain, or Veneto from Italy, etc 
  • The establishment of free cities and free communities, independent from any nation state 
  • Individuals seceeding from their government to become self-governing. 

To me, these things all go together. Either you support the principle of secession, the principle of freedom of association, or you don't. I do.

I have not seen this argument raised in the Brexit debate so far. I do not expect to see it raised. The reason is obvious. If the principle of secession is raised, then it is clear that these principles apply at a lower levels than just the limited question of whether the UK should secede from the EU. Anyone who suggests that the UK should secede from the EU on principle cannot then consistently oppose, for example, the secession of Scotland from the UK, because the principled argument is exactly the same: no one should be forced to belong to any group they do not wish to belong to.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Man Against The State Videos

Original videos by Graham Wright 

Articles read by Graham Wright 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thoughts on Stefan Molyneux and FDR

Originally posted on

Molyneux is an excellent communicator of libertarian ideas; there can be little doubt about that, with great videos like this and this.  I check in at the FDR forums occasionally to see what's going on there.  It used to be more academic and focussed on philosophy and law and anarchy theories and so on, but discussion has shifted towards mainly threads on parenting, personal relationships, and people seeking advice about recovering from the effects of having had "abusive" (in the extremely broad sense used on FDR) parents.  There is a strong sense of community at FDR, especially since this shift took place.

Whether they are a cult depends on your definition of the word, but I do see Molyneux and the Freedomainers sharing many similarities to Rand and the Randians.  I think some of what Murray Rothbard said about the latter applies to them.  In addition to the Molyneux Revealed site, there is also FDR Liberated if you want to read more about the cult angle.

With regard to Ron Paul, I disagree with Molyneux.  Most of his criticisms of Paul fade away when you realise that Paul's primary goal is spreading the libertarian message, and being in office and running for President was for him purely a means or strategy for doing that effectively - for better or worse.  Molyneux is wrong to conflate Paul's strategy (i.e. Rothbard and Rockwell's strategy) with the flawed strategy of 'dismantling the state from the inside', which is what basically all so-called "libertarian" politicians that aren't Ron Paul are trying to do.  Whether Paul's strategy or Molyneux' strategy has been or is going to be more effective at spreading the message of liberty is an interesting debate to have, but Molyneux never really gets round to that debate, because he never addresses Paul's actual strategy, just a strawman version of it.

Walter Block made some negative and entirely unjustified remarks about Molyneux recently.  And David Gordon critiqued Molyneux' UPB, quite reasonably.  I expect these events left some Freedomainers with a dislike of (see threads here and here).  But I think it's extremely unlikely you were not allowed to join the FDR forum just because you mentioned  The knowledgable posters there link to quite often.  Have you tried joining again or emailing for an explanation?