Friday, 30 September 2022

Irritable B*****d Syndrome

Good news and bad news.

Henry Law (of the LVT Campaign, but that's not relevant) and I were chatting last weekend. I had a moan about my condition, which started pretty suddenly on 5 December 2021 (I remember the exact date - I ate an overdose of Dorito's in the car on the way to visit our daughter in Bath) and has spiralled downwards since.

He reckoned it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I can't eat much because of fairly immediate stomach cramps = no energy = tired a lot, but can't sleep properly because of pains waking me up = further lack energy = unable to eat properly = I'm down to 9.5 stone (at 6' tall) etc. Four or five people have told me recently that I look like I'm at Death's Door, which I'm not.

I even had to pack in the booze almost completely two months ago - I can deal with hangovers, because you can worry about them later, but if you take a few swigs and the pain sets in almost immediately and before you've got any sort of buzz on to numb it, it's no fun. 

Henry recommended the Monash Univ site/app. Best £5.60 I've ever spent. I have been following the rules as best I can for a few days and I feel much better: slightly more energetic, not tired all day, stomach and back ache still there on and off but not crippling, I have even managed to sleep four or five hours at a stretch rather than waking up every two hours or so. Not fit and well by any means, but up from about 25% of normal to over 50%.

So at least I know what it probably is and how to ameliorate it, and it's not a terminal condition (I hope). That's the good news.

The bad news is that IBS is one of the un-coolest conditions to have. Broadly speaking, IBS is for people who are super-fussy about what they eat, moan a lot and fart a lot. I'd have preferred a proper malingerer's condition like Long Covid or somethingvague to do with auto-immunity (provided it's treatable). I'm now busy thinking up a euphemism for IBS that sounds a bit more mysterious and gets people's sympathy rather than triggering mirth.

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

RPI/CPI. Just what do they measure?

These indices affect me on a day to day basis as we struggle to preserve our investors wealth.  But what actually do they measure?  

Well, it's not 'inflation'.  Inflation (sort of pre Keynes) was a word for the arbitrary expansion of money and credit hence an unwarranted increase in the money supply which in turn lead to higher ticket prices in that particular money of the prices of goods and services.

What other things increase prices - permanently.

How about government mandated 'useless ingredients'?  Things like car speed limiters and ABS systems.  These add costs to cars for things that you may not choose yourself.  The reduction in sizes of the Yorkie bar for the same price as government intervenes on sugar content. etc.

And on that subject what about taxes?  VAT increases prices.  PAYE is a de facto payroll tax increasing the costs of employing someone.  

Or subsidy policy.  Housing Benefit passes straight through the tenants hands into the hands of landlords at least helping to maintain rents and in some locations increasing rents.

Or foreign policy and the actions of others. Clearly the Putin /Ukraine thing is a government failure (from the perspective of everyone except Putin / Ukraine). War is diplomatic failure.  This contretemps has led to a spike in oil and gas prices which will self-correct as substitutes are found or consumers alter their behaviour to consume less.

Hence we do not seem to have a single word that covers all these factors that increase prices. Inflation is not that word. 

As regards market driven price increases these are mostly transient or seasonal.  Competition keeps prices low - witness supermarkets advertising specifically comparing prices. Markets generally, and Adam Smith style capitalism is all about doing more for less every day. The constant search for greater efficiency 

Perhaps then the RPI/CPI are more accurately thought of as indexes of government and bureaucratic failure?  

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Once upon a time....

 ...many years ago...

Now then.  If you want more of this, let me know.  I posted this because our host asked me to.  The topic is a bit specialised so it may not appeal.

What's it got to do with economics or LVT?  Bugger all really.  But as an exercise in 'greenie-ism ' it might help to know that its key components are all recycled.

Over to you.

Oh, and best watched with the sound off...

Sunday, 25 September 2022

Killer Arguments against LVT, Not (494)

I don't know if we've done this one before, but: Carol Wilcox commented on a Facebook post in the Land Value Taxation Campaign group -

"it's not affordable for those with principal homes in locations where land values have soared. My friend's modest home in Kilburn, London, was valued a couple of years ago at £1.1m."

This strikes me as a variation of the Poor Widow Bogey, but I think it is true to say tha, if we had had LVT in place, the 1000% price increase wouldn't have happened in the first place.

Bigger, softer, faster!

I started again from scratch. 36" deck, 21" wheelbase, 8.5" trucks, 75mm wheels etc. Everything is about 20% - 25% bigger than the first one (on the left for comparison).

That was my first attempt at cutting out a deck. The basic surfboard shape is fine, but I messed up on the finer detail and I know it (the outline is a bit wobbly and the truck holes are slightly out of line). I've learned from my mistakes and have a second bit of marine ply for another try next week or whenever:

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Home-Owner-Ist understands economics - shock

From The Evening Standard:

But while home buyers may welcome a potential stamp duty cut, it could also lead to them paying bigger monthly mortgage bills, a finance expert has warned.

Sarah Coles, a senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said potential cuts to stamp duty may risk “doing more harm than good”. She said stimulating housing market demand could push house prices up further, at a time when the supply of available homes is already tight. Borrowers could then find themselves paying higher monthly mortgage costs if the price they have had to pay for their home has increased.

Correct. Reducing taxation on land and buildings mainly benefits the vendor, not the purchaser. I'm just surprised to see this reported in that bastion of Home-Owner-Ism - a huge chunk of their income is from property porn adverts, so they have to toe the line.

UPDATE: LF makes a good point in the comments. For movers who are buying and selling, SDLT is a bit of a slap in the face. Nonetheless, the overall effect is to depress headline house prices.

Monday, 19 September 2022

More circular logic from the Science Deniers

I submitted my simple explanation as to why Earth's average surface temperature is what it is* over on hard-core pseudo-scientific Alarmist website Science of Doom.
* Skip to next dashed line if you are familiar with this explanation, but here's the crash course:

A planet will settle at a temperature so that it is emitting as much LW radiation to space as it gets in SW radiation from its sun. On earth, only the cloud tops and the cloud free sea/land can directly absorb solar radiation coming IN (this is an agreed amount, 240 W/m2 average), and the self-same cloud tops and the cloud free sea/land surface have to emit the same amount of IR radiation directly OUT to space. Cloud tops and sea/land HAVE TO settle at the temperatures they are to maintain this balance.

There is a separate closed cycle that operates between clouds and the sea/land below them, which can be ignored when we look at LW going to space (yellow box in my third diagram in the first link). However this closed cycle works (it's heinously complicated), it will always be overridden by the fact that the temperature difference between sea/land and cloud tops is dictated by the lapse rate, which in turn is dictated by gravity; the specific heat capacity of the atmosphere; and the impact of the latent heat of evaporation (plus/minus a few other bits, like geo-thermal or electrical energy).

Imagine the lapse rate like the surface of a still reservoir. The water surface will be level. If you pump water from one end to another, it will not change the 'flatness'; the water will just sink back in the opposite direction and end up level again. Similarly, the atmosphere can 'pump' as much radiation energy down as it likes (cooling things higher up and warming the sea/land); an equal and opposite amount of energy will flow back up again to reinstate the fixed and known lapse rate (cooling the sea/land and warming things higher up).

Maybe the sea/land warms up the air above it by conduction/convection, which in turn warms the air above that, all the way up? Maybe there's more evaporation from the sea/land? Maybe the sea/land just reflect the radiation back up? Overall effect as measured by thermometers = net nothing.

And surely, it is only absolute temperatures that we care about, not the precise mechanism of how it happens?
On with the story.

The comments and replies are difficult to follow because of nesting of replies-to-replies and because they simply deleted some of my replies. They started off by just calling me a Climate Denier etc, but one commenter, Frank, humoured me. His first attempt was "Why do you assume that cloud emissivity is 0.7? The Climate Models assume 0.95 or 1.0?" I just looked this up from sources dating back to the 1970s, when scientists wanted to find out stuff with being prejudiced as to the answer. I put him straight with half a dozen references and his last response is this:

Mark: There are two energy balances you need to deal with: the energy balance across the TOA and the energy balance at the surface. The [Kiehl and Trembert] energy budget has both. The existence of DLR is only important to the surface energy balance. You can only “prove” DLR doesn’t exist or transfer heat to the surface by studying the energy balance AT THE SURFACE.

I never said that there wasn't any downwards longwave radiation. I just said that you can ignore it when estimating likely temperatures - see my level reservoir example.

Energy balance across the TOA is the simplest because you only need to deal with radiation, which in principle can be calculated given the known temperature and composition of the atmosphere.

This seems to be his tacit admission that my simple calculation is in fact correct.

Calculating the energy balance at the surface is more complicated, because you need to add convection of latent and simple heat and DLR to the energy fluxes arriving at the surface. You completely ignore latent and sensible heat, and therefore CAN’T DRAW ANY CONCLUSIONS ABOUT DLR!

'Energy balance' is in fact very easy because you don't need to worry about what type of energy it is. You can work out from sea/land upwards, layer by layer, how much total energy each layer has - mainly thermal energy (warmth), with significant amounts of potential energy (gravitational energy - which goes up with increasing altitude/falling temperature) and latent heat (which is highest immediately above the oceans and tails off as you go up when gaseous water vapour releases that energy again by condensing).

And you find that the total energy at all altitudes in the troposphere is exactly the same, which is what you'd expect, it's like entropy. Radiation is just one of many mechanisms that works towards that balance, making sure that the lapse rate is maintained, radiation energy itself is not conserved or stored and does not show up in the overall balance (don't confuse stocks with flows!).

(NB This energy balance does not hold in the stratosphere, where the sunshine warms things from above when ozone absorbs it (converts it to thermal energy), so total energy goes up with increasing altitude - up to the point where the air is too thin and there is no measurable ozone. The same as oceans, which are warmed by sunlight from the top down. Water is not a gas, so there is no lapse rate. Again, red herrings.)

So... he believes in some magically self-reinforcing one-way energy transfer system and ignores all the other effects that cancel it all out again. it's like believing in the sloping water surface on a reservoir -and that once you have got a slope, it will become ever steeper of its own accord and you can turn off the pumps. Sorry, not good enough and it's obviously nonsense. It's an answer desperately looking for a question.

Onwards, ever onwards!

Saturday, 17 September 2022

The Roman Warm Period

It is widely accepted by historians that there was a Roman Warm Period of a few centuries, straddling either side of AD 1. When it started to cool down, there were famines, unrest and wars for scarce (food) resources and the western Roman Empire in western Europe collapsed. The eastern Roman Empire aka. Byzantine Empire, being further east and south and a bit warmer struggled on for a few more centuries, but hey.

Then came the Dark Ages, when it was cooler and history is murkier, people were too busy fighting with each other or simply struggling to survive to leave much recorded history. Then was the Mediæval Warm Period, a time of exploration and expansion, formation of larger states (Vikings got as far as Greenland). The wheels fell off again in about AD 1300 when things cooled down (very quickly) and we had the Little Ice Age. Rinse and repeat, famines, unrest, wars etc, esp. in the 1600s.

The Little Ice Age ended in the mid-to-late 1800s, since when we have had the Modern Warm Period. There have been few weather-related famines, and certainly no global ones, for the past fifty years or more, apart from the fairly local ones caused by wars and/or incompetent or downright malevolent governments (which in turn lead to wars...). It's having plentiful food that we really care about. You can survive the cold if you are well-fed; warmth is no good to you if you are starving.

That's what history teaches us. No links because I assume that this is all widely accepted. Sorry for the Euro-centric view, but that's the history I learned. Chinese and Asian history, which is as well recorded as European history, seems to show a similar timeline of rises and falls of civilisations.

The Alarmists reveal themselves to be the true Climate Deniers and swear blind that temperatures remained unchanged for thousands of years until shooting up over past fifty or a hundred years (the Hockey Stick graph), with past temperatures being adjusted down and current temperatures adjusted up.

What is the point of this brief canter through history? The point is that the Alarmists now have the cheek, temerity and gall to use clear evidence of the Roman Warm Period as evidence that... there is sudden and unprecedented climate change:

From Reuters:

ZANFLEURON PATH, Switzerland, Sept 11 (Reuters) - A rocky Alpine path between two glaciers in Switzerland is emerging for what the local ski resort says is the first time in at least 2,000 years after the hottest European summer on record.

The ski resort of Glacier 3000 in western Switzerland said this year's ice melt was around three times the 10-year average, meaning bare rock can now be seen between the Scex Rouge and the Zanfleuron glaciers at an altitude of 2,800 metres and the pass will be completely exposed by the end of this month.

In other words, it's about as warm now as it was 'at least' 2,000 years ago. Which is not really Earth-shattering news, if you are prepared to learn from history. Whether the approx. 1,000 year warm/cool cycle since AD 1 is a coincidence or there is an underlying natural pattern, nobody knows. Records don't go much further back than that, although there is some ice-core evidence of a Minoan Warm Period about 1,000 years before the Roman Warm Period.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not.

I've had a change of heart on how to 'sell' a CI, to deflect the KCNs that it would be 'unaffordable' and/or discourage people from working.

Whether it's 'affordable' (i.e. costs no more than the current system) or not depends entirely on:

1. How many people receive it.
2. How much the weekly CI actually is.
3. What the clawback rate is for people with some income.

As to 1, instead of saying:
"Everybody is entitled to claim it. There will be an income-related clawback equal to basic rate tax plus NIC. Those earning more than a certain amount (let's say the current income tax/primary NIC-free allowance of £12,570 a year), will quickly realise that the cash CI is equal and opposite to the extra tax they pay, so won't bother claiming it and will just claim the personal allowance instead i.e. be completely unaffected". All this appears to be too complex for the mathematically challenged.

I shall just say "Everybody earning less than (say) the personal allowance is entitled to claim it. This will be clawed back via PAYE from those with some earned income to ensure that claimants do not gain an advantage relative to non-claimants with similar low incomes.".

That reduces the number of claimants down to most existing pensioners plus 'about' 10 million adults out of a working age population of 'about' 45 million.

As to 2. We know the weekly rate is going to be more than £0/week (a massive saving, if we consider state pension to be a type of CI). Sensibly, we would take existing spending on welfare and pensions payments, net of clawbacks and tax paid by likely claimants and, first keep state pension at current levels, then divide the rest equally between 'about'10 million working age claimants. The answer would be 'about' £100/week (for sake of argument, depends what you do with disability-related top-ups and Housing Benefit).

Clearly, under this approach, there would be no change to the apparent 'cost' of welfare and pensions.

As to 3. we can then touch on the KCN that "people wouldn't bother working" and the clawback rate.

For sure, there are a few adults who can manage on 'about' £100/week. Most can't and will still have to work if they want the finer things in life (and rightly so, CI is a "hand-up not a hammock"). At present, as a matter of fact, clawback rates (benefits withdrawn and tax/NIC paid) are between 70% and 100%. This is where Working Tax Credits fail miserably. It might be worth officially working 16 hours a week (how the Hell do you prove that one way or another?) to get that bit extra; there is no point then doing 17 hours because you would only keep £2 or £3 for the extra hour. This is an example of the 'benefits trap'.

We know there is a Laffer Curve for taxpayers - if tax rates are too high, it's not worth running a business or working more, once you earn some bare minimum. So there is an optimum tax rate where the government can maximise tax revenues (we are at or past this point, as it happens). The same goes for welfare clawback rates - if the government wants to claw back the maximum total cash from claiamnts, it sets the rate not too low (not much clawed back and 'unfair' advantage for claimants vs non-claiming lower earners) and not too high (discourages working - not much clawed back either).

We also know that the CI clawback rate has to be set at such a rate that people working a small number of hours don't end up with more net income than people working more hours.

Taking all this into account, the optimum clawback rate is somewhere in the region of 30% to 40% (minimm wage earners keep £6 or £7 for every hour worked i.e. two or three times as much as now), which is, happily enough, the same as basic rate tax/NIC (depending on whether you include Employer's secondary NIC or not). So there is no need for a parallel means-testing/clawback system, we just give claimants BR codes for PAYE! And the work incentive has doubled or trebled at the stroke of a pen - and it's not just the extra bit of CI clawed back, their employers will also be making more profit and paying more tax!

* The German 'liberal' FPD party, which is socially AND economically liberal, unlike its UK sister party which is just soft-socialist, had exactly these proposals in its 2021 manifesto, the FDP are part of the ruling Coalition, and it seems not unlikely that this will be actually implemented next year (fingers crossed). I happened to see this in the ZDF evening news yesterday, which I watch occasionally for old time's sake.

Sunday, 11 September 2022

It's green, not red, white and blue.

This article fleshes out the suspicion I had that the whole gas crisis has far more to do with an unholy alliance between Greenies and energy speculators than it has to do with Russia. As can be seen, in every case of discontinued supply, it was the West who discontinued it, not Russia, as is evidenced by Germany's continued refusal to activate Nordstream 2. It looks ike high gas prices are here to stay, there are a lot of middlemen who need to be kept in private jets and luxury yachts.