Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes his regularly irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines . . .
1. Gyms fight to keep music playing – Local fitness clubs are worried that copyright charges may rise on music used at aerobics lessons and other classes. The owners of the intellectual property rights to the music have experienced a significant drop in sales due to the increase in illegal downloading of music, and this is their response.
To me, the issue is simple enough. First question, who owns the rights to the music? This seems fairly well settled: the Phonographic Performances Company of Australia holds the copyright. Second question, what contractual arrangement did PPCA have with the fitness clubs? It appears the fitness centres have been getting a very cheap or even free ride up until now, and will shortly be paying market rates. If the fee is too high for them, they will need to source music from elsewhere or come up with some other plan to keep customers coming through the doors.
Those who lack the imagination and drive to make the necessary changes may, as Fitness NZ CEO Richard Beddie claims, go under. However, no business is guaranteed a free ride forever, and the music industry is hurting too as a result of file-sharing piracy.
2. Higher GST proposed to shift tax focus from incomes – Yes, we need income tax relief; no, we do not need an increase in GST which disproportionately hurts the poorer in our community.
A review of the tax system by a working group has suggested raising GST to 15%, or even 20%, in order to raise “economic efficiency” – i.e. to make the theft of individual wealth harder to avoid.
The committee acknowledges some “fairness issues”, and says “compensation” for those on lower incomes should be included in any new system. Somehow this whole package of increased wealth redistribution is called tax reform.
Note there is no hint at reducing income tax rates; rather leave them at their current extortionate rates, and ratchet up GST instead. Other advisors to John Key advocate throwing in a Capital Gains Tax for good measure. God, how I love this free market pro-capitalist National Government.
3. PM’s advisor recommends P Precursor drug ban – In the tradition of all good prohibitionists, John Key’s Science Czar Peter Gluckman has recommended banning the sale of tablets containing pseudoephedrine in an effort to stop people using it to manufacture methamphetamine. Does he really think the demand for P will suddenly evaporate if pseudoephedrine supply is driven underground? Does he have no knowledge of how markets work – that if someone tries to put a finger in the dike, another hole will appear somewhere else?
As in physics, for every action, there will be an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, it will not be the reaction that Peter Gluckman and John Key want.
As the Libertarianz Party and others have been banging on about for years, the way to get the recreational substance market out of the hands of criminals and gangs, and to eliminate the demand for dangerous drugs such as methamphetamine (and thereby to reduce the harm its use is having on our community) is to approach drug use from a health angle rather than a legal one. Legalise all drugs now.
Portugal legalized possession of all drugs several years ago. The net effect has been slightly less drug use after an initial rise, and more people seeking help for problems related to substance use and abuse. John Key and the Czar seem more interested in punishing New Zealanders for their vices.
4. Lib Dems demand curbs on spying - from the BBC website comes news that even the left-wing Liberal Democrats are becoming uncomfortable about the scope and depth of violations of individual privacy in the Surveillance State, where there is now said to be a CCTV camera for every seven Britons. About 1500 requests a day are made – up 40% on three years ago - so that the state can spy on its citizens by prying into e-mails and telephone records. There is even an Interception of Communication Commissioner. How creepy is that?
Borough Councils are spying on their rubbish collector employees and checking which dogs are fouling the footpaths. Some cameras even have loudspeakers mounted next to them so that orders can be barked out if, for instance, people drop rubbish on the street. One in every 78 people in Britain is being spied on. In communist East Germany this figure was nine in ten - one in ten people was a Stasi agent, spying on the other nine! Clearly, Britain is not yet another German Democratic Republic, but the trends are worrying. How much more will the British people tolerate before there is serious resistance to these egregious attacks on freedom by Gordon Brown’s increasingly totalitarian government? A once proud nation is dying as we watch.
As someone opined on Samizdata a few days ago, George Orwell’s book 1984 was meant to serve as a warning, not a blueprint.
See y’all next week!