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This is an easy one surely?

As a voluntaryist, you tend to find yourself outside the mainstream on most political issues of the day, but every now and again, a tiny ray of light appears.  So it is with this report


which makes the modest and sensible suggestion that if a council or housing association owns a house in a very high value area and it becomes vacant, it could be sold off and the revenue used to buy or build more homes in cheaper areas. 


I take the view that there should be no state provided housing at all.  If you want something expensive, rationed and crap, get the state to provide it and hey presto.  You can see this with current state healthcare or polish bread queues or roads, no effective price system means resources are allocated by the queue.  But such is the modesty of this one that you would have thought it more or less unarguable as well as being wildly popular politically with voters.  Oh no. 


Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said: “Councils and housing associations should make effective use of their housing stock but the government should not force them to arbitrarily sell off social homes, breaking up mixed communities and driving out hard-working families on low wages from whole neighbourhoods.”


Now I don’t think of this all-female shortlist bloke as an intellectual giant but he must surely know that loads of social housing tenants are not hard-working because they don’t er…work. 


Well at least the tories will welcome this with open arms right… Er, no. 


The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “This is something that councils can choose to do already.


Can you hear the sound of the buck being passed to councils?  Nothing to do with us.  I cannot see why they are not jumping on this one even to the extent of passing legislation compelling it.  Labour would oppose it and yet I reckon any half decent politician could say to voters “You should not be forced to pay for the unemployed to live in Notting Hill, an area you can never even aspire to live in because of how much we tax you.  Why should you get the 6.45am from Milton Keynes to Kings Cross every day because you can’t afford to live in London while the Jeremy Kyle generation are still in bed in Chelsea?”


Incompetent and not even politically aware within their own grubby parameters.  The Westminster bubble seems impenetrable sometimes. 


  1. NickM says:

    I have been to Poland three times. I never saw a bread queue. I never even saw a queue at the the tapas bar. I was in a book queue in a Stalinist Palace of Culture. The process of buying a book was bizarre. You pick a book up and take it to a counter. It is then removed from you and someone ferrets out the back, another copy is then put in a bag and transferred to another desk where zloty change hands and finally, after about 20 minutes, you get your book. How many folk do you think are needed to sell a book? In Poland in the early ’90s it was about five. You see the books are for display only. So you can’t just pick ‘em off the shelves (what a naive person would assume was the point of the shelves – they are trying to sell stuff aren’t they?) take it to the till and proffer a debit or credit card or moneys of the metallic or folding and the jobs a good one. And everyone wins. The bookshop wins because it sold a book and I won because I got a book I wanted. Let’s form a conga-line and celebrate capitalism! Yes I’m putting food into his kid and yes I got the book I wanted at a reasonable price! Unlike the communist era where buying a book was a bizarre ordeal designed to employ people doing non-jobs.

    Who lost? I didn’t. The bookseller didn’t.

  2. RAB says:

    Sounds a lot like Argos Nick.

  3. David Gillies says:

    That sort of gross overmanning is quite common in an economy undergoing a transition to first world status, where the cost of labour relative to capital is low. It used to be the dominant setup in, say, hardware stores here in Costa Rica ten or twelve years ago. It was cheaper to employ three people in the point-of-sale process plus a mountain of shopfloor people to bug you the nanosecond you set foot in the joint. Now if you want a 6″ drop-forged turnbuckle or a miter saw you go to the B&Q-sized warehouse and traipse up and down for half an hour and god help you trying to find someone to point you in the right direction. But their electronic stock control is top notch. For jobs that still need hitting things with hammers or wielding spades, there’s a huge pool of Nicaraguans and, latterly, Chinese who work for peanuts. A buddy wanted a septic tank dug. He looked at hiring a JCB for the day but the contractor said it would be cheaper to get 25 Nicaraguans with shovels. And so it proved.

  4. Back in about 1964/65 I worked in a department store like that – in Newcastle! If I sold a pair of trousers to someone I didn’t take their money and ring it up, I had to take them, with the customer to a separate till, leaving queues of people waiting, placing the trousers behind the new till for them to wait again, while I forced my way through the crowds to get back to my counter. It was a bizarre state of affairs, only made acceptable by the fact that I got 10s more for a Saturday than my mates in other stores and I finished at 1.00pm. Yes – on the busiest day of the week they closed at 1.00pm. The owners were Jewish, but couldn’t open on Sunday of course, not in 1964 they couldn’t.

  5. NickM says:

    Fenwicks? I was once there during the winter of discontent and it was lit by candles! Jesus fucking wept.

  6. Wengers – long gone now.

  7. Mr Ed says:

    One of the Planning law trends in the UK has been a requirement for ‘social housing’, to ensure that nice, rich people have to live next to Chavs, who are reliable, socially-friendly elements. The mechanism has been to ensure that developments include ‘social housing’ so that ‘key’ workers can live near to nice, rich people. E.g you develop a plot to have 6 5-6 bedroom homes, the planners require 2 x 2-bed homes as ‘social housing’ to be included, and the idea is, we are told, that public sector staff can afford to buy these homes, as without them, there would be no life at all. (The reality may be that buy-to-let landlords put Housing Benefit recipients in these homes having bought them).

    Developers fought back by glitzing up the 2 bed homes with all mod cons, Lake District slate floors etc., to price out the chavs, knowing the larger homes would not be so valuable with embedded chavs.

    But of course, Housing Benefit is so ludicrously generous that the Chavs can move into 6-bed homes paid for by the State, and the current pretence is that these families are hard working State employees. And the rich can only afford the 2-bed homes.

  8. John Galt says:

    Back in about 1964/65 I worked in a department store like that – in Newcastle! If I sold a pair of trousers to someone I didn’t take their money and ring it up, I had to take them, with the customer to a separate till, leaving queues of people waiting, placing the trousers behind the new till for them to wait again, while I forced my way through the crowds to get back to my counter.

    Well done – You’ve just described exactly the process of buying a pair of trousers in Penang, Malaysia last Saturday. Here of course, labour is still cheap and a shop assistant in upmarket and expensive Penang gets around 1,800 MYR for a 60 hour week. That works out at roughly £1.67 per hour and this is probably one of the highest paid areas of Malaysia for retail jobs.

  9. Paul Marks says:

    Poland under the rule of the Communist Party was (in some ways) less collectivist than Scotland.

    For example, there was a private university – in Poland (the Catholic one).

    And there was more state housing – in Scotland.

    By the way I am pleased to see the word “volunarist” being used more and more.

    It is a good word – with an long standing tradition (for example the Leeds Mercury in the early 19th century) behind it.

    Also if the word “libertarian” is taken by the Social Justice crowd (just as they took the word “liberal”and changed its meaning by 180 degrees about a century ago) then we will need a new word to describe ourselves.

    “Voluntarist” may well be that word.

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