Saturday 30 April 2016

The Daily Property

Emailed in by MBK:

Man found 'murdered in £400,000 Victorian house which had been converted into flats following a dispute'

It's not clear from the headline whether the dispute was the reason for converting the house into flats or the reason for the murder, but hey.

Amazon Prime

I have ordered a few things from Amazon over the past month, I checked my bank statement yesterday and saw a payment of £79 for "Amazon Prime, to which I never signed up (it is supposed to guarantee slightly quicker delivery times on all orders or something).

I rang the bank to ask what it was about, and - sort of off the record - the lady told me that this had happened to her as well and she knew of plenty of other instances, apparently Amazon trick you into signing up to this somehow and somewhere in the small print.

She helpfully gave me the number to ring - 0800 496 1081 - in order to cancel, which I did, got through after two minutes and the man apologised and said that they would cancel/refund it.

They haven't done so yet, but we will see…

Friday 29 April 2016

"What? She's sixty-seven? She only looks sixty-five!"

From The Telegraph:

Ginger people have long been the butt of unfair jokes, but a new study suggests that when it comes to ageing gracefully, they may be having the last laugh.

Scientists in The Netherlands have discovered that a gene which keeps people looking young for their age is the same that produces red hair and fair skin.

Researchers at Erasmus University in Rotterdam studied the faces of almost 2,700 elderly Dutch Europeans, and found that those carrying a variation of the MC1R gene looked on average two years younger than they actually are.

Well, whoopee-do!

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (392)

First comment in an LVT article on/in/at Salon, a couple of years ago:

This proposal would pass ALL of the land in the country to the wealthy at a far faster rate than it is now.

I make much less than 100K per year but I do own a home purchased many years ago. Making my taxes high enough to replace all other taxes would mean I would have to sell it to someone rich enough to pay those huge taxes. Eventually only the very wealthy would own property and we would all be renting from the over-class.

I've seen this one several times and can only assume that people who say it are hard core Home-Owner-Ist propagandists.

Simple question: "Do you earn enough to be able to afford to rent your own home?" For tenants the answer is obviously "yes", for owner-occupiers with a mortgage it is obviously "yes" and for people who have paid off the mortgage but not yet retired, the answer is almost certainly "yes" as well.

And surely just about everybody can answer "yes" to this question: "If payroll taxes were halved, so your net pay went up by a quarter and there were no sales taxes on the stuff you buy, would you be able to afford to rent your own home, assuming you get a one-third discount on the rent?"

Maybe these poor propagandists are in the one or two per cent of working people who can honestly answer "No" to that question, but methinks they are just full of shit.

Daniel Hannan on top form

Via MBK; from Conservative Home:

Behind much of the coverage of the EU debate is the assumption that voting to leave somehow means putting the Leave campaigners into office.

Hence the interest in what precise alternative we favour. Do we want Britain to be “like” Switzerland or “like” Norway or “like” Canada or “like” Jersey? (It’s worth noting, en passant, that the phrasing of the question demonstrates its silliness: the fact that no two non-EU states have identical deals with Brussels makes a nonsense of the idea that Britain would precisely mimic any of them. Plainly, we’d have our own deal, tailored to suit our own interests.)

I have written before about the sort of arrangement that we could realistically expect. But my opinions are not relevant, because I won’t be overseeing the negotiations. I can point in general terms to the status enjoyed by the other European states that are outside the EU: no tariffs; reciprocal arrangements on healthcare, university access and police co-operation; autonomy in agriculture, fisheries, defence, immigration, criminal justice, culture and regional policy. But my views on, say, how much we should subsidise our farmers matter a lot less than those of the farms minister.

A referendum is best understood as voters instructing their government, rather as a client instructs his barrister. Voting to leave means giving ministers a mandate: we’d be telling them to negotiate our departure on the best possible terms.

Remain campaigners don’t want us to understand this. They want to make the prospect of withdrawal seem as abrupt and as scary as possible. Hence their suggestion that a Leave vote on 23 June would somehow start a countdown, that we’d have two years to negotiate a new deal and that, if no agreement were reached within that time, we’d in some unspecified way be outside all trade arrangements.

Nobody move or civilisation gets it!

I know this one's a week old, but I'll add it to the series anyway.

From The Daily Mail:

ISIS is backing Brexit because it 'suits their agenda,' according to Tony Blair's former spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

He said the Islamic terror group is one of very few overseas players who want Britain to leave the EU, joined only by US presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Thursday 28 April 2016

That'll save their bacon.

From The Daily Mail:

Denmark is considering a tax on red meat over fears cattle flatulence was causing climate change.

A government think tank said consumers were 'ethically obliged' to change their eating habits in a bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Danish Council of Ethics said cattle accounted for around 10 per cent of the CO2 released into the atmosphere, while food production makes up around another 20 per cent.

Ho hum, the article only mentions cattle and not pigs.

As we well know (having quickly Googled it), Danish pig farmers export nearly half their output, with a value of DKK 30 billion a year (about £3 billion), so this will knock back domestic demand for "red meat" (presumably more likely to be imported) and hence boost domestic demand for pork and bacon.

Win-win for Danish pig farmers!

"The chairs are so small, it looks like a children's library..."

... says Dinero.

And he would be completely correct.


A Link for Mr DBCR (and me)

Here. (Apologies, I know it's the Torygraph - again).

This broadly confirm my opinion that the USA is as bad as the EU, maybe worse. Which would explain Obama's interventions.

Nobody move or the farm animal gets it!!

From The Guardian:

With so many loud voices clamouring to be heard in the Brexit debate, there is a risk we will fail to consider those that cannot speak at all – animals. But voting to leave the European Union could have a profound effect on their welfare. Britain has a reputation as a nation of animal lovers, but over the past decade our lawmakers have lagged behind Europe’s in protecting them from harm.

… we have become increasingly reliant on Brussels for strong regulations to protect farmed animals. We have Europe to thank for Britain getting welfare laws for farmed pigs and chickens, such as banning barren cages for battery hens in 2012 and sow stalls – which kept pigs unable to move for most of their lives – in 2013.

Another factor in this debate is what happens to the annual £2.4bn EU subsidies to British farmers in the event of Brexit, around 53% of their incomes, and what that means for farmed animals. If Britain leaves, that subsidy goes, as does farmers’ easy access to the single market. Farming minister George Eustice said in February that the government would pay a subsidy in the case of Brexit. It is unclear how he can promise this, especially as his boss, the prime minister, is still sticking to the line that he has no contingency plans for leaving the EU.

If farmers did end up getting fewer subsidies post-Brexit, the implications for animal rights are poor. Animal farmers are not monsters, and many farms just want to do the right thing – I was raised on one. But as the author Upton Sinclair once said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

That last sentence says it all, really. These people have no shame.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Fascinating Thing about Ivory on BBC News

Basically, report about what happens, audio interview with the poachers who said they felt heroic for killing elephants as they destroy their farms.

Really, you can throw as much money as you like it trying to stop it. If you aren't going to pay these people to put up with elephants, they're going to kill them.

Junior doctors' strike (2)

While the debate rages on the original post, allow me to throw in my tuppence worth.

It strikes me that junior doctors are not particularly underpaid, they are just crassly overworked (starting salary £30,000 for 100 hours a week, or whatever). The reverse applies to more senior doctors.

According to the BMA, senior doctors (under whatever fancy title) are paid up to £180,000, probably for working about 20 hours a week.

My policy would be to flatten the pay scale and flatten the working hours as well, so that junior doctors start on £40,000 for 60 hours a week and the senior ones are paid £120,000 for 30 hours a week, for example. Or they all get £80,000 for 45 hours, or whatever, in line with what GPs currently get.

So instead of this being BMA vs NHS/taxpayer, the NHS can just set a total budget for doctors' and GPs' pay and let them fight it out among themselves.

New-builds blamed for blighting air quality ...

So BBC Scotland reports the findings of an interesting academic study into domestic air pollution:

Specialists at the school's Mackintosh Environmental Research Unit (MEARU) said modern homes were being built to be airtight. 

This causes a build-up of harmful chemicals and moisture if householders do not open windows or vents. 

The unit has made a series of recommendations to reduce pollutants. Prof Tim Sharpe, head of the MEARU, said: "Poor indoor air quality, particularly in bedrooms, is hard for people to detect. 

"There are clear links between poor ventilation and ill-health so people need to be aware of the build up of CO2 and other pollutants in their homes and their potential impact on health." 

The MEARU conducted a survey of 200 homes which were constructed to modern, airtight standards. It found that most householders kept trickle vents closed, and bedroom windows closed at night.

But a cursory glance at the Energy Saving Trust website suggests one man's 'ventilation' is another man's 'draught':

Unless your home is very new, you will lose some heat through draughts around doors and windows, gaps around the floor, or through the chimney. 

Professional draught-proofing of windows, doors and blocking cracks in floors and skirting boards can cost around £200, but can save up to £25 to £35 a year on energy bills. DIY draught proofing can be much cheaper. Installing a chimney draught excluder could save between £20 and £25 a year as well.

With the north winds blowing blizzards well into the back end of April this seemed quite topical.

Junior Doctors Strike

Can someone out there explain why this strike is about safety? I get that it's about pay as well, and I don't have a problem with someone saying they aren't paid enough and going on strike about it, but what's the safety thing. Anyone?

It's not "is equivalent to", it "is".

From Yahoo:

The rocketing cost of housing over the last two decades is equivalent to a 10p tax hike for a typical family, according to research. About one fifth, 21%, of income was spent on covering the cost of a home last year, up from 17% in 1995, the Resolution Foundation analysis showed.

It amounts to £1,500 a year for a typical dual-earning couple with a child and works out the same as a 10p increase in the basic rate of tax, rising to 13p tax in London and Scotland, it said. Low and middle income earners have been hit hardest, with the proportion rising from 18% to 26%, while the cost for those on higher salaries went up from 14% to 18%.

As far as I am concerned, rent and mortgage payments are a tax on tenants and home buyers. It's called "land value tax" and what's wrong is that it is being siphoned off privately because the government is too corrupt or cowardly to collect it publicly (instead of fining people and businesses tax for working and making profits via income tax etc).

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Fun Online Poll: The correct mode of attire when driving an open-topped car on British roads.

This week's Fun Online Poll.

"What is the correct mode of attire when driving an open-topped car on British roads (assuming not done satirically)?"

Choose from the list here or use the widget in the sidebar.

RE: T May

Usual caveat, for me the EU is preferable to Westminster. Possibly it is a Scottish thing in that it's not much different having being 13/1 out voted by our rowdy southern cousins to being 27/1 outvoted in Europe over a policy that we would probably enact in Edinburgh anyways.  

Teresa May has promptly forgotten that she is allegedly in the Bremain camp and gone on her usual hate rant against the Human Rights convention (which is not the same thing as the EU but it is broadly intertwined with it). This is always quite reassuring since the Home Secretary is exactly the person that the convention is meant to put the brakes on. 

And helpfully up pops Patrick Stewart to do a little skit on human rights. 

Which is basically spot on, even if you are a frothing Conservative who is utterly wed to the idea of democracy, so long as that democracy means picking a king twice a decade who is unencumbered by things like a written constitution which he has to abide by, the sort of thing that literally almost every other country in the world has to protect them. 

Monday 25 April 2016

Gender pay gap: problem has sorted itself out.

It is well know that there is no real gender pay gap (except at the very top).

It is - indisputably - a "mothers vs everyone else" pay gap, women take an average pay cut of about 10% for each child/year missed to maternity leave for each of the first three children (it flattens off after that). I mentioned some research a few years ago that said that fathers tended to earn more than childless men, so as long as couples with children pool income and expenses, it all comes out in the wash.

More evidence of this from the BBC today:

Full-time working fathers out-earn their childless counterparts by more than a fifth, research suggests.

On average, fathers working full time get a 21% "wage bonus", the study based on 17,000 workers aged 42, concluded. Fathers living in Britain with two children earned 9% more than those with just one, says the research by centre-left think tank IPPR for the TUC. Full-time working mothers of the same age saw a "wage penalty", earning 11% less than their childless colleagues.

The report said the reasons for the "fatherhood bonus" were not clear, though they were likely to relate to hours worked, increased effort and positive discrimination.

The last bit is the interesting bit:
- Do men pull their socks up when they have kids and try to earn a bit more,
- Are the qualities which make men likely to get married and have kids the same sort of qualities which employers look for (boring, reliable etc), or
- Do women simply prefer getting married to and having children with men who earn more (self-selection)?

We don't know, but facts is facts, and the fact is that overall, working couples with children probably earn the same as couples without children or single/childless people.

I once tried explaining all this to a feminist (in a couple and expecting their first baby) and she went mental and refused to accept the logic or even the principle.

Nobody move or the economy gets it!

Emailed in by MBK. From The Telegraph:

... last week, Chancellor George Osborne launched a thumping 200-page “Treasury study” into the long-term implications of leaving the EU, which “forecast a £4,300 fall in GDP per household” if we leave For many millions of voters, that’s a scary number – around a quarter of today’s average disposable income...

The UK economy will grow by 37pc between now and 2030, the Treasury estimates, compared to 29pc if we choose Brexit. Of course, one and three-year growth forecasts by the Treasury and others are nearly always wrong, let alone GDP estimates going over a decade into the future.

Let’s put that to one side for now, though, and consider how and why those post-Brexit and no-Brexit figures were then converted into differences in “GDP per household”. For one thing, while GDP is obviously a widely-used concept, it’s far broader than disposable household income, given that it includes extensive corporate activity and tax.

So, while today’s GDP per household is around £67,000, disposable income (what ordinary voters actually care about) is close to £45,000. So the Treasury has used the widest possible concept of income so the absolute difference generated by its 2030 growth forecast inside and outside of the EU is as large as possible.

Then, that GDP difference is divided not by the number of households in 2030, estimated at around 31m, but by today’s smaller number of 27m – so further boosting that headline difference in GDP per household. This is not only incredibly dishonest, but plain wrong.

I particularly like the point that the Bremainers estimate that UK GDP would grow by 29% over the next fourteen years if we leave. That's good enough for me.

Others have already pointed out that the Bremain estimates assume significant net immigration.

Sunday 24 April 2016

How can you have a 'free trade' deal?

In polite conversation with Mr DBCR on here and with one of my cousins it struck me that the very idea of a 'free trade deal' is nonsense.  Trade is free, end of.

So post BREXIT all Cameron has to do (assuming he's still there shudder) is to stand up in the House of Commons and say, "Right, we're open for business. The UK is now, unilaterally, a free trade nation".

Next he gets on a 'plane ( suggest first stop Eire) and meet the Toaiseach.   " 'Ere, Enda.  Free Trade?  Yeah?  Wanna come and play"?   Next stop India.

Job done.


From The Guardian

The three councils that have suffered the least from cuts in George Osborne’s controversial budget are represented by Tory cabinet ministers, a new analysis shows.

Wokingham, Surrey, and Windsor and Maidenhead have all seen the lowest cuts to their budgets despite being the three least deprived areas in the country. The areas cover the constituencies of five cabinet ministers: Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Chris Grayling, Philip Hammond and Michael Gove. The areas also received £33.5m in the transitional grant announced earlier in the year.

Not "despite", "because".

I spoke to one of the Swindon MPs a few years ago and he told me that the constituency was hardly going to be touched by the cuts. And the reason was that Swindon is heavily private sector, and not even the private sector serving the state, like companies that build websites for fakecharities, but more what you might call real private sector. If you take out the public sector stuff that has to be local - police, fire, hospitals, local government, there isn't much left. Plus, there wasn't much in the way of deprivation.

This has meant historically that certain places don't get a lot of money, but that's the basic, constant stuff. It meant when Brown was upping spending, places like Windsor and Maidenhead didn't get it.

I'd also like to say something about deprivation: I'm all in favour of getting rid of deprivation. But I'm absolutely convinced that services to deal with it (rather than cold hard cash) are a racket to create jobs. I've seen the growth of antisocial behaviour on some estates in my lifetime, and a ton of money poured into schemes employing people, or sending the police round and none of it has made a jot of difference. Building more prisons, increasing the number of police, having more "community projects"... none of it works. It creates more income for A4E, policemen, local artists. Cutting spending will make little difference.

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (391)

To a Guardian article about the Housing Bill, Ben Jamin pointed out that this is not a "housing crisis", it is a "transfer of wealth crisis" and earned this condescending remark for his troubles:

Mike White:

I think your post is what we call text book stuff, in the less flattering sense. You're a land tax man, as some have been for at least 100 years in British politics. Odd that no clever chaps in charge in the real world, actually do it if you're as right as you seem to think.

But thanks for taking the trouble.

Ah well, that's all settled then.

Saturday 23 April 2016

Nobody move or the boarding schools get it!

Spotted by MBK in Herald Scotland:

BOARDING schools could be hit hard by a UK exit from the European Union, campaigners have warned.

The Boarding Schools' Association (BSA)said a vote to leave the EU would be a threat to a market worth £100 million a year to the UK because students would have to apply for visas.

The concerns were backed by John Edward, a spokesman for the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign who is also director of the Scottish Council of Independent Schools.

There are currently 5,000 students from the EU studying at UK boarding schools with more than 1,000 attracted to Scotland last year.

Because as we all well know:

a) getting your child into a UK boarding school (or indeed a UK university) is a very cheap, simple and unbureaucratic process. If we chuck a bit of extra paperwork the parents' way (or the students' way), this will completely put them off applying.

b) as a result, there are absolutely no UK boarding school pupils from non-EU Member States (or overseas students at UK universities).

Rules of Thumb #1

If all the Establishment are for something on the basis that is is good for everyone else, you can bet your bottom Dollar that it is bad for everyone else but very good for them.

Friday 22 April 2016

Giles Fraser on top form.

Spotted by TBH in The Guardian:

The common agricultural policy takes from the poor and gives to the rich. Its effects can be felt in every British household, and seen in the deadly waters of the Mediterranean too.

The estate agent Carter Jonas established its reputation running the estates of the Marquess of Lincolnshire. “Some of the biggest property owners in the country are our loyal clients,” boasts its website. And, in a recent poll of these landowning clients, 67% of them said that Britain should stay in the EU.

So why all this Euro-enthusiasm in the Tory heartlands and among the landed gentry? “Should the UK vote to leave the EU, the CAP subsidies will likely be reduced,” Tim Jones, head of Carter Jonas’s rural division, explained. Thank you, Tim, for putting it so clearly. We understand.

A massive 38% of the entire 2014-20 EU budget is allocated as subsidies for European farmers. It is far and away the biggest item of euro expenditure, about €50bn a year. If these billions were being used to prop up a heavy industry – steel, for example – then the neoliberals would be up in arms, complaining like mad that if an industry can’t cope with a free market then it should be left to die. Creative destruction, they call it. But, for some reason, when it comes to agriculture, different rules apply...

Thursday 21 April 2016

"Prisoners' human rights violated, Norway court rules"

From The Guardian:

Norway has violated the human rights of other inmates by forcing them to share a wing with the rightwing extremist Anders Breivik, thereby exposing them to inhuman and degrading treatment during their imprisonment, a Norwegian court has ruled.

Prisoners forced to share space with odious shit Breivik, who killed 77 people in July 2011 in the country’s worst acts of violence since the second world war, took the Norwegian authorities to court last month, requesting that he be kept in solitary confinement so that they would not be constantly confronted by his smug Nazi face and crazed speeches.

At their request, Breivik will now be detained in a separate three-cell complex where he can play video games, watch TV and exercise, judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic of the Oslo district court ruled.

Nobody move or the mother and baby get it!

From The Royal College of Midwives:

As a union the RCM argues that being part of the EU has led to better working conditions, and will ensure these remain in place. These benefits include equal pay for women, a guarantee that pregnant women get paid time off to attend antenatal appointments, minimum holiday entitlements, maternity rights and protection for those working part-time. These are rights worth protecting, and so long as the UK remains in the EU they are rights that UK Government’s [sic] cannot take away.

Remaining in the EU also helps to maintain safety in the NHS and promotes high standards among healthcare professionals. There are over 33,000 nurses and midwives from other EU countries working in the NHS. EU rules mean that they must have training and skills equal to UK trained staff. This helps to ensure high standards and good quality care in our NHS.

Healthcare colleagues from across the EU also help to fill the vacancies on our maternity units and wards.

Membership of the EU helps the UK Government to have the money to invest in the NHS and other public services. It is the taxes that flow from a growing economy that pay for public services like the NHS. The economic turbulence that would follow a UK exit from the EU would jeopardise this.

The Equal Pay Act was first enacted in... 1970.

Do they seriously think that a future UK government would reverse the right to time off for ante-natal care?

Let's accept that staff training standards are high in other EU member states and so they are more or less automatically qualified to work in UK hospitals. What changes after Brexit..?

Yes, the NHS is disproportionately staffed by people from abroad at all skill levels, many are from other EU member states, many are (poached from) from non-EU member states i.e. developing countries. No sane politician is going to put a stop to this, the NHS would grind to a halt overnight.

Why do they think that "economic turmoil" would automatically follow Brexit?

Nobody move or the museum gets it!

Emailed in by MBK, from Museums Organisation:

The artistic director of the Southbank Centre, London, said that leaving the EU would be harmful for museums.

Speaking at a debate at the British Library yesterday evening, Jude Kelly, who is part of the Stronger In campaign, said that arts and culture would be “more driven on pounds, shilling and pence” if Britain was to leave the EU.

“Europe is looking at our museums, galleries and investing in these more and more,” she said. “To pull out would be to lose all of that at a time when we have maximum influence over it.”

Kelly said that even though the amount of EU funding is small compared to the overall amount of funding given to the UK’s cultural sector, this funding is vital in supporting new innovative projects.*

I suppose this is what makes life easy for Stronger In. It is fairly easy to identify people on the EU/taxpayer-funded drip who are more than ready to speak up for Bremain out of naked self-interest. It is much more difficult to identify those sectors which would provably and directly benefit from Brexit.

* In plain English: we can't be bothered working out what the public really wants to see and is prepared to pay for. Those ghastly plebs might not want the highbrow stuff that we like lavishing somebody else's money on to boost our own egos. The Stigler specialises in skewering this sort of behaviour.

Reader's letter of the day

From yesterday's Evening Standard:

It seems that the British Property Federation is salivating at the concept of "build to rent" (Letters, April 18) and misinterpreting Simon Jenkins's article (April 15).

All the evidence shows that builf-to-rent will not make any difference to the housing crisis - over the past 20 years, the stock of landlord-owned homes has increased by more than the number of new homes built.

The BPF regularly speaks out against higher property-based taxes - the very idea Mr Jenkins suggests would lead to a far more efficient allocation of housing.

Mark Wadsworth, Young People's Party.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

No Pleasing Some People

from The Guardian

To African Americans, Harriet Tubman was our Moses, guiding the enslaved to freedom by faith and the light of the North Star. Why cheapen her by putting her on the face on the 20 dollar bill – the very symbol of the racialized capitalism she was fleeing?

When I first heard about Women on $20s, the unofficial contest to get a woman’s face on a $20 bill, I thought it sounded great: dudes have occupied greenbacks for centuries in the US. The female visages of Sacagawea and Susan B Anthony have been relegated to dollar coins no one gives two cents about.

But now that Harriet Tubman has won the unofficial vote for which woman should replace Andrew Jackson, I am less thrilled. I don’t want to see an abolitionist icon as the face of American money. I am quite content with my mental image of her conducting the Underground Railroad, that secret antebellum network of other former slaves and abolitionists who risked their lives to smuggle slaves out of the United States and into Canada.

We had weeks, or was it months of #OscarsSoWhite. The Guardian will give Lenny Henry every opportunity to talk about how underrepresented black people are at the BBC (he might have a point, but I'd like less Lenny Henry). And here it is, a black woman gets put on a bank note, and well deserved in the case of Harriet Tubman, replacing some very historic white dudes and now the Graun can't just find the good in it. It's like they just like being pissed off and have to find a way to be so.


What I find very annoying is the lying...


"Government blames unemployment rise on BREXIT fears."

So, nothing to do with the introduction of the Living Wage and employers compulsory pension auto enrolment contributions then? Both of which are the government's fault and both of which increase payroll costs for employers leading to less employment.

Death really is too good for them.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Car hits house story - with house price bonus.

Spotted by MBK in The Daily Mail:

A groom who rented a £240,000 Ferrari for his wedding was lucky to escape unhurt after crashing it into a friend's front garden.

Usman Ali, 25, who works as a tyre fitter for his father's garage, is understood to have put down a £5,000 deposit to use the Ferrari 458 Spider for his wedding weekend.

But on Sunday, the day after the wedding, his foot apparently tripped on the car mat and he pressed the accelerator rather than the brake as he arrived at his friend's house ahead of further celebrations of his nuptials with wife Sakina Parveen.

The luxury car – which can go from 0 to 60mph in just three seconds – shot forward and smashed into the front of a terraced house...

Neighbours on the street in Burnley, Lancashire, watched as Mr Ali somehow emerged unscathed out of the wrecked Italian supercar, which had been worth nearly five times more than their own houses...

A friend of Mr Ali, who still lives with his father in their £55,000 family home, said he was a car fanatic who owns a Golf GTI, and rented the supercar for his wedding.

Fun Online Polls: Panama Papers & Privatising the Land Registry

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

Have you learned anything new from The Panama Papers?

Yes - I didn't realise how concentrated wealth is or how involved the wealthy are in tax evasion. 4%
No - they merely confirm what I already knew or strongly suspected. 86%
Other - please specify. 10%

Not much to add to that.

A couple of commenters said that they had nothing against tax evasion. I don't think that's the important part, what is striking is how much money a few people have. Most of it ill-gotten.
A couple of people have emailed me and asked me to link to the petition against selling off the Land Registry.

Please sign here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Monday 18 April 2016

Tax incidence - the 3% extra SDLT on purchases by landlords

As announced several months ago, there is now an extra 3% SDLT to pay if you buy a home which you want to rent out.

Landlords are buying for the rental income, which is a fixed figure, so the total they are prepared to pay is a fixed figure. The higher the tax, the lower the price the vendor receives and vice versa.

We would expect prices to rise following the announcement and then fall when the tax comes in. Landlords are buying up approx. half of homes, so the fall ought to be approx. half of 3%.

Which is exactly what happened. From Reuters:

On April 1, a three percentage point stamp duty hike was imposed on people buying buy-to-let properties. Estate agents have previously reported dealing with a bottleneck of investors rushing to push sales through before the tax increase on this date.

Rightmove said the average price of a typical buy-to-let property - that with one or two bedrooms - dipped in April by £2,686 month-on-month to reach £182,926, as investors' interest in the market became more subdued.

£2,686 divided by £182,926 = 1.5%.

So, for half of purchases, the landlord buyer is offering 3% less and for the other half the owner-occupier buyer is offering the same as before. Average drop predicted and observed = 1.5%.

Thus where landlords are buying, the extra SDLT is being paid/borne by vendors and not by landlords. This is in the nature of taxes on land values, even crude ones like SDLT. Absolutely none whatsoever is borne by tenants - if landlords could magically charge higher rents to cover the extra SDLT, then prices would not have fallen.


Sunday 17 April 2016

Cattle! Sex! Cars!

Spotted by James Higham in The Daily Mail:

A car on the opposite side of the road slows for one of the meandering animals but the driver on the right believes his path is clear.

He steams down the road confidently but two bovine lovebirds pay no attention to the approaching vehicle. The brown cow gallops forth as a black bull mounts her from behind.

But the driver has minimal warning of the erotic encounter and only slams on the brakes at the last minute. He smashes straight into the cow with such force that she smacks straight into his windscreen with a loud bang, cracking the glass in several places.

She bounces back into the road, her body flung several feet away but she clambers up almost immediately. Amazingly she seems uninjured and trots off to the other side of the road.

The male too follows her, somewhat sheepishly one imagines, before the man gets out of the car to inspect the damage. Whether the duo's coitus resumed following the accident is not known.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Serendipity Strikes. Yet Again!

I have been idling about listening to Milton Friedman's Free to Choose series on Youtube.  Yetserday and today it was this one:

Checking my emails after that there was this from Capx.

What goes around comes around.

My personal view is that the primary purpose of a national education system is to nationalise education. Ditto health care. Nationalising education is all about control.  Nationalising health care is all about fear, that is to again increase control.

Trade Unions, productivity and wages: cause or effect?

PaulC156 left some interesting comments on an earlier post, to wit:

1. Stagnant median hourly pay in the US over the last few decades coincides nicely with the steady erosion of unionised labour in the States:

2. Strong unions improve productivity. Plenty of evidence in a six nation study here:

3. Though not good for profitability… some good anecdotal on the UK motor industry from this article by Professor David Bailey of the Aston Business school here:

4. CEO compensation is inversely correlated with stronger union presence:

On the facts, I don't dispute any of this, but I question which is cause and which is effect.

From general knowledge, there are certain industry-specific factors which say which people are more likely to belong to a trade union (in the traditional sense) or a guild (for example the British Medical Association, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the National Farmers Union etc).

a) The employer is a large employer and especially a monopoly employer/provider.
b) The business can't go bankrupt (because it is state-run or has a monopoly).
c) There are fixed pay scales.
d) Workers are highly skilled and/or less easily replaceable.
e) There are barriers to entry to that job, profession or business.

Some of these categories overlap and some are mutually exclusive. They also operate on different levels (employees vs employers or industry vs customers). But to give some examples:

Historically, the first trade unions were local guilds, higher skilled people who could club together to try and exercise a bit of monopoly power and raise barriers to entry. If you look at the progression to trade unions, it was the higher skilled trades first and domestic workers were the last to be unionised, which never really took off. Higher skilled people are by definition more productive than unskilled people.

In London, buses are run by competing private companies (although regulated by the TfL) and the Tube network (a monopoly) is run by TfL (a government body) directly. Each bus company sets its own pay levels but train drivers are paid pretty much a flat rate. So bus drivers are less unionised than train drivers.

Doctors are very expensive to train up or poach from abroad, the NHS is a state-backed near-monopoly provider, so all doctors are in the BMA (as far a I am aware) and they negotiate from a position of strength.

The importance of pay scales is, if you know that you get paid the same as thousands of co-workers (more likely in large organisations and the public sector), there is no harm in putting up a united front and asking for a collective pay rise. If pay is set individually according to each worker's skills, experience and working hours (more likely in small businesses), it is every man for himself and less likely to be unionised.

The importance of the employer having a monopoly position is, if he doesn't, pushing for higher wages will bankrupt him, as happened to some extent with the UK motor industry in the 1970s or 1980s; all that happened was cheaper cars were imported from abroad. If the government had imposed an import ban on motor vehicles, then the British motor industry - and trade unions - would have survived (producing crapper cars for higher prices and paying much higher wages).

Stock Exchange rules and the Companies Act mean that larger companies have to pay for an audit whether they like it or not; although auditing is not particularly difficult, it can only be carried out by Chartered Accountants (although Certified Accountants rank equally in law, they are brushed off as second class). This is bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy, so those at the top can cream of rental income and impose a strict hierarchy and lengthy training period on new entrants who want to get their snouts in the trough.

There is a limited amount of farmland so there is a limited number of farm owners, they can club together to form the NFU and put pressure on the government to keep the CAP subsidies flowing. Farm workers on the other hand are relatively easy to train up, it is part time and seasonal work and they are unlikely to be unionised.

The importance of collecting rental income/monopoly profits is that it frees up plenty of your time for campaigning, organising and putting pressure on the government to rig things in your favour. Which is why the most vocal groups are people like pensions companies, who live off the tax breaks nominally given to savers.

As a slightly separate topic, the pay of senior people tends to be much higher in businesses which collect 'rent'. So Chartered Accountants (as explained above), home builders/land bankers; oil and gas companies, banks and insurance, entertainment companies, top footballers etc. Top executives skim off some of this rent from their shareholders; if they can depress wages, this boosts profits so gives them more to skim off.

To sum up, it is not that trade unions or guilds lead to higher productivity and wages, it is that higher skills/wages/barriers to entry/profits (whether in the 'free market' or in a monopoly or state-backed organisation) are the fertile ground on which trade unions and guilds (BMA, ICAEW, NFU etc) can flourish.

Friday 15 April 2016

Typical. You wait ages for another "bus hits bridge" story...

... and then two come along at once.

Daily Mail 1 April 2016:

Six people reportedly received minor injuries after a bus crashed into a railway bridge in Stockport...

(It appears that that people crash into that particular bridge quite regularly).

BBC 15 April 2016:

The roof of a double decker bus carrying language students from Thailand was sliced off while going under a railway bridge in Bournemouth.

Two 13-year old girls received minor injuries as the roof came off when the bus struck the bridge and travelled a further 30m (100ft) with an open top.

"Teacher catapulted to death by cow in front of her grandchildren"

Via Julia M, from The Daily Mail:

A family walk in the countryside turned to horror when a grandmother was killed by a cow that charged towards her.

Breaking away from a stampeding herd, the animal repeatedly butted Marian Clode, 61, before ‘catapulting’ her into the air and over a gate. She landed in a field with such force that she suffered a broken neck...

The family had rented a cottage at Swinhoe Farm, near the village of Belford in Northumberland – and planned to go walking, horseriding and sightseeing.

They were enjoying a walk in the Cheviot Hills on April 3 – the first day of their stay – and were returning on a public bridleway a few hundred yards from the cottage when they saw up to 20 cows with calves running towards them...

[The description of the actual attack is pretty graphic and not for the faint hearted.]

Mr Nixon, 56 [the owner of the herd], said he was on the quad bike in front of the herd with a stockman behind. But he added: "The cattle broke past us, which is why there was nobody in front. We thought about chasing after them, but [that] would actually aggravate them into running faster.

"Unfortunately people were on the track. It was the first time [the cows] had been turned out on the grass. They had been in the winter housing for a long time so it was their first chance to exercise their legs. We were adhering to the health and safety regulations … We tried to do everything right. This time it went wrong and has resulted in something tragic."

In a rare display of respect, the Mail mentions where the family lives but does not say how much their house is worth.

Thursday 14 April 2016


From Jay Rayner in the Guardian

The naysayers argue that without tips we have no way of showing our approval or disapproval. Not true. We could show our disapproval exactly as we do now: by never visiting the restaurant again.

And how do you know who caused the problem? You've now created work for the manager. He has to now monitor his staff for performance with video recording and watching it and so forth to see who does an excellent job and who sneers at the customers. Unless you get a complaint (and you frequently don't with restaurants) you don't know which waiter caused the problem.

Tipping works because it does that job for you. A bad waiter doesn't get a tip. A good waiter does. Bad waiters quit and do another job.

A lot of jobs don't run on tips or commission and that's because they're more complicated than that. I've worked in places that tried to do bonuses for software bugs, and they ended up getting gamed - people would do the quickest, nastiest fixes just to tick off a bug.

Gay Pride

The Daily Mail writes up an interesting study on that most fascinating of topics - if homosexuality is at least part-genetic, how come the gene doesn't die out? For some reason the headline says the research is "controversial" without anything in the article explaining why.

The gist of it appears to be this:

'The trend of female family members of homosexual men to have more offspring can help explain the persistence of homosexuality, if we also consider that those males who have such genes are not always homosexuals,' explained Chaladze.

In other words, there is one group of genes which has two effects: it can make some men gay (fewer children) but it makes women have more children and the two effects almost exactly cancel out. Makes sense to me. Plus there is the obvious advantage that children who have more childless uncles (and aunts) stand a better chance of surviving as there are more adults to look after them.

(The traditional way of explaining this correlation is the other way round - men are more likely to be gay the more older brothers (or siblings) they have, which suggests that it is learned behaviour rather than genetic, which seems a bit less likely to me).

Which segues nicely into this story (whence I nicked the post title):

This is the moment two male lions in an African safari park were captured on camera - apparently trying to mate.

The two adult lions were photographed becoming more than affectionate in the Lagoon area of the Kwando Concession in Botswana, southern Africa. Lawyer Nicole Cambré, who took the pictures during a safari trip, said she saw the two male lions 'mating' and was told by her guide that this behaviour had been evident for a week.

Quite possibly those lions are gay, quite common with many animals, they just don't appear to be that fussed.

But there is another explanation, which I saw on TV a while ago. Lions live and fight in small groups, and it tends to be the males who do most of the fighting.

So if one group realises that it has far fewer males than the other, it backs down and goes somewhere else. Some lions have developed a mutation whereby the females also grow manes, you can tell from close up that they are slightly smaller than the males, but apparently this deception works well enough at a distance.

Ergo, perhaps one of those lions is actually female.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Today's feeble argument for Bremain, which is actually an argument for Brexit.

Emailed in by MBK, from Sky News:

The new head of the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned that a British decision to leave the European Union could cause problems tracing terrorists and other criminals.

Lynne Owens, the NCA's director general, said the UK would have to renegotiate agreements on intelligence sharing, European Arrest Warrants, and the deployment of liaison officers with each individual country.

Ms Owens said: "It could be harder to track down people. If we were to leave Europe I hope there would be procedures to make it easier, but we could have a gap and that could create a risk. I don't know how long that would take. Without (EU membership) we would have to have other mechanisms."

They obviously don't tire of repeating themselves, I find it a bit embarrassing, we've done this one FFS. I'm bored trying. Perhaps this is how they hope to win.

See here or here or here or here. For example.

Simon Jenkins on top form

Ever keen to annoy as many people as possible, the main thrust of his article in yesterday's Evening Standard was that homes in the private rented sector are probably used more efficiently than owner-occupied or social housing. Which is probably true.

He redeems himself with this though:

Rich cities such as London should stop moaning that “my children can find nothing affordable in Camden” and think of less fortunate parts of the country — or indeed London. The capital keeps demanding and winning ever higher subsidies for trains, runways, academies, museums and garden bridges. More ridiculous, it demands and wins subsidies for “first-time buyers”. These subsidise demand rather than supply, driving prices even higher.

Some ancient Whitehall statistician, constantly quoted, says London “needs to build” 50,000 new houses a year “to meet demand”. This is illiterate. Londoners probably demand a million houses, or two million. Demand for space in a city is infinite and impossible to satisfy. Everyone always wants somewhere better to live — and if asked will “demand” it…

What role is there for government in all this? One is to keep the property market as open and flexible as possible. Taxation should do everything to induce empty space into use. But government should also care for those in acute housing distress. Neither role is being performed in London…

London’s curse, geographer Danny Dorling has written, is “space hoarding”. Whether the so-called bedroom tax is the answer — or perhaps a more steeply graduated council tax — all surplus living space should be taxed. London’s hidden and least expensive housing surplus is in houses already built, not unbuilt…

The Government’s current attempt to extend right-to-buy to housing associations should increase, not decrease, rental supply. There is nothing wrong in right-to-buy but there is everything wrong in the proposal to discount prices and subsidise them from social housing budgets. It is a cross-subsidy from poor to rich and indefensible.

Which I have been saying for years.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

What a load of Cobblers

Here, I quote:

"IMF Report: Brexit risks 'severe and permanent damage' to the world economy."

That really is the most stupid headline I have read for a long time. Patently it is absolute nonsense.

Did the 1930's depression create 'severe and permanent damage to the world economy'? No.

Did the rampant inflation of the Weimar Republic and (arguably) the consequential rise of Hitler create 'severe and permanent damage to the world economy'? No.

Did WW2 create 'severe and permanent damage to the world economy'? No.

Did the collapse of the Soviet Empire create 'severe and permanent damage to the world economy'? No.

Did the American Revolution (and its 'AMEXIT' from the first British Empire) create 'severe and permanent damage to the world economy'? No. In fact arguably the exact reverse. AMEXIT, together with implementing the recommendations of The Wealth of Nations (published at the same time - 1776), laissez faire and the repeal the Corn Laws ushering in an extended period of free trade, set the world on the greatest period of wealth creation (for everyone) in history, so far.

The IMF are liars. End of.

Oh look... another reason for voting for Brexit.

Emailed in by MBK from Sputnik News:

An "implosion of the EU" would be triggered should voters back the Vote Leave campaign in the June 23 referendum for Britain’s membership in the bloc, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz warned of loss of trust toward the European Union and the bloc’s "implosion" should the United Kingdom opt to leave the 28-member union.

"We in Europe have been on a downward path for some time now. The trust of many people in institutions as a whole, whether national or European, has been lost," Schulz told the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily’s Tuesday edition.

There follows much deluded ramblings about "enemy movements within Europe" and so on.

Which is good news and a reason for voting "leave" not voting "remain".

The basic ideas of the Common Market, like free trade, free movement and a general spirit of well-being and co-operation are much to be welcomed of course, it's just every development in the last twenty years or so has been heading off in another direction.

So if the EU "implodes", we won't need to worry about the other countries forming a bloc and ganging up on us, we can all can just chuck it all in the bin and, for example, just be members of the EEA or something, which is much more in line with the original Common Market ideas.

While we're at it, we could abandon the endless push eastwards and exclude some of the south eastern European countries from the new arrangement.

Monday 11 April 2016

Some days, I really do despise the BBC

From the BBC

What do British Muslims really think? It's a question that news organisations have repeatedly tried to answer since the terror attacks of 9/11 and 7/7, and one that suggests that maybe the person asking isn't a British Muslim.

Some Muslims have expressed their weariness at these regular enquiries about their opinions, which they believe may be motivated by a desire to demonise them in the eyes of the non-Muslim population or to portray Muslims as a community with a single homogeneous opinion. But others believe these surveys are an important way of raising difficult and important questions about divides within society.

This whole debate has been re-opened by a new poll, but this time some Muslims have chosen to use humour to respond to findings which they feel are not representative of their attitudes.

This is nothing less than apologia by the BBC. A poll has been conducted by Channel 4, generally a fair-minded, generally liberal-minded broadcaster which said that 52% of Muslims would like homosexuality to be illegal. Now, if a Muslim said that say, they get demonised as suicide bombers, they'd have a point. You can even say "we aren't all like that". But you can't say that Muslims are demonised as against homosexual rights when most of them are.

Commenting on the results, Trevor Philips, former head of the Equality & Human Rights Commission, told the newspaper: "I thought Europe's Muslims would gradually blend into Britain's diverse landscape. I should have known better."

But in an apparent attempt to prove him and the poll findings wrong, some British Muslims are taking to Twitter to highlight what they have in common with their countrymen - a sense of the ridiculous, and an appreciation of the banal aspects of everyday life. A Conservative politician, Baroness Warsi, the former Minister of State for Faith and Communities, kicked it off.

What the fuck? Sorry, but a few tweets from a few of the more liberal minded people doesn't prove him wrong. A few tweets aren't data compared to 1081 adults who represent a broad cross-section of the population. It's like me tweeting my republican opinion as though that represents what the county thinks of the Queen.

Lord Phillips, who will present the documentary on Wednesday, wrote in the Sunday Times that the poll illustrated truths that some would find uncomfortable. "Liberal opinion in Britain has, for more than two decades, maintained that most Muslims are just like everyone else... we now know that just isn't how it is," he wrote. His comments were seized on by, among others, the disgraced former leader of the far-right English Defence League.

Sorry, but disgraced, how? Other than imprisonment for mortgage fraud, how is he disgraced in this context? If anything, he's become a better citizen, moving more towards democratic change. Or does the BBC mean "disgraced" as in "someone we don't like"?

And what he actually did was write Lord Phillips's word, like what, that means, precisely what exactly? That Lord Phillips and him are buddies? So, finally, you're saying that Tommy Robinson isn't a racist, but just concerned with Islam, like he's been saying for years while being smeared as a racist?

This was the response from the Chair of the Muslim Women's Network UK.

"I wish people would stop promoting the 'us and them' narrative that only promotes hatred & creates divisions"

Right, and what percentage of Jews, Christians, Sikhs and Hindus would like homosexuality to be illegal? Or looking at the survey, how many of those people would tell the police if someone they knew joined a foreign, terrorist army? More, or less than 34%?

You can't go objecting to people having an "us and them" narrative when a reasonable size percentage of your group have a bunch of views about some pretty basic stuff that fall outside of what everyone else thinks.

This isn't the first time a survey about British Muslim's opinions has stirred up controversy on social media. In December 2015 the Sun newspaper published the headline "1 in 5 Brit Muslims' sympathy for jihadis", triggering a huge backlash on Twitter. Its reporting of the results was later deemed "significantly misleading" by the Independent Press Standards Organisation following a slew of complaints.

As opposed to this poll, which found that 23% of Muslims would like areas of the country under Sharia Law instead of British Law? Or how about the Telegraph one a few years ago that said that 40% of Mulims wanting Sharia law in some parts of the country. Sorry, but you can keep suggesting that people saying this are knuckle dragging racists, but after a couple of polls, it's starting to look like you're in the wrong.

A different survey commissioned by the BBC in February 2015 found that 93% of Muslims living in Britain believed they should follow British laws. In the same survey, 27% said they had some sympathy for the motives behind the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Full results of the poll can be downloaded here.

Nice try, but wanting a different system of law isn't the same thing as accepting the system you live under. We're all OK with 7% of people feeling they don't have to follow the law? And hey, it's only a quarter of Muslims who have some sympathy for people who murder people over free speech. No biggie.

And I'd just like to add: I know some Muslims and I've worked with some good guys who were Muslims. I don't have a blanket view of Muslims. But to pretend that there isn't a problem with at least some sections of Muslims when you've got these sorts of percentages is just the worst sort of politically correct denialism.

Fun Online Polls: Antonio Conte & The Panama Papers

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

Will opposing fans be able to subtly mispronounce new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte's surname to turn it into an insult?

Yes - 81%
Yes - 19%

Pretty much a foregone conclusion then.
Many column inches and broadcast minutes have been and will be wasted on this whole Panama Papers episode.

So that's this week's Fun Online Poll:

Have you learned anything new from The Panama Papers?

Yes - I didn't realise how concentrated wealth is or how involved the wealthy are in tax evasion.

No - they merely confirm what I already knew or strongly suspected.

Other - please specify.

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

(As ever, it's nothing that Land Value Tax wouldn't sort out; taxing land values instead of earned income would reduce inequality and be nigh impossible to avoid or evade.)


The Revolving Door

From The Daily Mail:

The HMRC chief who will oversee the Panama Papers inquiry used to work at a law firm that acted for the fund set up by David Cameron's late father, it has been reported.

Edward Troup, the executive chairman of HMRC, is a former partner at Simmons & Simmons, which reportedly represented Ian Cameron's Blairmore Holdings and other offshore companies named in the leak.

HMRC has been given in a lead role in the £10 million taskforce launched to investigate allegations of wrongdoing highlighted in the 11 million files leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

HMRC chief Edward Troup, left, is a former partner at Simmons & Simmons, which reportedly represented Ian Cameron's (right) Blairmore Holdings and other offshore companies named in the Panama Papers leak.

The revelation has prompted renewed calls for an independent inquiry from Labour, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell saying it must have the 'full confidence of the British people'.

Simmons & Simmons' name appears on dozens of emails and documents in connection with a number of companies registered with Mossack Fonseca, according to the Guardian.

Some date back to 2003, when Mr Troup was still a partner. The first leaked correspondence regarding Blairmore Holdings date from 2005, a year after Mr Troup left to join the Treasury. He joined HMRC in 2013 and was named chief executive in April.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Daily Mail on top form

Oxford-educated Harry Potter collector, 42, dies of stab wounds to chest and neck at his £640,000 home - as police arrest 26-year-old man

Saturday 9 April 2016

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (390)

From the comments to an article at Tim Worstall:

Jim: an LVT cannot by definition be paid out of the income generated by the land for the vast majority of people, because they are being taxed on their house, which generates no actual cash income because they live in it. Therefore an LVT is an income tax by proxy, because income from employment is all most people have

That's a tired and tested KLN, debunked here. LVT is paid out of the earned income that would otherwise be collected in mortgage payments or rent. The point is that ground rents would be collected and pooled publicly instead of earned income being collected and pooled publicly. So by definition, it is good for equality of disposable incomes after housing costs (hooray).

And ironically the very people who do generate income from land (businesses) would make out like bandits from an LVT because they already pay a fairly hefty one, plus lots of other taxes.

Yes, Business Rates is pretty close to LVT, but residential land is not (Council Tax is a pale, distant relic of LVT). Perhaps commercial landlords would end up paying less tax, perhaps they'd end up paying more. That can be fine tuned one way or another. But residential landlords would almost certainly be paying a higher share of their rental income in tax i.e. keeping less of the ground rent for themselves (can also be fine tuned one way or another).

Thus the actual effect of LVT in the long run would be that everyone ended up living in a house that they could afford the LVT on from the income they made, so everyone’s income would be taxed at roughly the same rate.

That's a fair assumption.

People with more income would afford the nicer (and higher LVT) houses, poorer people would have to move to lower priced and lower LVT houses. They’d end up paying the same proportion of their income in LVT.

Perhaps they would. Having established that there would be more equality in disposable incomes (hooray), this is not necessarily levelling the playing field between low and high earners (why should it?), it is levelling the playing field in favour of the productive economy and away from landowners (hooray).

People who currently have a lot of their income taken in direct tax get nothing directly in return would be paying a similar amount in LVT, but the bonus is that they get to live in the nicer homes for a much smaller outlay (hooray). They end up better off. That's good for the work ethic and for social cohesion (hooray). Win-win-win.

So its just an income tax via a very circuitous route.

He is seeing 'income tax' as something natural, it is not, it is highly artificial. I could just as well say that 'income tax is LVT by a very circuitous route', which it is - income tax is a crude, damaging and indirect tax on land values, whereas LVT is a sophisticated tax on incomes (earned income is taxed much more lightly than unearned income and to a large extent it is voluntary).

Free Lunch

Well, not much of a surprise...

Caffe Nero will no longer provide its staff with a free lunch while on shift following the introduction of the new National Living Wage. 

Employees at the coffee chain were told in a letter that the perk would end on 11 April following the introduction of the new minimum wage for over 25s of £7.20 per hour.

The company said the change in wages, which came into force on 1 April, will have a “significant financial impact of the business”  and they are therefore looking into new ways to cut down on costs. 

The thing with employee perks is that they're mutually beneficial. You can give people a sandwich which costs you x pence, but which the employee values at a higher value (which can be called y). And you give them that instead of z pence, which is somewhere between x and y. There's also some hard to calculate but useful things, like you can get product feedback from staff, and in the case of cafes, they stay on the premises.

Or, let's put in some made up numbers...

Let's imagine the current remuneration is:-
Wage: £6.50
Lunch Cost: 70p

But the employee sees it as:-
Wage: £6.50
Lunch Value: £1

If the government forces Nero to raise the wage to £7.20, and they want to keep their costs down to avoid raising prices, their only option is to replace the "lunch" with wage. You've removed their flexibility to replace a cash benefit with something else.

"New-build homes aren't the answer to rising house prices"

Interesting albeit slightly confused article in This Is Money:

New-build homes make property even more unaffordable, according to research from a leading academic shared exclusively with This is Money.

Every 1 per cent increase in the supply of new homes causes the ratio between an individual's mortgage payments and their income to worsen by 9 per cent.

The finding of Dr Alla Koblyakova, of the real estate economics and investment research group at Nottingham Trent University, dispels the assumption that the supply of new-build properties alone helps to stem unsustainable growth in house prices.

"The Government thinks that by increasing the supply of new homes, the overall cost of owning a property will come down," says Dr Koblyakova, from the university's school of architecture, design and the built environment.

"But this research shows us that the mortgage market behaves differently. When new housing comes on to the market, lenders relax their conditions and lend more money. And when consumers are more able to buy a property for a higher price, the price of property doesn’t come down.

"This is a significant finding and is the opposite of what’s generally expected. It’s important, therefore, that future affordability programmes focus not only on the supply of affordable housing, but also on the supply of housing finance."

The study - based on a sample of more than 1,700 mortgage holders between 2010 and 2014 -considered analysis that homes in the UK were categorised as ‘seriously unaffordable’ last year. The house price to income ratio nationally was 4.6 and 8.5 in Greater London. Affordable housing is graded as 3 or less.

"The main issue that property values in the UK go up faster than wages. It’s not possible for the Government to control house prices. But it is possible for politicians to motivate lenders to offer longer mortgage contracts to reduce the size of monthly mortgage payments. By increasing the duration of a mortgage to 30 years, for instance, it’s possible to make owning a property more affordable for those on average incomes."

There's a lot of confusion between cause and effect here but hey, she's noticed that house prices have been increasing faster than wages. Extending mortgage terms would - using her own correct logic - just push up prices even more so it's not clear why she even suggested it. And of course the government can control house prices, they did it for most of the 20th century, albeit indirectly.

But interesting nonetheless.

Selfish, Self-Indulgent Prick

From the BBC

Bruce Springsteen has cancelled a concert in North Carolina, joining business groups in condemning a state law that rolls back protection for gay and transgender people.
The law invalidated several local anti-discrimination measures that protected gay and transgender people.

Go Bruce! The Boss! Taking a concert that was planned off his schedule, not playing North Carolina because of a bad law. I guess he told his planning people to remove it from the upcoming sales.

Springsteen and his band were scheduled to perform in Greensboro on Sunday.

Oh so not before selling tickets, but just before the gig is to go ahead. From the statement, the tickets will be refunded, but what about this?

And the Ticketmaster booking and postage fees? Is he going to pay that back? Are you going to pay them back? And really, are you going to at least even acknowledge that for your own "raising your voice", you're going to piss off a lot of people who were looking forward to this and that you've just taken a dump on their weekend?

The classy thing to have done would have been to have played and at the gig to say it's your last one because of the change in the law.

Friday 8 April 2016

Economic Myths: "House prices slashed to lure foreign landlords"

Emailed in by MBK, from The Times:

Housebuilders are offering discounts of 15 per cent to 20 per cent to entice investors into the British residential property market amid fears of a slowdown prompted by the buy-to-let stamp duty premium and forthcoming EU referendum.

Chris Lacey, head of residential investment at CBRE, said he had recently been involved in “three or four” deals in central London with a gross development value — value when built — of between £150 million and £250 million, in which institutional investors had bought packages of 100 apartments or more at a discount of up to 15 per cent.

For a start, they are talking primarily about flats, not houses and 15% - 20% is not 'slashed' in a market where prices have been rising at 10% a year for decades.

The main point is that this is quite normal practice for speculative builders.

The article mentions that the developer can "de-risk" (i.e. he doesn't have to worry about future price fluctuations, which is part of the reason for the discount, an equally important factor is the interest saving.

Developers have to finance the construction somehow. They could pay the bank ...% interest each year for the two or three years that the development takes or they can just pre-sell at a 15% - 20% discount meaning they get more of the sales proceeds up front (usually staged payments as buildings are completed).

A further point to note is that developers like bumping up official asking prices to above market values and then giving notional discounts or offering "Stamp Duty paid and free carpets" or whatever.

Finally, it has nothing to do with 'foreign landlords' either, they'd be happy to give anybody that sort of discount, especially if they are buying in bulk.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Eight more reasons to vote for Brexit...

According to the Home-Owner-Ists Alliance, it might dampen house prices.

With typical Homey tunnel vision, the article is titled "Eight ways a Brexit could affect homeowners" when what they mean is "Eight ways a Brexit could affect house prices" as if the two were synonymous.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Ha ha, serves them right!

From Open Democracy:

The Government’s rush to implement Individual Electoral Registration (IER) – against expert advice to phase-in the policy over a longer period – has knocked more than 800,000 people off the electoral register over the last year. The House of Commons Library warns: “Local authorities with high concentration of students appear to have been more affected by IER as their registers decreased more significantly than the average.”

Fewer young, poor and left orientated voters on the electoral register is likely to help the Conservatives in local and national elections on May 5, as well as skewing the soon-to-be redrawn boundaries of parliamentary constituencies to their advantage.

In the context of the European referendum though, that is a substantial number of likely Remain votes lost. The changes to electoral registration also puts Remain at a geographic disadvantage. Five of the ten top Europhile locations in Britain are London boroughs, according to YouGov.

But London has lost the highest number of voters, with 394,000 falling of the register since the 2012 Mayoral election. In Hackney alone, which was the eighth most pro-EU place in of Britain, there has been a 6 per cent slump in voter registration. A double victory for Conservative Mayoral candidate and Brexiteer, Zac Goldsmith, but more bad news for Remain.

Story emailed in by MBK.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

People value their own time at £10 an hour: shock

Pub Curmudgeon emailed in this article from The Daily Mail:

The cost of a home on London's commuter belt rises by £3,000 for every minute the property is closer to the city centre by train, a study has revealed.

A survey of 100,000 house sales recorded around 314 stations on the outskirts of the capital found how prices rise as addresses edge closer to the city. It concluded that for each minute less spent on the train into central London, buyers should expect to pay a further £3,048 to secure the property.

Good research (and splendid interactive map), but it just confirms Von Thünen's Law of Rent:

Let's assume two commuters per home, that's 2 people x 10 trips/week x 46 weeks/year = 920 minutes/year = 15 hours time saved/year. People value their time at about £10/hour and/or are happy to pay £10 extra to save one hour's commuting = £150 a year.

If a couple is prepared to spend an extra £150 a year on rent or mortgage repayments, that means they will be prepared to pay about £3,000 extra to save that one minute per journey.

This is what we refer to as 'location, location, location' or 'community generated land values'. A lot of it is down to simple spatial geometry.
Which nukes the argument that people would all downsize to reduce their Land Value Tax bills. Quite clearly, if we assume that a home ninety minutes away has a zero 'near London premium', then a home sixty minutes away has a £4,500 annual premium and so on. If the tax on the ninety-minute home is £nil, people will pay £4,500 LVT to live in the sixty minute home and so on.

Let's say there are eight million homes within ninety minutes of London with an average premium of 90 x £150/2, that's a total annual premium/value of £54 billion (plus minus huge margin of error), which is twice as much as the whole of the UK pays in Council Tax.

Monday 4 April 2016

Cinema Prices

From the Daily Mail

A man who was outraged by the extortionate prices at his local cinema has gone viral with a furious rant over paying £70 for a visit, including £5.50 for Nachos. 
Dean McQuade, from York, expressed his outrage on the Vue Cinemas Facebook page, pointing out that someone earning £7.20 an hour, the national minimum wage for a 25-year-old, would have to work for 10 hours to afford a trip to the cinema with two children.
His views struck a chord with other disgruntled cinema goers who have liked the post more than 6,900 times. 

It's £26 to go to my local cinema for the family. So, you spent FOURTY FOUR QUID on crappy overpriced cinema snacks. I mean, we generally buy nothing, because one of the kids has an allergy, so we have to be careful what they can have. We take a few sweets in. When it's just me and the youngest, she has a popcorn, and that's it. Which is a lot more expensive than if I cooked it up myself, but I don't mind a little wasteful expenditure. Spending FOURTY FOUR QUID on cinema crap is just madness. You could buy a popcorn, take them for a treat to Burger King afterwards for less and still have change.

Fun Online Polls: Bouncy castles & Taunting the new Chelsea manager

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

Should bouncy castles be banned?

Yes - 4%
No - 92%
Other, please specify - 4%

That seems pretty conclusive to me.

Top comment: Lord T "Amend the climate change act to include changing the climate to be less windy."
The new Chelsea manager is called Antonio Conte.

This week's Fun Online Poll:

"Will opposing fans be able to subtly mispronounce new Chelsea manager' Antonio Conte's surname to turn it into an insult?"

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (389)

I've probably done this obvious one before, but here goes, Andy Wightman painstakingly explains why LVT would be a good replacement tax in The National and gets this for his troubles:

Scrap domestic property charges and introduce a local income tax or local sales tax. This can be set initially to bring in at least the same money to the local council as the CT does at the moment.

Councils could raise/lower this tax as required to pay for additional local services or short term local projects. More importantly it would be a progressive tax based on ability to pay.

As I see it, the only thing Green about a property tax is its colour. The colour of envy.

Hang on a minute, you Homey twat - you are calling for higher taxes on earnings or on business turnover, so by your own admission you are envious of higher earners or successful businesses, envy is not a good reason for imposing a tax, so that leaves us with..?

"New flood insurance scheme to increase household bills"

From the BBC:

Homeowners living in high flood-risk areas of the UK should now be able to save hundreds of pounds on their insurance premiums.

A new scheme called Flood Re has been designed to cut bills for those whose homes are in danger of flooding. Up to now, thousands of householders have been paying large additional premiums to make sure their homes and possessions are protected. About 350,000 homes could benefit - although thousands will be excluded.

The cost will ultimately fall on ordinary policy-holders, who will pay an extra £10.50 on their premiums on average.

On the subject of redundant industrial relics....

Doesn't this rather make this redundant?

Any thoughts?

Sunday 3 April 2016

Tata Steel

Should we be concerned about the welfare of the people made redundant at Tata Steel? Sure, absolutely. But I don't remember people talking about recalling parliament when Burberry closed its factory in Treorchy a few years ago at the loss of 300 jobs. And I'd much rather take my chances with redundancy in Port Talbot than Rhondda. No-one talked about intervention when Comet went out of business, destroying 7000 jobs, or the 27000 Woolworth employees being put on the scrap heap.

The important thing about the Tata Steel story is that it has many angles that mean that the media can run numerous stories about it. These include things like:-

  • union involvement, so conflict between political parties
  • romanticised nostalgia about heavy industry
  • single place, so "damaged community"
  • a vague sense among the public that producing steel is strategically important
Because of all those factors, it becomes a media narrative, in a way that a clothing factory or an electronics chain doesn't. The media see it as an investment to pursue it because of how much can be milked from it.

In reality, there is no difference between this and a clothing factory in the valleys closing. It's cheaper to make raincoats in Bangladesh or China, so production moves to China or Bangladesh.

What are the practical things we can do? Well, we generally disapprove of tariffs, so we shouldn't do that. I'd suggest two things: a) reducing taxes in poorer areas, and the efficient way to do that is to switch more tax to LVT and b) getting serious about retraining.

Saturday 2 April 2016

In a perfect world there would be no Free Trade Agreements, only sanctions and embargoes.

Implicit in the very notion of FTAs is the default assumption that national governments can and will block trade between their citizens/businesses and those in other countries, and that by entering into FTAs, national governments graciously grant each other's citizens/businesses the permission to do trade freely.

This is actually madness and completely back-to-front. In a perfect world, the default assumption would be that anybody can trade with anybody.

(For sure, there will always be import restrictions/bans/quotas on some things (drugs, weapons, creation plants and animals etc) and many products have their own particular rules (such as MOT/road worthiness for cars).

But as long as the actual rules for any particular product are sensible, to society's overall benefit and applied consistently to domestic and imported goods, the default assumption ought to be that anybody can buy anything from or sell anything to anywhere, the same as people in Birmingham can buy cheese from Cornwall and people in London can buy cars built in Swindon without needing special permission.)

Of course, in extremis, I can sort of see the political argument for imposing sanctions or embargoes on unfriendly countries, even though these usually backfire horribly i.e. members of the ruling caste still get what they want and the burden is borne by their downtrodden masses.

Friday 1 April 2016

Feeble arguments against Brexit continued...

From the BBC:

British football could be radically changed if the UK votes to leave the European Union, according to experts and leading voices in the game.

Some fear so-called Brexit could lead to more than 400 players losing the right to play in the UK, while others say it may give home talent a chance.


1. There are those who say there are too many foreign players in English football, so that could be seen as a good thing.

2. It appears the FA has haggled its own rules on who can and can't play here.

3. A lot of foreign players are from non-EU countries, we can assume that even if the government aligns rules for European and non-European players, there will still be plenty of them.

4. Who cares? Football is a game, there are rules, if the rules change (such as the UEFA 'Fair Play' rules) then it is still a game and people's enjoyment of it will not be affected one jot.