Sunday, 20 January 2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

We've just seen this.

It is a glorious load of confused and multi-layered gibberish, very enjoyable!

Does patent protection encourage or discourage innovation?

From the BBC:

Deep in a water treatment plant in Ramstein, near Kaiserslautern in south-west Germany, one woman believes she's found the answer [to fatbergs]. Dr Andrea Junker-Buchheit works for a start-up called Lipobak.

"We treat fatbergs with a special micro-organism solution. We grow bacteria which have been developed specifically to eat fat. They digest all the fat, all the grease, all the oil."
...
Work in this area started under a US patent nearly 30 years ago, but has come back to the fore since it expired.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Nobody move or your car insurance gets hurt!

From the BBC:

Car insurance costs are climbing for the first time since 2017, partly because of Brexit uncertainty, according to the AA.

Over the last three months, the cost of a fully comprehensive policy climbed 2.7% to £609.93 on average...

MoneySupermarket's... editor-in-chief Tom Flack said: "It is often more expensive to buy insurance in December as they are more cars needing it so insurers don't have to compete as hard for business.

"That means it's harder to tell if the rise in the final quarter of 2018 signals a long-term rise or is just a blip."

Friday, 18 January 2019

Can anybody explain the outcome of these car crashes?

The Prince Philip thing baffles me, how do you knock over a giant Land Rover by T-boning it with a Ford Ka?

Even more baffling is this one, from Yahoo:

Monks lost control of his Vauxhall Vectra, and crashed into Andrew Toms Car Sales, a car dealership, destroying 22 cars parked outside.

The photos show a row of badly damaged cars... with a row of apparently intact metal posts in front them. How did he manage to hit the cars without hitting the posts?

Here's one photo, click through to Yahoo for more:



Here we go again...

From The Telegraph:

A second referendum will take well over a year to organise, according to official guidance drawn up by civil servants in the Cabinet Office.

The guidance - leaked to Telegraph - was handed to MPs by David Lidington, Theresa May's effective deputy, at a meeting today in the Cabinet Office...


Which has been the plan all along. They are just playing for time and messing things up as badly as possible, quite deliberately, until there's a big enough margin to re-run it.

Rather infuriatingly - from their point of view - the opinion polls are not showing a clear enough lead for Remain. They went into the first referendum a few points ahead, which evaporated on the day, so they daren't rerun the referendum until Remain is at least 10 points ahead to give them a margin of error.

Or they might risk it and have a second referendum with the binary choice, Remain or May's (Deliberately Shit) Deal, in which case Remain would probably romp home (I don't know why Survation's 11/1/19 poll showed them level pegging, that looks like a blip).

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (451)

Sobers, arch-Home-Owner-Ist and a reliable source of flaky KLNs on KLN#448

"... giving the State the power to determine who occupies a piece of land (which is what LVT does, it makes the State the effective landowner and the nominal owner the tenant) means that if it wants to the State may remove any or all owners from their land by the simple expediency of increasing the 'rent' until it can not longer be paid.

The proponents of LVT should be open and honest about what they want - all private landowners to become tenants of the State, liable to eviction if they don't pay the rent."


Ignoring the facts that a) he assumes democracy will be suspended and reversed, against all historical trends, and b) land and building owners are expected to pay for their own utilities, repairs and insurance, so it seems perfectly reasonable to expect them to pay for the public services they receive...

... tax and spend is about numbers and logic, so let's do a simplified example and compare and contrast.

In an average area, public spending costs £10,000 per home per year and generates a site premium of £10,000 per home per year. Let's look at two tenants and one non-taxpaying/non-working owner-occupier* in Sobers' perfect vision of society. The tenants are paying £10,000 site rent and the owner-occupier is paying none. The cost of public services for all three households is £30,000, so each tenant has to pay £15,000 in income tax on top of £10,000 rent each.

The two tenants are paying £50,000 in income tax and rent and are enjoying public services/location value of £20,000 so they are down by £30,000.

Where does the £30,000 go?

Their landlord is collecting £20,000 in rent, on which he pays very little tax, and the non-taxpaying owner-occupier is enjoying public services/location value of £10,000 which the tenants have paid for.

In Sobers' Utopia, the landlords "have the power to determine who occupies a piece land, which they can remove by the simple expediency of increasing the rent until it can no longer be paid"**. The Home-Owner-Ists are "open and honest about what they want [for all wealth creators and taxpayers] to become tenants, liable to eviction if they don't [hand over half their output and earnings in tax and] rent". Two strivers are expected to expected to support one big and one small sponger.

Even in Sobers' imagined non-democratic dystopia, the evil State would be charging 250% LVT before the wealth-creating tenants are noticeably worse off. The landlord is serving no useful purpose, so let's not shed a tear there.

If Sobers wants to argue that the two working tenants/recent FTBs should pay £5,000 income tax each to pay for the non-working owner-occupier's public services (on top of £10,000 LVT each), well fair enough, but that would still be a massive improvement on paying £15,000 income tax each (on top of £10,000 privately collected LVT).

* Quite where the non-taxpaying/non-working owner-occupier gets the money from to pay for food and utilities and so on is never clear in his examples. Let's ignore the majority significant minority of taxpaying, owner-occupier households who are being taxed stupid on their output and earnings but receiving a large chunk of that back in public services/location value.

** Quite why rational landlords - or a rational, democratically elected government - would do this is never made clear.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Headlights moan and squeaky windscreen wipers.

I don't know if it's just me, or because I usually drive low-slung cars where my eyes are directly in the beam of other cars'  headlight beams, but headlights seem to be a lot brighter nowadays.

The whole thing is counter-productive - up to a certain level, brighter headlights improve safety (see and be seen) but I am quite sure that many cars have passed that stage - they can see better but oncoming traffic is pretty much blinded, especially as so many idiots seem to leave their headlights on full beam all the time.

What's worse is, these bright bulbs don't last very long, I'd guess at least one car in twenty only has one functioning headlight (having done the counting game with my son on the way home). How on earth people don't notice is a mystery to me. Idiots. And of course, the remaining headlight is so bright that you sometimes can't see the car at all, and it's easy to mistake them for a motorbike.
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On a vaguely related topic, I tried the Halfords budget wipers (about £18) and they wiped OK but they didn't click into the arms properly.

The windscreen onomy MX5MX5  pretty much opaque after 150,000 miles of minor scratches, so I had a new one fitted (pretty good value, £200 inc. VAT if I recall correctly). I treated myself to a pair of Bosch wipers (about £21, so the Halfords were a false economy) because I was worried that the budget wipers would pop out completely and the arms would scratch the lovely new windscreen to buggery.

They wipe great, but they squeak like mad over the glass, which is really irritating. Is there any way of fixing this? Rub them with graphite powder or something?

Friday, 11 January 2019

The thin end of the wedge

From the BBC:

Some 140,000 homeowners are trapped on high interest-rate home loans with unregulated or inactive firms, and are unable to switch to a cheaper deal. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has now said it is considering a change to its affordability checks.

This could allow these people to switch to deals that are easier to pay. At present, they are stuck on high default rates, owing to an FCA requirement - introduced in 2014 - for mortgage holders to meet strict affordability criteria when they apply for a new fixed deal.


OK, so Annie and Bert, took out a six-times income, 100% LTV mortgage under the old reckless lending rules but banks can only lend a 'sensible' multiple like four-times-income. They'll make an exception for Annie and Bert.

What about Claire and David next door, who took out a four-times-income and have done equity release to 'tap into house price growth' and now owe six-times-income?

What about Ellie and Fred across the road who took out personal loans to pay a deposit and a four-times-income mortgage who also owe six-times-income?

If that's OK for Ellie and Fred, what about Georgina and Harry, first time buyers who want to borrow six-time-income but can't? Can they reverse engineer Ellie and Fred's position by taking out two-times-income personal loans and using that as a deposit for a four-times-income-mortgage?

Where's a loophole, there's a way.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

All Countries are Developing Countries - Part 2 - the Libertarian View


(In haste as I have to do some work...)

N.B. All states start from homesteading and then warlording etc. It’s how they get past the war-lording that matters.

1.       Make sure you can defend your external borders aka Defence of the realm  (Ukraine messed up badly there a few years ago, they were so busy bickering over who should be in charge that the Russians just marched in and occupied the eastern half – (the truth about that is more nuanced.  A lot of that instability was down to US/EU interference and Russian reaction).

2. Eliminate corruption and have stable financial and legal systems, meaning private/contract law as well as public order aka Rule of Law (defence against internal enemies and protection of minorities (automatic under the Rule of Law), fire brigade (No. Not fire brigade – that’s a form of insurance – which I agree may be better organised by local authorities – despite their woeful inefficiencies - and funded from LVT). Separation of religion and state (OK, that's most of the Middle East buggered). (Not exactly.  The Rule of Law in the UK stems from Judeo Christian philosophy.  What you might mean is the tolerance of those who wish to practice other Faiths.  As to stable money values, it is government central banks that have been at the very root of the destruction of that. Money is a market invention and until it became generally nationalised and then fiat worked very well.  Just look at the private money in the Great Britain between about 1750 and 1820.)

3. Try and instil a sense of democracy, which only works if there is some sort of single national identity (See EU democratic failure) - democracy doesn't work if a country is divided on tribal lines (you only have to look as far as Northern Ireland to see that, let alone the third world). Which is why the Japanese took to democracy like a duck to water after 1945. (True. But in ‘developing nations’ democracy develops as the middle class get richer and then the lower classes get richer and all demand a say in how the government operates.)

4. Get the infrastructure (roads, railways, airports, telephones, electricity and water supply) up and running. (Not exactly.  Infrastructure development follows economic growth – it generally relieves bottlenecks – see the Causey Arch.  In the UK – one of the most successful ‘developing nations’ - all of the things you list were first developed by private capital.  This ‘build infrastructure and they will come fallacy’ is the one that has been practiced by the likes of the UN to help ‘developing nations’, well develop, and has been so successful, not.  As without stable institutions that develop through time – secure property rights, Rule of Law, individual liberty etc. – the infrastructure spend is invariably wasted).

5. Universal education up to a certain age, making sure that girls get equal treatment. (Yes, of course this is a ‘Good Idea’. However evidence from ‘developing nations’ is that centrally funded education run by government is less effective than private education.  Often that is because the State educators seek to indoctrinate. As far as I can tell, private school education for children in England blossomed as worker productivity increased over the industrial revolution. That is there was the wealth to support education as it was no longer necessary for family survival for children to work.)

6. Public health - immunisation programmes, clean water and functioning sewage/refuse collection, pregnancy and natal care, free condoms. Cap prices that doctors and drugs companies can charge patients (it's largely rent).  (Public health starts with clean water in and foul water out.  The first water supplies in in the UK were private companies.  Foul water out – famously Bazelgette (my hero) London sewerage system was a state program – London local authorities.  But elsewhere private business developed ways of handling sewerage, Pepys talks about ‘shit shovellers’ who came round in carts and took away the poo from each house.  In truth this is more of a city problem than a national problem. For example today, now, I am not on mains sewers. I have my own mini sewerage treatment works in my rural garden.  Turning to health care, pretty well all of that was available, in what was by 1945 the UK, from private institutions. Even immunisation was provided by private doctors. As to capping prices, really?  Pre NHS famously doctors were always moaning about low pay. And how did Bevin get the doctors to play along with nationalisation?  By ‘stuffing their mouths with gold’).

7. Make country open for foreign investment and trade but DO NOT let multinational corporations come in and rape the place. Tariffs and protectionism where absolutely necessary but they are to be phased out ASAP. (Yes, and No.  MNC’s can only ‘rape the place’ if they are given special privileges.  The best at this is the EU, a crony corporatist construct par excellance.  Also, the preceding conditions of the Rule of Law strong property rights, individual liberty etc. mitigate against MNC’s raping anything.  Especially if money is not nationalised and fiat and paper based as the ‘specie flow mechanism’ automatically stops over-consumption. Tariffs and protectionism are never necessary.)

8. Decent housing for the poorest - meaning slum clearances and building state-owned affordable housing with electricity and running water etc. (Yes, and no. ‘We’ all know what stops Rachmanism -. LVT. Funnily enough the slum clearances in London had some considerable negative effects by breaking up communities.  And the appalling vandalism by Prescott and his cronies in clearing ‘sub-standard housing’ has not been successful. Overall better to apply a sort of reverse Pigouvianism to landlords to drive standards up by fostering competition on quality by removing the unearned land value gains.  Plus, I do agree that LA housing has a valuable role to play in that competition noting that LVT neutralises the land price issue.  As to leccie and H2O, yes, that goes without saying).

9. Don't let income inequality get out of hand. A stable society won't thrive if a small business and political 'elite' are multi millionaires and the masses are struggling by on a dollar a day. Earned income is always the best kind of income, but having universal welfare/a basic income to patch up the survivors has always worked far better than expected. (Yes. But. Competitive capitalism automatically engenders more equality. OTH crony corporatism as we have now (with banksters say) does the opposite.  Today the Big Problems for the average bloke are rents and taxes – the same thing. And just look at the state of our current political elite and Brexit. How corrupt are they and how relatively rich?)

10. As far as possible, fund government out of taxes on land values, natural resources and other monopolies. Whenever and wherever it's been tried it has doubled the rate of progress. (Of course)

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

All countries are developing countries - the core functions of the state

I have been blogging - and thinking about stuff - for so long, that I can contrast my current thinking with my own post of nearly eleven years ago. Back in the day, I took the narrow/small government view on which few areas truly are core functions of a state. Now I'm not so sure.

First, think about the policies you would recommend to a newly formed/newly independent poor/developing country.

Well, in no particular order, here's a possible and non-exhaustive top ten...

1. Make sure you can defend your external borders (Ukraine messed up badly there a few years ago, they were so busy bickering over who should be in charge that the Russians just marched in and occupied the eastern half).

2. Eliminate corruption and have stable financial and legal systems, meaning private/contract law as well as public order (defence against internal enemies and protection of minorities, fire brigade). Separation of religion and state (OK, that's most of the Middle East buggered).

3. Try and instil a sense of democracy, which only works if there is some sort of single national identity - democracy doesn't work if a country is divided on tribal lines. You only have to look as far as Northern Ireland to see that, let alone the third world, which is why the Japanese took to democracy like a duck to water after 1945.

4. Get the infrastructure (roads, railways, airports, telephones, electricity and water supply) up and running.

5. Universal education up to a certain age, making sure that girls get equal treatment.

6. Public health - immunisation programmes, clean water and functioning sewage/refuse collection, pregnancy and natal care, free condoms. Cap prices that doctors and drugs companies can charge patients (it's largely rent).

7. Make country open for foreign investment and trade but DO NOT let multinational corporations come in and rape the place. Tariffs and protectionism where absolutely necessary but they are to be phased out ASAP.

8. Decent housing for the poorest - meaning slum clearances and building state-owned affordable housing with electricity and running water etc.

9. Don't let income inequality get out of hand. A stable society won't thrive if a small business and political 'elite' are multi millionaires and the masses are struggling by on a dollar a day. Earned income is always the best kind of income, but having universal welfare/a basic income to patch up the survivors has always worked far better than expected.

10. As far as possible, fund government out of taxes on land values, natural resources and other monopolies. Whenever and wherever it's been tried it has doubled the rate of progress.
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Now, having nodded along to all of that, where is the dividing line between developing and developed countries?

There isn't one, it's just that some are a few centuries ahead of others. If we were to come back in another millennium, most African countries will be miles ahead of where European countries are today (hopefully), and equally hopefully, European countries will be far ahead of where they are now.

All of which means, a country doesn't just need to do steps 1 to 10 for a few decades until it is up and running and then decide to 'leave everything to the markets'. It is a constant process that will go on forever. Take your eye off the ball for a few years and you can lose decades of progress.

For sure, the government/state-controlled bodies don't necessarily need to do all the day-to-day stuff, a lot of it can be done by private businesses under state oversight/regulation, or by private providers competing for people to spend their health, education or housing vouchers with them, that's details.