Friday 30 December 2016

"Jeremy Warner nearly gets it"

Emailed in independently by Lola and Mombers (who suggested the post title), more wailing about Business Rates in The Telegraph:

This is obviously very welcome news, but it is small thanks to a Government which seems to be doing its level best to make the costs and complexity of doing business in Britain ever more burdensome.

The latest example of such wrong-headedness is in changes to the business rates system, due to come into effect next April. For some businesses, they mean an immediate increase in the tax on their properties of 42 per cent, with still worse to come in future years. Particularly badly hit will be smaller traders in London and the South East. Many face an eventual doubling or worse in their rates bill.

A significant number will be broken by the increases, and in despair close up shop (1). Others will find ways of passing the extra costs on to their customers (2), or alternatively demand rent reductions from landlords (3). Still more will simply take the hit to profits and invest less (4).

The first outcome is pure speculation, the shop is there and somebody will always want to use it.

The second is nonsense, we know for a fact that the total rent and rates bill does not affect output prices, because retail prices are the same whether you shop in a high rent/rates area or a low rent/rates area.

As it happens, UK retail sales are in the order of £400 billion a year and the total increase in UK retailers business rates bills is going to be about £500 million a year, i.e. one-eigth of a percent of  turnover, with many retailers outside London and the South East enjoying rates reductions.

The third is the most likely outcome for commercial tenants, although there will be a nasty transition period between the rates increase and the next rent review, which is one of the flaws of making the tenant not the owner legally liable for the business rates.

The last suggested outcome is nonsense, whatever the rent plus rates bill, a good investment is a good investment, and if there are good investment opportunities available, people will avail themselves. You could even argue that a higher rates bill for owner-occupier businesses will give them the kick up the arse they need to increase profits.

All this is in stark contrast to what he wrote a few years ago:

As it happens, there are some quite strong economic arguments for taxing land and housing more than they are already. Again, many thanks to The Mirrlees Review for drawing my attention to what Winston Churchill, who was from a big land owning family himself, had to say on the matter as early as 1909…

Taxing land value, in other words, is the equivalent of taxing an economic rent – it does not discourage any socially desirable form of wealth creation. Moreover, in a world where both income and capital are increasingly mobile, there are obvious advantages in taxing the physical; it is less easily avoided.
So in an ideal world, you might indeed want to tax land more, while reducing income and other forms of capital taxes to compensate.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Causation Is Not Creation

One of the most pernicious arguments against Land Value Tax is  “Landowners create land values” aka the Disney World KLN.

Imagine I build a whole city, including all the infrastructure as well as all the buildings. Because I build it so well and  many people want to move there,  I have made a worthless location, desirable. My work, effort and enterprise has created value, from which my ability to charge rent/higher selling price  is a just reward.

Which all sounds very plausible, and so not hard to see how most people believe an LVT is a damaging tax on “positive externalities”, “spillovers”, “wealth creation” etc, etc.  

Indeed, many pro-LVTers make the same mistake by saying the tax merely reclaims values created by State spending, community effort etc.

However, all that is really going on is that by creating one factor ie buildings/infrastructure, it has caused demand to be shifted for another. It just so happens that with immovable property, the owners of land and capital are usually one and the same. Hence the confusion.

If we separate the two, the confusion disappears. For example, once crude oil was a pollutant which if it appeared on the surface made land worthless. The invention of the internal combustion engine changed this, shifting demand to oil products, making it a valuable commodity and its owners very rich. 

Did the manufacturers of engines also need to own the oil for them to be incentivised to make engines? Clearly not.

And as the provision of every good and service shifts demand, subtly or otherwise, for other goods and services causing their value to change, then property rights cannot be claimed on this basis. 

So imagine I still built the above city, only this time I rent the land from a big landowner instead of buying it outright.

If I get an income from renting out the capital, while the landowner gets that from his land, then why should my incentives to produce capital be different from anyone else's? 

Indeed, if the prospect of having to pay the landowner rent meant I didn’t build the city at all, then by definition it was an inefficient allocation of my resources, that would be better invested elsewhere.

That is to say, that if freeholders do not pay rent, as tax, for their right to exclude others from scarce resources, supplied for free by nature/god, then that is an implicit State subsidy. Which not only causes misallocation and over consumption of immovable property, but is then capitalised into incomes and selling prices. The cause of excessive inequality. (It’s odd that economists are against rent controls because as an implicit subsidy to tenants they distort markets, yet they fail to apply the same logic to freeholders).

As per my post below, the only way a property right can be claimed is the creation of a good or service and its provenance. While demand for natural resources can be shifted, causing their value to rise, these values are not the sole property of titleholder to Land because they are not “created”. 

Defining Property Rights.

Property rights are the foundation upon which we build a peaceful and prosperous society. They are thus human rights (perhaps the only ones).

Given their importance, it's somewhat surprising how little most people, especially economists, think about how they are defined and whether they are correct as they currently stand. After all, efficient resource allocation is entirely dependent upon incentives.

When I ask people how they can tell if something rightfully belongs to them, these are the answers they most often give.

1. I paid for it.
2. Legal title.
3. I discovered it.
4. I used it first.

None of the above confers moral ownership of something because, for example-

1. We can pay for stolen goods.
2. We can pay for stolen goods that society deems acceptable. Like slaves once were.
3. I can discover something of value on your property. Like a gold watch in your attic you never knew you had.
4. I can intercept something in the post you bought from Amazon and use it first.

Therefore none of 1-4 provides an ethical basis for assigning property rights. I believe the only way by which a property right can be claimed is the creation of a good or service and its provenance.

Which means the following are an infringement of property rights.

1. Taxation of factors produced by human effort.
2. Uncompensated exclusion from scarce natural resources.
3. Exclusion from the ability to use any idea.

I would therefore postulate that if property rights are fundamental, then the fact that every Country in the World is guilty of doing a,b and c, then this is the root cause of much, if not all, social and economic dysfunction.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

That's what happens when you let animals drive cars...

Cheetahs heading towards extinction as population crashes

"Electoral fraud: Voters will have to show ID in pilot scheme"

From the BBC:

Voters will have to show proof of identity in a government pilot scheme to reduce electoral fraud.

Some councils in England, including Birmingham and Bradford, will trial the scheme at local elections in 2018. Constitution minister Chris Skidmore said the pilot would "ensure the integrity of our electoral system".

Fair enough, but actual fraudulent voting at the ballot box is negligible, it would require real nerves and you'd have to gamble on the person whose vote you are stealing not having already voted.

The real big frauds all relate to postal voting, they ought to tighten up on that and they've fixed 90% of fraudulent voting…

There will also be reforms to improve the security of the postal ballot system, such as requiring postal voters to re-apply every three years.

In other words, they are not taking this seriously at all. I suppose there are two kinds of postal voter, the disabled and people who happen to be going away at the time of the election. Seeing as ballot cards are sent out a couple of weeks before an election, couldn't we just ask those people to use their ballot cards in advance, the disabled can drop them off at their GP or something else convenient for them and those who are going to travel can vote early at the nearest town hall?

Monday 26 December 2016

The magical protection has expired after thirty two years

I pointed out nine years ago that those eighties pop stars who appeared in the Do They Know It's Christmas video were all miraculously still alive.

Sadly, the magical protection it bestowed appears to have expired, bang on cue at Xmas 2016,with Rick Parfitt and George Michael dying over the past two days.

Saturday 24 December 2016

"Only three passengers on BA flight enjoy champagne and selfies"

From the BBC:

Three British Airways passengers had a once-in-a-lifetime flight after finding they were the only ones on board.

Lawrie-Lin Waller, 33, said she and her friends were upgraded to business class, treated to bottles of champagne, and posed for selfies with the captain. And on their trip from Gibraltar to Heathrow on 17 December, her friends Laura Stevens, 34, and Sarah Hunt, 35, enjoyed three-course meals.

Ms Waller said: "We're never going to experience anything like that again."

Something like that once happened to me, it was a small airplane London City to Tessino, Switzerland, it had a capacity of maybe fifty people but there were only five or six of us. So second and third helpings of snacks and booze for everybody.

The plane made a pit stop at a tiny airstrip in the west of Switzerland to let one passenger get off. The stewardess said they were making good time and if anybody wanted to get out for a smoke they were welcome. A couple of us duly decamped to the bar at the side of the tarmac, had another pint and a couple of fags until the stewardess came in and shepherded us back onto the plane.

Not quite as impressive as the BA story, but truly a memorable/once in a lifetime event (I don't fly that often so I can't say how often it happens).

Thursday 22 December 2016

I'm surprised it's still as high as twenty per cent.

From the BBC:

Home ownership among 25-year-olds has fallen by more than half in 20 years, according to council leaders.

A survey carried out for the Local Government Association (LGA) by estate agents Savills showed that just 20% of those aged 25 own their own property, compared with 46% two decades ago...

The Home-Owner-Ist target is zero percent - unless they are helped out by Bank of Mum & Dad taking out a second mortgage on their own home - so they've still some way to go.

The LGA said government needed to tackle the shortage of affordable homes to rent and buy. It says it found that, on average, private renters pay 34% of their household income on rent, while social and affordable renters pay 29%. Homeowners, however, spend an average of 18% of their household income on their mortgage.

False comparison. The average amount paid in mortgage repayments is irrelevant, the question is, what percentage of your income would you have to buy a home today? Probably about the same as if you stayed renting.

But the average size of a deposit to get a mortgage is 62% of annual incomes, or 131% in London.

'Nuff said.

Responding to the LGA survey, a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "We've halted the decline in homeownership, with the number of first-time buyers up nearly 60%, and over 335,000 households helped into homeownership through government-backed schemes since 2010. Our upcoming Housing White Paper will clearly set out how we plan to build the homes this country needs."

That's the sickening bit. The owner-occupation rate is steadily drifting downwards as planned, and to maintain a 75% owner-occupation rate there have to be around 300,000 first time buyer households every year, not 335,000 over six an a half years. And they chuck in the 'lack of supply' myth just to emphasise how little they really care.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Wednesday morning Xmas gear change

Rod Stewart, "Red suited superman"", up a semi-tone at 1 min 55 for absolutely no reason whatsoever:

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Rent controls vs financial crises

In a slightly different context, BenJamin' emailed me this 1995 article about rent controls.

As we see, Georgism Lite was prevalent in most Western countries in the decades after WW2:

Rent controls were imposed in the United States shortly after the country's entry into World War II. Putting the country on a war footing required massive relocation of labor, with consequent pressure on many local housing markets. Controls were imposed to ensure affordable housing and to prevent profiteering. The appropriateness of imposing controls in wartime seems to be virtually undisputed.2 The form of controls was a freeze on nominal rents.

The rent freeze continued after the end of the war in the belief that the return of soldiers would otherwise cause a rapid and disruptive rise in rents, at least in certain markets. However, there was a housing boom in the late 1940s and early 1950s, which lowered market-clearing rents and permitted almost painless decontrol. The only jurisdiction to retain wartime controls was New York City, and these were applied only to pre-1947 housing.

European countries imposed wartime rent freezes, too. In fact, controls in several countries had lingered on from the First World War. The postwar experience of the European countries was less fortunate. Housing reconstruction took much longer because of their war-ravaged economies and extensive destruction of their housing stocks. As a result, many European jurisdictions retained a rent freeze on at least prewar housing long after World War II. While the nominal rent freezes were typically not absolute—intermittent adjustments were made—controlled rents fell significantly in real terms, to only a fraction of the rents in the uncontrolled housing that was constructed after the war.

It is the experience of these jurisdictions, together with that of New York City, which forms the basis for the common opposition to rent control among economists. The type of controls imposed in this period has come to be termed "hard" or "first-generation" rent control. Since the early 1950s, the pattern of rent regulation has been significantly different in Europe than in North America.

In much of Europe, the legacy of first-generation controls is still keenly felt. In some jurisdictions, controls gave rise to housing problems that prompted increasingly intrusive government intervention. In others, the uncontrolled rental housing sector grew healthily, while the older, controlled housing in the downtown areas deteriorated, but remained keenly sought after due to the wide disparity in (quality-adjusted) rents between the controlled and uncontrolled sectors. Over the last 15 years, largely as a result of the perceived failure of socialism and renewed faith in the market, European governments have been eliminating or relaxing controls.

Rent controls were just part of the overall package of course, they went hand in hand with mortgage caps; more social housing; higher taxes on rental income; and higher taxes on residential 'property'. Different countries had different packages, Singapore still has its own peculiar model of Georgism Lite with the inevitable resounding success.

Whatever the narrow impact of Georgism Lite was on the housing market per se, there were much wider ramifications which economists usually ignore:

1. The 18-year land price/credit boom bust cycle was kept largely in abeyance between 1925 and 1973.

2. The post war years up to the 1970s are seen as the golden age of Western capitalism, there was almost continuous economic growth and almost full employment. This was because of the absence of major financial crises and people putting their earnings into the real economy not land price speculation.

3. There was also inevitably more equality and the benefits of economic growth were felt more evenly.

4. This has all gone nicely into reverse since the 1970s, with Home-Owner-Ism at its most rampant e in the UK and Australia, although there has been a slight backlash in some German states which are now re-imposing rent controls.

Georgism Lite was just diluted Georgism without a full-on LVT. Both are ways of ensuring more stable economic growth as well as a more equitable sharing of the benefits of economic growth*. Full-on Georgism with much higher LVT is just a much better way of doing it**, because you get all the well established benefits of Georgism Lite plus the benefits of having much lower taxes on output and employment.

* Economic growth goes into higher rents; rent controls are a way of sharing that growth between landlord and tenant.

** The growth is shared by the whole economy with the landlord getting what's left over after LVT.

Monday 19 December 2016

Fun Online Polls: Boris Johnson, Saudi Arabia & Migrants in Germany

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

UK Foreign Secretary criticised Saudi Arabia for starting proxy wars in the Middle East…

This is a terrible breach of diplomatic convention and he is endangering our weapons exports to a valued regional ally - 2%
Well said, that man! - 32%
He should have gone a lot further and mentioned their human rights abuses - 62%
Other, please specify - 4%

Top comment Pensieve: It's about time that someone told the Saudis we know what they're doing (even if we are beholden to them for a lot of our oil). Well done, Boris. PS I ride a bike and use a woodburning boiler for heating, so stuff your oil!

Good, I was with the majority on that one, thanks to everybody who took part, a good turnout with 99 votes.
This week's Fun Online Poll:

What percentage of the 1.2 million Arabs who arrived in Germany in the last two years are in gainful employment?

Enter your guess HERE or use the widget in the sidebar.

Once you've entered your guess, you can check your answer here. The paragraph starting "On the bright side" is rather ironic, methinks.

Sunday 18 December 2016

Oh the Irony


"What was your most lucrative commercial venture?

Every house I ever bought, right up until 2008. For anyone of my generation who invested in something large that will double, triple or maybe quadruple its value in the next few years, that’s not going to be down to the stock exchange but your house."
"Have you ever been ripped off?
Yes, a thousand times! The harshest example is being a customer of a high-street bank with every transaction that I’ve ever made, once banks decided to turn themselves into such extraordinary money-generating businesses for their shareholders. We are all systematically and disgracefully ripped off."
"What’s been your best financial move?
Without any doubt, it was deciding to build up a large pension, which was a huge boon. It meant I’m protected to some extent for the rest of my life, though not as much as I thought I’d be. Unless the world implodes, I’m not going to starve."
A tad confused is dear old Baldrick.

Friday 16 December 2016

Friday Night Xmas Gearchange

Cliff Richard, "21st Century Christmas", up a full tone at 2 min 37.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Compare and contrast

Emailed in by MBK, a good article in The Spectator about the differences of language used to describe the battles in Aleppo and in Mosul. In Aleppo, the occupiers are rebels being besieged by a dictatorial regime; in Mosul, the occupiers are Islamic terrorists and the town is being liberated by government forces. In fact, the occupiers are in both cases exactly the same kind of IS/Al Qaeda nutcases, and so on.
The stories about George Osborne now being paid out for all the support he gave the banking sector remind me of Tony Blair who did the same thing.

JP Morgan paid him £2 million for services rendered while Prime Minister but apparently he has collected £60 million in total, presumably for services rendered to the armaments industry, Halliburton and the like.

The missing bit is Gordon Brown, who was responsible for the massive bank bail outs. Osborne was only throwing small change at them after that. Does anybody know why the banks aren't now 'hiring him as a consultant' or paying him for 'after dinner speeches'? Or are they, and we just don't know about it?

I can't stand Brown any more than I can stand Blair or Osborne, i.e. not at all, but judged by the standards of the kleptocracy, it still seems a bit incongruous and hence a tad unfair on the Broonster. Or does he have principles?

"Electricity bills expected to rise with uptake of 4K television sets"

It's Big Scary Numbers Time in the Express and Star who dutifully rehash the CEBR's press release:

Two million homes are expected to own a 4K, or ultra high definition, TV by the end of this year, with that figure soaring to nine million by 2019, the upcoming British Gas Home Energy Report 2016 says.

However, the bonus of more pixels and therefore greater picture clarity requires a third more energy than an HD TV, with UK consumers predicted to pay an extra £82 million in electricity costs by 2019, the study, based on data analysed by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), claims.

First, I don't like this "by 2019" nonsense, that's just adding together a random number of years, it is far better to express things as annual figures, and the relevant figure is the per-household (about £3) or per television one (£1?). So now we get down to it:

The report shows that the average household spent £14 in 2001 on powering its TV for a year, increasing to £20 in 2008. The cost then declined over the next seven years to £18, driven by more energy-efficient TVs.

£18 a year? I am pleasantly surprised it is that cheap. Does anybody even care about £8 a year, or £21 a year or £30 or whatever?

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Daily Mail on top form

Emailed in by MBK, from The Daily Mail:

A banker burnt his wife alive after she discovered he was having an affair - then claimed she died whilst making him a BLT sandwich.

Darren Byrne was today found guilty of murdering spouse Maria, 35, in the kitchen of their £450,000 home in Theydon Bois, Essex.

UDAPTE: KJP in the comments reckons that houses like that in the area sell for £700,000, which is what Rightmove says.

Monday 12 December 2016

Fun Online Polls: Whose responsibility is integration & Boris Johnson's comments on the Saudis

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

Whose responsibility is 'integration'?

Immigrants - 99%
Citizens of their chosen host country - 1%

A good turnout with 97 votes, thanks to everybody who took part, and not much more to say on that.

Top comment: H: The correct answer is no one's. It is certainly not mine, and it is only yours if you chose to assume such a responsibility. But you don't offer this as a possible answer… Why are we so worked up anyway? Everyone seems to think it's sweet that there are Welsh people in Patagonia still speaking Welsh, or funny that Brits in Saudi get bladdered in their compounds. The problem, I am guessing, with muslims is that some actively promote an alien ideology.

Fair points (except the Welsh in Patagonia, they have been there as long as Spanish speakers). Of course, there are degrees of this. IMHO, as long as people don't actively seek to overturn/completely ignore whatever traditions and systems are in place in their chosen host country or demand special treatment, then I'm not that fussed. I certainly wouldn't expect them all to start playing cricket and doing Morris dancing.
From The Guardian:

A defiant Boris Johnson told friends he had no intention of apologising for his outspoken comments about Saudi Arabia during a trip to the Gulf and hit out at party critics who said he might be better suited to another job in government.

The foreign secretary delivered a carefully crafted speech in Bahrain on Friday evening, playing up the economic and strategic links between London and the Gulf States, while allies said he would be “open, honest and moral in his approach” regarding political issues in the region.

On Thursday, Johnson was rebuked by Downing Street after it emerged he had accused Saudi Arabia of being among countries engaged in fighting “proxy wars” in the Middle East, breaking the Foreign Office’s convention of not criticising a key UK ally in the region.

Johnson seems to go round saying stuff at random, most of it rubbish but inevitably he hits the nail on the head every now and then.

So that's this week's Fun Online Poll - what do you think?

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Saturday 10 December 2016

Royal Christmas Cards for 2016

The Prince of Wales has released a Christmas card showing happier times with dynastic rival Prince Andrew's daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie. The smiling, unemployed youngsters are shown flanking Charles and Carmila at Royal Ascot's, Silly Hat Day, earlier this year.

A famous, unnamed, toady journalist at the BBC said, in a fake vicar's voice, that Charles felt sorry for Princess Eugenie in particular. That if he was outed every time he had waved his sword at a famous person, he would have been on the front page of the Sun every week during the 70's and 80's!

His former butler, Fawcett the Fence, was able to confirm that he, historically, had done all the royal children's 'fencing' for them, and was disappointed that his non-catering role had now been largely forgotten.

Friday 9 December 2016

Friday Night Gear Changes

1. Spotted by Steven_L. Ladycop's "To be real". He adds "totally ruins a nice track, shame as the rest of it mixes nigh on perfectly with with the MK remix of 'My head is a jungle', which is one of my faves."

Quite. A spiteful semi-tone up at 2 mins 15:

2. From Now 95, Michael Bublé's "I believe in you", up a nice neat full tone after the well-signalled ponderous pause at 2 mins 36. Textbook:

I've read spy novels, I know how this works.

From the Evening Standard:

British spies are risking their lives daily in Islamic State heartlands to “take the fight to the enemy,” the head of MI6 said today.

Alex Younger stressed agents recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service had penetrated IS “upstream” to stop terror attacks on Britain’s streets.

But in his first public speech, the SIS chief laid bare the perils these individuals faced operating in “the most dangerous and hostile environments on earth” - where paranoid IS fanatics have executed hundreds of people wrongly suspected of being spies.

Spies spend most of their time spying on each other and searching for moles in their own ranks, so it's always good idea to give the other side the impression that you have double agents in their organisations, even if you haven't. Unless you actually have, in which case you have to try and disguise the source of your information etc, in endless twists of logic.

We know that ISIS is just Islamism taken to extremes, they love nothing more than raping, maiming, torturing and killing people and when they run out of victims they just slaughter each other for whatever spurious reason. (The Saudis are hardly better, but for some reason, they count as a reliable ally, go figure). No doubt people in ISIS are paranoid already, of their actual enemies and each other, so basically MI6 has now signed a death warrant for anybody connected with ISIS who has lived in the UK. In which case good work!

If we assume that the head of MI6 is acting rationally, the logical deduction must be that we have no British spies in ISIS. The gamble is, will ISIS assume that Younger is a blithering idiot who has just given away our trade secrets and turn on each other, or will they assume it is a bluff and ignore it? Or is it a double bluff? Or a treble bluff?

This is easier with novels because you can just read to the end and find out...

Thursday 8 December 2016

"Brexit case simple enough for a child, Supreme Court told"

From the BBC:

A six-year-old child would understand why the government does not have the power to trigger Brexit, a lawyer has told the Supreme Court. Richard Gordon QC attacked the government's claim it does not have to consult Parliament, suggesting this could "crucify human rights".

The QC for the government countered that a six-year-old child would understand why the government does have the power to trigger Brexit. Gordon Richard QC attacked the claim that the government has to consult Parliament, suggesting this could "strip it of its prerogative powers".

A move to call a six-year child as an expert witness to decide the matter was declined.

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Propaganda Fail

Not exactly in the MSM, but...

It will be interesting to see how the the Daily Mail readers in positions of power try to discredit this.
The article makes a good start, with a random picture of a lorry dumping tons of what is supposed to look like gold somewhere in Switzerland.

Feeble standard email reply from my MP

I sent my (Conservative) MP an email re Generation Rent's campaign against no fault evictions and received this feeble reply:

Thank you for your email of 17th November regarding the Generation Rent campaign on restricting evictions. I understand the points you raise.

I have read the proposals from Generation Rent and I agree that all tenants deserve to feel safe in their home. The nature of renting means many tenants do not have as much long-term security as they may wish and I would encourage tenants and landlords who favour longer tenancies to use the Government's model tenancy agreement. Longer fixed-term tenancies provide more stability for tenants and also means that they do not need to pay fees to renew a tenancy.

The two months' written notice a landlord provides before taking possession of a property can be used by a tenant to find alternative accommodation (1). This notice provides landlords with the flexibility to manage their property, however, it is important that people and [sic] not being made homeless because of this.

Most tenants are satisfied with their accommodation (2) and this is testament to the fact that the majority of landlords are hardworking(3) and responsible. They provide safe and decent accommodation and understand the needs of their tenants.(4)

I look forward to the publication of the White Paper on Housing and will bear in mind the points you raise during the course of my Parliamentary duties.

1) Not long, is it, especially if the landlord doesn't pay you your deposit back until long after you've left, if at all.

2) Are they? I doubt it, most are pretty unhappy with having to hand over a large sum of money each month.

3) "Hardworking"?? She's having a fucking laugh.

4) Landlords do just enough to ensure the money keeps rolling in, that's about it. Replacing the odd fridge is hardly evidence of some genius insight into "the needs of their tenants".

I wonder, is the standard email reply from Labour and Lib Dem MPs just as inane?

"Doom-laden Carney warns middle classes will be 'hollowed out' by new technology"

From The Daily Mail:

Robots could put 15 million Britons out of work, the Bank of England Governor declared last night.

In an alarming vision for workers, Mark Carney warned many jobs would be 'hollowed out' as huge technological advances meant roles could be automated instead. The Bank has said the march of the machines in the workplace puts administrative, clerical and production staff most under threat...

The 51-year-old, who earns £874,000 a year, said that as a cost-saving measure, he and the other members of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee will be replaced with a flip chart with "0.25%" scribbled on it.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Never Mind 'Soft' or 'Hard', when Withdrawal wasn't even Withdrawal

We emphasise that our decision to bring about withdrawal in no sense represents any weakening of our commitment to internationalism and international co operation. We are not 'withdrawing from Europe'.

We are seeking to extricate ourselves from the Treaty of Rome and other Community treaties which place political burdens on Britain. Indeed, we believe our withdrawal will allow us to pursue a more dynamic and positive international policy - one which recognises the true political and geographical spread of international problems and interests. We will also seek agreement with other European governments - both in the EEC and outside - on a common strategy for economic expansion.

The process of withdrawal

On taking office we will open preliminary negotiations with the other EEC member states to establish a timetable for withdrawal; and we will publish the results of these negotiations in a White Paper. In addition, as soon as possible after the House assembles, we will introduce a Repeal Bill: first, in order to amend the 1972 European Communities Act, ending the powers of the Community in the UK; and second, to provide the necessary powers to repeal the 1972 Act, when the negotiations on withdrawal are completed.

Following the publication of the White Paper, we will begin the main negotiations on withdrawal. Later, when appropriate and in the same parliament, we will use our powers to repeal the 1972 Act and abrogate the Treaty of Accession - thus breaking all of our formal links with the Community. Britain will at this point withdraw from the Council of Ministers and from the European Parliament.

There will need to be a period of transition, to ensure a minimum of disruption - and to phase in any new agreements we might make with the Community. This will enable us to make all the necessary changes in our domestic legislation. Until these changes in UK law have taken place, the status quo as regards particular items of EEC legislation will remain. And this period will, of course, extend beyond the date when we cease, formally, to be members.

Nothing much not to agree with there. The 'Process' section is interesting though.You get the feeling that the country 'we' above, still had some power in the world; telling the EEC member states what 'we' would be doing. I have been pondering where we are along that timetable. I have also been pondering if Article 50 is one of those self-imposed legal or economic constraints that Western politicians love us to pointlessly discuss to distract us from simplicity? Anyway, in case you were wondering, this is from the 'longest suicide note in political history'. The 1983, Labour Party Manifesto.  Just saying.

Meaningless Alcohol-related Statistics Of The Day

From The Daily Echo-o-o:

The "enormous" toll of excessive drinking on Britain's emergency services is laid bare in a new parliamentary report. Police, ambulance and A&E personnel face a risk of violence and verbal abuse as they attend drink-fuelled incidents, the inquiry found.

Those are clearly punishable offences, the good news is that in most cases, the perpetrators won't be hard to identify and/or arrest. The other news is that alcohol consumption in the UK has been falling for years, so unless they want to claim that this overall decline results from a large number of people drinking less masking a smaller people drinking a lot more, their whole thesis fails.

The report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm painted a stark picture of the scale of resources devoted to dealing with alcohol misuse. It called for a number of steps including lowering the drink drive alcohol limit and introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Drink driving is already - rightly - a criminal offence, but don't they do the damage by crashing, not by stepping out of the vehicle and assaulting emergency services? And what on earth does minimum pricing have to do with this anecdotal..?

One statement [from a police officer] said: "I can take my team through a licensed premise, and by the time I take them out the other end, they will have been felt up several times."

a) Well bloody arrest them on the spot.
b) Pubs seem to operate maximum pricing anyway, so any minimum price will not affect the behaviour of people in pubs and clubs.
c) It's probably being in a crowd rather than being drunk which makes people think they can get away with feeling up female coppers.

MPs and peers took evidence from police officers, fire crew and paramedics. In one area, 86% of police officers surveyed had been assaulted by people who had been drinking.

Sorry to say, but being assaulted verbally or physically is one of the risks of being a copper, and we can assume that most coppers have been assaulted a few times, the fact that most of them have been assaulted at least once by somebody who was drunk is hardly surprising. The article does not say how often fire crews and paramedics are assaulted, so again, we can safely assume it is a much lower figure (although not something we can brush aside as a risk of the job).

Monday 5 December 2016

Fun Online Polls: "You guys" and who whose responsibility is integration?

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

When somebody addresses you/your group as "You guys", he/she is…

Trying to be friendly - 35%
Educationally sub-normal - 4%
Being deliberately rude, but in a subtle way - 3%
Just a twat generally - 47%
Other, please specify - 10%

Good, so it's not just me then. A good turnout on 90 votes, thanks to everybody who took part.

Top comment: Markc: FWIW I think it's a bit broader and runs across several answers. It means they're a twat who's trying to be friendly but entirely lacks the social skills to carry "friendly" off properly and so might often be construed as rude - depending on circumstances. But they're still a twat.
From the BBC:

Segregation and social exclusion are at "worrying levels" and are fuelling inequality in some areas of Britain, a report has found.

Women in some communities are denied "even their basic rights as British residents", the Casey Review said. Dame Louise Casey accused public bodies of ignoring or condoning divisive or harmful religious practices for fear of being called racist.

So a surprisingly honest review by modern standards. In the interests of 'balanced reporting', the article tacks on this:

Faeeza Vaid, from the Muslim Women's Network, said migrant communities should not be blamed for failing to integrate.

"We also see segregated white communities," she told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme. "Integration is everyone's responsibility."

Well hang about one cotton pickin' moment.

I have more first hand experience of integration than most people, I'm half German/half English, have lived in both countries and tried to fit in wherever I was, at the very least, I do a normal job/go to a normal school and speak the domestic tongue wherever I choose to be. My wife is from Malaysia and due to self-selection as much as anything else, a lot of our friends are from abroad, aren't 'white', are in 'mixed marriages' or whatever. They, like Mrs W, all do normal jobs, speak English, send their kids to normal schools etc and we all get along just fine.

For sure, a minority of British citizens are downright racist and prefer being among their own i.e. "in segregated white communities". I feel slightly uncomfortable in their presence but that's their personal view and they are perfectly entitled to it (provided it doesn't spill over into actual bullying, violence etc).

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

Whose responsibility is integration?

Vote here or use the widget in the side bar.

Monsters: fact and fiction (Wish I knew the difference)

Actress Veronica Cartwright is planning to take film director Ridley Scott to court for damages, rumour has it.

In the famous 'Belly Bursting' scene in Alien, Cartwright like the other actors, had not been told about the blood and real guts that would pour out of the stomach of the Hurt character.

At the time of the film, Cartwright was hit directly by a stream of puke and guts. She passed out, pissed herself, and nearly died of a heart attack through laughing at how absurd the whole event was.

But she has recently read the clever article by Suzzzan Moore in the Guardian and thinks, well fuck it, Ridley didn't tell us about the guts and, apart from spoiling a good pair of knickers, in principle, I could have had a heart attack. After all, I am now simply known as the girl with the guts on her in Alien.

Cartwright has declined to say how much she was paid as a young actress to be 'abused' by Scott and John Hurt.

"Prince William is to become Patron of Centrepoint"

Official announcement from (from 2005):

Prince William is to become Patron of Centrepoint, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity.

This piece of breath taking mendacity is the Prince’s first patronage, and reflects his rather ironic interest in homelessness which he has held for a number of years.

As a child, the Prince visited homelessness charities in London with his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales before returning to one of the many castles and palaces which the taxpayer funds on his behalf. Two years ago, with his father - who collects millions of pounds a year in rent from people whose only alternative is homelessness - William visited a homelessness charity in Newport, Wales just before his 21st birthday.

For the past two days, William has taken time out from his busy schedule of relaxing, taking breaks and posing for photographs and has been volunteering at Centrepoint working with young people to help them talk about their situation and review their personal development plans, sort out housing benefit claims to subsidise their private landlords and find more permanent accommodation.

Prince William said today: “I am delighted to accept Centrepoint’s invitation to become their Patron. I have always been deeply concerned for those people – especially young people – who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on the streets or without a proper home. Actually, we know the reason in most cases, and my family are at the pinnacle of that.

“Charities like Centrepoint do such an amazing job in helping to combat homelessness and social exclusion which inevitably results from Home-owner-ism and I just wanted to appear to be lending my support to their remarkable but ultimately futile efforts.”

"Stray goat goes wild at Carrickfergus shop"

From the BBC:

A goat has head-butted a pensioner and jumped on cars after being refused entry to a County Antrim shop.

Staff and customers ran for cover when the unusual visitor appeared at the doors of the Eurospar store in Carrickfergus on Saturday morning...

And so on and so forth with embedded video.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (407)

I saw this one on Richard Murphy's blog a couple of months ago but forgot to save the link.

It goes something like this:

1. If you look at the total assets of the poorer half of the population (or possibly the bottom three-quarters), as like as not it is nearly all land. If people possibly can, they prefer to own that rent (it being cheaper in the long run and just nicer all round) and will devote most of their spare income to paying off the mortgage.

2. If you look at the total assets of the richer half of the population (or possible the top quarter), while they own a lot of land by value, they own a disproportionate share of other forms of wealth, primarily pensions, shares and cash (there isn't much else).

It would appear that these two facts are broadly correct. Maybe the bottom three-quarters own half of all land/housing by value, but only a quarter of all pensions, shares and cash.

3. His conclusion was therefore, if you impose LVT it will 'hurt' poorer households more than wealthier ones in relative terms. Therefore it is better to have a general wealth tax which catches pensions, shares and cash as well as land/housing.

The fundamental mistake here is confusing cause and effect. Wealthy people don't own lots of land because they are wealthy; they are (in most cases) wealthy because they own land, whether they had the good fortune to buy more than 15 years ago when housing was still sensibly priced, or inherited it or whatever. The picture is even clearer if you deduct mortgage debts; there are lots of higher earners who 'own' an expensive house but their net equity is relatively low.

To give a simple example: a landowner collects rent from all his tenants and lives in a magnificent castle full of paintings and golden artefacts, his tenants own no land whatsoever and precious little else. He owns the castle etc because he owned land to start with. If we were to redistribute his paintings and golden artefacts (via a wealth tax and citizen's dividend), he would simply bump up the rent to what his tenants can now afford to pay and the status quo ante is quickly re-established.

Conversely, if we predistribute the land (via a land value tax and a citizen's dividend), this leads to much greater equality and economic efficiency much more quickly. The landowner no longer has the surplus to spend on maintaining his castle and acquiring more paintings and golden artefacts. If he bumps up the rent to try and claw back the citizen's dividend then by definition, the rental value and hence his LVT bill increases and cancels it out.

Similarly, it is unfair to simply look at how much a household has in pensions, shares and cash, you have to look at how they acquired them. The largest chunk of these are accumulated out of the surplus income of higher earners, and a lot of higher earners have earned their money fair and square. There are also a lot of higher earners who have rigged the system (senior bureaucrats, quangocrats, executives at quoted companies and various rent seekers), but the problem here is allowing them to gouge that extra income in the first place, not what they do with it afterwards. So sort out the gouging first and if you are still worried about income disparity after that (which I am not) regardless of whether it is earned fair and square or gouged, you can fix that through income tax.

Finally, I ought to point out that land/housing/commercial premises - total about £7.5 trillion - dwarfs the value of other assets such as the entire market capitalisation of the FTSE100 and FTSE250; the total value of UK government bonds; or cash in UK banks, each of which is about £1.5 trillion.