Monday 31 July 2017

Fun Online Polls: HS2 vs the Graduate Tax; When did The Big Ship sail?

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

If the UK govt had £60 billion to spare, what's a better use of the money?

Spend it on the HS2 railway - 16%
Waive the 9% Graduate Tax - 84%

Good, that's what I thought.

A low turnout on an obscure issue. Some people missed the point - at present the UK government probably doesn't have £60 billion to spare, in which case it should do neither.

This was just a dig at the Tories who insist that HS2 is a good investment (if Labour were in power, no doubt they would say the same, having dreamed up this crap pre-2010) but that writing off student loans/waiving the Graduate Tax is unaffordable.
Something else that has been bugging me recently is, when did The Big Ship sail on the Ally-ally-oh?

The way we sang it when we were at school, it was the Nineteenth of September, but that's a long time ago, and it didn't strike me as very important, being a silly nursery rhyme.

However, having Googled it recently, it turns out that some people sang that it sailed on the Last Day of September.


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

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

... thus neatly disproving her own point.

From City AM:

As a member of the Customs Union, Britain applies the same import duties on goods as all the other members of the union, and we trade freely with our allies in the bloc.

When we exit this arrangement, our tariffs will change overnight. Importers will have to start paying extra for goods coming in from the EU, which make up 70 per cent of our food imports, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Yes, 70% of food imports, but food imports in turn are just under 40% of all food we eat by value i.e. less than 30% of food we eat by value. most of that is fancy stuff not necessary to sustain life, i.e. luxuries. Nice to have but costly, if it ends up costing a bit more, so be it.

If we don’t negotiate a new trade agreement by March 2019 (the “no deal” scenario), then the new tariffs will be those we have lodged with the World Trade Organisation (WTO)...

Yes, but we decide our own tariffs, they are not imposed by the WTO, as she then says herself:

It is possible for the UK to eliminate tariffs on goods coming from the bloc, however, under WTO rules, it would have to extend this tariff-free access to all members of the WTO.

Which would be a very good thing indeed, overall, the price of food (and pretty much anything else) would be slightly lower.

And, if we removed all tariffs, we would have no basis on which to negotiate new free trade deals with the likes of the US and Australia.

Maybe, maybe not, but these free trade deals are a contradiction in terms. If a country unilaterally abolishes tariffs, quotas and all but a sensible bare minimum of domestic regulations (like cars having to pass an MOT, rechargeable batteries not being liable to explode etc), that is about as free as trade will ever get. Trade between people in two such countries is vastly freer that trade between people in two countries with a free trade agreement (which is just thousands of pages of detailed rules to shut out people in third countries).

Then the author resorts to this statistical flourish:

The British Retail Consortium has warned that if Brexit secretary David Davis walks away from talks with “no deal”, the effective tariff rate on some items could rise by as much as 80 per cent. Tariffs on Italian mozzarella and Irish cheddar cheese will jump by 46 per cent and 44 per cent respectively.

1. Hang about here. Isn't the current tariff on Irish cheese imported into the UK precisely zero? Have I missed something? So any new tariff would be an increase of infinity per cent.

2. We need absolute not relative figures. If a tariff goes up from 1% to 1.5%, that's no biggie - it's not an increase of 50%, it's an increase of 0.5%.

Sunday 30 July 2017

That episode of "Casualty" filmed in one take

The story was fairly typical "Casualty" fare, but on a technical level it was superb.

The son and I looked out for a reflection of the cameraman in mirrors etc, nothing. The bit where the cameraman is lowered over a banister was especially awesome.

They used to have very long shots in "ER" as well, but only three or four minutes, not a whole hour.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (418)

As soon as anybody mentions upping the take from taxes on land/buildings, the landowners in London and their cheerleaders squeal that this would be "a tax on London".

I'm not sure why it's a KLN in the first place - London is only about one-tenth of the population, and only half of those own their own home/business premises, meaning that for 95% of the UK population, this is an argument in favour. To quote Uncle Vince, the best kind of tax is one that somebody else pays.

Turns out, it's not an argument for or against anything in particular, being entirely without substance.

1. As BenJamin' calculated last week, the total value of land excl. buildings in London is about one-third of the total value of all UK land, so one-third of any flat rate national tax on the value of land would be on land in London, and paid by whoever chooses to own it.

2. As it happens, about one-third of taxes on land/buildings and other private wealth are from land in London ('not enough' Council Tax, cancelled out by 'too much' SDLT, Business Rates, Inheritance Tax and obscure stuff like ATED or non-dom levy). So a flat rate national tax which replaced the lot would make little difference to how the tax is shared geographically.

3. Ben later emailed me a link to an article by Centre for Cities saying that one-third of all UK taxes are from 'London' (payable by of people who work there and those who own land there; the two groups are fairly distinct).

The CFC draw this conclusion:

The report highlights the potential risk to the UK exchequer of relying heavily on one city to generate such a large portion of national tax revenues, warning in particular that a slowdown in London’s economy would pose major challenges to both the capital and other places across the country...

They have completely missed the point. If somebody relocates from a low wage/profit area to a higher wage/profit area, then - as depressing as it is for the emigration area - the overall tax take goes up. That's A Good Thing overall.

'London' is not magically or qualitatively different to the rest of the UK, it is part of it, and depends on/leeches off a massive hinterland, all national taxes (other than poll taxes) have the effect of returning some of that flow.

Readers' Letters Of This Week

From The Evening Standard (Thursday):

WHY is no mention made about the thousands of brilliant nurses from Commonwealth countries who staffed our hospitals in the Eighties and Nineties?

Most of these professionals were forced to return home when their two-year visas ran out. They were replaced by nurses from the EU, many of whom struggled with working English for quite some time.

If there are sensible working visas that encourage medical and nursing staff to come over here - from the Commonwealth, the EU and further afield - Brexit will not be a problem for the NHS.

Sophie Clement-Jones

From The Evening Standard (Friday):

Contrary to your headline ["Brexit fears of NHS staff crisis", July 25], the real crisis is one of retention of NHS staff who cannot afford to live in the capital. NHS nurses in London typically work a 12-hour shift but if they live outside the capital they have to travel for two or more hours a day. This is unsustainable.

Looking to Europe for a solution to a British-made problem seems an off move, especially as there is a shortage of nurses in Europe at present.

Dr Kate Brown.

There are inherent logical flaws in both letters, but they appear to be based on facts/experience and both are asking the right questions.

Friday 28 July 2017

Reader's Letter Of The Day

From City AM:

Rajesh Agrawai, London's Deputy Mayor suggests that London should stay in the Single Market to maintain its "global financial crown", but then acknowledges that the real competition to London comes from New York Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore - all of which are outside the Single Market. Curious!

Charles James Stewart.

The article to which he refers is here, and yes, he did say exactly that.

Thursday 27 July 2017

"It’s not a takeaway when we do it, say middle class people"

This bit from an article by The Daily Mash has me slightly worried:

Museum curator Helen Archer said:

“The news about these awful diets is so sad. I’m just glad it’s something that I’m able to avoid. I’m super busy so I’m always on Deliveroo – usually Szechuan, pan-Indian, or Five Guys – but it’s not really comparable, because when it arrives I put it on plates.

We get takeaways every week or two (usually Chinese or Indian, like everybody else) but we always serve it nicely on plates and use cutlery, why would you not? They put it all into separate plastic tubs, so you have to, unless you want to alternate between spoonful of rice from one tub and spoonful of sauce from the other.

Does that mean we are middle-class? If we get fish and chips, we use the fish forks and fish knives, maybe that'll help you answer the question.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

"High Court judges said [the UK] was failing to meet EU pollution limits"

From the BBC:

New diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned in the UK from 2040 in a bid to tackle air pollution, the government has announced.

Ministers have also unveiled a £255m fund to help councils tackle emissions, including the potential for charging zones for the dirtiest vehicles... The timetable for councils to come up with initial plans has been cut from 18 months to eight, with the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) wanting to "inject additional urgency" into the process.

It follows the government being given its own deadline of 31 July after High Court judges said it was failing to meet EU pollution limits.

I thought we are on the way out of the EU, so why did they even take that into consideration?

Also, the government can get away with persecuting smokers because non-smokers are in a significant majority, but the fact is, most households own at least one car; those who don't probably take the bus; and surely everybody buys stuff in shops that was delivered by diesel-powered lorries.

Daily Mail on top form

Council boss leading the Grenfell Tower disaster response owns a £1million 'second home' farmhouse on the Isle of Wight linked to an offshore tax haven

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Fun Online Polls: Influencing the goverment; HS2 vs student loan write-offs.

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

Which is the better strategy for influencing Labour or Tory policies?

Join the party and agitate from the inside - 11%
Vote for another party whose policies you agree with - 89%

Which is what I have observed. I'm relieved that so many agree. Thanks to all who took part.
I know that it is silly to match receipts from particular taxes with particular items of government expenditure, but it's sometimes useful to do so to put things into perspective.

Last week, the Transport Secretary insisted that the white elephant vanity HS2 railway line would come in on time and on budget at £55.7 billion.

Most are agreed it is a waste of taxpayers' money, of benefit only to a very few (the construction companies and some landowners) and nobody in his right mind believes it will be on time and on budget. In fact, we know it won't, because the original budget set in 2010 was £32.7 billion.

The Tories then went on the offensive and claimed that it would "cost" £100 billion to write off student debts, forcing the innumerate Labour education spokeswoman into an embarrassing and unnecessary climb down. That's the nominal amount of the outstanding loans, but they will be collected via a graduate tax and lots will be written off, so what's relevant here is the net present value of the tax receipts, let's call it £60 billion in round figures.

So you could argue, future graduates are paying 9% extra income tax on income above the £21,000 allowance in order to fund HS2.

Which I hope most would agree is completely bonkers.

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

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Monday 24 July 2017

Formula to replace Council Tax and more

Column A is the total number of households in each region taken from ONS (thousands)
Column B is the value of housing in each region taken from Savills (£ billions)
Column C is B divided by A to give an approximate average house price (£ thousands)
Column D is C minus the average capital value of a dwelling assumed to be £80K giving the site only value
Column E is A multiplied by D to give the value of land in each region.
Column F is percentage of the total value of land in the UK (£3,994bn) for each region

Firstly this is just a bit of fun so don't take the figures too seriously, they are just back of a fag packet. I'm just trying to show how in principle the percentage of total land values for each region of the UK can be worked out. However, they are going to look something like the above.

Secondly, while the capital value of housing in London/SE might be higher than elsewhere, on the other hand they pay around 70% of all SDLT receipts. I would imagine its similar for Capital Gains and Inheritance Tax. So for the purposes of keeping things simple I'm going to assume they cancel each other out. Futhermore London has the second highest number of second homes in the UK, especially in high value areas. So that would tend to make C higher, but wouldn't necessarily effect F.

Right, with those caveats out of the way lets discuss why this could be a good ruse. I think that in principle most people would agree that our property taxes are a bit of a mess and need tidying up. A Land Value Tax would be the best option, but you've got to get past the "army of surveyors" argument "tax on gardens" etc, etc. One possible way around this is simply to calculate each regions share of whatever amount revenue you are trying to raise, based on the formula above. We could call it a "commonwealth fee" paid into the "commonwealth fund", from which each region would get an equal per capita share. Then leave it up to them on how they want to raise it. 

Say we want to scrap Council Tax, SDLT, CGT and IHT we'd need about £55bn. London would be billed £18.5bn and get back £6.6bn. The current grants given to each council would decrease on this basis.

But we don't have to stick at £55bn. The current rental value of land under homes in the UK is around £200bn pa so in theory the "commonwealth fund" could raise and re-distribute upto that figure. As that would essentially level the playing field between the regions, I think they could just get on with it and raise the fee by which ever way they feel best. A bit of tax competition would be good. Of course we'd all advise them to do an LVT along the lines of Mark's submission to the Scottish tax commission  but others might prefer VAT. 

Economic myths: "Does supply create its own demand?"

Interesting article at The Daily Signal covers the main points.

It appears - as always - that people's political viewpoint colours their interpretation of economics. Instead of answering the actual question, it drifts off into "How should a government respond to a recession?"

The right-wingers are supply siders, they say that the best way to stimulate the economy is tax cuts; the left-wingers are Keynesians and say that the best way to stimulate the economy is deficit spending (quite on what is not clear). Really, those are two ends of a spectrum - tax cuts (if you're not already in the wrong side of the Laffer Curve) implies deficit spending just as much as, er, deficit spending. Unless core government spending is reduced during a recession, which most would agree is a bad idea. The Tories talk a good game on austerity, but they are actually running massive deficits in supposedly better times, which even Keynes said was a bad idea.

In normal times, of course supply creates demand. Not necessarily for the product itself but for other things. With electricity, there is a nice feed back loop. Electricity was just something scientists stumbled across in the lab; having discovered it, people worked out what it could be used for (electric lighting and radios). So we have demand for light bulbs and radios. The more light bulbs and radios people use, the more electricity is produced and the more the National Grid is extended etc. Meaning that more people can buy light bulbs and radios, etc.

As to the proposed government responses to recessions, both are wrong, as they don't address why we have recessions in the first place. The reason is that when the land-price/credit bubble pops after eighteen or so years, banks try and claw back as much of their loans as possible. They can't speed up the rate at which people can pay off mortgages on land, so they call in loans from - and reduce lending to - the productive economy instead (be that loans to businesses or consumer credit loans). That has knock-on effects which no amount of tax cuts or deficit spending can prevent.

Saturday 22 July 2017

"Michael Gove: newly green or still mean?"

Labour Land Campaign press release:

The Labour Land Campaign (LLC) has long called for a fundamental shift in what is taxed by replacing taxes on wages and productivity that depress the economy with an economically neutral Land Value Tax (LVT) on the unearned income that big landowners collect. Chair of LLC, Anthony Molloy is sceptical that when Michael Gove [1] calls for “a Green Brexit”, saying that “farmers must prove they deserve future subsidies after the UK leaves the European Union”, it means he understands how the £3 billion handed out every year in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies benefits rich landowners to the detriment of small farmers, especially those on rented land. More likely, this is merely greenwash to disguise the fact that these much-resented, highly counter-productive hand-outs to the very wealthy are to be maintained in a post-CAP Britain.

The top 100 recipients of Single Payments [2] (the subsidy you get for simply owning the land which accounts for nearly three quarters of all CAP payments) receive more than the bottom 55,000 put together and include four offshore companies, 16 individuals on the Sunday Times Rich List, at least 20 aristocratic estates, Conservative MP Richard Drax [3], numerous donors to the Conservative Party and a Saudi prince.

LLC research has shown how such subsidies actually increase the value and therefore the price of land. Even the EU has long recognised that CAP subsidies soon capitalise into land value, raising rents for tenant farmers and making farmland more expensive to buy for young would-be farmers. Thus, some of the richest people in the country get the triple benefit of a hand-out on top of increased rents and rising asset value at the expense, not only of the taxpayer but also of those trying to make a living from farming.

Anthony Molloy went on to say “I hope the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has realised that not only should farming subsidies be earned but also that they should be designed to benefit farming and not be a hand-out to the wealthiest owners of farm land. LVT is a tool for ensuring all land is used efficiently and sparingly and if Michael Gove is serious about protecting the environment and enhancing rural life, then LVT will do just that. With LVT, farmers will only farm the land they need and will release the rest for new entrant farmers; and if land is unproductive, then it can be recovered for wildlife.”

Both rural and urban land should be used for homes, businesses, food production and recreation rather than as an investment by individuals and corporations. Real investment in public services and productive businesses—paid for by all of us as taxpayers, consumers and entrepreneurs—is what should generate land value. Not hand-outs.

[1] Is this Michael Gove the same one who, talking about greenfield sites in 2013, was “delighted by the release of more land for housing”. And is this Michael Gove promising to maintain welfare payments for the very rich the same one who, in the same speech, welcomed his government’s slashing of welfare payments for the poor: “Instead of incentives for idleness and a culture of dependency, there are powerful incentives to work.”

[2] Greenpeace Energydesk

[3] Another harsh critic of some types of welfare hand-out (talking about capping overall payments): “Many argue that the cap is far too high and, judging from the above figures, they have a good point”.

Friday 21 July 2017

My niggles with the film "Wonder Woman"

I tagged along with my family to see Wonder Woman recently. I don't mind the premise of a film being complete nonsense as long as the film itself is internally consistent. This one wasn't, not by a long chalk.

The film is based on Greek myths:
1. They explain that Zeus created mankind in his own image. My daughter reliably informs me that in Greek myth, a Titan called Prometheus created mankind.
2. Wonder Woman is the daughter of an Amazon. She is called Diana. Diana was the Roman goddess of hunting, the Greek equivalent was Artemis. Even I knew that.
3. The mythological Amazons removed their own right breasts so they could aim their arrows better. The ones in the film all have both breasts intact.

Wonder Woman is superhuman, obviously, but not completely invincible. The Germans shoot at her torso/head, and she protect herself with her magic wristbands and a magic shield. At this stage, the Germans don’t do the obvious thing and shoot at her (bare) legs. In the fight scenes in the last half hour of the film, Wonder Woman is prancing about in high heeled boots. They make her legs look longer, but are not really practical battle wear for the mud of the trenches.

At the start of the film, an American spy steals a German aeroplane in occupied Belgium, flies off over the North Sea, through some thick clouds/fog and crash lands in the sea near the hidden island of Themyscira (where the Amazons live). The island is not hidden by a physical barrier, just by the thick fog/cloud. The German ship chasing him appears through the fog/cloud a few second later.
1. Why would you chase an aeroplane in a ship? You’d lose him from sight after a couple of minutes, he is flying at least ten times as fast as you and once he’s disappeared over the horizon, he could turn off in any direction.
2. As he and the ship had set off from Belgium, the island must be in the North Sea/English Channel, one of the busiest sea-lanes/coasts in the world, it seems unlikely that the island would have remained undiscovered for so long.
3. The American spy explains that the Germans who were chasing him are the bad buys and he is with the good guys. One of the Amazons accuses him of lying and points out that he is “wearing the same colours” as the Germans. Not really true – the Germans chasing him were wearing Navy uniforms and the spy is wearing a pilot’s uniform.
4. The German sailors attack the spy and the Amazons. The Amazons line up with bows and arrows ready and they shoot after their general gives the command “Fire!” This is meaningless in the context of an archery battle. The Amazons would have been waiting for the command “Shoot!” or something.
5. Later in the film, they refer to a notebook which the spy stole from the evil chemist. Although the book was underwater with the spy for a minute or two, the ink writing is still perfectly legible.

Lüdendorff is portrayed as the senior German general. He is determined to win the war by any means. He poisons Hindenburg who wants to capitulate. Wonder Woman kills Lüdendorff towards the end of the film. As a matter of fact(s), Lüdendorff was the junior partner of the two, he was very unsure of himself and was the first to wonder whether Germany hadn’t make a huge mistake starting the war and both survived the war.

When the spy assembles his crack team of oddballs to steal the poison gas, he signs up the chap from Trainspotting because he is a crack sniper. Although he carries a rifle with him during the fight scenes and uses the telescopic sight a few times, he never fires a single shot, despite their being times when it would have been the obvious thing to do.

Wonder Woman demolishes the steeple of a Belgian church in order to kill a German sniper hiding in it. The Belgian villagers all cheer, which seems a bit unlikely. Isn’t this sacrilege or something?

During the fight scenes, the band of misfits wander more or less unhindered through enemy lines and then blunder about on a German airbase causing havoc. They’d have been shot within minutes. Wonder Woman has an epic fight scene with Aries on top of a control tower without anybody trying to shoot her.

The poison gas is very poisonous indeed and one shell will kill everyone within a ten mile radius. Apparently the gas is highly flammable. The spy steals an aeroplane loaded with the shells/canisters and flies off. Once he has flow a mile or two, he fires one single bullet from his pistol which manages to trigger an explosion which sets off all the shells/canisters and burns off all the gas a few hundred metres above ground level, we assume harmlessly.

It is unlikely that one bullet would have been able to do that, even with luck on his side, he’d have to assume that some shells would fall to the ground and kill everybody along the Belgian coast, or at least that not all the gas would be burned off with mass fatalities. That sort of defeats the whole object, seeing as that is what the Germans were planning to do this anyway. The correct course of action would be to fly out to sea north-east as far as his fuel would allow, then land the plane in the North Sea (he has already had practice at this) and hope that it sinks (worry about the environmental catastrophe in a few decades time). This would have had the added bonus that he could have survived and got married to Wonder Woman (they fell in love somewhere along the way).

I had lots of other minor niggles, I’ll probably come back and add to this list later on.

Glorious politician waffle.

From the BBC:

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

"Our new aviation strategy will look beyond the new runway at Heathrow and sets [sic] out a comprehensive long-term plan for UK aviation. It will support jobs and economic growth across the whole of the UK. Our vision puts the passenger at the heart of what we do, but also recognises the need to address the impacts of aviation on communities and the environment."

None of that has any tangible meaning whatsoever, it's the usual kitchen sink random list bollocks.

An actual expert gets to down to brass tacks:

Martin Rolfe, chief executive of NATS, said the consultation process could take between two and three years, "so millions and millions of people will have a say in aircraft flying over their house".

He told the BBC's Today programme: "Local communities are very obviously concerned about what more traffic might look like, but actually modernising [airspace] means we can keep aircraft higher for longer. "We can have them descend more steeply than they currently do because modern aircraft are more capable than the types of aircraft that were in service when this airspace was originally designed."

I'll mark him down for using the meaningless phrase "local communities" instead of just "people", but hey.

Thursday 20 July 2017

I once went to Germany "for six months" and the same thing happened to me.

From The Onion:

CHARLOTTE, NC—Suddenly stopping in his tracks as he boarded the Lynx blue line to go apply for a library card on Tuesday, local man Mark Collier came to the horrifying realization that he was putting down roots in the city of Charlotte, NC...

I ended up staying for nine years. Qualifications, job, friends, wife, kids, bank account, telephone, the lot.

Yet another good argument for Land Value Tax.

From The Daily Mail:

Blairs’ £5million office: After buying 38 homes since leaving Downing Street, Tony and Cherie move into commercial property

Baffling Reader's Letter Of The Day

From The Metro's Good Deed Feed:

A BIG thank you to my dad, who took a week off work to take me to London for my work experience.

Amy, Essex.


Wednesday 19 July 2017

Readers' Letters Of The Day

From The Metro:

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Student fee and loan wibble.


"[The Labour] party’s education spokesman has admitted that the tuition fees policy has a £100 billion…She has admitted that there is a £100 billion black hole in Labour's student fees policy.”

Damian Green MP, 12 July 2017

Fullfact then explains that the net cost will be a lot lower than that, bearing in mind write offs and so on.

The point is surely that student loans are the worst of both worlds, they have the characteristics of loans and of a super-tax on income (9% of income over £21,000 p.a.). So writing them off or down is not an upfront 'cost' the government but a reduction in tax revenues.

The best way of looking at govt tax revenues is the annual amount. The best summary I have found is by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Page 22 suggests that expected the extra revenues from the 9% surcharge will be about £6 billion a year, covering two-thirds of the £9.7 billion upfront cash cost of higher education. That's not nothing, but only about one per cent of UK govt revenues/spending.

Here comes the real wibble, and article by somebody from the (right wing/supposedly free market) Institute for Economic Affairs in City AM:

Moreover, deeply regressive policies are finding their way back to popular status, with very little push back. That Labour has been able to get away with linking the abolition of tuition fees to “fairness” is shameful; expecting workers on the minimum wage to subsidise students attending Oxbridge – whose career prospects are likely to earn them a much higher salary in the future – is anything but fair.

As our Lord and Saviour said on Twitter recently:

Education is A Good Thing (up to a point, I'm not talking about Mickey Mouse degrees) for the nation as a whole, so I've no objection to the taxpayer chipping in as that's the best way of ensuring that everybody has an equal-ish chance in life. It's like a non-cash citizen's dividend. We'd expect those that go to uni to end up earning more than they otherwise, that's sort of the whole point isn't it?

For sure, the 7% of kids who went to private school have a better chance of going to uni, but is that really so unfair? Their parents have waived a state education place (cost to the taxpayer approx. £70,000 per child) and they have pissed well over £100,000 up the private school wall, most of that goes to teachers or suppliers, so that generates a minimum of £40,000 in tax revenues per child (PAYE, irrecoverable VAT, corporation tax on suppiers etc), more than enough to cover the cost of a normal three year degree of £35,000-ish.

The only reason for tuition fees is that government spending on higher education has remained constant but student numbers have doubled. If we halved them again and kept net spending constant, we wouldn't need tuition fees. If student numbers were slimmed down to a sensible level, say 25% of school leavers, and all private school kids went to uni, that still means that one-in-five state schools kids would get to go to uni "for free" on top of the "free" state education they have already enjoyed [sic].

If their is any "unfairness", it is that a lot of the 'professions' are really just leeching off the fact that the government lays down stupid and complicated rules which the layman can't fathom. So we have lawyers (if judges weren't so useless, we wouldn't need barristers on £5,000 a day to explain things to them), auditors etc. What they earn is just rent, it is an appropriation of other people's earnings or wealth without adding to it.

And as it happens, most people in these 'professions' went to uni and have a very middle class background. I'd be all in favour of stemming this flow of rent by radically simplifying the rules, having judges who apply common sense and abolishing the audit requirement. Or imposing price caps on them. Or failing that, subjecting their income to a higher tax rate. In an ideal world there's be a flat income tax of no more than 20%, but a higher rate of 50% for the 'professions' seems fair and reasonable to me.

That levels out the only real unfairness that I can see - that some high earners didn't go to uni, or did but do something useful and made their way in the productive economy. So a tax on the 'professions' would be a much more sophisticated version of the graduate tax.

And with a Citizen's Income system, student maintenance grants/loans would not be an issue, of course students would get it.


Nobody move... or we all starve to death, or something.

From The Guardian:

The government is “sleepwalking” into a post-Brexit future of insecure, unsafe and increasingly expensive food supplies, and has little idea how it will replace decades of EU regulation on the issue, a report by influential academics has said.

The study says ministers and the public have become complacent after decades of consistent food supplies and stable prices for the UK, something greatly helped by the EU.

I've skim read the report, it appears to be page after page of disjointed wibble. If anybody can find anything in there which raises genuine cause for concern, please leave a comment.

Monday 17 July 2017

Fun Online Polls: Charlie Gard; influencing the govermnent.

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

If it were up to you, would you allow Charlie Gard's parents to take him to the USA for treatment?

Yes - 80%
No - 20%

I was with the majority on this. I'm not a doctor or a priest, I'm not related to Charlie and I don't have to pay for it. Last time I looked, paying for expensive and probably futile medical care is not a crime in this country and most people have no moral objection to it. It'd be a different matter if parents wanted to take a daughter abroad to have her fanny mutilated, or some religious wierdos deliberately withheld medical treatment from a child, then it's fine if 'the state' steps in...

Phil: Yes they have that right, but they fund it themselves. There has to be a limit on what 'everyone' will pay for - there's the flaw in the NHS, eventually it's expected to cure everything for everyone...

Bill: I'm with Phil. There has to be a limit or the NHS ends up paying for fringe stuff like cryogenics. If it isn't an immediate health issue or involves non-essential cosmetic treatments, then fine, pay for it privately. Go where you like for treatment if the NHS doesn't provide it in the UK.

Well yes of course, the NHS has to do its own cost-benefit analysis, and it would appear that enough is enough in this case. But value to the taxpayer is quite different to value to the parents.
This week's Fun Online Poll goes back to a comment by Mike W here

Given the theoretical framework and arguments have been worked through here, the point is to carry the fight where you stand and how you see fit.

I support everyone here that is prepared to carry the HG/LVT/CI cause into the Tories, the Liberals, even UKIP. It is just not something I could do myself with passion or conviction. I'm sure your point of view is just the political 'mirror' to mine. Good Luck.

I support the thinking behind the YPP too. It's just I think this has to be done within a major party or LVT will seem too marginal/ technocratic. This is simply a strategic choice and nothing to get too worked up about.

Mike W seems to think that being a Labour party member and agitating for it there is our best bet. Maybe it is, but as I responded:

I know plenty of people in various political parties large and small who have spent years or decades agitating for Georgism and achieved nothing. I wasted a few years in UKIP (I learned a lot about day to day politics, but that's another story) and achieved nothing.

My view is, only the Tories or Labour will ever be in government so those are the ones you have to influence. As the last couple of elections showed, if you want to influence them, what you do is vote for somebody else with a clearer manifesto and they will shape their policies accordingly.

Which is why we set up YPP. Whether a YPP candidate ever gets elected is nigh on irrelevant. As the Greens and UKIP have shown, once enough people are voting for you - 5% to 10% - the Tories and Labour will adjust their policies to suit and so [the Greens and UKIP] have achieved a lot, even if only indirectly, and right now that'll do me.

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

Which is the better strategy for influencing Labour or Tory policies?

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Saturday 15 July 2017

Motorhead: Part 2

Two things. I loved Motorhead, Motorhead. But I cannot honestly say that I had the endurance to listen to whole sides let alone whole albums.

I have been researching around and have found that a German has recovered the essential bits of Lemmy so, although he is technically dead, he is still touring and giving live performances. See here
In the recent spirit of folks answering rock n roll questions before they have been posed. I  will make the following predictions about the future. In Motorhead: Part 3 next, I will comment sagely: 'Three Motorhead threads? Surely that is Overkill?

Carney. Confused Again.

A couple of things strolled into the orbit of my consciousness over the last few weeks.

First there was this from The Greatest Central Banker in the World.   (I am a fan of Cockney rhyming slang.)  In fact if you search Google you get an excellent list of contradictory stories, but hey?)

Then there was this from Autocar.

And today this from the Telegraph.

Lets look at this whole PCP thing for a bit and take the Telegraph's Merc figures as a basis.

The Merc is £35,205.  That's actually £29,338 for the car and £5,867 VAT.

The net residual value at year 3 of £15,950 (which looks like the dealer trade in value, not the retail price which is about £18,500, although the example in the link is under average miles). So let's assume the residual value is £17,250.  The actual 'depreciation' is £29,338 minus £17,250, that is £12,088, or about £4,000 per annum. The monthly rental of £344.59 is a total of £12,405.24 - which, surprise, surprise, is the same as the after VAT depreciation plus a bit of interest.

By proportion VAT is 50% of the depreciation. If the VAT is financed by the PCP that is off balance sheet borrowing for the government.  Or more accurately government income financed by the car buyer. In the example in The Telegraph the £5,999 deposit is clearly paying the VAT.

It is also important to note that frequently you get three years full serving thrown in, and on some deals that can include tyres.  And even motor insurance.

I also know that the factory gate price of a car is about 50% of the forecourt price.  That 'factory gate' ratio probably includes design and development and other overheads since, I have heard it said, that the actual build cost can be as low as 20% of the forecourt price.

So WTF is Carney on about?  The dealer sells a new car.  The maker gets his money. The buyer gets a maintenance free reliable 'transport solution', and the government gets its tax.  And after three years, by my usual wise buying, I can get a used car in excellent condition at an excellent price that'll probably be good for 250,000 kilometers, and the dealer makes another £1000 from the difference between the PCP residual value and the forecourt retail price.  Even the bank financing all this makes a modest return against a security.

PCP's are the modern way to buy a car.  It's renting one.  As with software. Don't buy MS Office rent it through MS365.

But what this does teach us is that Carney still hasn't got a clue. Seemingly.

When it's somebody else's money you don't care.

This is usually hailed as a problem with the public sector, but, as an attitude, it's much more universal. Take Uber. What Uber charges is basically rent for the use of its app. Its unavoidable input costs are pretty close to zero in the grand scheme of things - a few people to keep the computers running happily. Yet "Uber has raised about $11.5 billion from 14 rounds of venture capital and private equity investors" and in 2014 it lost $671M against a net revenue of $495M and in 2016 its reported loss was $2.8Bn on a net revenue of $6.5Bn. Quite apart from wondering where all the money is going, you have to wonder why the owners of the company don't do anything about it.

As a side effect, it is reported in Wikipedia "The increased usage of Uber and other ride-sharing companies has negatively affected the values of taxi medallions in many cities. Many banks that lent money against medallions as collateral faced increasing risks of default." thus demonstrating that the value of the "medallions" (permits) is simply rent.

Thursday 13 July 2017


Listening to a program on R4 earlier.  Comparing the Tory Primrose League of the 1880's with Labour's current Momentum movement.

In the 1880's the Tory's were weak in the countryside and they established the Primrose League to build their voter base.

The Momentum lady on R4 tonight observed that it was now the reverse and that the Tories were weak in urban areas.   She also made the predictable Momentum / hard Socialist economic points about public ownership etc etc.

She was then asked what the Tories could do to rebuild their urban support.  Without any hesitation the Momentum lady said that they need to make it possible for urban dwellers to buy their own houses.

I really don't think she saw the irony. Nor I suspect would she consider the Thatcherite implications of what she was saying.

As I say, curious.

"Disquiet at UK local authorities’ growing real-estate exposure"

From Euromoney:

UK councils are investing in commercial real estate in an attempt to plug their budget gaps, driven by cheap borrowing from central government. It could spell trouble for the sector...

Sounds good to me. Assuming that local councils own land and buildings in their own areas, this is just about the optimum source of finance for them, it's like 100% Land Value Tax, or Business Rates without the downsides.

The interests of council and commercial tenants are aligned - both want safer neighbourhoods, thriving local economy, optimal development of local sites, good road and public transport access etc. It could also make things easier - there is no need for separate Business Rates assessments and charges for collecting business waste, the council can just charge an all-inclusive rent and have done with it. The tenant is only paying for what he gets and rents are set by market forces.

Private businesses can get on with what they do best: doing, making, buying and selling stuff, and councils can get on with what they do best (or least badly): owning and managing land usage. Assuming that councils hold land and buildings for the very long term, it takes all the speculative froth away, all they want to do is maximise the surplus of rents over costs.

If councils are taking a punt by buying up commercial premises elsewhere in the country, this is not so good, but hey.

Local authorities have always raised money commercially, but their track record is not stellar. Some 127 UK local authorities had £954 million invested in Icelandic banks when they collapsed – although most of this was eventually recovered...

Jeez. Putting money into foreign banks to chase high rates is the opposite of borrowing money at a low rates to be able to tap into local land values.

[Spelthorne] county council director of finance... points out that “local authorities have been commercial for a very long time with few failures.”

Exactly. It's like social housing, which is not a big earner, but it's nigh impossible to lose money.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Jeremy Corbyn wasn't the first politician to have his own theme song.

Who can forget Motörhead's classic "It's Obama", written from the point of view of somebody in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen or Syria?

"Deadly cows: Some of the horrific cow related incidents in the North East and how you can keep safe"

A big thanks to Nick, who spotted this in (at?) Chronicle Live:

The region has seen some horrific deaths and injuries caused by trampling, a particular problem as summer rambling season approaches.

Injuries and deaths caused by cows are unfortunately not as uncommon as you might think in our region and beyond.

Cows pose a safety risk to ramblers and walkers and have even been identified as the most deadly large animals* in the UK...

* I can't think of much in the category of "large animals" except cows and horses, and there are a lot more cows than horses in the UK, so duh. (My wife reckoned she'd seen a brown bear in the woods recently, walking on all fours. It had very skinny legs, no claws, pointy horns and a swishy tail and was eating grass. Draw your own conclusions.)

Nick's comment: I saw it and thought of you, you chronicler of the deadly bovine menace amidst us all!

"Lark or night owl? Blame your ancestors"

From the BBC:

Our ancestors could be to blame for the wide variety of human sleeping habits, from larks to night owls.

Staggered sleeping patterns would have been an advantage in the distant past, when we lived in groups and needed someone to look out for wild beasts, say researchers.

I've been explaining it this way for years, can I have PhD please?

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Nobody move or the fry-up gets it!

The Guardian makes itself look stupid.

Not sure even George Osborne's Evening Standard would stoop that low.

Monday 10 July 2017

Fun Online Polls: A house price crash; Charlie Gard

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

How would you feel if house prices fell by a third?

Pleased for the many "priced out" who can now afford to buy their own home - 88%
Angry that my "wealth" has been diminished - 12%

A good turnout with 97 votes, thanks to the other 8 people who retweeted and the 2 who posted on FB.

I was with the majority on this. Top comment:

The Cowboy Online: Another vote for 'Pleased'; it wouldn't be great for me personally, I would be stuck with negative equity, but I wouldn't lose my home and it would mean others would be able to get one.

Negative equity is a bugger for those owner-occupiers stuck with it, but if the house price fall were expected to be permanent or long term, it only seems fair to write down mortgages to the new lower selling prices. It was the banks who pushed up house prices and mortgage to silly levels and they ought to take the losses on the chin. BTL landlords can whistle for it though, they're supposed to be in it for the long term, and if they can't sell, so what?

The Homeys always use "the danger of nequity" as an argument against anything that would push house prices down. What it boils down to is bank propaganda: we'd rather keep creating mortgages of £200,000 each than have to write down some of our mortgage book and only be able to create mortgages of £150,000. Future buyers are being sacrificed, ostensibly in order to protect some recent purchasers, but actually to protect the banks.
This whole Charlie Gard story is none of my business and as politicians like to say, "I can't comment on individual cases", but isn't that the whole point? This sort of thing is not the job of government-appointed arbitrators; and if politicians aren't prepared to face up to the individual consequences of laws they impose, isn't that copping out? That said, the NHS has to operate some sort of cost-benefit analysis, and if the NHS decides not to fund his further treatment, I've no problems with that.

So that's this week's Online Poll (no Fun, this week).

"If it were up to you, would you allow Charlie Gard's parents to take him to the USA for treatment?"

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Nobody move or the cancer patients get it!

From the front page of today's Evening Standard:

Theresa May today faced a Tory rebellion and a stark warning that “thousands” of cancer patients face delays to their treatment as a direct result of Britain’s decision to quit the European nuclear body Euratom.

The agency, which governs the movement of radioactive material around Europe, is not formally part of the EU but is under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice — leading to the Government’s decision to pull out as part of the Brexit process.

This year's Pamplona bull run: result

From the Independent (via @holbornlolz):

A 46-year-old Spanish man was undergoing surgery for serious injuries to his head and leg after he was gored and then tossed by a bull.

Hospital officials said that two men from the United States had been gored as well during the run but their injuries — in the abdomen for a 35 year-old man and in the scrotum for a 29 year-old — were not considered serious.

More runners were treated on the spot for bruises, a Red Cross spokesman said, as two of the animals separated from the other four in the pack on their way to Pamplona's bullring.

Or from the bulls' perspective: Result!

Once is circumstance, twice is happenstance, three times looks like land price speculation

From the BBC:

A huge blaze broke out overnight at Camden Lock Market in north London. Seventy firefighters and 10 fire engines were sent to the site, which is a popular tourist attraction, London Fire Brigade (LFB) said...

Major fires have hit the sprawling market area twice before in recent years, in 2008 and 2014.

From my post last time this happened:

The Stables Market, and a swathe of the surrounding area, was sold off by its owners, which included restaurant tycoon Richard Caring, to an unnamed Middle Eastern investor in March this year [2014] for £400 million.

From The Guardian, 15 November 2016:

Camden Market’s star has long been on the wane – but are plans for a radical makeover and boutique hotel, bankrolled by an Israeli billionaire, really the way to recapture its ‘young, fashionable and wild’ heyday?

Sunday 9 July 2017

Buffalo news

From The Daily Mail:

A man has died after a station wagon hit a buffalo on a remote Northern Territory highway.

Police say a 54-year-old man was travelling in a car with five other people in north-eastern Arnhem Land around 5am on Sunday when it crashed into the beast.

How can you just "hit" a buffalo?

Maybe buffaloes are like trees? If they see somebody driving carelessly, they jump out in front of them to teach them a lesson?

Saturday 8 July 2017

Homey logic.

Public sector workers should get a payrise because otherwise house prices might fall.

They've missed another important point, which is that wages in private sector have fallen faster than public sector wages.


I must admit to being a bit stumped by the cricket threads. But along the same lines, I saw this splendid comment here:

 I can’t be the only person to have noticed the commander of the new ship is Captain Kyd (Britain’s new aircraft carrier, 1 July). Will they please let him fly the Jolly Roger when it first leaves port, once launched?

Linda Bell
Southwell, Nottinghamshire

Well Linda, assuming the navy will want a documentary about the budget buster, I will support your campaign. Providing we ditch the Rod Stewart guff, that will no doubt be chosen again, and use an album that captures the fine traditions of the Royal Navy. I suggest something from this.

Hilarious shoe shop names

R. Soles

On the subject of names, the English cricket selectors have let themselves down a bit. There are only half a dozen ordinary words (verbs, nouns, adjectives etc) on the team: Bal(l)ance, Cook, Broad, Root, Stokes, Wood.

Two years ago they managed nine.

Friday 7 July 2017

Best news I've had all day.

From City AM:

Bookies' odds on Jacob Rees-Mogg to take over leadership of the Conservative party from Theresa May have been slashed.

His chances have been cut from 50/1 to 16/1 to be next Tory leader, according to Oddschecker.

"His growing popularity was bound to affect his chances of becoming the top-dog in the Conservative party," said Oddschecker spokesman Sam Eaton, "He is still only ninth favourite to replace May so we aren’t getting too carried away, but we do expect these odds to continue to shorten with every quirky Instagram post. Jacob Rees-Mogg has even been installed as 33/1 to become the next Prime Minister, just imagine that…”

JR-M is a brain-dead, smarmy hereditary MP and Home-Owner-Ist of the worst sort, if he gets the top job, that's the Tories out of power for an election or two. He'd take us back to the 1950s but without the affordable housing or the budget surpluses.

I liked it when I was a kid (1970s) and the two big parties took it in turns f***ing things up, that always seemed fair and democratic to me. It's when one lot keeps getting re-elected (Thatcher, Blair) that things really get bad.

Happy Tenth Blogday To Us!

'Twas on the very day and moment, ten years ago, that I did my first post. Here we are, twelve thousand posts and five million pageviews later...

Thanks to all my fellow contributors and commenters (the two groups largely overlap)!

What I have noticed is that in the old days, we used to comment on each other's blogs, but nowadays, most people seem to have their favourite couple of blogs and only comment on those; and most bloggers only comment on their own blogs (I am as guilty of this as anybody).

Thursday 6 July 2017

Things which cancel each other out.

I'm sure there are loads of non-tax related examples of matching pairs of reasonably popular government policies which cancel each other out. If I was aware of all of them I would probably go mad. What is worse is when both policies or policy aims are fundamentally wrong, IMHO it would be better to do neither.

Here are two real life examples:

1. The lefties, many centrists and some more moderate Conservatives think that taxing wealth rather than income is a good idea because it does not damage work incentives and leads to less inequality. The proposal is often used as a smoke-screen argument against LVT as people can't distinguish between privately created wealth and land values arising from the actions of the whole of the country and it's a bad idea anyway, but hey.

On the other hand, people like the idea of being 'encouraged' to save for their pensions with tax breaks. As higher earners have more spare income and get relief at higher rates, inevitably they get a disproportionate share of the tax reliefs and wealth inequality increases. It's a stupid idea because it discourages people from paying off debts they have now, which is always the first thing you should do if you have spare cash and the value of the tax break is largely siphoned off by the pension providers and what's left just goes into inflating share prices. So that's a bad idea as well.

But do the two ideas not cancel out?  Before we even think about 'wealth taxes' (apart from proper LVT) why not make a start by phasing out pensions tax reliefs and giving everybody a modest tax (or giving low earners progressive tax cuts/increasing in work welfare, if reducing inequality is your thing)

2. Inheritance Tax also has a lot of support from lefties because they think it reduces inequality, does it heck as like. Total revenues are about £4 billion a year, barely more than the TV licence fee. To raise significant amounts, a lot more people would have to pay a lot more Inheritance Tax and then it really would be unpopular. It's a bad idea all round. As it happens, the bulk of assets on which Inheritance tax is paid is land and buildings, so clearly, raising the same amount in annual LVT would be a much better way of doing things.

On the other hand, owners of farm land have been collecting farm land subsidies (negative LVT) for so long that we think it's normal somehow, and the nonsense propaganda that it keeps food prices down is trotted out again and again. That can't possibly be true because it is possible to separate the land from the subsidy entitlement and sell them separately*; if the propaganda were true, a farmer who buys the land without subsidy entitlement would not be able to sell his produce as it would be above market price.

The government pays out about £4 billion a year to owners of farm land. Farm land is also exempt from Inheritance Tax, that makes it a handy place to park your cash.

Don't these two cancel out? I know taxes aren't hypothecated, but the government is taking £4 billion a year from the top million or so families who own valuable urban land (and buildings) and giving it to the top few thousand really wealthy landowners. If we're going to have redistribution, let it be universal or downwards but not upwards, for Heaven's sake.

*From The Land Magazine:

Of course, if you own land on which you hold entitlements you are also able to sell them off or lease them to the highest bidder. Remarkably, although SPS entitlements were awarded to individuals free of charge back in 2005, they were not tied to specific plots of land.

As a result they have since become a tradeable commodity in their own right, willingly facilitated by land agents up and down the country. Indeed you do not have to manage any land, or even take an interest in farming, in order to take a gamble on the entitlement market.

3. Even when it comes to a tax which doesn't exist (yet), Land Value Tax, I've heard people argue in favour of:

a) a 'Sentinel Tax' which means that no tax is payable on the value of any plot of land when the tax is introduced, the tax is only payable if the value increases. This is the concession to the school of thought which says "I've paid for my land out of taxed income". It's administrative and economic nonsense, but has political appeal.

b) Something like California's Proposition 13, whereby LVT on a plot it assessed at the time it is acquired and any increase after that is ignored. Your bill will never increase. Administratively this is nice and simple and clearly, it has political appeal, even though it is economic nonsense (even worse than the Sentinel Tax idea) and pretty much defeats the object of LVT (although propbably not as bad as VAT or NIC).

But don't these two ideas cancel out? LVT can be split into a tax on the original value (taxed under Prop 13, exempt under Sentinel Tax) and tax on any increase since then (exempt under Prop 13, taxed under Sentinel Tax). If one is a better kind of LVT, then the other must be worse. They can't both be better than proper LVT.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Nobody move or the commuters get it!

From The Evening Standard:

Rail commuters face 'Brexit fare hike' of nearly four percent

Regulated fares, which include season and other commuter tickets, are set to go up next January in line with the rate of RPI inflation this month.

Economists are predicting RPI will be between 3.6 per cent and 3.9 per cent in July...

The spike in inflation that will trigger next year’s rise has been largely blamed on the fall in Sterling’s value after last June’s referendum on quitting the EU.

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (417)

From Property Industry Eye:

Lowering estate agent fees and replacing Stamp Duty with a land value tax could help boost property transactions, a new report claims.

Research compiled for the Council of Mortgage Lenders, studying the decline in home movers, looks at reasons behind falling property purchases and how to get the market moving...

Looking at land value taxation – a form of which was proposed in the Labour Party election manifesto – the report cites the Mirrlees Review, analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, that suggested replacing Stamp Duty and council tax with a land value tax in 2010.

The CML report said:

“The benefits in regard to household moves are strong. In addition to the case made by The Mirrlees Review for the greater fairness of a land value tax, it suggested that the Stamp Duty defies the most basic of economic principals by taxing transactions. This clearly reduces the propensity to move.

“Furthermore, the introduction of a land value tax may encourage the more efficient use of the housing stock.”

The authors express support for this but admit a land value tax has been seen as controversial and considerable thought would be needed as well as transitional arrangements.

Well wrap me in tinfoil and call me Shirley! I was expecting the usual Homey bleating but it was rather supportive. Well done whoever compiled the CML report!

Cattle News, and a Short List

From The Daily Mail:

The wife of a top bullfighter looked on in horror as her husband was gored to death during a festival in eastern Span.

Victor Barrio, 29, from Segovia was fighting in Teruel, Aragon in eastern Spain when the bull speared him through the chest...

Also from The Daily Mail:

This is the horrific moment a raging bull gores a rider at a rodeo - before going on a furious rampage.

In the footage, a cowboy can be seen riding a large bucking bull at a rodeo in Mexico as an excited crowd cheers him on. But their excitement soon turns to horror as the man loses control of the beast, which charges into a rodeo clown, sending him spinning into the air...

I'm no animal rights activist or anything, but it serves them bloody well right, and well done those bulls for showing a bit of initiative and not going like lambs to the slaughter!

Emailed in by Ralph Musgrave, from The Times of India:

Speaking to TOI, Brijesh Pandey station officer of Itmad-ud-daula said, "The accused has been booked under 377 (unnatural offence) and is absconding after the supposed incident."

Dharmendra Verma, district coordinator of VHP said, "The accused is an unmarried youth and is often seen drunk in the locality. On Friday night, he was spotted having unnatural sex with the cow."


On the subject of cattle and cattle products, here's a Short List:

Mid-market 'steak house' chains with vaguely Scottish-themed names starting with "A".

Tuesday 4 July 2017

The Guardian on top form

From The Guardian:

Damning government report shows depth of public sector pay cuts

The new report found a 3% drop in median hourly earnings between 2005 and 2015 for workers in 32 public sector occupations whose salaries are set by the government on the advice of independent pay review bodies.

It found median hourly pay fell by an even greater amount – 6% – during that period for workers across the board, as the recession of 2008 hit wages hardest in the private sector.

Monday 3 July 2017

Fun Online Polls: Homophobia; House prices.

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

Who is more homophobic?

The DUP/their voters - 3%
Islam/Muslims - 84%
You say it like it's a bad thing - I am homophobic myself - 13%

A good turnout with 103 voters, thanks to the other three people who retweeted it.

I'm with the majority on this one but fair play to the 13% who are truly prepared to swim against the tide.

Top comment:

MC: I suspect they're both equally homophobic, but not equally barbaric, hence: some uproar about a cake vs regular executions.

Not much more to say, apart from, if you project from where I stand on just about anything to the DUP and extend that by a factor about ten or a hundred, that's Islam. I don't like the DUP, hence....

If pointing this out makes me racist, then we truly live in a crazy world. The world which the 3% inhabit.
Moving on to a completely unrelated topic, from The Metro:

Housing prices are facing a double whammy of a potential Brexit recession and a fall in real earnings, according to two leading professors at the London School of Economics.

The warning comes on the heels of a report by the National Association of Estate Agents that found the number of homes sold in May for below asking price climbed to 77%.

If a crash mirrors that of the early 1990s, when there was a near 40% plummet in property prices, it could put more than a million people at risk of negative equity – when the value of your home is worth less than the cost of your mortgage.

As per usual, they are presenting this as A Bad Thing by hamming up the nequity angle (the 'two leading professors' Hilber and Cheshire are hard-core Home-Owner-Ists). Somebody (TBH) asked me the semi-rhetorical question recently: "Who really stands to lose out from falling house prices?" We agreed that it's only a tiny sub-section of UK households, but that's not how the MSM spins it.

(As to the Metro article itself a) this is all just special pleading and b) what we have now is the usual mid-cycle wobble, always happens about ten years into each eighteen year cycle. And it's never different this time.)

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

"How would you feel if house prices fell by a third?"

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Economic Myths: "The £2.2 billion cost of the skills gap"

From The C Suite:

The skills gap is costing UK businesses more than £2 billion a year in higher salaries, recruitment costs and temporary staffing, according to research from The Open University.

The Open University Business Barometer – which monitors the skills landscape of the UK – finds that 90 per cent of employers have found it difficult to recruit workers with the required skills in the last 12 months, and some have had to inflate salaries to attract talent above market rate, costing at least £527 million alone...


1. In relative terms, that figure £2.2 billion is dwindingly small and spuriously accurate.

2. It's not really a net cost - higher wages are a benefit to more employable people; we can safely assume that the extra wages are a fair chunk of the extra output generated by those people, of which the employer keeps his cut.

3. Of course employers would prefer to pay lower wages. But if you take their non-logic to the ultimate conclusion, you might as well say that all wages above the National Minimum/Living Wage are the "cost of the skills gap".

4. Their non-logic seems to suggest that wages would be lower if more people were more employable (more education, skills, experience etc). Common sense tells us that countries wit a poorly educated populace have overall lower wages than those with a better educated populace.

5. Duh.

Sunday 2 July 2017

Round-up of the week

I was very busy at work this week; Mrs W was abroad on holiday all week so I was on single-parent duty (which is not that difficult once your kids are school-age) and the weather was nice so sitting in the garden was always the obvious thing to do.

But lots of things caught my eye:

1. From The Sun:

YOUNG families are being milked by councils who are now charging to take away nappies as part of their household rubbish.

The charges – for either big bins or special plastic bags – have been slammed as being unfair on families and could cause fly-tipping.

It is complete nonsense.
- The cost of emptying household bins (and those of most businesses) is surprisingly small, average £100 to £200 per year per household/business.
- If they are going to charge extra for nappies, why not charge extra for everything that people throw away?
- If they are going to levy specific amounts for what people put in the bin, the most efficient way of doing it would be to levy the charge when they buy it new. I covered all that years ago. That largely solves the fly tipping and enforcement issues.

If you want to simplify it and put a number on it, a flat tax of 1% of the value of all the products which households and businesses buy would cover the cost of refuse collection. Seeing as VAT is already 20% on most things, people buying e.g. disposable nappies have already paid for the cost twenty times over.

2. My view is that each election is actually a referendum in which everybody can choose their own question.

So while the Greens and UKIP have had little electoral success (apart from in meaningless EU Parliament elections), they did manage to shift the terms of debate in their favour and the two big parties adjusted their policies accordingly.

That being so, the Tories messed up the election because Labour nearly outflanked them with their two main vote grabbing proposals - "an end to austerity" and "reducing tuition fees". Lots of people voted for the former and they got an extra few million younger people who'd like to see the end of tuition fees.

Hey presto:

From The Guardian:

One of the key architects of David Cameron’s austerity programme has suggested the government must consider tax rises and increased spending on public services to respond to overwhelming pressure on social care, schools and the NHS.

From the BBC:

The Conservatives must "change hard" to win over young voters who backed Labour in June's general election, Theresa May's most senior minister has warned.

Damian Green told Tories to modernise after losing their majority in the general election and trailing behind Labour by 30% among voters aged 18-35... Speaking at the Bright Blue liberal conservative think-tank's conference in central London, Mr Green said a new "city Conservativism" would woo young, metropolitan voters... Mr Green also suggested there was a "national debate that we need to have" about university tuition fees.

This is all tokenism of course, there is no sincerity on either side, but it confirms my suspicion that there is no need for - or any real prospect of - any YPP candidate with Georgist policies to be - or being - elected. As soon as we are getting a few per cent of the vote, the big two parties will modify their policies accordingly to try and put us out of business.

(The most successful UK movement of recent years doesn't even bother having their own party - it's the old age pensioners. They push out simplistic and inherently contradictory slogans i.e. "We have worked hard and paid taxes and saved hard all our lives". The "worked hard and paid taxes" justifies higher old age pensions, plus all the extra NHS spending. The "paid taxes and saved hard" bit is the argument against taxing land values i.e. clawing back inflated house prices. Hang about here - if they really have saved so hard, how come they need hand outs and subsidies? A century of deficit spending suggests they weren't paying enough taxes, doesn't it? But they get what they want because they bother to go out and vote, that's it, one tick every few years, job done, don't bother with silly protest marches, get on with more important things - a winning strategy.)

3. EU v Google.

Disclaimer - I am big fan of Google: their search engine, gmail, Blogger, Google maps, Google translate, Chrome are all free to use, work very well and make the world a better place. I am no fan of the EU for various reasons. But every now and then the EU get it right.

As I said last year, we all now that these supra-national corporations take the piss on corporation tax, which is not actually that important, because they get stung for VAT, PAYE and Business Rates which are more difficult to evade. National governments know this but find it difficult to draw up and enforce rules which would make them pay "the right amount" of corporation tax in any country.

So the EU doesn't bother with all that, it just invents some trumped up anti-competitive practices and fines them a few billion every few years.

From The Telegraph:

The European Union has fined Google €2.42bn (£2.14bn) after a seven-year investigation into claims the technology giant abused its internet search monopoly.

The penalty is the biggest ever competition fine from the European Commission, doubling the previous record handed to Intel in 2009. The EU said Google had broken EU competition law by exploiting the power of its search engine to promote its online shopping service, at the expense of other price comparison sites.

Which doesn't make sense on their terms - it's Google's search engine and they can use it to advertise what they like, surely? You wouldn't expect the Tesco website to carry advertising for competitors.

The real point, which the EU seem to have missed is not just that Google have a competitive advantage that amounts to a monopoly, it is that what they are charging their advertisers is rent. As with land rent, the value arises from agglomeration benefits (same as Air BNB or Uber), consumers use it because so many sellers use it and vice versa. It is surely more efficient for everybody to use the same marketplace for buying and selling, that's fine, what is not so fine is for a third party, to siphon off part of the producer and consumer surplus.

4. On the topic of Google, Microsoft etc, Benjamin' emailed me a link to a splendid lecture by a succesful Silicon Valley insider/investor called "Competition is for losers".

It's fifty minutes long but I watched it all the way through. I gritted my teeth at the appalling typo at 25 minutes 14 seconds; applauded at 31 minutes when he points out that the main beneficiares of the British Industrial Revolution were landowners ("The workers didn't make that much, the capitalists didn't make that much either"). The most telling bit is where he cheerfully admits that competition and free markets are good for society as a whole, but promptly dismisses it as a way for an individual businessman to make money (I didn't make a note of when he says it).

5. Right, I'm off back into the garden, shame to waste the sunshine.