28 March 2012

Another benefit financed by defalcation

I see that those on pension credit (the means-tested supplement to the basic state pension), along with others receiving benefits, are to be able to buy a certain number of Royal Mail stamps at reduced prices.(Daily Mail, 28 March 2012.) The cost of this, including the cost of time spent by Post Office staff, will have to be borne by someone, presumably by those not on pension credit or receiving any other benefit, when next the prices of stamps are raised.

When pensions were declared to be means-tested this was effectively turning the state pension system into a ‘benefit’, instead of a payment made ‘as of right’ to those who had made the specified number of contributions.

It was on that basis – the payment ‘as of right’ basis – that I paid into the state pension system for over 40 years, without entertaining any fears of eventual means-testing. Being deprived of a salaried career and even of eligibility for the so-called social security on account of my ruined education, I had virtually no income and paid voluntary contributions to the state pension scheme to reduce, at least by a small amount, my disadvantage relative to salaried academics.

Even if the threat of means-testing had been bruited, I would have thought it unlikely to affect me, since, having no academic appointment, I had no other pension expectations and negligible income from any source.

Having finally qualified for the state pension, and still being without a salaried career, I was horrified and shocked to find that my pension was now to be means-tested and that I would not be eligible for the supplementary ‘pension credit’ even if I was prepared to apply for it as a ‘benefit’. This was because I had devoted all my attention to building up capital to provide myself with a roof over my head. If I had not bought the house I lived in, I would have had no income with which to rent one.

Now that the emphasis of the means-testing is shifting from income to capital, I find that I have too much of the latter to qualify for ‘pension credit’, since I was never able to depend on income and had to build up capital as best I could. I see that those on ‘pension credit’ are to be able to buy cheaper postage stamps, apply for cheaper energy on ‘social tariffs’ and no doubt in many ways spend less on fundamentals than if they were not on ‘benefit’, thus increasing their advantage relative to me.

At the same time, others of my unsalaried colleagues who have fully qualified for their pensions by making voluntary contributions, see them receding into a distant future, and expect them to be means-tested even when they start to be paid.

The question of ethics with regard to pension policy is one of the issues on which critical analyses could be being published by Oxford Forum if it were provided with adequate funding to do so. Meanwhile, the idea that it is 'fair' to redistribute from better-off to worse-off pensioners is likely to receive reinforcement from pseudo-research published by the universities.

25 March 2012

Realism versus kidding yourself

This is a letter sent to Bel Mooney, the ‘agony aunt’ of the Daily Mail.
Dear Bel

Every day I wake up and pray: ‘Please God let today be a good day — don’t let me think that I want to die’.

Fifteen months ago, at the age of 56, my youngest sister died very suddenly of pneumonia. The whole family is devastated. Our parents don’t really talk of her and I can’t believe she’s dead. I have to keep telling myself she is gone for ever. I miss her so much. She was my best friend and confidante. We spoke almost every day on the phone, discussing everything, from fashion to politics. ...

The hammer blow of her death made me feel a total waste of space. It’s made me realise how poor I am and how poor she was, that she left this world as poverty-stricken as when she came in. My life has been full of ‘what ifs?’.

I can’t afford to heat the house, pay the water rates etc. My whole family lives this struggle, but I never thought about it, I just got on with it. Now I am so angry, with her, with myself, with fate. I want to be rich and taste some of the fruits of wealth — the theatre, restaurants, foreign holidays and so on — before I die.

Last week I went to get a repeat HRT prescription and the nurse refused it, telling me I had to have a mammogram, because she could not live with herself if I had ‘something’. I went to the doctor (who put me on it) and asked for the full dose, but he refused, pontificating about risks. I don’t care about them.

I’m not coping. I nearly had a panic attack at the thought of not having my HRT. Basically, the nurse told me to ‘pull myself together’.

I cannot handle the stress. Everyone is telling me how bad-tempered I am — shouting at my children and grandchildren. I used to be so placid, now I feel like hitting someone. I just want to go to bed and never wake up, but sadly I do, and it all begins again. (Daily Mail, 24th March 2011)

Bel Mooney’s replies to this lady are, naturally, all in line with the prevailing ideology. Seek counselling and the support of groups of people with similar problems who will help you to be reconciled to your position.

The horrific role played by the medical Mafia in modern society emerges clearly. They decide, not you. On consulting them you expose yourself to psychological abuse, which is the last thing you need when you are already assailed in other ways.

It is deplorable that all are taxed to pay for the NHS; opting out should be possible for those who would never have anything to do with it, or with the medical Mafia in general. It would be a good deal less objectionable if only those who chose voluntarily to submit to such a system were forced to contribute in taxation towards its enormous costs.

Of course, Bel Mooney’s advice is to consult various agents of the oppressive society. Actually this correspondent is realistically aware of the existential predicament, and that the oppressive society in which she lives offers her no ways of improving her position. I suggest to her and to anyone in a similar situation that they come to live nearby, at least temporarily, and do some voluntary work for our organisation. We have many ideas for the best ways in which individuals can cooperate to improve their financial position, but we cannot suggest any particular project unless and until we know what the person concerned is willing and able to do, and whether they can get on with us, who do not accept the prevailing ideology.

23 March 2012

Notes on property taxes

(This is an update on the blog post of 25 April 2011, commenting on the government’s plans to tax property.

Looking at the recent Budget, it now appears that the ‘mansion tax’ has been avoided or, more likely, deferred. Instead, stamp duty on ‘expensive’ (over £2 million) properties has been increased from 5% to 7%.)

It appears that they have it in mind to tax property, which is bad for us as we still have no income from society for anything we do (or could do), and we still need to build up capital towards the institutional environment to which, once we get it, extra research departments can be added and the university press made increasingly productive.

Any ‘mansion tax’, or increased stamp duty would only be the beginning of taxes/stamp duties on ever smaller properties, no doubt.

* * *

All you can say for the means-tested state pension is that it may just about cover the taxes we pay to the state. I.e. instead of paying all the taxes and making voluntary contributions to the state pension each year, we now make no contributions because everyone is fully paid up, and the reduced means-tested pensions received by me and Charles McCreery may just about cover, for the four of us, council tax, car tax, television licences, cost of garden refuse collections, cost of getting large rubbish taken away by the council, and cost of dumping unacceptable items of rubbish in the local rubbish dump (which is not very near). And perhaps there is a small net gain to us, so that we can say that, at long last, we are receiving a bit more each year from the state than we have to pay back to it.

If they had not introduced means-testing on the state pension some years after I had started to receive it, it might be adequate to cover capital gains tax (CGT) and ‘mansion tax’ on any houses we may own in the future. But probably not for long, as the taxes would keep increasing more than in line with (realistic) inflation, whereas the pension would not, even if not means-tested.

* * *

So those who are trying to remedy the bad position (non-position) in society imposed on them by their ruined ‘education’ have to be taxed (at any rate, they are taxed) to reduce their rate of progress towards an adequate life, and they have to transfer a part of the progress they have made to provide supposed ‘advantages’ to those who are not yet obviously disadvantaged. (Although, in fact, some of them may be, since they are forced to proceed in making their way through an educational system that is geared against them, and may leave them also with no way of entering a suitable career.) Many of the others will probably never be able to make any use of the sort of opportunities which we need and from which we have been excluded by the hostility to ability of modern society.

‘Education’ means, unfortunately, a very vulnerable period of one’s life when one needs to be acquiring qualifications which will establish one’s claim on the sort of position in society which one needs to have, but in which one has no control over the arrangements which are being imposed on one.

* * *

David Willetts said of the Baby Boomers that they had had such a good life that they should wish their pensions to be reduced so that coming generations could be provided with ‘educations’ as lavish as their own. I was a pre-Baby Boomer so this did not obviously apply to me, but I feel sure that plenty of them, including some with the highest IQs, and some whom I have known, were thrown out at the end of their ‘educations’ with no access to any career to which they could feel suited, and with only the sense that their relationship to their own internal sense of direction had been broken.

So, like me, it is likely that they would be more interested in using their pensions to work towards improving their own lives, rather than in sacrificing their pensions so as to make it possible for yet more people to be subjected to the ‘educational’ process.

We invite such people, whether or not they are prepared to complain of the bad effects of their ‘education’ on their prospects in life, to come and live near us in Cuddesdon, which is commutable from both London and Oxford, and cooperate in our plans to remedy our situation in an anti-individualistic society.

* * *

Building up capital may be the only method a person has of being able to be productive in a way to which they are suited, as it was with me. Not having any way of getting a salary, and being unable to draw the so-called social security, I put getting a roof over my head first, and setting up a college/hotel environment second. At least the increases in value of the house which I bought in the Banbury Road were not taxed. This house had enough space for laboratories and offices, at least on a minimal scale, if I had been able to get funding to do research with which to assert my claim on a normal high-flying academic career. The salary which I could not get would have been taxed, and I would have been getting my pension contributions paid, but as it was I had to pay voluntary contributions myself out of non-existent income.

Eventually the house was worth much more than at the outset, although still not enough to set up even a minimal institutional environment within which academic work could be done.

I shall never stop trying to get all the things I should have had as part of a forty-year academic career in a professorial position as the Head of a department. That is, the salary, status, contacts, laboratory facilities, personal secretaries and other staff, and the dining hall facilities, etc.

I still need these things in order to have a productive and satisfactory life, and I see plenty of things in which to do progressive research for forty years.

22 March 2012

Taxation, not avoidance, is morally repugnant

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announcing the Budget yesterday, said: ‘I regard tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance as morally repugnant’. (Daily Mail, 22 March 2012)

What this means is that society must be free to use subjective criteria to decide what people’s intentions were when they acted within their legal degrees of freedom.

Some decades ago there was a principle that laws should be clear, and easily understood by any ordinary middle-class or working-class person, so that a person could make his own decisions, and so that the individual could know whether or not he was acting within his legal rights. This principle has gone by the board in the downfall of civilisation. Now, in many areas, the individual must wait for the tax authorities to tell him whether his motivation was ‘aggressive’ or not, and hence whether he is liable to be taxed (and possibly fined).

The idea that it is immoral to avoid tax, so as to preserve the maximum freedom possible to implement one’s own intentions, implies that the purposes for which the government sees fit to expend money are automatically superior to those which an individual might choose to pursue for himself, and that each individual must regard them as being so.

There are those of us to whom this seems an absurd idea, and we would argue that taxation is in itself automatically immoral, in depriving the individual of the right to decide his own priorities in the existential situation in which he finds himself (the assertion of this right being the basic moral principle).

10 March 2012

Mansion tax, pensions and ruined educations

text of a letter to an academic

I have had to attempt to claw my way back to a tolerable life after the ruin of my career and family life caused by the so-called ‘education’. And I have had to do this in a society ever more dominated by the ideology that was responsible for causing the ruin in the first place.

Ever more damaging legislation is continually proposed, and the relevant departments of my suppressed and censored independent university are virtually silenced, while the unexamined assumptions continue to flood the television and the newspapers.

Now they propose a ‘mansion tax’ which, once instituted, will no doubt soon become a garden shed tax.

While trying to build up my capital assets to a level that could support even the skimpiest residential college and research department, with live-in domestic and caretaking staff, my only asset was the fact that principal private residences were free of tax (though not of maintenance costs.)

I still have not reached a level at which even the smallest scale of research could be done – not, at any rate, research that would have any hope of enhancing my claim on a salaried university appointment, although I suppose there are a few people who are willing to regard as research the collecting of anecdotes and the writing down of their dreams in the morning, and it has been convenient to suppose that I was one of them. But progress towards an adequate scale of operation would have been severely hampered by any form of ‘wealth’ tax, including tax on property. And progress has been, even without that, agonisingly slow.

Commentators always talk as if, after the age regarded as pensionable, a person could not ‘need’ more than one room to live in. But there may be people other than those here whose careers were ruined by the hostility which their ability provoked, and who, like us, need to build up their resources to the point where they can finance their own careers.

There is no reason to suppose that any society could provide each individual with opportunities exactly tailored to his needs. It is far more important that there should be the possibility for individuals to work towards providing themselves with the circumstances they need for the sort of career they need to have.

In the Britain of Frederic Myers a fair proportion of those with the highest IQs had the circumstances they needed for a productive intellectual life, provided mainly by inheritance. This proportion has been steadily reduced.

As I have mentioned before, you could alleviate our position significantly by buying a nearby house in which, among other things, new provisional associates could live; it being impossible for them to find rented accommodation, even at inordinate expense, and it being impossible for us, at the present time, to sink a high proportion of our available capital in buying additional houses.

03 March 2012

No relief for 'those with the broadest shoulders'

A recent article from the Daily Mail on the Government's plans for pensions tax relief:

Higher earners should lose higher rate tax relief on pension savings, Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander believes. The Lib Dem Cabinet Minister says the Government cannot afford to keep paying such a generous allowance on retirement investments. The changes, which could be included in next month’s Budget, would affect those who pay the 40p higher rate of tax, which kicks in at around £43,000. Currently, of every £1 they save in a pension, the Government contributes 40p in tax relief. That would fall to 20p in line with the basic rate of income tax.

The raid could cost middle-class pensioners up to £7billion a year, and discourage many from saving towards their retirement. If the cut was restricted to those earning over £100,000 a year, it would still save the Treasury £3.6billion. Mr Alexander told the Daily Telegraph: ‘If you look at the amount of money that we spend on pensions tax relief, which is very significant, the majority of that money goes to paying tax relief at the higher rate.

‘It's very important that in these difficult times we are asking those with the broadest shoulders to bear the greatest share of the burden.’ Mr Alexander also repeated his aspiration to raise the threshold at which people start paying income tax...

Lib Dem demands are expected to be raised at a meeting on the Budget next week between David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osbourne and Mr Alexander. The raid on pension tax relief may meet resistance from Mr Osbourne, who has stressed the need to avoid raids on the wealthy because they could deter successful businessmen from living in the UK. (Daily Mail, 11 February 2012)

The plight of pensioners is a constant focus of attention, although it is difficult to believe that the increases in life expectancy and cost of living can be a major factor in the constant rise in public spending. It is, surely, the increases in expenditure in favoured areas which make it impossible to ‘afford’ state pensions at a level commensurate with the cost of living. In fact, pensions were hit by the retrospective introduction of means-testing, and also by years of ‘withering on the vine’ with rises per annum which were inadequate to match the real rises in the cost of living, let alone in the cost of things which pensioners were more likely than others to need on a socially recognised basis, such as live-in housekeepers and attendants.

We may be sure that there is no real sympathy with this population, with an above-average IQ and a limited voting life ahead of it. Attention to its problems and claims that ‘something must be done’ are actually designed to justify new forms of taxation, the need for which is predominantly created by expenditure on increasing populations with IQs below the general average.

The objective is to justify additional taxation of this above-average population. In the extract quoted above there is one explicit proposal for how this might be done, although the additional taxation is presented as withdrawal of a tax relief, and it is pointed out that the ‘tax relief’ saved will be mainly at the expense of the population of those with the highest incomes, which is also (very likely) a population with a higher average IQ than other pensioners.

Those with ‘the broadest shoulders’ (the highest average IQs) should bear the greatest share of the burden which results from an ever-increasing transfer of resources to populations with below-average IQs.

The following is a re-blogging of part of an earlier post. In light of the article above, I have felt it necessary to reiterate the key underlying issues.

Further misdirection of attention is in asserting that it is not ‘fair’ that those who go into ‘care homes’ should have to sell their houses (if they have them) to pay for the ‘care’ they receive. This, of course, will lead to families being deprived of their inheritance.

Families are said to be ‘betrayed’ by care home funding, which leads to many pensioners being forced to sell their homes. This is described as a ‘scandal’, and it is hoped that a ‘fairer’ system can be devised. This rhetoric in itself should make one aware that a misdirection of attention is involved.

The population of those who reach pensionable age, and have homes to sell, are a population with an above-average IQ; so will their offspring be. So surely the modern mind can see nothing ‘unfair’ in a relatively high-IQ population being deprived of the inheritance it might have had from its parents, also with (statistically) above-average IQs. It is the obtaining of advantages from a previous generation of above-average people which is regarded as unfair, surely? How can ‘fairness’ be increased by transferring assets from one relatively high-IQ population to another?

And so we infer that these expressions of concern that homes will be lost to some of those who might have inherited them must have an ulterior motive. What is presumably aimed at is justification for an additional tax of some kind, resulting in the usual transfer of resources to a relatively low-IQ population.

It is suggested that what a pensioner pays towards his care home fees should be ‘capped’ with ‘the state stepping in’ to pay the rest. That means taxpayers stepping in to pay the rest, including pensioners who do not go into care homes. ‘In a further blow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley refused to rule out a pensioner tax to pay for old age care.’ Aha! This idea - an extra tax on those above retirement age, mooted in the Dilnot Report - approaches more closely the principle of transferring assets from the relatively high to relatively low IQs.

The population of pensioners who do not go into care homes at all may be expected to have higher average IQs than those who do go into them and have homes they might be required to sell, because the former are likely to have better genetic constitutions, have lived more prudently and/or successfully, or because they have devoted relatives, which are all factors likely to be correlated with high IQs.

So it may be seen as ‘fair’ that those pensioners who do not go into care homes should be taxed in order to transfer assets to those who do go into them.

This is no doubt the real reason for blaming the rise in life expectancy of pensioners for the increasing costs of the NHS, so that as usual a population of people with above-average IQs can be penalised for the benefit of a population with below-average IQs.

As for changing demographics, figures for life expectancy are usually quoted in relation to specific ages. E.g. people who are 50 now have a life expectancy of so much. But by the ages one sees quoted, the majority of those with a low life expectancy at birth are likely to have died off, although not before being a considerable drain on the NHS, state education (with ‘special needs’ tutors?), etc. Clearly these are an important part of the real demography, usually left out of the discussion. Those who are still alive at pensionable age (a population with a relatively high average IQ) are certainly not responsible for the rise in the costs of the NHS caused by the genetically dysfunctional (a population with a low average IQ).

02 March 2012

Appealing for help is not illogical

How can it be that I complain of the lack of support for my work? Well, of course, lack of support for ‘my work’ is lack of support for me in the most basic sense, and there has been a plentiful lack of support, to the point of active opposition and obstruction.

When I was at school (at a school which I was forced to attend against my will, having told my parents at the end of the first day that it was a place to leave instantly) a hostile headmistress said to me that it would be good for me not to be treated as an exception. In the sense of being given no help in learning more languages than other people. I thought even then, with very limited information about what was going on behind my back, that while I might not be being treated as an exception in the sense of being provided with opportunity, I surely was in the sense of being the object of the storms of slanders which raged around me.

People tend to dislike my use of the word ‘slander’ in this context, and soften it to ‘gossip’. But in retrospect it is clear that its effects on my life, and on the lives of my parents, were extremely damaging.

Thrown out at the end of the ruined ‘education’ with no usable qualification with which to apply for a grant or salaried appointment in any subject, I was extremely fortunate to be led to the Society for Psychical Research, where I took a temporary job to help finance my return to Oxford at the start of the next academic year in the autumn. There, without research grant, salary, or income support from social security, I intended to pursue my researches in theoretical physics, to the extent that was possible in such painfully impoverished circumstances.

As my work would not be officially recognised as such, I would not have a supervisor (which is necessary for the eventual grant of a D.Phil), but I imagined vaguely that I would send some of my work from time to time to the Physics Department, to let them know that I existed.

At the SPR, however, I found that I would be regarded as eligible for, and would be supported in applying for, the Perrott Research Studentship – a postgraduate grant from Trinity College, Cambridge, a college with which the SPR had strong historical connections.

This was a way in which I could return to Oxford to do postgraduate work with the support of a grant instead of without any financial support at all, so I resolved to stay on at the SPR throughout the next academic year to see whether I could get the Studentship. If I did not, I would return to Oxford anyway and carry out my original plan of doing freelance research on theoretical physics, on my own and in poverty. The money saved during the extra year away from Oxford would at least provide an absolute minimum of financial support; by that time it might pay for a year’s rent on a cheap room.

In fact I was successful in my application for the Perrott Studentship, and had to consider what were the areas of potential research that could be considered as meeting their terms of reference, and would be most likely to lead to results that would gain academic recognition and re-entry to a salaried academic career.

In whatever subject I was making my salaried career, which implied aiming at becoming a Professor and head of a department in that subject as soon as possible, the salary would provide me with sufficiently liveable conditions (I thought and hoped) to be able to get something out of doing research on my own in theoretical physics, and also out of writing some of the books which I felt an internal pressure to produce. There would, at best, be far too much pressure on my time for life to be comfortable. I would have to aim at the fastest possible career advancement, and by the time I was a Professor perhaps there would be enough space for productivity in my life to allow for some sense of well-being.

I use the expression ‘career’ and ‘career advancement’ to convey to people what would be involved in practice, but I had never really thought of an academic career below Professorial level as a career in its own right at all, but only as an unfortunate preliminary to my real life as a Professor, the necessity for this preliminary having been forced upon me by the ruined ‘education’. If my ‘education’ had not been ruined, and Oxford University had not been hostile, I would have expected to become a Professor immediately on leaving Somerville.

I should perhaps also make the point that I did not regard the sort of ‘research’ under supervision that was necessary to gain higher degrees as ‘research’ at all. This was another preliminary which society set in one’s way to delay the start of a real life. I had been shocked to discover what went into getting a D.Phil qualification, which one would apparently have to do before entering upon real life, ‘real life’ meaning being free to reconstruct theoretical physics, while living in a hotel environment.

I did not discuss with anyone how little time would be left over from doing what was necessary to earn my salary and work for career advancement, even when I had re-entered a university career by obtaining a salaried appointment, as this was some years in the future, even after being awarded the Perrott Studentship. Nevertheless I suppose some awareness of the constrictions of such a situation entered into Somerville’s extraordinary assertions that, without a research grant or a salaried appointment, I was ‘free to follow my interests’.

When, many years later, I had an interview with a Somerville Fellow in Philosophy, to find out whether my D.Phil in Philosophy would induce them to let me have a salaried appointment, I was amazed that she could assert that I would be ‘less free’ if I had to meet the demands of such an appointment. So I would be ‘more free’, in her eyes, if I continued to live with no source of income.

It is apparently a standard piece of modern ideology that the income which may be derived from an academic career is inconsiderable, and that no money is necessary for staying physically alive, let alone staying alive in circumstances permitting intellectual activity. Nor is money apparently necessary for what counts as actual research ‘work’. Hence people can talk about ‘supporting my work’ as a peripheral frill, the absence of which should not lead to any complaint.

I remember one conversation with a salaried academic, similar to many others, at an international convention on lucid dreams at London University. I said I was unable to get support to take further my research on lucid dreams, or any other topic. ‘Oh, well’, she said. ‘There is no support. I can’t get any either. I have just given up on trying to.’ This person was a salaried academic in America, possibly deriving many advantages and facilities, as well as salary and status, from her university position. Subsequent to the publication of my book, she had become well known for her work on lucid dreams, although probably without ever receiving direct support for that purpose.

I, on the other hand, had produced the book on lucid dreams, on which her work had been based, as an unsalaried and statusless person, implicitly applying for the necessary funding to make further progress in this new area of research. She could, it would appear, see no difference between her own need for support and mine. Like all other academics who have worked and published in the field of lucid dreams, she made no response to my appeal on my website for contributions of £1,000 a year from every salaried academic who had worked in this field.

If someone recognises, as I do, that human nature contains little in the way of genuine altruism, it does not follow that it is illogical for them to complain about their position. It could be argued that complaining is, or should be, dependent on whether one is objectively suffering, rather than on what society happens to regard as worthy of complaint. However, the fact that the present society claims to be interested in ability, and purports to have a system designed to reward those with high IQs, is liable to heighten any bitterness one may feel about one’s position.

01 March 2012


Once upon a time a headmistress said of me, ‘It will be good for her not to be treated as an exception.’
I found it very difficult to understand how she could even imagine that she honestly meant something by this, let alone something benevolent, since the sentence seemed to me to have the status of ‘It will be good for this horse to be treated as a dog’.
The use of the word ‘good’ in particular eluded me, until I reflected that there was in existence an expression ‘The only good Injun is a dead Injun’, and no doubt she meant something like that.

(from the forthcoming book: The Corpse and the Kingdom)