Saturday, 16 February 2019

"Is This What Quantum Mechanics Looks Like?"

When physics teachers try to explain rudimentary quantum mechanics, such as the two-slit experiment, they say you can visualise it as particles for some purposes but as waves for others.

Apparently, there's a splendid way of helping you visualise that actually it's both - with a simple practical experiment:

Friday, 15 February 2019

We don't need *a* withdrawal agreement

The whole notion of having a single, all-encompassing EU Withdrawal Agreement was a nonsense from the start, even assuming a lot of goodwill and willingness to compromise on both sides. It's Remainer propaganda to make it all seem more complicated than it really is (for the experts concerned).

The sensible thing to do is work on a case-by-case basis and have lots of little agreements, just as international relations are governed in the real world.

The starting position is leave everything running exactly as it is, making a few tweaks where necessary. Take EHIC cards, for example, that is an agreement between members of EU, EEA and Switzerland, we just change that to read "members of EU, EEA, Switzerland and the UK", and so on.

To give a few examples;

1. The airports, airlines, aviation authorities do their arrangements, which is lots of supra-national stuff, not really an EU thing.

2. The police and justice departments are responsible for extradition and deportation agreements, co-operation and information sharing. We can chuck the European Arrest Warrant in the shredder and revert to normal extradition rules.

3. Home Office agrees with corresponding department in each other country (or groups thereof) what the rules on emigration, immigration and right to reside are.

I have no idea how long this list would be (very long), but that doesn't matter, the people affected by cross-border and supra-national agreements know who they are and can get in touch with their counter-parties in other countries. Once they dig down, they'll find that most of this was never an EU-competence and so is barely affected by Brexit.

They can all work in parallel at the same time, they are the experts in their own area and know what needs to be done.

The NHS/BMA knows about mutual recognition of qualifications of doctors and nurses, but they have no idea about world-wide rules on car safety standards, that doesn't matter. NHS/BMA do their bit, and the car manufacturers and transport ministries do their bit.

There is no need for politicians - who have no expertise in anything - to get involved, except in their capacity as minister responsible for a particular department.

Here endeth.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Per aspera ad astra

"Work hard, and you'll be able to afford a Vauxhall"

See also:

"Keep your friends close, but keep your keys, mobile phone and wallet closer"

Daily Mail on top form

Scroll right to the end of the article for the money shot, i.e. the original headline:

Police probe mystery deaths of two men after their bodies were found inside £270,000 home

"Elementary, my dear: Predicting Brexit in the style of Sherlock Holmes"

Graeme Leach in City AM.

Basically, everybody's as confused as everybody else and nobody has a plan.


Capitalism destroys jobs. 

It's the welfare state and socialism that create unemployment. 


Monday, 11 February 2019

"Enter the first, fourth and fifth characters of your unique word"

Sometime when you login somewhere, you are asked to enter certain characters from your unique word, which is surprisingly difficult and often takes two or three attempts.

Some clever internet chaps have realised that this is waste of everybody's time and have set it up so that you have to enter the appropriate characters in the boxes and skip the asterisks. This makes it a lot easier because you can visualise your unique word as you type the characters in. Well done them!

* *□□*

A shining example of what the UK government *should* have been doing for the last two-and-a-half years...

From Sky News:

The government has signed a trade deal with Switzerland, heralded as the most significant such agreement in the run-up to Brexit.

The deal, known as a trade continuity agreement, will guarantee future trading terms between the two countries once the UK has left the EU.

It was signed, in the Swiss city of Bern, by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and the Swiss federal councillor Guy Parmelin...

Top trolling by the Swiss - the UK couldn't be bothered to send anybody important, so the Swiss probably just drew lots in the canteen.

The agreement is designed to remove the threat of additional tariffs in trade between the two countries and to also to lift the possibility of additional duties on "the vast majority of goods".

The government says that "trading on these preferential terms", as opposed to sticking to the terms of the World Trade Organisation, "will deliver significant savings and help to safeguard British jobs".

But excellent stuff nonetheless, we just need a hundred more of these.
And a shining example of what they shouldn't be doing:

Counting the cost

...we can look back at the whole period since the referendum and compare the level of GDP in the latest data to the OBR’s March 2016 pre-referendum forecast (which assumed the UK would remain in the EU).

Building on economists’ expectation for 2018 Q4 to the ONS data suggests the economy is 1.1 per cent smaller than that pre-referendum forecast. In annual GDP terms that’s worth around £23 billion, or about £800 per annum for every household in the UK.

Because OBR/Treasury forecasts have always been so reliable.

IIRC, GDP growth is down since 2016 in most European countries including Germany. Which is presumably also because of Brexit.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (20)

The Killer Argument is that if you replace means-tested and conditional welfare payments with an unconditional and non-means tested one, "people won't bother working".

That is clearly nonsense, assuming it is set at a sensible level - about £75 (with housing benefit and council tax reductions on top) a week, or something like £120+ a week if housing subsidies are scrapped. There are very few people happy to live off £6,000 a year, most people want and earn much more than that.

The conditionality (aka pointless persecution to keep the Daily Mailexpressgraph readers onside), might, in marginal cases push people into work. The means testing does precisely the opposite - there's not much point working for a low wage if you lose 75p for every gross £1 you are paid. And we know that the UK welfare system is so clunky and horrible that people on benefits are discouraged from taking a short term or insecure job because it's so difficult going back on benefits again when it ends.

The nay-sayers have of course had a field day with the results of a small-scale experiment in Finland:

Beginning in 2017, some 2,000 recipients of unemployment benefits were given a monthly stipend of €560, tax-free and without any conditions, as part of an experiment in simplifying welfare and lowering unemployment.

A preliminary report published on Friday by the Finnish welfare administration Kela shows that the experiment’s effect on unemployment or self-employment was almost nonexistent.

Which the BBC gleefully reports thusly: Giving jobless people in Finland a basic income for two years did not lead them to find work, researchers said.

Well, so what?

The real lesson here is that recipients were not discouraged from looking for work, which rebuts the actual Killer Argument.

So even if that is not an argument in favour of a Citizen's Income, it's certainly not an argument against it and the other findings certainly are in favour:

However [?], the recipients of the stipend reported feeling happier and less stressed than the control group, made up of those who received traditional unemployment and welfare benefits.

Which is a clear win, less expensive bureaucracy and faff and people are happier.

That 'happiness' would be much greater if everybody got it, rich, poor or middling alike. I'm not aware that rich people begrudge other people's free at point of use state education or NHS treatment, because most rich people use the NHS and send their kids to state schools, and even if they don't, they know they could. So it all adds to that vague but important concept, 'social cohesion'.

UK Exports

In a recent post, I mentioned how I think most people think of manufacturing in a rather old way: oily blokes of little education bashing at pieces of metal in production lines, or women sitting in banks of sewing machines. But that most manufacturing is smaller scale, more specialised.

I think another thing like this is what people think our exports look like. Let's just take food. We have countless stories in the press of the effect of Brexit on our food industry: lamb farmers, beef farmers, cheese producers. And on the flip side, the benefits of Brexit for fishing. Not many stories about the Scotch Whisky industry, though, are there? What's the effect of Brexit on Scotch Whisky?

You'd think this would be worth reporting on, because Scotch Whisky is a larger export market than fish, meat and dairy combined. We exported £5.6bn of Scotch Whisky last year, compared to around £1.9bn of fish, £1.8bn of beef and £1.8bn of dairy and eggs (total £5.5bn).

See, I think at one time these things mattered. Raw exports were a big deal. We probably didn't export much in the 70s but bits of machinery and raw food. You didn't have ARM exporting chip designs or Chris Tarrant exporting game show formats to India. Most Indians didn't have TVs.

But there's where the growth is. Partly because microchips are higher value goods, but also because economic growth is faster outside the EU and goods like meat and cheese are more expensive to export far. They're large and often perishable. And what's growing is the less perishable stuff with more value added and/or branding.