Friday 29 February 2008

"Sovereign wealth investment is a force for stability"

Another fine article in yesterday's FT, in which John Kay says what I have always said; if unfriendly foreign governments (China, Russia, Saudi Arabia) invest in your country, then they haven't got you over a barrel: you've got them over a barrel.

Traffic lights (8)

More fine anecdotes in this article, via Martin Cassini.

However, I object to his use of the phrase 'libertarian nutcase'. Libertarianism is about leaving people alone, seeing what they do, and unless things are clearly going wrong, leaving them alone again. All those who have noticed that traffic flows more smoothly when the lights are off has made a valuable first step towards becoming a libertarian.

Energy policy (2)

I had originally adopted Nick Drew's energy policy, which amounted to 'Do very little'.

There was an even better one in yesterday's FT, which amounted to 'Do even less. In fact, do nothing.'

Lord Howell of Guildford, Deputy Leader of Opposition in The House of Lords, you rock!

Seven good things tag

Via Henry North London.

1. My wife and kids (or is that five already?).
2. Bread - not eating it.
3. Food.
4. Tobacco, coffee, alcohol, aspirin, Omega-3 & vitamin tablets.
5. My job & earning loads-a-money.
6. Having sold to rent & having loads-a-money.
7. The Internet, blogging & MP3's.

I tag:
Great Simpleton
Gregg Beaman
Lady Thinker
Remittance Man
Simon Clark

"Call for more half wine bottles"

Yes! Lots more! Over here, please! Oops...that's not what they mean.


Don't they realise that the glass-to-contents ratio is lower for larger bottles, ergo, I am protecting the environment by drinking two large bottles rather than four small ones?

This 'dangerous drinking' statistic is totally misleading; the highest category is called 'harmful drinking', as I have pointed out before.

Thursday 28 February 2008

"Children's mag's damage writing"

"Lightweight fiction and magazines could be damaging children's ability to write good [sic] English, a government report says."

Politely ignoring the rather clumsy English of that sentence, AFAICS, the standard of English used in today's comics and magazines is no lower than it was thirty years ago. Moving swiftly on ...

"And there were claims that the language of texting and e-mailing was being used when a more formal style was required.".

Right! They just started a sentence with 'and'. Further, the languages used for texting and e-mailing are completely different, FFS, so that should be plural and not singular.

Compare and contrast: "Goblin King, just f*** off and die!"(appropriate for an e-mail) with "GBLNKG FKFF&DIE" (more typical of a 'text').

Completely different, as any fule kno.

"The world goes cold on patio heaters after ban"

Apparently, B&Q and Wyevale are going to stop selling them, wimps that they are. I'd rush out and buy one, but no doubt they'll stop selling the gas bottles as well.

F*** me!

As I have mentioned before, the Energy Saving Trust say that a patio heater generates 50 kilogram of CO2 per year. Divide that by ten evenings per year = five kilos per evening. Given that you use about three kilos of charcoal for a small-ish barbecue and one kilo of charcoal creates three kilos of CO2, actually patio heaters are twice as CO2-efficient as a good old fashioned barbecue. So clearly, they'll be banning barbecues next!!!

Boston's traffic lights

Via the 'Roads fit for people' campaign, comes this rather heartening email:

"Today's local paper says that the Liquorpond Street lights, turned off experimentally [last] year, are to be permanently removed. And about a mile away, at the other end of the inner by-pass, the lights at the Wide Bargate roundabout are to be turned off experimentally next month.

Perhaps Boston will become the nation's first traffic lights-free town! I'm old enough to remember the time when we had a traffic lights-free county, Cornwall."

On a brighter note ...

"Shopkeeper will not be charged with robber's death"

Apparently, Mr Singh does not want to be seen as a hero ... it's a bit late for that!

"Taxi driver fined £715 for smoking"

In this morning's Metro (article not available online);

"A taxi driver has been handed a £715 fine ... for smoking in his cab. Alan Cross was penalised after council officials saw him lighting up in a place of work. The cabbie was found guilty after failing to appear in court, fined £300 and told to pay costs of £400 plus a £15 victim surcharge. But Mr Cross ... claimed he was not told of the case 'I'm stunned and angry' he added. Thurrock councillor Ben Maney said 'The council takes the protection of residents very seriously'."

There's not much you can add to that ...

Estate agent lets cat out of bag

There's a great quote right at the end of this article on Wales' tallest building ...

However Michael Jones, from Michael Jones Estate Agents in Cardiff, said the housing market in the city was slowing down.
"With the development of the bay, there have been a lot of people buying and speculating, and that bubble does appear to have burst. I'm aware of some huge investments by national and international companies and they are struggling to reach their targets. We've overdeveloped certain areas and built the wrong type of properties."

His fellow estate agents are going to love him for that!

Wednesday 27 February 2008

"Costly payout after earthquake"

Oooh! Big Numbers!

"The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said claims were "likely to run into the low tens of millions of pounds"

Although this "Earthquake [was] felt across much of the UK", 'low tens of billions' is still barely one percent of one year's buildings insurance premiums (premia?) of around £3,000 million (page 4, 25 million households x 64% x £188 per annum). Such earthquakes only happen every few years anyway.

So, yet another BBC non-story, eh?

National Minimum Wage & Tax Credits

At some book launch or other, David Blunkett MP (Lab, Sheffield Brightside) "will argue that the statutory rate should rise steadily to 50% of average wage levels if the Government is to meet its target of halving child poverty by 2010".

Righty-ho. Let's assume that they go mad and increase the NMW from £5.52 to £6.86 (half average wage). The speech refers to 'child poverty', so let's look at a single mum (oops! 'lone parent' in Newspeak) with two kids working 35 hours a week. She currently has a gross income of £193.20, after paying tax and claiming the main benefits, her household's net after housing costs according to DWP TBMT Table 1.3e (page 53) is £223 a week. If they up the NMW to £6.86, her gross income increases to £240 and her net household income to a princely ... £227 per week.

Wot? An extra £4 a week? Yup, that's right, £4.

Conversely, we all know that demand for labour is pretty price elastic - if you force employers to pay more than a job is worth, they will go bankrupt, and so people on the current NMW will lose their jobs. So single mum outlined above may well become unemployed as a result of the change, as a result of which her net household income would fall to £175 (DWP TBMT Table 2.1a).

Which is hardly a storming result is it? Half of such single mums with a job might see their net income increase by £4, the other half will see their net income fall by £48, not to mention the overall loss to the economy, lack of role model for her kids etc etc.

Finally, let's not forget that David Blunkett miraculously secured a job with Entrust, a company bidding for the ID-card nonsense, see Garrick Elder's letter in The Times of 24 Nov 2007 exactly five minutes after his two-year lobbying ban expired.

George Osborne - twat status update (4)

The funny thing is, I still genuinely like him, despite today's lapse into gibbering f***wittery.

Twat-status: Confirmed. Further monitoring necessary.

Ask a simple question...

Tim Worstall in 'Polly on gambling '...for the government to be screwing 14% of total turnover out of an industry is really quite impressive: outside sectors like domestically pumped oil (with the royalties upon it) I’m not sure that there is any other sector so heavily taxed. Be very interested to know if there is of course.

Me in the comments: 'any sector that produces VAT-able supplies hands over just under 15% of its turnover as VAT. Sure, the nominal VAT bill is reduced by the input VAT they have paid to their own suppliers, but the total bill, VAT paid to HMRC plus input VAT paid to suppliers is 14.8936% of turnover. Next question.'

"EU campaigners hold mass lobby"

I shall be there late in the day. Gregg Beaman and I have provisionally arranged to meet up, email me if you'd like to join us, or indeed if you are aware of any other bloggers meeting up.

"Tougher measures for drug dealers"

This one will have them quaking in their boots:

"Schools will be rated by Ofsted inspectors on the effectiveness of anti-drugs lessons"

"Earthquake hits much of England"

Wow! Not much more a humble blogger can add to that.

And wow again! Another earthquake has hit Northern Ireland ... oh.

Tuesday 26 February 2008


A lot of new 'bloggers see their hits increase enormously in the first couple of months and then tail off again*, there are also a load of 'bloggers who leave a tearful farewell message after a year or so; like Newmania, Pommygranate and Praguetory. Who then cheerfully resume posting after a few weeks. The Daily Brute has kept up his sulk for nearly a week now, BTW. Were they discouraged by their declining visits ...?

Anyway, here's my 'monthly visits' so far, I don't know whether February is a blip on a downward slope or a change in fortunes**; or whether I will succumb to 'blogging fatigue. We'll find out, I suppose.

* I found this out via Sitemeter - sometimes other 'bloggers visit your site via their own Sitemeter acount, and you can sort of track back, maybe this only works if they don't password-protect it. Naming names would be inappropriate.

** I have a nasty feeling it's the former; I had about 500 hits this month on this post, which sort of helped my stat's.

Stat porn (6)

Sitemeter's at 14,985 as I type. I'm off home now, it would cheer me up enormously if it's past 15,000 by the time I fire it up this evening! As ever, thanks to all who visit and leave comments.

"Lender moves to debt collection"

This hilarious turnaround story comes via Tyrrellcorporation over at HousePrice Crash.

If you crunch the numbers, profits at debt-collection division were up from £8.9m to £13.9m, but a prior year profit at lending division of £7.6m has turned into a £19.5m loss.

Further, seeing as some of the other banks and building societies have effectively stopped lending, aren't they just debt collectors as well?

Elvis lives! God exists!

Applying the rigourous intellectual standards of the BBC, Simon Clark brings us incontrovertible evidence for the above two contentions.

As is tradition on this 'blog, I'll do a quick run down on the organisations whose spokesmen are quoted in the BBC articles and how they are financed:

The Children's Society, charity reg. number 221124, 'only' gets a quarter of its total income from "central and local government fees and grants" (£9 million, page 34 of the accounts) and 'only' spends a third of its gross income (£13 million) on fundraising and admin costs (page 43).

The National Schools Partnership is a straightforward marketing consortium for "a wide range of quality, ethical businesses with whom we have developed tools to help enhance pupils' learning experience" (altho' they get bonus marks for 'whom'; 'pupils' instead of 'students' and for getting the apostrophe in the right place).

Dr Rowan Williams needs no introduction, f*** knows why the BBC or anybody care about his opinion any more.

And finally, The Institute of Child Health, London is run by University College London and the NHS so that's just a quango.

"Robed Obama picture ignites row"

Hillary's team have circulated a photo of Obama showing him in his true colours. Tee hee.

Obama's team point out that "Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely."

Great, so why not publish a photo of her in a Burka? No matter how strenuously she denies it, there's no way she'd be able to prove it wasn't her, is there?

Monday 25 February 2008

"Antarctic glaciers surge to ocean"

This article is only mildly hysterical and moderately informative - especially the likely explanation that the ice is melting because of volcanic activity. Best of all are the closing sentences ...

"If the glacier does continue to surge and discharge most of it [sic] ice into the sea, say the researchers, the Pine Island Glacier alone could raise global sea level by 25cm. That might take decades or a century, but neighbouring glaciers are accelerating too and if the entire region were to lose its ice, the sea would rise by 1.5m worldwide."

Wot? A rise of five feet over a century? That's what we're supposed to be panicking about? That does it, you've cried wolf once too often now and I can sleep easily again.

"Clegg pushes 'in or out' EU vote"

Nigel Farage sums up the position nicely:

"Whilst in the long term I agree that this is the referendum we want, calling for it at this time is only to cover up their weasel-like position over a referendum. Instead of hiding behind this call, they should be honouring the promise they made to their voters that they would support a referendum on this treaty."

Cost of the war on drugs

I'm not sure if they calculated it the same way as I did, but the figure of £16 billion per annum in the UK matches my own guesstimate of £1.6 bn x 2 x 5.

Addaction describes itself as a charity, but its accounts show that nearly all its income comes from the state, via local councils, grants and the Big Lottery fund.

DrugScope also describes itself as a charity but gets nearly all its income from government grants as well, of course.

Free trade or Fair Trade?

You believe whom you want to believe.

I prefer Nescafé anyway, and refuse to waste money on anything that is supposedly 'ethical' or 'sustainable' or 'organic'.

Sunday 24 February 2008

Life imitates art*

"Everyone In Coffee Shop Billing For Their Time" The Onion, spoof article, February 2006.

There was a full page article on page 3 of yesterday's Times (that I can't track down online) entitled 'Coffee shops beat the office grind' that suggests that a lot of people take their lap tops to Starbucks et al and work from there, paying a few quid for coffee and the Wi-fi.

* More accurately, humourists are far quicker to spot trends and stereotypes than the MSM.

"US urges short Turkish campaign"

Or "Do as we say, don't do as we do".

Yeah, like the Turks are going to turn to the US for advice!?

Saturday 23 February 2008

Petro-states and narco-states

Having looked at the damage that the illegality of drugs causes in importing countries, and compared the relative size of the global oil and illegal drugs industries, let's finish off today's trilogy by comparing petro-states with narco-states.

At the risk of generalising here, petro-states with a relatively benevolent government (Norway, Brunei, Dubai) have a relatively high standard of living; narco-states (Afghanistan, Colombia) face eternal civil war and have a terrible standard of living. Poppies and coca plants are perfectly ordinary agricultural products, there is no inherent reason why narco-states should be any more violent or any poorer than other agricultural economies, so it must be the illegality that makes all the difference.

If the West finally woke up to its senses and legalised drugs, then it might well solve a lot of problems in narco-states as well.

Drugs and oil

Global oil production 80 million barrels per day x £50 a barrel = £1,500 billion per annum (about the same as the UK's GDP). Let's double that for taxes, refining costs, profits etc, call it £3,000 billion a year, globally.

Number of heroin addicts in UK (estimate) 300,000 out of population 60 million, average daily spend £15 (half a gram) = £1.6 billion. The UK is only 1% of world population - but clearly we are richer so pay more for heroin. Let's times that by 50 then, assuming average world street price is only half what it is in the UK = £80 billion, globally. Let's double that to include other drugs, £160 billion. But most drug users fund themselves with crime; to raise £15 they have to commit a crime that 'costs' society five times that (people scared to go on streets, repairing broken windows, higher insurance bills, police time, prison places etc) = £800 billion.

So, yes, global oil trade is more important that global drugs trade in £-s-d, but it's only four times as big.

* A few years ago I read that the global drugs and oil trades were roughly of equal value, bearing in mind that the oil price has more than doubled, and the street price of heroin has halved in the last five years, this seems 'about right' within a fair margin of error.

"Easy targets for predators"

There's a long article on the BBC website explaining why so many prostitutes are murdered and why so few cases are cleared up.

Preventing crimes is even better than solving them, is my take. So, how about implementing two things:

1) Legalise 'drugs', suitably regulated and taxed, educate people as to their dangers (and to use them safely). The number of cannabis users in The Netherlands is much the same as anywhere else, despite decriminalisation. Heroin was available on prescription until the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; since then, the number of users has risen exponentially (see Figure 2.3, page 26). So if re-legalised, there'd be fewer addicts, and those that do become addicted would be able to buy them cheaply and safely and so would be less likely to turn to crime and prostitution.

2) Legalise brothels, suitably regulated and taxed, like in Nevada, Switzerland, New Zealand, the Netherlands and several Australian states, where society, AFAIAA, has not collapsed. So those who want to/have to work as prostitutes can at least do so in a much safer environment.

And if the police wasted less time on victimless crimes, they'd have more time for catching violent offenders, burglars and shoplifters. And if drugs were legal, there'd be no drug dealers, so there'd be none in jail, ditto prostitution/prostitutes/pimps - which would free up plenty of spaces for said violent offenders and burglars, who can stay in for life, AFAIAC.

That's that fixed.

* The Great Simpleton came to a similar conclusion, but from a completely different angle.

** Bansturbatrix extraordinaire Janice Turner hits the nail firmly on the thumb in today's Times. Under the headline 'Brothels are booming. Ban them', she writes that 'men who buy street sex are fuelling a life-leeching drug dependency'. Wrong! It's the illegality of drugs that fuels prostitution, cause and effect, y'know? Plus, brothels are by-and-large already illegal, so you can't actually ban them, can you? The whole article is worth a read for its toe-curling f***wittedness, actually.

Friday 22 February 2008

"Thousands excused training to 18"

The whole 'forcing-kids-to-stay-at-school-until-they-are-eighteen' is of course complete f***wittery of the highest ordure, but these idiots are tearing great holes in it before it's even started ...

There'll be exemptions for...
- homelessness
- health problems, physical or mental
- addiction
- post-natal recovery
- caring responsibilities
- learning difficulty where support is not yet in place

... which just about covers all the teenagers who neither stay on and do A-levels nor go and get themselves a job at 16, doesn't it? So the whole policy, as f***witted as it is, is not even intended to achieve anything at all!

"Many workers asbestos ignorant"

"Many journalists* asbestos ignorant", more like.

Let's recap briefly; white asbestos is relatively harmless**, especially when hidden behind plaster or within walls. As against blue and brown asbestos which are chemically quite different, absolutely carcinogenic and have been banned in many countries for decades, e.g. they were banned in the UK in 1985.

* With the honourable exception of Christopher Booker, of course.

** When I was a kid, most garages were made out a simple frame with white asbestos walls and roof, many still are AFAIAA. If it were that terrible, we'd all be dead by now, surely?

*** Rather surprisingly, the British Lung Foundation does not appear to be State-funded (unless I've missed something), but it does manage to blow 40% of its income on fundraising and admin costs.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Land Value Tax - simple is good

People always say that LVT is impracticable because it would be impossible to keep up-to-date valuations on 20 million privately homes (plus 2 million or so business premises), rebutted at point 6.

My guess is that it won't take more than five minutes for a drone at HM Land Registry to input the extra items of info (rebuild costs and plot size) that will have to be included on the transfer form TR1 in order to generate reasonably accurate site-only location values.

Less than two million homes are sold each year; one person can do twelve forms an hour x thirty five hours a week x forty seven weeks a year = twenty thousand forms per full-time worker per year, so it would need a hundred extra staff, tops. And this would be a low-skill job that school leavers, part-timers and people-between-proper-jobs could do. Plus half a dozen IT-graduates who go round with oily rags and spanners doing computer maintenance and a tea lady.

Obviously, these would replace the bulk of the 4,300 relatively expensive, relatively experienced staff at the Valuation Office Agency, nine hundred of whom have threatened to go on strike.

And as LVT would replace Council Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and the TV Licence fee (see point 1), that must be another ten thousand or two superfluous jobs that could go.

"Child obesity a major problem"

... a problem that only affects fat people though, so not much to worry about!

Further, The National Obesity Forum is a lobbying front funded by Sanofi Aventis and Abbott Laboratories (see Note 2, page 12), so anything that they say can (and should) be cheerfully ignored.

Shopkeeper stabs assailant

Tony Singh, we salute you for your quick thinking, courage and combat skills*! And WTF are the forces of law'n'order playing at - releasing an armed robber on bail and then threatening to charge Mr Singh with murder? Give him a f***ing knighthood more like!

Tony - you rock!

* Both unarmed and armed, obviously.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Nisha Patel RIP

As someone who reads the paper a lot, and is also prone to generalisations, when I read stories about a woman of Asian* descent being murdered, my first thought is "The husband or his family or her parents did it", as was the case here, here or here.

As I popped out for a cigarette last year, I got chatting to an electrician from The Comedy Theatre, who told me that mates of his in the police knew perfectly well that it was her 'grieving' husband wot dunnit and they were determined to convict him. Now, say what you like about the police, they look after their own and do not tolerate Bobbicide** ... skip the middle bit ... said husband has now been charged with arranging her murder.

Heh heh, no doubt I'll be called an Islamophobe for posting this.

* Which really means 'Pakistan, India, Bangladesh', heck knows why they call it 'Asian', doesn't Asia include Russia and China?

** If that's a word.

Northern Rock (3)

There was a brilliant cartoon in today's Metro by Brook: I couldn't find it on line, but the picture showed a glum looking husband and wife similar to the ones here:

Today's caption was one saying to the other "Darling, the Chancellor's consolidated all Northern Rock's debts into one big mess".

It made me smile, at least.

London's airport capacity - poll results

Thanks to everybody who voted.

The overall response to the question "Would you like to see an expansion of airport capacity in and around London?" was as follows:

Yes - 17 votes
No - 7 votes

Right! The four main candidates are going to have to share those 7 'No' votes, I wonder if any other candidate will be brave enough to try and grab the 17 'Yes' votes for him- or herself?

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Jenna Parry's 15 minutes of fame

Kids! Stop it! Enough already!

Write songs and form a band! Join a political party! Start a 'blog! Write a letter to your local newspaper! Ring Samaritans! Have a bottle of White Lightning! Do something positive and/or non-life threatening!

How times have changed ...

Today's wizard wheeze is giving under-18s a criminal record if they are in possession of alcohol in public, which will no doubt be extended to over-18s in due course.

It only seems like a few days ago that they were going to clamp down on bottled water.

Oh ... it was only a few days ago.

Traffic lights (7)

Had to stop off for a coffee where I used to live this morning, they are doing some more roadworks (same scenario as last time), for which they open up a side road or two (circumventing the traffic lights).

As a result of which, the traffic was purring along smoothly, cars were stopping immediately for people at the Zebra crossing by the Tube station, there were no more than one or two cars waiting to turn back onto the High Road (as opposed to ten or fifteen that are normally stuck at the traffic lights by the library during rush-hour), and all was well with the world.

London airport - poll closes tomorrow morning

Thanks muchly to the people you have voted in this (see top of side bar), the results are most interesting so far!

Please make sure to cast your vote (if you haven't done so already). Would be much appreciated.

"Skydiver goes for 120,000ft record fall"

Steve Truglia, we salute you (you can have a 'rock' after you've landed safely!).

It will be a shame to see Joseph Kittinger Jr's 1960 record of 102,800 feet to be beaten after all these years, though.

On a pedantic note, cracking the 770 mph sound barrier might be a tad easier up there - the speed of sound is slower where the atmostphere is thinner.

Monday 18 February 2008

Counter-Terrorism Bill - survey results

Just to update you on the results of lefty-think tank Compass' survey on this 42-day detention madness.

Although I don't consider myself to be among "Labour members, supporters and left-leaning voters", I find the overall results quite heartening.

George Osborne - sorry, he's still a twat (3)

Continuing my occasional series on why George Osborne is a twat, he's been a-makin' a fool of himself yet again...

I mean, promising to "match Labour’s existing spending plans and refusing to promise tax cuts", would be bad enough, but read on a bit and His Giddiness reckons there was a “compelling case” to cut Britain’s headline corporation tax rate to boost efficiency of the tax system and the economy. “In an age of globalisation, 28 per cent is too high.”

Right, businesses have outsourced call centres to India and manufacturing to China because their costs and wages are much lower than in Blighty, fair enough. The fact that the corporation tax rate for foreign corporation in India is 42.5%, and in China they put the rate for foreign corporation UP from 15% to 25% last year, is neither here nor there*. Their workers are still a lot cheaper.

So we're only competing with other European/high wage countries anyway. So why not follow the three-step plan as ably outlined by David B Smith on page 7 of this:

1. Get rid of Employer's National Insurance,
2. Reduce out-of-work benefits relative to in-work net incomes**, and
3. Scrap the National Minimum Wage?

All of which would cut the cost of labour to well below the levels of our nearest rivals, and seeing as 80% of our trade is UK-domestic anyway, it's important to remember that this would also boost employment levels and boost net employment income. Trebles all round, I think!

* Yes, I agree, in the narrow case of captive finance or insurance subsidiaries, the corporation tax rate does make a difference, but seeing as many European countries already tax such profits at 0% or 5%, so what? The best we can do is keep pace - with a narrow exemption for such truly internationally mobile profits, which I have long advocated.

** Being a bit of a softie, I would focus just as much on reducing means-testing in percentage terms as I would on reducing out-of-work benefits in absolute terms, but the logic is the same.

"Ivory Coast's big-bottom craze"

Not much to add to this story (it's a bit sad, really), I just thought it was a splendid photo ...

House-price-crash porn (3)

Now this is fun! Type in your post code and it'll tell you how much house prices have changed in your area over the last quarter. They're down 7.5% where we are renting ....

I've added the link to my "Statistics and stuff" section for future reference.

"Global warming blamed for unusual cold spell"

No, seriously!?

Via ASI and Mark J Perry.

"Keep it simple, stupid"

... on the general topic of "a joke’s a joke, but this has gone too far, now just f*** off and leave us in peace", this is an absolute delight.

Via ALS.


“First they came for the fox hunters, then they came for the smokers, then they came for the [insert long list] but by the time they came for the patio heaters and the bottled water drinkers, the people rose up and said a joke’s a joke, but this has gone too far, now just f*** off and leave us in peace”*

* Originally posted in comments at Longrider.

Top tips for tourists in Venice

If you get locked out of your hotel, or don't have a room for the night, whatever you do, don't try sleeping under a bridge.

Sunday 17 February 2008

"Northern Rock to be nationalised"

"The Chancellor said the public would gain after the market improved"

Well, yes of course we will gain after the market improves ... after losing ten or twenty billion before the market improves.

"Delia Smith does not do organic food"

Delia Smith, the still small - and somehow always mildly subversive - voice of commonsense hits back at the food-eco-fascists ...

Delia, you rock!

Kelly Stephenson's 15 minutes of fame ...

It's all so sad couldn't she have just gone on a reality TV show or done a Duke of Edinburgh award or something?

Saturday 16 February 2008

"NBC says sorry for Jane Fonda C-word slip"

Totally predictable article, but I just love the accompanying picture:cunt CUNT Cunt
Were her political views not so suspect, Jane Fonda should be awarded a 'rock'. If you're puzzled by ({}), then see here

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

We went to see this, it was quite good actually, in a sub-Indiana jones but trying-to-be-cleverer sort of way. And that Diane Kruger is really quite pretty, I am astounded to read that she is German, as I didn't notice any accent at all.

Public sector pensions

There are two ways of looking at the cost of public sector pensions.

One of them is to look at the total accrued liability as ably and entertainingly explained by Neil Record. His figure of £1,000 bn-plus is perfectly reliable but it's all a bit technical for a 'blog such as this.

The other, more simple way is to look at the current cost, and ask, if the government were a normal private sector employer, how much would it have to put into a pension fund every year to totally cover the future cash cost?

All this clever discounting that Neil Record does can fall by the wayside - you can safely assume that your salary will increase by 2% more than inflation each year, and equally that the appropriate discount rate to apply to future Government liabilities (i.e. those backed by the UK taxpayer) is about 2% above inflation, so let's ignore inflation/salary increases on one side and inflation/discounting on the other.

Right, let's take Teachers' Pensions. If you check the box for new joiners, you will see that after thirty years, your pension entitlement is exactly half your final salary.

Let's assume you start teaching at 25 this year and pack it in at age 55 (the minimum pension age, except in cases of ill health). By that time, your average life expectancy will be another thirty years, according to the Government's Actuary's Department . So really, you will be paid half as much again in retirement as you earn while you are working.

So a teacher on a nominal salary of £30,000 is really earning £45,000. OK, you could knock that current salary down by 6.4% to account for the deduction from the teacher's salary, but I doubt that this goes into the official statistics.

Right, let's assume that all the other civil service and public sector pensions are the same, this means that the true cost to today's taxpayer of the public sector is an extra 50% on top of the official cost of public sector salaries.

There are anywhere between 7 million and 8.2 million public sector employees, depending on whether you believe column E or column M of this, call it 7.6 million for sake of argument, on a median salary of £498 a week as at a year ago*, call it £508 as at today, makes total annual salaries £200 billion, so half again on that is £100 billion.

Each and every year.

To be paid by 30 million taxpayers, so that makes over £3,000 a year each.

In perpetuity. Because for every one that retires another one joins.

But that notional contribution of £100 bn doesn't go anywhere in real cash terms, it just gets put on the never-never. Turning back to Neil Record's actuarial approach, the net present value of an annual £100 bn liability discounted at 2% is £5,000 billion, or about three or four times gross domestic product. So his estimate of £1,000 bn is pretty much at the lower end.

* Scroll down to the very end of this - rather interesting is the fact that the median private sector salary was only £439 a week. Hmmm.

Those Mohammed cartoons...

This whole debate has kicked off again, they weren't even that funny...

The most infamous one is this:

Yeah, like these terrorist masterminds would blow themselves up? They use young and impressionable, or indeed mentally handicapped people to do their murdering for them. Further, if depicting Mohammed is forbidden, how would these buggers recognise the man in the picture?

Anyway, no doubt, they'll start bombing my foreign embassies tomorrow, or boycotting this 'blog or something.

Friday 15 February 2008

The Brown Bubble (2)

Our national debt is now twice as much as the Chancellor's 'sustainable' figure, according to the pretty reliable Institute for Fiscal Studies. I can't find the actual press release on their website yet, so we'll have to go with The Guardian's summary. I'm not even sure if this includes a provision of £20 billion-odd for potential losses on Northern Rock etc.


"Brown considers training payments"

As Tory spokesman, Chris Grayling MP (Con, Epsom & Ewell) points out ...

"Last month Gordon Brown wanted contracts and benefit cuts for those who refuse training. This month he says he wants contracts and benefit increases for those who accept training. Once again he's chasing headlines by latching on to a scheme in New York that has only just started, and no one yet knows if it works."

The main reasons* why our welfare system is so corrosive are:
a) It is far too complicated and overlaps with the tax system,
b) It encourages single-motherhood and long-term sickness (real or imagined),
c) It discriminates against couple families and discourages people from taking on short-term or low-paid jobs (like apprenticeships!) or staying in education,
d) It is a tad too generous to those right at the bottom (which is why there are over five million of them), and
e) The marginal withdrawal rate is so high, that a household with one earner on an average income is only a few quid a week better off than a workless household.

Now, how the f*** is overlayering all that with yet another no doubt savagely means-tested benefit going to help?

* All of which would be solved by replacing the whole thing with a Citizen's Income scheme, of course.

Engineering physics calculation

Problem: A backhoe weighing 18 tons is on top of a flatbed trailer. The boom and dipper stick is made of 80,000 psi high strength steel and the approaching overpass is made of 4,000 psi concrete, reinforced with 2 layers of 1 inch steel rebar spaced 6 inches each way in both the road deck and bottom of the box-beam bridge section.

Solve: When the boom and dipper hits the overpass, how fast does the trailer with the backhoe have to be going to slice the bridge in half? (Assume no headwind and no braking by the driver who is oblivious of the situation . . . )

Extra Credit: Solve for the time and distance required for the entire rig to come to a complete stop after hitting the overpass at the speed calculated above .


Thursday 14 February 2008

"Map shows toll on world's oceans"

From the BBC's science department, another totally fact-free article.

'Impact'? 'Threat? 'Toll'? You have to quantify these things, then try to explain them and then run experiments (or at least find fair comparatives) to see if the explanation is the correct one and so on, that's what science is about!

On an even less serious note, this map suggests to me that land has no effect on the oceans, and as we all live on land, we can't be having any impact, can we? Natch.

Oh yes, and it is quite possibly true that there are less fish in The North Sea than a decade or two ago, that's down to the bloody EU, and is easily fixed.

House-price-crash porn (2)

Continuing my occasional series, here's another fine chart via HousePrice Crash that compares the house price-to-earnings ratio in the USA and the UK...

What goes up ...

Original source FT Alphaville

"UKIP anger at prince's EU speech"

Well bloody done to Nigel Farage, is all I can say.

And why the f*** does Labour MEP for the North West 'region' and all-round treacherous shithead Gary Titley think that Nigel " ... should apologise to the British people he represents"?

Nigel represents me, AFAIAC, and I'm not offended in the slightest.

"Commercial property now through the worst"

... is the headline to an article in today's City AM (I can't track it down online, but this gives the overall flavour).

The actual article I read (page 2 of paper version) kicks off with "The fall in value of commercial property decelerated in January ... Capital* values fell by 2.1 per cent last month, compared to 4.3 per cent in December, according to CB Richard Ellis's Monthly Index ..."

Er ... right ... so if an army had a thousand casualties last month and only five hundred this month, that means that they are now winning the war?

* I mean, it's not even as if rents are falling (yet), according to another article in the same paper last week..

The effect of good state schools on house prices

Apparently, the value of a house in the catchment area of the best school in Muswell Hill adds up to £200,000 to the price of a house (scroll down a bit). And seeing as you can get your money back (and then some!) when the kids have left school and you can trade down to a house outside the catchment area, the wealthy (who are admittedly paying for the school via income tax etc) get the best state education for free or a negative overall cost.

Now, the best solution for education would be a voucher system, but in the absence of that, Land Value Tax would encourage councils to provide better schools. It's simple really, the better the school, the higher the land values and hence the more tax the council can collect. And as the wealthy would be paying more in Land Value Tax than before, we could cut more damaging taxes on production, profits and income*.

The same logic applies to policing and everything else - if councils stopped wasting all that money on a load of crap and concentrated on things that make an area more desirable then everybody wins - we get better schools, more bobbies on the beat and cuts in other taxes.

* Other property-related taxes would be scrapped straightaway - Council Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and the TV licence fee, and yes, pensioners would be allowed to defer LVT to be repaid out of their estate.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Heathrow expansion

It's time for another quiz, how many extra votes would a London Mayoral candidate get by simply saying he or she is in favour of increasing airport capacity in and around London? People like flying, don't they? I mean, they must do or else they wouldn't do it, would they?

"UK unemployment falls by 61,000"

So that'll be another 61,000 on income support or incapacity benefit, I suppose, seeing as, according to official figures, there were 5.3 million claimants of one benefit or another back in 1999 and there are still 5.2 million now.

Tuesday 12 February 2008

"Fair trial pledge to 9/11 accused"

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?

Tee hee.

Monday 11 February 2008

"Tolls removed from Scots bridges"

Headlines like that always remind me of this speech by Winston Churchill (scroll down to the section entitled 'The error of public tollways')

British jobs for British workers ...?

Yet again this, along with all the chat about 'sustainable growth' has been unveiled as complete tosh. The Telegraph reports that there are now 2 million foreign-born workers in the UK, but there are half a million fewer British-born people in work than six or seven years ago.

Which we have known for months, by the way, but it's good to see it on the front of the paper again; 'public sector jobs for foreign workers' is a bit closer to the mark.

Sunday 10 February 2008

"MPs urge action on gender pay gap"


I fixed that months ago.


"Birth defects warning sparks row"

The end of the scientific method* and free speech as we know it.

I mean, if Phil Woolas MP (Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth) had said that all Pakistanis were inbred morons, sure, I can see why they'd take offence. Some self-appointed twat name of Asghar Bukhari has said the Goblin King should back him or sack him. Er, I don't think he's going to sack him, you piece of shit, so consider your bluff called!

* See here for statistics on how few Muslims have won Nobel prizes or registered patents.

Saturday 9 February 2008

The Brown Bubble

I have stared at the chart showing the ratio of house prices to average disposable income per household that I posted yesterday, and something else strikes me; the rapid increase in house prices in the early 1970s coincides with Anthony Barber's "Dash for growth" * and the rapid increase in the late 1980s coincides with the Nigel Lawson's "Lawson Boom" **. And we all know what happened next ...

May I hereby coin the phrase "The Brown Bubble", to refer to the periods from 1997 to 2007, when house prices marched seemingly inexorably upwards, and from 2008 to 2010 when we suffered from the corresponding debt-hangover?

* Scroll down. Not to be confused with Reggie Maudling's 'Dash for Growth' a decade earlier, obviously.

** See previous link, scroll down a bit more.

Average spending per State pupil is £8,300 a year!

We are all familiar with this Nulab mantra that they will"raise spending on state school pupils to the same level as that spent on those in private schools", see for example this article on the BBC website from November 2006.

This article falls for the lie* that spending per State pupil is about £5,000, as have so many others, but for sake of argument, let us assume that the figure for the average spend per pupil in private sector is indeed £8,000. This article is a bit more up-to-date and says that average private school fees are £8,000 in the North of England and £11,000 in the South East.

Now, where does this £5,000 figure come from? Well, the Department for Education and Skills' Report for 2007 says, in Table 8.5, that the average spend is £5,290 (including revenue and capital). Hmm. Let's dig a little deeper. Table 8.3 says that total spending on education taking DfES and local authorities together is expected to be £50,424 million in 2007-08 (excluding higher education). This does not include £10,517 million for Teachers' pensions**, which is buried away in Appendix A. Add the two together and call it £61,353 million (England only!).

Table 3.7 says that there are 7,385,000 State school pupils. Divide spending by pupils and we establish that average spending per State school pupil is a princely £8,300 a year!

Furthermore, is it fair to look at average fees in the private sector? Is it not more important to look at the lower end of the scale? Surely, the cheapest private schools must be better than State schools, or nobody would send their children there, would they? If we knock 20% of the average private school fees to guesstimate how much the cheapest private schools cost, then it seems that spending per State pupil already matches fees in the best value private schools.

So, job done, Goblin King! Bravo! You have done what you promised and have also proved beyond any doubt that increasing spending in the State sector, even to private school levels is a waste of money!

Can I have education vouchers for my children now ... please?

* Rather amazingly, schools Minister Jim Knight repeated the same lie in the House of Commons in response to a question from Frank Field, one of his own backbenchers, back in February 2007.

** If you want to argue that Teachers' Pensions in payment are sunk costs, then we could include the actuarial cost of the entitlements that are accruing to today's teaching cohort instead, which is probably double the amount of pensions in payment, which would bring the true average spend to £9,700.

PS, I have posted on this topic before, it's just that I've only just got round to reading the DfES report and crunching the numbers properly.

Friday 8 February 2008

Shabbat shalom!

Hey, if they ban patio heaters, we'll just have to use these ...

House-price-crash porn

Somebody over at HousePrice Crash highlighted this chart showing the ratio of house prices to disposable household income from 1945 to 2007, which was featured in The Daily Telegraph recently:

Now, that chart says to me one thing, and one thing only ...

PS, it appears that the 18-year cycle that I have mentioned before was thrown severly out of kilter by the Second World War; and took until the early 1970s to re-establish itself; apologies for any mis-information.

Thursday 7 February 2008

Better off OFF!

I, like many others, have long observed that the best thing you can do for traffic flows is to turn off the bloody traffic lights - and I don't even own a car - it makes it no more difficult to cross a road and speeds thing up when I take the 'bus.

Fellow libertarian Gregg Beaman has written a fine article that sums all this up.


I have already covered the topic of arsecons.

I saw a new emoticon today, on a poster advertising "The Vagina Monologues", showing on February 22 and 23 at the Vera Fletcher Hall, 4 Embercourt Road, Thames Ditton (Waterloo-to- Hampton Court line, Zone 6). Tickets, £10, are available from Roxanna Ziolkowska on 020 8941 9273 or

It looked like this ...             ({})

Update - even more sophisticated emoticons here.

Windfall gain for Scottish landlords!

Those idiots the SNP did it, in today's Budget, they "announced that, from April next year, business rates would be abolished for up to 120,000 small businesses and a further 30,000 companies would see rate cuts of between 25 per cent and 50 per cent".

Jesus H F***, have these people not heard of Ricardo's Law of Rent, which like all blinding insights seems totally obvious if you think about it for a few minutes?
OK, you can choose here, follow the link and think for a few minutes, or just read on for a potted summary ...
Under The Law of Rent, what will happen is:

The landlord will say "Great, under the old system, a small business who paid me £10,000 in rent was paying £4,000 in Business Rates, so his total bill was £14,000. That means he'll have £4,000 to spare in future, so at the next rent review I'll up the rent to £14,000".

Sure, some small businesses own their own premises, great, they've got a static £4,000 tax cut, but their marginal rate of tax has not changed, so unlike a reduction in VAT or income/corporation tax rates (which, even if not self-financing because of Laffer effects, would at least motivate the small business to work harder, expand, maybe take on extra staff) cutting Business Rates has no positive effect on economic activity.

Even worse, what happens if the shop next door becomes vacant and our small business wants to expand?

Let's say they own the first shop and want buy the second, they will not qualify as a small business any more, and will face additional tax of £8,000. And if they are renting the first shop and want to rent the second, then they will have to pay the higher rent of £14,000 (to be able to compete with another small business) as well as the extra £8,000 tax.

Tories understand economics - sort of...

On Radio 4 this morning (about 7.10 am), it was said that the Tories plan to reduce the tax on lottery tickets (which appears to be about 40p per ticket) and increase the tax on Camelot's profits instead. They reckoned that this would boost tax receipts.

They appear to have realised that a turnover tax has far more damaging effects on business than a tax on net profits, as I explained here.

Camelot's net income appears to be about 5p per ticket (see previous link, makes about 1.5p in corporation tax). If they scrapped the 40p ticket tax, Camelot's net income would be 45p per ticket, on which corporation tax would be 13.5p. If they increased corporation tax to (say) 80%, the take would be 36p per ticket, a shortfall of 5.5p.

However, Camelot are in the business of maximising their own profits (regardless of the corporation tax rate - a higher pre-tax is always a higher post-tax). If their marginal extra income from selling one extra ticket went up from 5p to 45p, then they'd spend a lot more on advertising and so on. Assuming that they can increase turnover by 25%, and that their costs are fixed/negligible (and the cost of the infrastructure is a sunk cost anyway), this would increase their profits by a factor of ten (compared to what they are now), so their corporation tax payments (at 80% of pre-tax profits) would increase to slightly more than what they are currently paying in ticket tax and corporation tax.

So it would be a very interesting experiment, to say the least.

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Angie Fuller's fifteen minutes of fame...

I was slightly famous once, for about fifteen minutes, I can't say I enjoyed it really.

This lass was prepared to kill herself for it ... ah well ...

"Drive to curb teen pregnancy rate"

I can't believe they're grinding out this crap again *yawn* it's the welfare system that's driving teenage pregnancies.

What's interesting about this article is the number of quangos it mentions, and that's politely ignoring The Department of Health and Primary Care Trusts, at least we know that they are government departments and/or quangos, to wit:

1) The Association for Young People's Health is a straight forward quango, "supported by the Department of Health, England" according to their website. I love that "... ,England", it reminds me of Wayne's World where they are sent to "London, England". Update: according to Thursday's Metro, they will run a £27 million campaign, "half the money [will] be spent on innovative new ways of offering contraceptives and advice on sexual health matter", the other half to go on inflated salaries for middle managers, presumably.

2) Brooks only got half their money from the government, a relatively modest £364,000 per Notes 2 and 3 to the 2006 accounts. They've filed their 2007 accounts at Companies House, but not with the Charities Commission. They have a page of links to "Useful Organisations", yeah, useful if you're  Nulab insider with no skills or talents who needs a cushy job, more like.

3) The Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group is a straight forward quango, they even have a website. One of their 'members' is called Roger Ingham. I fell about laughing at that point and couldn't read any further ...

4) The Family Planning Association gets nearly all its income from Department of Health and various government grants, about £3 million in 2007, see note 22 of the 2007 accounts. It spent £7.5 million on relocating its head office, see Note 24.

Now this is one classy patio heater!

It's the C3PO of patio heaters, the sort that coughs politely and says "Excuse me sir, we don't normally touch our cup of tea until the vicar has finished his first cucumber sandwich".

First-past-the-post with top-up-seats

I have long thought that the least-worst type of electoral system would be a combination FPTP with top-up seats so that the final number of seats in Parliament are proportional to the votes cast (provided a party achieves a threshold of say, 5%).

Instead of top-up seats being allocated by party-list (which people tend to dislike), a party's top-up seats would be allocated to its unsuccessful candidates in order of how many votes they achieved personally.

I batted this back and forth with Neil Harding, and he discovered that they have exactly this system in the state elections in Baden-Württemberg in Germany. So it does exist, and it does work.

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Horizon: Is Alcohol worse than Ecstasy?

I had to nip to the loo (two cans of lager and Horizon's on the BBC, so no ad-breaks) and pop upstairs (to get another half ounce of Old Holborn and some more Rizlas), so I missed the statistics on cocaine users and deaths therefrom*, but I'm still surprised that they put in Heroin** at number 1. If I scribbled it down correctly, they said 300,000 users, and despite the fact that these poor people are peddled the worst adulterated filth, nowhere near proper pure medicinal heroin, it only causes 700 deaths a year. That's one-in-four-hundred users.

As opposed to Heroin-substitute Methadone*** at number 4 with 33,000 users and 295 deaths, and apparently it doesn't even give you a buzz. And it's a pissy green colour.

* Did this include crack-cocaine? Now that's nasty stuff, that is.
** TM Bayer AG, ca. 1897
*** TM Hoechst AG, ca. 1938

Update: full list here.

Can somebody explain the joke?

Emma Thompson and assorted taxpayer-funded luvvies were out in force yesterday to launch "Green Screen London", an initiative to cut "CO2 emissions by film-makers".

Alistair McGowan, referrred to as a comedian, said "As we live in a make-believe world, it's easy to forget that our CO2 footprint is real".

I dunno, was this an inversion of the rather more correct statement "Even though we live in the real world, it's easy to forget that our CO2 footprint is make-believe" or was his joke more subtle than that?

"200 jobs created at medical firm"

It's a bio-tech firm. I wonder if they'll clone 200 workers to fill the vacancies ...

"Urgent consultation on the Counter-Terrorism Bill"

Via lefty-think tank-cum-pressure group-cum-Neal Lawson* self-promotion vehicle Compass comes this fine survey.

It does indeed only take 30 seconds to complete.

* Scroll down to near the bottom. The Jon Mendelson out of LLM is the one who got into hot water again recently over the David Abrahams donorgate affair.

Making things easy for murderers

Harry Haddock pointed out recently that there were gaping holes in so-called 'data security' that would make it easier for terrorists and other criminals to obtain people's home addresses from DVLA records.

Life copies art.

Well, either that or there are too many bent coppers, and I'm not sure what's worse ...

Monday 4 February 2008

Taxpayer funding for political parties & MPs' expenses

OK, let's chuck everything in the pot, think about human nature, and see what we can achieve with as few rules as possible:

1. Typical MP costs £200,000 a year, there are 529 English MPs, an average Parliament runs for four years, so that's £423 million over the course of a Parliament. There are other bits and pieces, so let's round it up to £460 million.

2. Just under 23 million votes were cast in England (including 1.3 million for parties which obtained no seats) in 2005, so that means the average vote was worth £20 to the parties.

3. Recent events have shown that the Labour Party couldn't care less about complying with their own internal rules or electoral law that they introduced; the Lib Dems are just as bad (but on a smaller scale) and a couple of Tory MPs have been caught with their hand in the till. If MPs defraud their own party, what do I care, frankly? That makes the MPs concerned and their Party look bad, so that's a result AFAICS, if they end up having their collar felt, that's a bonus. But these fraudulent expense claims and massive salary increases, gold plated pensions etc are an outrage.

4. My problem with taxpayer funding is that my tax money goes to pay for all the parties I didn't vote for. Plus it leads to even more corruption, it isolates politicians even more from real life , does nothing to prevent large donors trying to influence party policy. In theory, you could make donations illegal, but I have no objection to them (it is a free world) and secondly such a ban would be unenforceable. However much money parties have, they will still end up spending all of it (or in the case of the Labour Party "all of it and more'), it all just goes on advertising anyway, I can make up my own mind, thank you.

5. The problem with MPs being able to write themselves cheques for their own expenses and vote themsleves pay-rises seemingly at will is that they all are all in it together, there are, in practice, no restraints whatsoever.

Right ... here are a my three simple rules that will fix all this ...

a) MPs' salaries and pensions and expenses claims to be scrapped.

b) Each voter gets an extra box on his ballot slip asking "Would you like candidate's constituency branch to receive a grant of £5 a year for the life of the next Parliament?". This will encourage people to vote for minor parties (which would add to the gaeity of the nation) and it will be very interesting to see how many people vote for a party but fail to tick the box (i.e. tactical voters). If the parties get greedy and increase this to £10 or £15 etc, more and more people will refuse to tick the box in protest, so ultimately we should end up at the 'right' amount of funding. Conversely, parties may even find that they can increase their total income by reducing the amount down to a more modest amount like £4 or £3.

c) It will then be up to each party to decide internally how much the constituency branch can keep and how much has to be handed over to head office; how much salary their MPs will be paid; and it will be up to each party to check MPs' expense claims. If MPs waste less on salaries and expenses for themselves and their family, the party will have more left in the kitty to fight the next election. If the Campaign for Real Ale Party want to spend their grants down the boozer, then good luck to them.

Right. That's that fixed.

"High heels may improve sex life"

No idea whether this is true, but as the research was carried out by a female doctor, there's no reason why it shouldn't be.

Sunday 3 February 2008

Patio heaters (again)

According to interfering busybodies at the super-quango, the Energy Saving Trust:

"FACT: the CO2 emitted by 2.3million patio heaters is as much as would be emitted by driving from Lands End to John O'Groats 200,000 times"

Hmm ... let's look at the numbers ...

1. From Lands End to John O'Groats is 875 miles.

2. 200,000 times 875 miles = 175 million miles

3. Let's say that those 2.3 million patio heaters are used for ten nights per year on average = 23 million heater-nights

4. If 23 million heater-nights is equivalent to 175 million car-miles, then having a heater on for a couple of hours uses as much energy as driving a car for, er, 7.6 miles.

5. Furthermore, at an average speed of 30 mph, a car uses that much energy in 15 minutes, as against a patio heater that might be on for a couple of hours.

Oooh! I'm scared! Not.

This calculation inspired by Jock Coats' post entitled 'Liberal bansturbators'.

Inadvertently good analogy ...

EU Referendum lays into the waffly review of some waffly book that showers praise on the EU.

What is interesting is the last paragraph cited, in which the author (or the reviewer?) unwittingly hints at the reasons for the EU's eventual demise...
"As with all empires, the EU rubber band will stretch until it no longer can, growing until it has fully replaced the dismantled Soviet Union across Europe's east, creating a borderless and contiguous "Pax Europea" of about 35 countries, an imperial blanket covering close to 600 million people…"


Empires can never resist expanding a little bit further, a little bit further, can they? They always stretch that 'rubber band' just one country or one territory too far, don't they...

... until it snaps!

Saturday 2 February 2008

Rebutting Tory arguments against Land Value Tax

1. Oh no! Not another bloody tax?*

Wrong. At the very least LVT could and should replace all property-related taxes, such as Council Tax, Business Rates, Stamp Duty Land Tax, Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and the TV licence fee, net of Council Tax Benefit and subsidies for agricultural landowners (total net revenues, about £50 bn, or 10% of the UK's total tax receipts).

It would be payable by the landowner, not the occupant, and there would be no discounts or rebates. So it has the merit of simplicity if nothing else.

2. What's the point?

Land price bubbles and the associated credit bubble have enormous economic costs and, and have led directly to the current 'credit crunch', a probable house price crash and fears of a serious recession. If LVT were introduced at the bottom of the 18-year property/land-price cycle (in three or four years' time), the fiscally neutral rate required to replace the above list of existing property-related taxes £ for £ might be as high as 5% or 10% p.a. on capital land values (the cost/value of buildings would be excluded, of course). This would act like an extra interest rate, so in future, price rises would be dampened and values/prices would be kept low and stable.

And if and when confidence returns and land prices start to inch up again, LVT receipts will increase, allowing cuts in income/corporation tax, which boosts net incomes, which in turn boosts land values, which boosts LVT receipts further, allowing further income/corporation tax cuts and so on in a virtuous circle**.

3. Why should I pay tax on something I've already paid for? It's my land!

Ultimately, we are all tenants. Either you pay rent every month or you make a large up front payment to the previous freeholder.

I sold-to-rent recently. If I deduct a reasonable return on the rebuild cost of the house that we are now renting, we are paying £10,000 a year to be a) in a low crime area, b) near the kids' private schools and c) near the Tube station. That my neighbours are law-abiding citizens has nothing to do with our landlady and she does not pay our school fees or our Tube travel (we do). So I could counter, why should a freeholder be able to charge rent for access to services that the tenants themselves pay out of their own pockets? Or access to amenities that nature, local businesses or the local council provides? Or to be able to sell the right to that access for a lump sum to the next owner, which is what creates capital land values?

4. Why should I pay tax on a non-income producing asset?

For sure, land (except farmland) does not producing cash income for an owner-occupier, but it certainly produces non-cash income, the value of which is exactly what you could rent your house for. But why not have a tax system that discourages speculative spending on unproductive assets (land) and enables/encourages more spending on productive assets, be that the building itself, investing in business or in your own education and training?

Land-ownership (and more importantly, planning permission) is a licence to enjoy local amenities. So LVT is less of a tax, and more of a user-charge, something of which the Tories are supposed to be in favour.

5. Asset-rich, income-poor people would be forced out of their homes. What about 'ability to pay'?

This is just code for 'pensioners', who admittedly make up a key part of the Tory vote. Pensioners would be allowed to defer LVT to be repaid by their heirs. Which is why Inheritance Tax and Stamp Duty Land Tax should be scrapped as a quid pro quo. Alternatively, older home owners could enter into a contract whereby the heirs agree to pay the LVT on an ongoing basis in exchange for inheriting the property (if the heirs intend to keep it in the family rather than sell it).

The Tories on the whole are opposed to paying welfare to asset-poor, income-poor people, why exactly is there a special case for tax-breaks or subsidies or welfare for the asset-rich, income-poor? In any event, a flat-rate LVT would be cheaper for low- to average income households in smaller homes or in cheaper areas than Council Tax/the TV licence fee are at present (both of which are highly regressive***).

6. It would be very difficult to value twenty million homes

Not true. LVT ignores the value of buildings and improvements, so homes do not need to be valued individually. In each post-code sector (e.g. LS = area, LS28 = district, LS 28 5... = sector) there are two-to-threee thousand properties, five or ten per cent of which are sold each year. HM Land Registry already records selling prices and knows plot sizes, so all that is required is to deduct rebuild costs (per the ABI calculator, for example) from actual selling prices in each sector each year, tot up the residual values, average them out over the total surface area of the plots sold, and there you have an up-to-date capital value per square yard for each sector. A parallel system would operate for business properties.

And do not forget the huge cost savings that would be achieved by scrapping all the other taxes that LVT would replace (see point 1)!

7. Farmers would be forced to sell off their land and the South-East would be concreted over.

Nonsense. Agricultural subsidies for land owners set an artificially high floor for agricultural rents of about £75 per acre (if the landowner can't charge that much in rent, he is better off leaving it fallow and collecting the subsidies). Once this welfare-for-the-wealthy is scrapped, agricultural rental values might fall by half, to say £40 an acre per year. Even though over 80% of the UK by surface area is farmland, or 50 million acres, the total rental value is only £2 billion a year. It is barely worth trying to collect tax on such a small amount, so farmland would be exempt.

8. Charging a tax on land values would hit the first time buyer

This is straight out of David Cameron's book of Economic Illiteracy. As explained, a tax on capital land values would act like a higher interest rate, so for a given first-time-buyer budget, land values would fall to a level so that buyers are paying the same amount as they would in the absence of the tax - they are just paying less to the bank and more in tax. Further, Stamp Duty Land Tax would be scrapped, so relieving the purchaser of an immediate cash cost.

9. LVT is tantamount to nationalisation of land.

Residential land values have increased five- or ten-fold since the early 1990s, even after adjusting for the increase in wages.

The current government has given all those lucky enough to have owned their own home at the time a massive windfall gain (albeit for many, only on paper) by a combination of:
a) not introducing LVT on coming to power,
b) very restrictive planning laws,
c) keeping interest rates artificially low by linking them to CPI rather than RPI inflation and/or
d) allowing two million immigrants into the country.

And market forces will probably take away a large part of those gains again over the next few years (land values fell by two-thirds in the early 1990s! See previous link). Would it not be better to keep land prices low and stable in future?

10. The cost of local services should be paid for by user charges, i.e. a Poll Tax.

Wrong. It is more important to look at the value of what the home-owner gets (as reflected in land values) than the cost of local services. Having more policeman on the beat reduces crime, cuts a household's home and car insurance bills and makes an area more attractive, thus boosting selling prices. Having armies of five-a-day advisors and environmental-awareness-officers costs just as much but adds no value whatsoever.

This imposes a fiscal discipline on local councils. If they want to collect more money, than can only do this by concentrating spending on useful, value-added activities, which boost land values and hence tax receipts.

* This slogan is (c) Dave Wetzel, 2004. The rest is all my own work.

** The 'single taxers' believe that ultimately, the amount of LVT that would be collected (whether you call it ground-rent or call it tax is by-the-by) would be sufficient to fund all State spending - including welfare - so all other taxes could be abolished. This would be a feudal system with redistribution, so to speak.

*** Even the Daily Telegraph has woken up to this.