Friday, 17 January 2020

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (478)

KLN: "Valuations and collection will be a very complicated."

Well, firstly, no they won't. We can get 90% of the way to Land Value Tax by tweaking Council Tax (and Business Rates) valuations to reflect relative values and use the existing collection mechanism, which will be easier because owners will be primarily liable, not occupants/tenants.

And complicated compared to what, exactly?

LVT would be a good replacement tax for Council TaxCapital Gains Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax and Inheritance Tax, just to get the ball rolling. 

If you want to see "complicated", click the above links to the relevant legislation. Council Tax (Local Government Finance Act 1992) is a model of clarity and brevity compared the other three acts. 

Council Tax raises more revenue than the other three taxes combined with about one-tenth as much legislation. And it's not just legislation. Those three minor taxes require endless further guidance and an intrusive bureaucracy - and generate high fees for lawyers and accountants.

There are whole books written on these three taxes - how many books are there on Council Tax? Pretty much none. Your land and buildings are assessed and you just pay it. Don't want to pay so much? Then move somewhere cheaper. 

And a proper Land Value Tax Act would be a about half the length of already brief Council Tax and Business Rates legislation put together. Instead of all the discounts and exemptions, there'd only be the roll-up option for pensioners. And I suppose a clause to say that local councils can introduce as many discounts and exemptions they like, provided they bear the full cost (either by spending less or imposing a precept on "everybody else").
(Stamp Duty on share sales is another dreadful tax, but it would seem appropriate to make up the shortfall from scrapping it by increasing the corporation tax rate so that costs and benefits cancel out).

"How to win back Northern voters" by Keir Starmer

From City AM:

Meanwhile, the start of Labour’s leadership contest has revolved around winning back Northern voters, with candidates scuttling to distance themselves from ties to the capital.

Frontrunner, and Holborn and St Pancras MP, Sir Keir Starmer was quick to point out in a recent interview that while he was born in London, that he in fact grew up in Surrey.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Great one-liner in The Next Step, Season 7 Episode 2.

Finn: "I have a photogenic memory."

Before anybody can correct him, he follows up with...

"All my memories are really good looking."

FlyBe Nonsense

This sounds like utter guff to me

The number of passengers it carries pales by comparison with better-known budget carriers such as easyJet or Ryanair.

As a company, it is only a tenth as big as collapsed holiday firm Thomas Cook, so there is little prospect of a government bailout.

But those who habitually choose Flybe see it as a vital service, because it reaches the places that other airlines fail to touch.

"Mainland UK doesn't understand how vital Flybe is to Northern Ireland," tweeted one regular passenger, Jason.

"As someone who travels with them frequently for work, Flybe's collapse would be a disaster for the NI economy.

"If this happens, Belfast City Airport will have only four flight routes. FOUR."

I'm going to suggest here that "Jason" is a PR guy for FlyBe in disguise. There's a cute trick at the end there. It mentions how many routes Belfast City Airport will have. What it doesn't mention is that there's also Belfast International Airport.

Easyjet alone fly Belfast to Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, London, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. OK, they're going to lose the direct service to places like Cardiff, but it's only another half hour from Bristol Airport to Cardiff.

And if this was so critical to people on this route, FlyBe wouldn't be in trouble, as they'd be falling over each other to snap up tickets rather than there being Belfast to Cardiff seats available next week for £140 return.

Despite Jason's heartfelt words, there are a number of other locations that owe just as much to Flybe in terms of connections to the wider world.

Cornish holiday resort Newquay, for one, has no direct rail services from London for much of the year and the journey takes about five hours. But Flybe can get you from London Heathrow to Newquay airport in little more than an hour.

Yeah, but it isn't "little more than an hour". You've got check-in time, parking, baggage, security, and all sorts of crap when you land at Heathrow. Then time from Heathrow to London on the Heathrow Express. Call it 3 hours door-to-door. And really, most of Cornwall isn't 5 hours, because go slightly east of Newquay and there's St Austell which runs direct trains to London in just over 4 hours. Other than a few people who want to go to their holiday homes, what's the critical link for Cornwall and London that can't wait 4 hours?

And if you live in the Isle of Man, Flybe's service can literally be a lifeline.

The airline has a contract with the government to transfer NHS patients from the island to medical facilities in Liverpool when they require treatment that cannot be provided closer to home.

And Easyjet also fly there, so just use them. Or get someone to schedule private jets. The Isle of Man aren't a British problem.

Small wonder, then, that Ben Bradshaw, the MP whose Exeter constituency includes Flybe's base, has spoken of the "valuable connectivity" that the carrier provides.

In fact, he described the airline as "a strategically important business".

Thanks to Flybe, Mr Bradshaw's constituents can fly from Exeter direct to a variety of destinations including Amsterdam, Paris and Geneva - places that would otherwise be accessible to them only after a lengthy trek via other places.

A lengthy trek? It's about an hour from Exeter to Bristol Airport that flies to Amsterdam and Paris.

Freelance art director Sarah Ward, who divides her time between London and Cornwall, is another Flybe frequent flyer. She tweeted that she would have to move house if the airline ceased to exist.

In an appeal to her local MP, Derek Thomas, she asked: "What are you doing to protect such vital infrastructure?"

Well, move house then. Figure out a way to work from home. Move job. You're the insane one with a 250 mile distance from home to work and depending on one airline. You did this.

If an airline goes out of business, no other operator automatically takes over their routes and there is no guarantee any would.

But hang on, this is a "vital link" to the country, but no-one can even fill a plane every day? Maybe, actually, they have a load of marginal routes like Belfast to Cardiff that most people just don't care about flying very often. Maybe it's a crap business that government should let go to the wall.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (477)

From City AM:

Transport for London (TfL) is considering funding the £3.1bn Bakerloo line extension with a tax on landowners. The proposed works would extend the line from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham via stations on Old Kent Road and New Cross Gate. 

However, the project has been left unfunded with no indication from central government that it will foot the bill. It was revealed today by New Civil Engineer that TfL is considering taxing landowners along the proposed route to pay for the line as they would likely benefit from increased property values from the extension...

The Centre for London and the Adam Smith Institute think tanks said the landowner levy would make sense. 

Adam Smith institute research associate Charlie Paice said: "Rather than relying upon central government handouts for infrastructure investment this land levy will mean that those paying are the ones who stand to benefit as the value of their properties go up.

"If land owners aren't prepared to pay for a project which will further increase their property values – then why should they expect taxpayers from the rest of the country to stump up their cash?"

Good arguments FOR. Now let's see the KLN:

However, the low-tax lobby group the Taxpayers' Alliance (TPA) took a drastically different view.

Harry Fone, TPA grassroots campaign manager, said: "Imposing levies on homeowners who had no idea of the proposal when they bought would be deeply unfair."

OK, let's rephrase that: "Income tax hikes on people who had no idea that their taxes would be used to subsidise landowners elsewhere in the country when they started their current jobs are perfectly fair and reasonable."

Monday, 13 January 2020

Daily Mail on top form

From The Dail Mail:

Helen Hancock, 39, was found dead alongside 48-year-old company director Martin Griffiths at a property in the upmarket village of Duffield just months after she walked out on her husband...

Detective Inspector Steve Shaw of Derbyshire Police told the court the couple were discovered at the £400,000 detached property in Duffield, Derbyshire, the early hours of New Years' Day.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Shit PR by Boeing

From The Evening Standard:

Planes giant Boeing was humiliated on Friday after hundreds of internal emails showed staff fraught with concerns over possible design flaws on the 737 MAX, saying the doomed jet had been “designed by clowns”...

According to documents released to Congress today, Boeing employees repeatedly raised concerns internally about design issues, with one person involved saying software had “piss poor” design and was “doomed”.

“This airplane is designed by clowns who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” the employee wrote in April 2017. Another employee involved in the jet’s development wrote: “Part of me wants to see it fail so we can say WE TOLD YOU SO. That’s kind of sick of me, huh.”

That seems pretty damning to me, you'd think that Boeing would just keep quiet and pray for lenience.

But no:

Boeing apologised for the messages. “The language used in these communications, and some of the sentiments they express, are inconsistent with Boeing values, and the company is taking appropriate action in response.”

Exactly not.

Those emails are entirely consistent with Boeing's (lack of) values, as evidenced by the subsequent 737 disasters and botched cover-up attempts. Boeing shouldn't be apologising for the messages, they should be apologising for the crimes (that were exposed by the messages). The "appropriate action" would be to never cut corners like this again and listen to their engineers' concerns in future.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Fun With Numbers - worked example

Re my earlier post, here is a worked example showing that you can use the quadratic formula approach to work out what non-decimal base a calculation is in.

(Update: Rational Anarchist developed this technique independently and posted a worked example a few minutes ago in the comments to the earlier post. So this is a Newton v Leibniz type spat...)


"15 x 36 = 642. This doesn't work in decimal/base ten. What base is it in?"


You express the first part as: (x + 5) x (3x + 6)
You multiply those to get: 3x^2 + 21x + 30 (expression A).

You express the second part as: 6x^2 + 4x + 2 (expression B)

You subtract expression A from expression B and get:
3x^2 - 17x - 28 = 0

You solve this using your preferred method.
Using factorisation, you get (3x + 4) x (x - 7) = 0

So x (the base) could be -4/3 or 7. The base must be at least 7 because the highest digit in the original calculation was "6", so rule out -4/3 and try with 7.


You have to convert the given equation from base 7 to base 10 and see if it works.

Base 7................Base 10
15.......................7 + 5 = 12
36......................(3 x 7) + 6 = 27
642....................(6 x 49) + (4 x 7) + 2 = 324
15 x 36 = 642...12 x 27 = 324


NB - If the calculation you are given is a division - i.e. "642 ÷ 15 = 36", then you just turn it into the multiplication 15 x 36 = 642" and use the same approach,

Fun With Numbers

I have been thinking about bases other than decimal (such as binary) and quadratic equations. These are normally treated as separate topics, but there are overlaps, and if you think it through, you reach some surprising conclusions.

Whether there will ever be any practical application of this is doubtful, so only read on if you have quarter of an hour to spare. Here goes...

Bases other than decimal

We use decimal numbers (base ten) all the time and I hope that most people are also familiar with the concept of binary numbers (base 2). They used to teach it at school (heck knows why, but it was fun).

If you see the number "11" you assume that it means "eleven", but if you are told this is using binary notation, it means "three". Instead of columns for hundreds, tens and units, you have columns for fours, twos and units.

You can use any base you like, the computer chaps like using hexadecimal (base sixteen), They use digits up to nine and use A for "ten", B for "eleven" and so on up to F for "fifteen" (the highest digit is always one less than the base), The columns are for 256s (16 squareds), sixteens and units. So if "1A3" is a number in hexadecimal, its decimal equivalent is 419.

It's fun writing down numbers in other bases and trying to add, subtract, multiply and divide. It really messes with your mind, if you like that sort of thing.

Quadratic equations

If you are asked to solve something like "x^2 + 2x + 3 = 27" for x, it is quite a faff because you have to use one of the techniques for solving it (preferably this one), and you have to concentrate on not getting confused between x-squareds and x's.

My first breakthrough was to realise that we are all actually very familiar with the quadratic format/concept... because that's how we read and write numbers.

The number "111" (in base ten) means 1 x 100 (ten squared) + 1 x 10 + 1. = 111. Easy.
You can also imagine it as a quadratic equation x^2 + x + 1 = 111, where x = ten.

The number "111" (in base 2) = "7" (in base ten). If you know we're using binary, that's also simple enough. It's a two squared, plus a two, plus a unit.
You can also imagine it as a quadratic equation x^2 + x + 1 = 7, where x = 2

Putting two and two together... to make five

Some maths puzzles give you a calculation that looks odd, such as "12 x 13 = 222" and your challenge is to work out what base this is in. By trial and error, you can work out that it is in base four*. "12" means 4 + 2 and "13" means 4 + 3, the answer is 42 (in decimal terms), which in base four is expressed as "222" (2 x 16 + 2 x 4 + 2).

UPDATE: I have now done a post with a worked example to show how you can solve such "identify the base" problems using the quadratic approach.

So... when you are solving a quadratic equation where the signs before the x-squareds and the x's are positive, solving for x is the same as asking what base it is in!

If I tell you that "2x^2 + 2x + 2 = 42", you can turn that into two very similar problems.

1. You can turn it into "222 in a non-decimal base = 42 in base ten. Which base is '222' in?".


2. You can turn it into "Solve for x". If you've been following so far, you know that one of the answers must be four... but negative five is the other valid answer.

So there actually two possible answers to the first type of question as well - it could be base four or it could be base negative five.

It is here that my train of thought grinds to a halt. It would be fun to argue the toss with a maths teacher whether he would accept "base negative five" as a valid answer to question 1*.

Apart from that I see no practical use to this concept - could there ever conceivably be a situation in which it is handy to use a negative base, in the same way as the computer chaps find hexadecimal and binary useful?

Answers on a postcard...

* Of course, another answer to the problem "in which base is 13 X 14 = 222 a valid equation?" is "negative one" if you multiply up and solve it using the quadratic equation approach, but while I accept the existence of negative bases, there can be no base one, because the highest digit you can use is one less than the base, in this case zero.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Fun With Numbers

From City AM:

... thanks to a concerted push to appeal to younger buyers, the 111-year-old company has managed to bring the average age of its clientele down by 13 years over the last decade to just 43.

“That means that for everybody who is 60 [buying a Rolls-Royce], you have somebody who is 20,” chief executive Torsten Muller-Otvos told City A.M.

Nope, mathematically wrong and seems unlikely. More likely is e.g. for every 60 year old buyer there are nine 42 year olds; or four 39 year olds.