Saturday, 27 March 2021

Just had my first Covid-19 jab...

... and now plan to wallow in self-pity for the rest of the weekend.

1. The whole thing was very well organised, from booking system to the centre itself.

2. Staff (mix of NHS and volunteers) were very friendly, or at least courteous and efficient.

3. Oxford Astra-Zenecca.

4. Second dose due in ten weeks.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (33)

Bayard emailed me this, from the comments section at Craig Murray's blog.

Our idiot of the day responds to this sentence: "A solid leftist wish list, with the notable exception of the promotion of Universal Basic Income".

Temporary Covid-related measures apart, people need and want jobs, not to be given £100pw, have all other benefits removed, and being told to then f*** off and go away.

1. People "need and want" food, clothes and warmth, and a couple of little extras like a mobile phone, a Netflix subscription and enough money for a couple of drinks with friends every week or two.

2. It's society as a whole that wants people to have jobs. Everything you consume has to be produced by somebody else. From my point of view, I'd rather win the Lottery and never work again - but I'll still need other people to work to produce stuff for me to spend my money on.

3. The £100 would be a straight swap for "other benefits" and come to much the same thing. So the loss of "other benefits" is a non-issue.

4. People who struggle through the welfare system to get a few quid Universal Credit and bits and bits and pieces are also "told to then f*** off and go away". Which is repetition. "F*** off" means "go away" AFAIAA.

A Job Guarantee, providing non-compulsory, government-funded, locally administrated employment, at a genuine living wage, with pension rights, sickness and holiday pay, and career advancement, achieves a far more humane and economically sound result.

1. These will all be made-up, degrading non-jobs of no benefit to society. If there is stuff worth doing of benefit to all, then the government should pay people a proper wage to do those things anyway. That's got nothing to do with the welfare system.

2. What's a genuine living wage? £10 an hour? If that's what you want, make the National Minimum Wages £10 an hour, job done.

3. For every non-job paying £300 a week, what are the overheads? They will need premises or equipment, supervisors and administrators, which will bump up the cost to (say) £500 per week per non-job.

4. What about all the people who don't currently "need or want jobs"; those who don't or can't do much paid work. Like stay at home parents; carers; people with severe disabilities; low-paid apprentices; full-time students; and dare I say it 'interns'? Are they supposed to survive on little or nothing?

5. For a given welfare budget of (say) £50 billion, is it better to give ten million (or however many) people £100 UBI a week each - or create two-million non-jobs and tell the other eight million "to then f*** off"?

6. How is JG "non-compulsory"? If the choice is JG or starve, then it's compulsory. As to "career advancement"? What? Move up to a better-paid non-job overseeing unmotivated adults doing low paid non-jobs?
[JG] forces the private sector to match the genuine living wage if it wants to bid workers away from the JG, it acts as a fairer inflation buffer than condemning 5% of the working population to sacrifice their social economic well-being, as well as their physical and mental health, to the fight against inflation under the neoliberal policy of the NAIRU...

1. So direct intervention in the markets? Draw lower-paid workers out of productive work and into non-productive work? Push up wages and make businesses bankrupt; putting even more people on the dole? Sounds like shit to me.

2. £100 a week UBI for a stay at home parents, carers etc will do wonders for their "physical and mental health", methinks.

... and, apart from the economic madness of a UBI pumping more money into the economy without a commensurate increase in productive capacity to absorb the extra spending...

1. He's trying to sound clever here and falling flat on his face. First he says UBI is part of the neo-liberal anti-inflation agenda. Then he says that UBI is inflationary. Twat.

2. UBI is no more inflationary than all the benefits it replaces. Funny how he overlooks that.

3. Each JG non-job pump five times as much money into the economy as one UBI claimant and *reduce* productive capacity. The UBI claimant is still free to get a proper job rather than being condemned to adult detention five days a week.

... and the absurdity of weekly giveaways to millionaires...

1. For millionaires, a UBI is just a refund of a few percent of the tax they pay. You can net them off and call it a "tax free personal allowance. Again, twat.

... a JG avoids the resentment of those who are still in employment towards others who simply take the money without making any contribution to the productive economy that benefits us all.,

1. But everybody gets UBI You'd have to be the most embittered Daily Mail reader to claim it and then resent other people getting it. Under this logic, people who don't make "any contribution to the productive econonmy" should be denied NHS care and their children should be denied state school places. And I'm not sure where that puts pensioners who all happily collect their UBI (aka State Pension) or people with severe disabiliites.

2. Stay at home parents, carers etc are doing valuable work and are making a contribution to society in general and "to the productive economy" (however indirectly).

UBI is a sop to neoliberal private capital interests; sustaining demand for its products, yet condemning workers to subsistence levels of survival.

1. He's descended into fuckwittery here. Most of the UBI supporters I know are Labour or Green Party members.

2. UBI means that low-paid workers will be up to £100 a week better off.

3. UBI covers subsistence, which means "demand for neoliberal private capital's products". If workers magically earned more (and that would be a good thing, given levels of inequality) then what does he imagine they would do with their extra income? Wouldn't they demand more of "neoliberal private capital's products"?
If in doubt, ask yourselves why there is such a high level of support for it amongst billionaire entrepreneurs and their think-tanks?

1. Because intelligent wealthy people realise that they are there largely by luck and need a cohesive society to underpin their wealth. They would rather hand over half their income in tax (or better, pay a shedload of LVT on their lovely big houses) than risk a revoution and lose the lot.

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Land Value Tax in action

From the BBC:

Leader Sir Ed Davey put forward his "sovereign green wealth fund" proposal at his party's spring conference. He said the government raised £9bn last month from auctions to build wind farms on the coasts of England and Wales.

Ignore the stuff about "sovereign green wealth fund"; what triggers a tax and what the government does with the proceeds are two entirely separate topics. If it's a good idea to tax the extraction and use of fossil fuels [and it is], then it's a good idea, however the proceeds are spent. If it's worth spending money on 'green' stuff, then it's worth spending, however the taxes are raised.

£9 billion is a lot of money but it's Land Value Tax. The operators subtract likely costs from likely income for the duration of the licence and pay most of the unearned surplus (the value of the location, which is really the value of the 'free' wind energy for which they pay a few pence per kWh, which is no different for paying for coal for an old-fashioned power station) in the auction.

If only they applied the same logic to onshore wind farms, instead of subsidising them, which are ultimately subsidies to large landowners (so negative LVT).
That's exactly the same as the £22.5 billion which Gordon Brown raised from the 3G auctions. Radio frequencies are 'land' in economic terms. Nobody created them and the government protects people's right to use certain frequencies to the exclusion of others. The users pay in accordingly.

From the previous link...

Sky's Ian King says the infamous 3G auction of 2000 that raked in more than £20bn killed investment in our mobile infrastructure.

This is complete nonsense. The bidders might well have overbid (underestimated costs or overestimated income) but once paid, it's a sunk cost and has no bearing on future investment.

Worst case, a bidder goes bankrupt and the liquidator sells their 3G licence at a lower price to a competitor, who has then paid the 'correct' lower amount and is not deterred from making the necessary investment. Mobile phone coverage in most parts of the UK is excellent and the consumer prices are very competitive IMHO, so clearly nothing bad happened. And the same applies to wind farms.
From The Blackpool Gazette:

The Crown Estate, which manages the Queen’s property and land [not strictly true, but many seem to believe it is], said it had auctioned off eight gigawatts of potential new offshore wind capacity to help the UK meet its demand for renewable electricity.

The deals are set to bag the Crown Estate around £879 million every year for the next decade, with a share going to Buckingham Palace. The Sovereign Grant, which funds the Queen and the monarchy’s official duties, is set at the beginning of each financial year and is currently equal to 25 per cent of the Crown Estate’s profits – allocated two years in arrears.

It's a shame about the £2.2 billion of taxpayers' money being fittered away like this, but hey.

"It could be radioactive or poisonous"

From, on the immediate aftermath of the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003:

Hemphill City Manager Don Iles arrived at the fire station as a radio report came in from a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer on US 96 near Bronson. “There’s a big metal object in the middle of the highway. It gouged the road. I’m looking at it, but I don’t know what to make of it.”

The dispatcher asked if it had any identifying marks or numbers. The DPS trooper said, “Yeah, but it’s only partial.” He read back the numbers to the dispatcher, who then told him to wait. The trooper said he would stay at the scene by the object and keep vehicles from running over it.

A few minutes later, the dispatcher came back on and said, “I’ve just been in touch with NASA. Please do not pick up or touch any of the material, because it could be radioactive or poisonous.”

NASA later admitted that it was highly unlikely that any of the debris was radioactive or poisonous, it's just that they didn't want people keeping chunks of it as souvenirs or sticking them on eBay. NASA wanted to be able to collect the debris themselves in 'pristine' condition to help them reconstruct what went wrong. Fair enough, you might think.
From the BBC:

Police have warned students in the UK against using a website that they say lets users "illegally access" millions of scientific research papers. The City of London police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit says using the Sci-Hub website could "pose a threat" to students' personal data. The police are concerned that users of the "Russia-based website" could have information taken and misused online.

The Sci-Hub website says it "removes all barriers" to science. It offers open access to more than 85 million scientific papers and claims that copyright laws should be abolished and that such material should be "knowledge to all".

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this are, it seems to me that the police are trying NASA's tactic. They could have reminded people that downloading from such sites is a breach of copyright, which is a civil offence that can be treated as a criminal offence in extreme cases. But nobody takes this seriously nowadays as they know the chances of somebody being take to court for downloading something from the internet is to all and intents and purposes zero, so the police went for the "don't touch! This is radioactive and poisonous!" strategy.

Forewarned is forearmed. It's quite possible that the site *is* a phishing operation, in which case the sensible thing to do is to download from it using a public computer or via a VPN or something, which has the added bonus of making the copyright breach even harder to trace. Which neatly solves both problems from the students' point of view.

Thursday, 18 March 2021

Damon Hill - true gent

Instead of employing an expensive lawyer to try and wriggle out on a technicality, he actually did the adult detention speed awareness course (it would appear more than once).

From The Daily Mail:

When asked what he was convicted for he told the hosts: "You can’t ask people what they were in for.. It was a camera. I was slowing down going into a village, but I was just going a bit too fast. There was another one that I got at about 3am in the middle of nowhere, which I felt was a little bit hard cheese, but you know you are supposed to stick to the rules."

Bonus points for "hard cheese", I haven't heard that in years.

On a separate occasion in 1994, Hill, 60, was fined £30 and banned from the roads for seven days after being caught doing 102 mph on the M40 in Oxfordshire in a Renault Safrane.

He used up his luck on that one. £30 for 102 mph? Those were the days.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (487)

Georgist, quoting Churchill circa 1909: "LAND MONOPOLY is not the only monopoly, but it is by far the greatest of monopolies -- it is a perpetual monopoly, and it is the mother of all other forms of monopoly."

Home-Owner-Ist or Faux Libertarian: "Not it's not. There are billions of landowners all over the world. Anybody can buy land. You can choose between dozens of landlords in an area."

These people aren't interested in listening to the explanation, but here it is anyway...

There is a fixed amount of land, you can't increase the surface area of a planet, no matter how much you build or how many swamps you drain. It is land itself that is the monopoly. For sure, it has been sub-divided and there are more small landowners than large landowners, but that does not change anything.

Let's agree that water companies have a monopoly on mains water supply (in their region). The fact that many water companies are quoted on the stock exchange and have zillions of shareholders does not change that. However many shareholders they have, that doesn't change the prices which consumers have to pay.

[As an aside, water prices are thankfully capped by the government at enough to give them handsome profit margins (but still at much lower than whatever the profit maximising price would be). In this case, capping prices does not reduce supply. Profit per consumer is fixed, so to maximise profits, the water companies just want to supply water to as many consumers as possible (provided the income covers the marginal costs). Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Faux Lib's!].

Or we could cycle back a few centuries to when all the land in an area was owned by a descendant of a violent thief (i.e. an 'aristocrat' as they like to call themselves). He was clearly a monopolist and charged as much rent as he could get away with. By today, his descendants will have sold off small areas for development, which have since become very valuable, but they still owns lots of fields around the towns that have grown up.

Along comes our developer, looking for a greenfield site near the town. Some of the land is owned by a few small farmers and the bulk is still owned by one of the original thief's distant descendants. The small famers will demand the same price per acre as the 'monopolist'. Sub-division has not helped the potential buyer.

Or maybe the thief's descendants retained some of the land in the growing towns and built their own housing there to be rented out (or sold on long leaseholds). If you are looking to buy or rent, the price or rent you will have to pay to the sellers or landlords who own a single unit will be exactly the same as the price demanded by the original monopolist who owns all the housing across the road.

Another indicator that land is a monopoly is that in a monopoly, the price is set by demand and bears no relation to costs of production (the cost of producing land is precisely zero, or course). The monopolist can maximise his profits by restricting supply/pushing up prices so that his marginal revenue = his marginal costs. At the margin, land bankers home builders do exactly this, they just drip new housing onto the market so slowly that selling prices are not depressed. If selling prices fall (i.e. after every 'financial crisis'), they just mothball their projects for a couple of years. They'd be daft to complete and sell a house for £160,000 today if they know they will be able to complete and sell it for £200,000 in a year or two.

[Which also pours cold water on the idea that more generous planning rules = more construction = lower prices. Lower prices = less construction. It is self-limiting.]

With land and housing, supply is fixed in the medium term and so price is set purely by demand, which is entirely beyond the control of most landowners. Local factory shuts down? Less demand, lower prices. A new station or road is opened? More demand, higher prices. In truth, you aren't really paying for the land, you are paying for the bundle of local amenities which you can easily access from any particular plot, which is why houses with big back gardens don't sell for noticeably more than houses with small back gardens. The amenity value of a few extra square yards to store an unused trampoline and a rusty lawnmower is a tiny fraction of the amenity value of a well-paid job within an easy commuting distance.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Asimov in action

From Second Foundation (1948 to 1953):

Bail Channis sat at the control panel of the Lens and felt again the involuntary surge of near-worship at the contemplation of it. He was not a Foundation man and the interplay of forces at the twist of a knob or the breaking of a contact was not second nature to him.

Not that the Lens ought quite to bore even a Foundation man. Within its unbelievably compact body were enough electronic circuits to pinpoint accurately a hundred million* stars in exact relationship to each other. And if that were not a feat in itself, it was further capable of translating any portion of the Galactic Field along any of the three spatial axes or to rotate any portion of the Field about a centre...

The answer was of course spectographic analysis. For many centuries the main object of interstellar engineering was the analysis of the "light signature" of more and more stars in greater and greater detail. With this, and the growing precision of the "hop" itself, standard routes of travel through the Galaxy were adopted and interstellar travel became less of an art and more of a science

* The current best guess is that there are 150 - 250 billion stars in the Galaxy, maybe they didn't assume that seventy years ago? Elsewhere in the books is an explanation of a heads-up display, you just keep adjusting the virtual galaxy until it lines up against what you can actually see and hey presto, the computer tells you where you are.

From Sky News:

Prof Jorgensen had designed the four instruments that Juno used to track stars as part of its magnetometer investigation.

NASA explained that these onboard cameras took photographs of the sky every quarter of a second to determine Juno's orientation in space by recognising the patterns of the stars - an engineering task which was "essential" to the magnetometer's accuracy.

Which is the same general principle. I'm surprised that triangulation works on such a small scale (well within the solar system) because the parallax differences must be minuscule, but they seem to be able to make it work.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

"Ladies who do"

They showed this film on BBC2 a few weeks ago. I was interrupted while watching, so I set the Freeview box to record it. Unfortunately it missed the last ten minutes, so I've had to make assumptions on how it actually ends.

UPDATE: Derek has found it on YouTube.

Despite seeming really old-fashioned at first glance (filmed in black and white in 1963), it is as relevant today as it was then, and is a good template for all the similar films in the 1980s and 1990s ('Trading Places', 'Pretty Woman' and so on). The surprisingly sophisticated plot has two main strands:

1. The central characters are some cleaning ladies who raid waste paper baskets and pass the information on to 'The Colonel' who knows how to use it for insider trading. They end up very wealthy when the last company on which they took a punt (which had nearly gone bankrupt) turns out to have "valuable deposits" (we assume minerals, it's not made clear) on its land.

2. A highly leveraged and increasingly desperate land speculator (he ends up refinancing at 40% interest IIRC) wants to buy up the company which owns the row of houses in which the cleaning ladies live, evict them, knock the houses down and build an office block on the site. The main character discovers this while doing her general snooping and spying.

The strands come together at the end when the cleaning ladies decide to use their ill-gotten gains to buy out the land speculator and go ahead with the redevelopment themselves. The main character tells her co-conspirators (who are becoming increasingly aware of their own moral ambiguity, having started off as heroic underdogs) that it doesn't matter that they don't have enough money to finance the construction as well: the potential gain is so large that they can get a construction company to do the work 'for free' in exchange for a share of the finished project (now modified to be two blocks of flats with shops on the ground floor).

She actually uses the expression "other people's money" nearly thirty years before the film of that name was released while she is explaining all this, and also explains how you capitalise rental income to arrive at the value of a project.

So all this was common knowledge sixty years ago, and probably had been for centuries. What's changed? Have we learned anything from this? It would appear not, this is how the stock exchange and land speculation work today. Land Value Tax would have prevented all this (apart from the insider trading bit, that's a job for Deposit Funded Corporations).

Film highly recommended, as mildly depressing at it is.

Saturday, 13 March 2021

It would be much tidier if all our names for Eastern European countries ended with "...ia"

If and when Kosovia ever comes into existence, that will slot in nicely.
Click to enlarge: Outline map from here.

Friday, 12 March 2021

"Factoring in Gravitomagnetism Could Do Away With Dark Matter"

From SciTechDaily:

The main role of dark matter, Ludwig points out in the paper, has historically been to resolve the disparity between astrophysical observations and current theories of gravity. Put simply, if baryonic matter — the form of matter we see around us every day which is made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons — is the only form of matter, then there shouldn’t be enough gravitational force to prevent galaxies from flying apart.

By disregarding general relativistic corrections to Newtonian gravity arising from mass currents, and by neglecting these mass currents, Ludwig asserts these models also miss significant modifications to rotational curves — the orbital speeds of visible stars and gas plotted against their radial distance from their galaxy’s center.

This is because of an effect in general relativity not present in Newton’s theory of gravity — frame-dragging or the Lense Thirring effect. This effect arises when a massive rotating object like a star or black hole ‘drags’ the very fabric of spacetime along with it, in turn giving rise to a gravitomagnetic field.

That all seems very plausible to me. Well done, Ludwig, and let's shut down all these hugely expensive projects trying to identify or isolate Dark Matter, which will turn out to be the 21st century's equivalent of aether or caloric.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

"My kids' future is gone."

From The Daily Mail:

A property which was listed for $12million had its value drop to just one dollar due to proposed land zonings.

Theo Koutsomihalis' home's value plummeted after the NSW government rezoned land surrounding the airport at Badgerys Creek - which is due to open in 2026. Mr Koutsomihalis' four hectare Bringelly property went from rural land to 100 per cent environmental land designated as a green space...

He said planning firm Urbis, which had initially valued his then-enterprise land at $11million, informed him the property would now be 'unsellable'.

"I'm stuck now with a property worth $1 for the next 20 or 30 years, if it ever sells," Mr Koutsomihalis told The Daily Telegraph, "The other day I literally had to pull the car over and have a panic attack for 45 minutes. My kids' future is gone."

Think of those poor children who will have to struggle through life without a share of a $12 million inheritance! The fact he bought up four acres and wanted to market it as "enterprise land" suggest that it was a speculative purchase (the article doesn't mention what he originally paid for it). You win some, you lose some.
Where this chapped lucked out, somebody else was cashing in. Right at the end of the article:

Meanwhile, taxpayers won't know any time soon what changes are needed in the wake of revelations the federal government spent 10 times the market value on a land deal for a new airport.

The government paid almost $30million for a 12-hectare plot for the Western Sydney Airport in 2018. The inflated figure came to light through a scathing auditor-general's report which found the land was worth only $3million and the federal infrastructure department fell short of ethical standards.

The land is not needed until 2050 when the airport's second runway is to be built. Australian Federal Police are investigating the deal over possible fraud.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

"Global heating pushes tropical regions towards limits of human livability"

I know we've done this sort of story before, but they are an easy target.

From The Guardian:

The climate crisis is pushing the planet’s tropical regions towards the limits of human livability, with rising heat and humidity threatening to plunge much of the world’s population into potentially lethal conditions, new research has found.

Should governments fail to curb global heating to 1.5C above the pre-industrial era, areas in the tropical band that stretches either side of the equator risk changing into a new environment that will hit “the limit of human adaptation”, the study warns...

“If this limit is breached, infrastructure like cool-air shelters are absolutely necessary for human survival,” said Sadegh, who was not involved in the research. “Given that much of the impacted area consists of low-income countries, providing the required infrastructure will be challenging. Theoretically no human can tolerate a wet bulb temperature of above 35C, no matter how much water they have to drink,” he added.

"Theoretically"? Maybe not. In practice, clearly we can. shows that in Calcutta (the first hot, humid place that sprang to mind, I'm sure there are even hotter and more humid places) there are two months in which the average daytime high is over 36 degrees and for ten months of the year the average daytime high is 30 degrees or more. How often does the temperature go over 35 degrees with high relative humidity?

I have no idea, but I am sure the answer is "quite often" and they seem to manage just fine. Even London breached 35 degrees on a couple of days last year. Was it unpleasantly hot if you're not used to it? Yes. Did everything grind to a halt and Londoners start dropping like flies? Not that I recall. But there again, I am a climate denier, so maybe it did and we did and I have just suppressed that memory.

Monday, 8 March 2021

"More than 73 percent of Americans who die of COVID-19 are overweight or obese, CDC data reveal"

Says the headline in The Daily Mail.

That's hardly surprising is it? More than 73 per cent of Americans are overweight or obese, full stop.

Sunday, 7 March 2021

On behalf of two of your constituents

Email I just sent (some typos corrected), for the record. Direct quotes from the MP's email to her constituents in italics.
Dear Ms M......

I am the Secretary of the Citizen's Basic Income Trust (formerly "Citizen's Income Trust").

Two of your constituents (I have bcc'd them in, in case they wish to pursue the matter further) have asked me to contact you regarding certain unsubstantiated claims you have made about Basic Income in general and our research in particular.
"The question of feasibility is one we should consider. No matter how desirable a UBI-style programme might be, it must also be feasible in the present context of our economy. When considering feasibility, we must address... whether it could be introduced in a manner that prevented losses amongst the most vulnerable in our society."

We agree entirely!

We assume that when you say "the most vulnerable" you mean existing welfare claimants. Three points here:

1. It would be easy to set the basic income at a level which such people's welfare payments do not fall significantly or do not fall at all. Whether we call it "income support" or "universal credit" or anything else, £1 paid out as "basic income" costs the DWP LESS than £1 paid out as "income support" or "universal credit" because there is little or no admin cost involved (short of basic fraud detection, which as we know from Child Benefit is nigh undetectable with flat rate benefits).

2. These people are particularly vulnerable because they know that benefits are very conditional, if there is the slightest administrative hiccup or they inadvertently breach a certain condition, they can lose their welfare income for weeks or months. A reliable non-withdrawable weekly payment of £90 each and every week is worth far more than knowing you will get £100 in most weeks but sometimes you will get nothing at all for a month or two.

3. You ignore the most "vulnerable" of all. For example those who have just lost their job, those who do irregular low paid jobs (zero hour contracts), and many more who do not receive any welfare payments at all because they do not meet the bureaucratic requirements (the homeless), or are discouraged from claiming because they know - or reasonably believe - that they might have to wait for several weeks to receive their Universal Credit, by which time they might have found a new low paid job and have to pay everything back, thus compounding the misery.
"could dramatically increase the number of children living in poverty (as was also found in modelling by the Citizen’s Income Trust)"

We have published lots of examples of Basic Income systems. Some replace most existing mainly means tested benefits with a single payment; others replace fewer such benefits and pay the Basic Income in addition, which automatically reduces the entitlement to and cost of means tested benefits. It would have helped your constituents in forming a decision had you actually provided full details of the particular example you were referring to.

Some of our examples do indeed show that certain groups (in particular unemployed single mothers) would receive £10 or £20 less a week. Others show that they would be largely unaffected. It is up to the government of the day to decide which system to choose.
"The report found that the additional tax revenue required to support such a system could be as much as £160 billion. Such a figure would indicate that UBI systems would be unaffordable..."

I will let Compass and JRF speak for themselves.

In none of our workings has the additional "cost" amounted to anything like that much - and none has required any change or at least any significant change to the rates of income tax and National Insurance (depending which example you choose).

Clearly, most adults are in steady paid employment and earn more than the income tax personal allowance of £12,500. We have always said that the Basic Income would be a straight swap for the personal allowance and the NI lower earnings threshold, so most adults would barely notice a difference - they receive a Basic Income of £70 - £100 per week, but pay extra tax of £70 - £100 per week. This could be dealt with via PAYE (as was the case in Ireland until recently) so this is not an extra "cost". It would be foolish to consider the £160 billion as a cost and the extra £160 billion as extra tax revenues.

(So this step is purely administrative - for the time being, it is easier just to exclude people in steady jobs from Basic Income and let them keep their personal allowance and lower earnings threshold, but they know that Basic Income is there if they suddenly need it. As the Adam Smith Institute has pointed out, for the majority of people there is no difference between the current system, Basic Income and Negative Income Tax).

The cost of paying the Basic Income to existing claimants (group 1 above) would barely change, depending on the precise level and which benefits it replaces.

There will more payments made to group 3 above - those in low paid and irregular work, but at least half of this will be clawed back by the PAYE system (the tax free allowance and lower earnings thresholds would be zero). This clearly obviates the need for a parallel means-testing system.

As you must know, clawing back benefits via the PAYE system is already part of the UK's overall system - for example student loan repayments and the higher earner child benefit charge. The PAYE system can easily be adapted to claw back all benefits automatically by adjusting each individual's PAYE code. The simpler the benefit system, the easier it is to adjust PAYE codes, they can be uprated each year automatically.

Any residual additional "cost" can be offset against the admin costs incurred by the DWP and HMRC, including losses due to fraud and error and student loan write offs, which are in the order of £20 billion - £30 billion a year. The net cost will be a drop in the ocean when set against UK government spending overall.

And whatever system you choose, the welfare state costs this country nothing. Some citizens pay in, others get money out, some pay in and receive similar amounts (people on Working Tax Credits). Workers pay in now and get a state pension when they reach retirement age. No sensible system is "unaffordable". I pay my children pocket money. That superficially costs me money, but it costs us as a family unit precisely nothing, and clearly improves our overall happiness - £20 a week is not much to me but £10 a week each means a lot to them.
"even when the effect on individual behaviours in the labour market are not considered... Our current welfare system, built around Universal Credit, seeks to incentivise claimants to move off benefits and to provide tailored support to help people find work and increase their earnings".

That is a major advantage of a Basic Income. There is no poverty trap. If a claimant finds a job, short or long term, low paid or well paid, they know that they will be better off. They can move seamlessly into work without having to wait weeks between their last welfare payment and their first pay cheque. If they lose their job, at least they know that their Basic Income is still coming in to cover essentials. The value of this goes above and beyond the pure cash value. It is good for peace of mind and a general sense of well being. Like home insurance - you hope that nothing ever happens and you will never have to make a claim - but it's nice to have the reassurance and it's worth a few hundred pounds a year.

Nearly everybody wants to "increase their earnings"! Most people receiving £100 basic income would prefer to have £100 basic income and another £100 in net wages after tax. Most people earning £20,000 want to do overtime or get pay rises or be promoted and earn £25,000 and so on. Persecuting low and non-earners does not add to this basic human instinct. The minority who do not want to or cannot increase their earnings because of caring duties and disabilities should not be punished. And yes, there is a residual group who live a very modest lifestyle and will stay on welfare. Trying to cajole them into work is pointless, no employer wants them. It's like expecting wealthy heirs and heiresses to lift a finger.
May I also take you up on this:

"the new Winter Grant Scheme which will deliver £170 million of funding to councils in England to provide vital support to the most vulnerable children and families"

There are nearly thirty million households in the UK. If that £170 million is paid equally to households in the lowest decile, that means about £60 each. Over a ten week winter, that makes £6 per household per week.
[Please note - in all our calculations we have assumed that welfare payments for housing costs and additional payments to people with a disability would continue as they are and be paid in addition to the Basic Income]
I hope this is food for thought

Yours faithfully

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Hey, shopkeepers...

... I hope you realise that if you try and sell stuff with a 500% profit margin or stop stocking it altogether, people will just bulk buy online? I'm all in favour of supporting my local businesses, but this goes both ways.

Newsthump explains Ricardo's Law of Rent

From Newsthump:

The nurses and paramedics that have just spent a gruelling year in the frontline of the war against COVID have finally seen their sacrifices rewarded by a 1% pay rise and the warm knowledge that the person who takes half their salary in rent is going to get richer...

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (32)

From The Guardian:

The Conservative candidate for London mayor, Shaun Bailey, has been criticised for arguing people paid a universal basic income (UBI) would blow the money on “lots of drugs”...

Bailey also questioned whether it could “drive prices up for basic goods when we know people could just buy them because the money’s there”. He added he was “concerned about work incentive” and a UBI was not clearly defined.

There's not much point responding to that, apart from pointing out that Bailey has proved himself to be totally clueless or an utter shit. Or both.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Institute for Economic Affairs on top form

From the IEA:

* The UK could have a tax system that has a low negative effect on welfare and efficiency, with small compliance and administration costs; a system that is nondiscriminatory, avoids double taxation, and that is transparent and easy to understand.

* As such, we suggest that the TV Licence, Inheritance Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, the stamp duties on buying shares, the Apprenticeship Levy, Vehicle Excise Duty, Capital Gains Tax, the bank surcharge, and duties on alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, could be scrapped.

* Other property taxes such as Council Tax, the Community Infrastructure Levy, business rates and affordable housing and other s106 obligations, could be replaced with a single land value tax. Under this proposed system, disincentives for property improvements and housebuilding would be removed.

I would have added "the TV Licence, Inheritance Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax... Capital Gains Tax" to the next list of truly wealth/land-related taxes to make it clear to Joe Public that LVT is a like-for-like swap. In more detail...

A land value tax

Our solution to the problems raised with the four previous taxes would be to create a land value tax system to provide a reliable source of income to local authorities, encourage development and reduce complexity in the tax system.

A single land value tax would tax the owners of property only on the value of the land itself. Buildings, improvements and land use would be of no concern to the tax system, avoiding the current disincentives for property improvements or housebuilding. Such a tax would also enable councils to receive part of the planning gain (the increase in the value of land when it is re-zoned for development, such as agricultural land being granted planning permission for housebuilding), giving local communities a major incentive to allow development.

I don't understand the insistence on LVT being a 'local tax' and hence inherently regressive, but it's an excellent start.

Monday, 1 March 2021

The size of an iceberg depends on where you live...

From Bedford Today: An iceberg which has been dubbed 'the size of Bedfordshire' has broken off from Antarctica, near to a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) station. The 1,270km2, 150 metre-thick chunk of frozen water separated from the Brunt Ice Shelf this morning.

Their fifteen seconds of fame didn't last long.

From The Metro: A huge iceberg nearly as large as Greater London has broken off the Antarctic ice shelf near a British research station.

From Paris Match: Un iceberg géant de la taille de Paris se détache de l'Antarctique

From IJsberg ter grootte van provincie Utrecht breekt af van Antarctica

From Iceberg the size of Co Monaghan calves in Antarctica

From In der Antarktis ist ein riesiger Eisberg vom Schelfeis abgebrochen. Das teilte die Organisation British Antarctic Survey (BAS) am Freitag mit. Der Eisberg mit einer Fläche von 1270 Quadratkilometern (etwa halb so groß wie das Saarland) war Teil des Brunt-Schelfeises, einem Gletscher in der Antarktis.

Bonus points to, who didn't describe its size in relation to anywhere in Belgium: De ijsberg ter grootte van de agglomeratie rond Parijs of Londen is losgekomen van het ijsplateau Brunt.

What's interesting is that in Dutch/Flemish, they capitalise the I and the J.