Life After The State
You might know Dominic Frisby best for his writing in Money Week especially on precious metals and bitcoin. Or for his TV voice overs on documentaries and commercials. Or for his stand up comedy including The Funny Side of Tax at the Edinburgh Festival. But he’s also a fantastically gifted writer and his twenty thirteen tome, Life After The State, has become an instant classic.
The idea for the book may trace its origins back to his time in communist Cuba in the nineteen nineties when he saw great hospital buildings that had no medicine, impressive schools that were without paper and government run shops that would only accept US dollars rather than the local peso. The official exchange rate was one to one, the actual rate twenty to one. So the Professor and Doctor that he stayed with were forced to rent their spare bedroom to bring in dollars. And the biggest money of all was made by young women prostituting themselves to foreign tourists. Cuba is an extreme example of how our system of government is breaking down.
But you can see evidence much closer to home with interest rates being lowered even closer to zero in recent weeks and the money printing presses being turned on all over again. Frisby says the West is an unstoppable train, hurtling down the tracks. But we are on the wrong tracks, going to the wrong place. He uses Glasgow as an example of how a once great entrepreneurial city can become an economic basket case. A century ago it was the second city of the British empire, producing half our ships and a quarter of the world’s steam engines. Today it holds many awards – it’s the heroin capital of the UK, the benefits capital of the UK, Britain’s fattest city with lower life expectancy than Palestine and an unemployment rate fifty per cent higher than the rest of the UK.
Glasgow’s fall from grace was echoed across the country by a gradual rise in state intervention in people’s lives that began in world war one with enlistment, food rationing, government aid to certain industries, restrictions on movement and so on. Since then the ratchet effect of state intervention has continued to escalate with ever more being spent on health, education, the military and social services. In nineteen hundred we were paying eight point five per cent of our income to cover the cost of the state. Today its forty six per cent. When you factor in how much more we earn today the total resources allocated to government have increased by thirty to forty times in just over a century.
Is government delivering forty times the value to its citizens? Of course not. New Labour poured billions into the NHS from their windfall in 3G telecoms licenses but the investment hit diminishing returns and barely registered any improvement in service. The current model is unaffordable and unsustainable. More important, it simply isn’t delivering the benefits that everyone intended it to. Frisby suggests that the answer has to lie in more government, not less. Fewer regulations, not more. A freer market, not a more controlled one.
The crony capitalists need to disappear just as much as the benefits cheats. Once you allow these ‘rent seekers’ special rights, you create an imbalance with unintended consequences. Like the triple lock on pensions that is punishing young people and, I believe, could lead to civil war between the generations. We need a simpler and fairer tax system, such as the flat rate system that Dominic proposes. In fact he suggests a return to a land value tax similar to that which existed up until the nineteenth century. This taxes unearned wealth rather than productivity and is simple and cheap to administer.
We need competing currencies and a smaller state that is not afraid of granting freedom to its citizens. Right now this runs so counter to everything I see happening that such notions seem like pipedreams fed by wacky baccy and rose tinted raybans. But it’s a dream I want to cling to. And, in Life After The State, Dominic Frisby articulates the rational arguments for why this dream could and should become a reality. It’s a beautifully written, easy to read book that I can’t do justice to in a short video like this. Buy it for yourself and your children. Read it and tell me what you think.
If we continue on our current trajectory, we’re not far away from a state where Dominic would be put in prison for writing such heresy and I might join him there for publicising it. Thanks for watching!