Tuesday, 30 June 2015

And there's yer problem Wim, right there

From here...

"...the first currency that has not only severed its link to gold but also its link to the nation-state”...."

Sigh. Pure arrogance and hubris. Prat.

(Mind you, it might better be phrased as 'severing its link EITHER to gold OR the Nation State').

I will now await the MMT onslaught...


From the BBC

A national minute's silence will be held to remember victims of the Tunisian beach attack, David Cameron has announced.

The silence will take place on Friday 3 July at 12:00 BST, a week after the shooting which killed 38 people.

So, are we going to have a minute's silence every month for all the people murdered in this country? If not, why not? Around 40 people die every month in the UK from murder.

It's an insult to the people who risked their life in warfare. We don't give 2 minutes silence to the fallen because they died, we do so because they died serving their country, us. And someone sitting on a beach in Tunisia isn't.

Meaningless statistic of the week: "Half of households receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes"

The Torygraph dutifully trots out the misleading headline:

The Office for National Statistics reveals that more than 13 million households in Britain receive more in benefits than they pay in taxes

Accompanied by a picture of celebrity welfare claimant and Torygraph hate figure Dee White.

We knew this anyway: there are approx. thirteen million workless households (eight million pensioner households and five million working age households). They all get much more out than they pay in, duh. We could add on a significant chunk of public sector households as well.

But let's read on a bit...

However the figures from the ONS demonstrate the scale of the welfare state in Britain.

The average household pays £13,402 in taxes and receives £12,940 in benefits, which include both cash payments such as tax credits and benefits-in-kind such as the cost of education and the health service. The poorest fifth of households receive £14,868 in benefits but pay just £4,886 in tax.

No, the average working household pays/generates more like £40,000 in taxes (£600 bn divided by 15 million), I assume they are cheerfully omitting most taxes and just looking at income tax and Employee's NIC.

The £12,940 figure looks just about plausible, if you include all households i.e. £27 million x £13k = £350 billion = cash pensions and welfare spending + NHS + education.

If the average household were to get as much out as they pay in, isn't that a sign that the government is working efficiently? If you compare the more accurate £40,000 with £12,940, that highlights how inefficient it is.

Further, if it were true that the poorest fifth of households get £10,000 more out than they pay in, that equates to about £50 billion a year, three per cent of GDP and nothing to worry about, really.

Then there's this bit of gibberish at the end:

Britain currently spends £125billion a year on working age benefits. Over the last Parliament the government achieved £15billion worth of cuts but Mr Osborne is now pushing ahead with £12billion worth of cuts in just two years.

Direct cash benefits to working age households are much less than that, about £80 billion from memory. If you are consistent and add on the education budget and the cost of the one-half of NHS services 'consumed' by working age households, maybe you are closer to £200 billion.

Minus off the not unreasonable £50 billion extra going to people at the bottom and that leaves the working age population with a tax bill of £600 billion and net benefits of £150 billion, which looks a pretty fucking appalling return to me. That's one-quarter of what you pay in.
I bet the comments section is a hoot.

Fun Online Polls

Suggested by Ralph Musgrave.

"Compared to taking sweets from a baby, how hard is it for bankers to take money from the government?"

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Monday, 29 June 2015

What the hell?

Re this video at the Guardian.

There's a really odd moment in that video where a woman talks about the death of Pride, how it's no longer and revolutionary thing, and well, I'm wondering what it is she wants.

As far as I'm aware, we have equal rights for homosexuals as heterosexuals. If you want to get married, adopt kids, you can. Gay marriage means you get all the same benefits as straight marriage. We take this as far as telling private businesses that they can't discriminate, and there's no doubt that you'll get prosecuted for not doing so. The war was won completely and at that point, it's time to put the weapons down and get on with something else.

As for the "corporate sell-out" angle. This chart tells you everything.

Back in the 80s, when most people thought that gay sex was "always wrong", of course companies weren't interested. When most people share the view I've always held, that 2 consenting adults can do what they like to each other, and homophobia is very much out of favour, of course companies are going to join in with that.

Lesson No. 1. Americans don't do 'irony'.


From the text of the article:-

However, it said he’d prefaced those comments with an ironic introduction, joking that they would illustrate what a ‘chauvinist monster’ he was.

The report then revealed the existence of an entire second half of the controversial toast.

In it, Sir Tim was said to have told his audience that his remark about ‘making them cry’ was, indeed, an ironic joke.

"Greece (is the word)"

From stlyrics.com:

We solve our problems and we see the light
We gotta plug and think, we gotta feed it right
There ain't no danger we can go too far
If we start believing now that we can be who we are

Greece is the word
They think our [debts are] just a growing pain
Why don't they understand, It's just a crying shame
Their lips are lying only real is real
We start to find right now we got to be what we feel

Greece is the word
Greece is the word, is the word that you heard
It's got groove it's got meaning
Greece is the time, is the place is the motion
Greece is the way we are feeling

We take the pressure and we throw away
Conventionality belongs to yesterday
There is a chance that we can make it so far
We start believing now that we can be who we are

Only two words needed to be changed.

That's not tax simplification then, is it?

From City AM:

BRITISH small businesses are calling on chancellor George Osborne to reform and simplify the tax system in next week’s emergency budget.

Good start.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has asked the government to “widen the scope of reform to radically simplify the tax system and improve incentives to encourage investment”. The small business group praised the seed enterprise investment scheme – a government programme providing tax relief to individual investors who buy into small, early-stage companies – and entrepeneurial relief – a tax break for business owners – for “having a positive effect in stimulating growth”.

Trying to introduce all sorts of tax breaks is not simplification, is it? Our tax code is ten per cent actually saying what will be taxed and the other 90% is a mixture of tax breaks and anti-avoidance provisions. And one man's tax break is another man's tax burden. If you reduce taxes on one favoured group/activity, then 'everybody else' has to pay for it and the whole thing is a negative sum downward spiral.

And they are making the usual mistake of confusing real investment (in R&D, training, advertising, plant and machinery) with financial investment (paying money from a private bank account into a company bank account). If there are profitable real investment opportunities, then people will make them, wherever the money comes from.

But the FSB put pressure on the chancellor to ensure that the Treasury’s review of the business rates system “delivers a new, fully reformed system that is flexible, fair, transparent and efficiently adminstered”.

That's contradictory nonsense. If a tax is fair, transparent and easy to administer (i.e. Land Value Tax) then all the landlords and owner-occupiers squeal that it is "inflexible".

What they mean by "flexible" is shifting the tax burden off land and onto e.g. corporation tax, which would have to go up from a nice flat 20% to 35% or 40% of profits to replace Business Rates. Call that "fair" if you like, but is it "fair" as between landowners and wealth creating businesses?

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Welfare reform: wilfully misleading reporting by the BBC

From the BBC:

But ministers claim that the welfare reforms, far from pushing people into poverty, are helping them escape it by encouraging them into work. The number of workless households is at a record low and the proportion of lone parents in work is at a record high of over 63%.

We will have to take those statistics as a given; the flip side is that terms of employment (low wages, zero hours contracts etc) at the bottom end are worsening.

It won't have been easy for many, but the offer of working tax credits if you are employed for more than 16 hours a week has encouraged tens of thousands of lone parents into jobs. That is what welfare-to-work policy is all about.


1. Labour introduced Working [Family] Tax Credits back in 1999. Why would it suddenly start working now?

2. The extra you can receive if you work 16 hours a week is not necessarily the headline figure of £1,960 a year, because it is reduced by 41p for every £1 you earn over the first threshold of £6,420 a year.

For example, 16 hrs x £10 x 52 weeks = £8,320.
£8,320 minus £6,420 = £1,900
£1,900 x 41% = £779
So in this case, the WTC you get is £1,960 minus £779 = £1,181 = £22/week.

3. Your Housing Benefit and council tax rebate is also reduced, probably by more than £22 a week, plus hours of hassle filling in the forms, minus the expense of travelling to work, organising child care etc.

4. And all this compares to £73.10/week Income Support a lone parent can claim if not in paid employment, plus probably most of their rent and council tax paid for them.

5. What also riles is the notion of "tens of thousands", there are five million working age households claiming some benefits or other (as well as seven million pensioner households, of course), "tens of thousands" is not statistically significant.

"Work is the best route out of poverty," the Prime Minister has said. But David Cameron is not the first PM to make such a claim…

6. It's a truism.

7. Fair play to the Tories for increasing the personal allowance for income tax to alleviate the poverty trap slightly, but they haven't increased the threshold for National Insurance, which is just as important, so this is a gimmick.

8. For some reason, the Tories appear to have singled out Working Tax Credits as something which they'd like to reduce significantly.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Stupid company names: Asendia

Asendia ia a parcel/post service owned jointly by French and Swiss post offices.

But what does the name allude to/sound like?

1. "I send you"?

2. "Ascend" (with a "c")? Which is a bit inappropriate, you don't just want your post to go up without coming down again. Unless your addressee lives on a cloud or a high mountain.

3. "Arse end, yeah"?

Restricting the number of minicab licenses?

People in charge in London are doing it completely wrong:

A limit should be placed on the number of private minicabs in London to prevent "huge congestion", the capital's outgoing transport chief has said.

1. Why pick on them? All vehicles cause congestion equally.

2. If you restrict the numbers, this is a barrier to entry, so people who get a licence will be able to charge higher prices than otherwise, and it destroys the jobs of those refused a licence.

3. If you want to get congestion down, what does work is the Congestion Charge.

Sir Peter told LBC radio: "I don't want to wind up with huge congestion on London's streets, created by [minicab drivers] driving around looking for work"

Ooh, the irony.

4. AFAIAA, minicab drivers are not allowed to drive around looking for passengers. They have to wait for a passenger to book one via a minicab office to meet up at a specific point (often outside the minicab office).

5. Neither are minicabs allowed to use the normal taxi rank at the best spots in front of stations etc, the entrenched 'official' taxi drivers have managed to get themselves the exclusive right to these, I'm not aware they've ever had to pay a penny for this privilege.

6. So if he wants less congestion overall, increase the Congestion Charge; if he specifically wants fewer mini cab drivers round looking for work, then either enforce the existing rules properly, or allow them to use taxi-ranks.

7. Surely, there is a natural upper limit of minicabs which are economically viable, which they can fine tune by increasing or decreasing the Congestion Charge, and then the problems all sort themselves out.

8. And any sane person walks or takes the Tube in London, it's about three times quicker than a car and a lot cheaper.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Reader's Letter Of The Day

From City AM:

Lucy Thomas' declaration that 'nearly half our trade is with other EU countries* is, to be charitable, economical with the truth.

About 80 per cent of our trade is internal - and only 8% of our trade is with EU countries.

As the referendum approaches, we must not allow these distortions to become accepted truth.

Chris Mounsey.

More background info here.

* Pedant point - they are not "EU countries", they are "EU Member States".

Jeremy Corbyn on top form

Spotted by Random in The Independent:

The ‘Right To Buy’ policy that lets council tenants buy their homes at a big discount should be extended to the tenants of private landlords, a Labour leadership contender has said.

Jeremy Corbyn said Labour needed to go further in tackling the housing crisis and that extending Right To Buy could help more people find a secure place to live.

“We know that Generation Rent faces an uphill struggle simply to get into long-term housing. We have seen some good ideas from Labour to establish more secure tenancies for renters. Now we need to go further and think of new ways to get more people into secure housing,” he said.

“So why not go with Right to Buy, with the same discounts as offered by way of subsidised mortgage rates [this sentence is not entirely clear], but for private tenants and funded by withdrawing the £14 billion tax allowances currently given to Buy to Let landlords? I believe this idea could open up the possibility of real secure housing for many currently faced with insecurity and high rents.”

I attended a talk by Lib Dem leadership candidate Tim Farron recently. He said he opposed Right to Buy. I pointed out that he was on the back foot with that one ("You are preventing millions from achieving the aspiration of home-ownership" etc), so why didn't he change tack and say it was a brilliant idea, so brilliant in fact that he would extend it to private tenants. I actually got a laugh and a round of applause for that.

Unsurprisingly, he did not answer the question, thank God that Corbyn has picked up the slack.

"Charity cash could go to Transport for London"

From City AM:

MAYORAL candidate Ivan Massow wants £75m of surplus charity money to be put towards a fund devoted to improving mobility in the capital, he told City A.M.

London charities are holding £100m money that has been left unspent for more than two years. Massow believes 75 per cent of it could be used as an endowment to fund Oyster cards for low-income Londoners.

“It’s all about mobility. They have the remit to distribute, in any way they see fit.” he said, "It means everything from getting kids to school to getting their parents to work. The fund’s short-term target is to raise £50m and this would more than clear that.”


Some holier than thou simpering smug fuckwit of an old trout from the HMRC was on R4 this morning 'explaining' why they failed to answer 7.2m calls last year.

She talked about 'investing' more money to make it easier for HMRC 'customers' to get through to HMRC.

It's not INVESTING you witless old bat. It's 'SPENDING'. There is zero cash return on that spending so it cannot be INVESTING.

And, we are not fucking CUSTOMERS you deceitful old bat, we are TAXPAYERS!

Death's too good for them.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Boris Johnson Says Mechanics Will Need To Pass 'Farrier-Lite' To Work In London

From Huffington Post

Mechanics in London will have to pass a saddle maintenance and ‘farrier’ style test before driving in the nation’s capital, Boris Johnson revealed tonight.

Speaking at the his final State of London debate before stepping down as Mayor next year, the Tory MP said he “disapproved” of how mechanics operate

The Licensed Farriers Association has repeatedly called on Transport For London (TFL) to place the same restrictions on mechanics which it places on the capital’s farriers.

At the Indigo hall in London’s O2, Mr Johnson praised the “dobbin service” provided by farriers, and said: “It is not fair that a farrier has to spend four years learning to change horseshoes and somebody else can just cruise in and take up the trade of repairing transportation without really knowing blacksmith skills. TFL are currently consulting on a proper geographical test so you can’t change spark plugs in London unless you know one end of a horse from the other.

Congratulations! Britain's landlords are the best in Europe!

Stands to reason, dunnit?

The services they provide tenants must be twice as good as landlords in other countries, or else they wouldn't be able to charge twice as much in rent.

Unless I've missed something...

Via Pete Green at HPC Survivors.

I am now a republican..

If this is true of course.
Which it probably isn't.
And if it is, it is inexplicable.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Cow attack news

From The Daily Mail:

Eminent university lecturer, 66, was 'trampled to death by herd of 30 cows going mad as he walked through a field where there had been three previous attacks'

Looks like they're getting a taste for it. A frying pan's too good for them.

"NSA spying: France summons US envoy over Wikileaks claims"

From the BBC:

France has summoned the US envoy in Paris over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors, officials say.

Whistleblower website Wikileaks reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Mr Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006-12. Mr Hollande called an emergency meeting and said France would "not tolerate" acts that threaten its security.

Ned Price, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, added that the US was "not targeting and will not target the communications of Mr Hollande" and more controversially, that the top secret minutes of Mr Hollande's emergency meeting revealed that the beleaguered president was actually just looking for a scapegoat to distract from his domestic political problems.

Game theory - tee hee.

From the slightly longer print version of an article, which is actually about Grexit, in City AM:

One of the insights of game theory is that it is possible for both sides to win...*

Nicola Sturgeon and David Cameron have manoeuvred themselves into a lucrative strategy of co-operation. The game began during the election campaign. The SNP needed to destroy Labour in Scotland. They trumpeted their intention to help Ed Miliband get into Downing Street. The Conservatives seized on this and used the SNP bogeyman to frighten the voters in marginal seats in England.

The game goes on. Cameron needs to make some concessions to Sturgeon so that she can boast about them to the Scottish electorate. But the SNP also needs to maintain a set of grievances, which is the party's raison d'être. Neither side actually wants to redress them, so that both continue to gain and keep Labour out. Practical politicians are often much better game-players than so-called expert theorists.

* If they can gang together to do over a third party. If there's no third party, this is called 'compromise' or 'saving face'.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Free markets or subsidy junkies?

From Business Insider:

European markets rocketed upwards today on some sudden and positive hints of a Greek bailout deal at today's emergency European summit.

The Greek government is trying to negotiate a billions of euros in bailout money, and for the first time in weeks there are genuine signs of positive developments today. Athens stocks led the way — the index recorded a dramatic rise of 9% on Monday...

And so on and so forth.

So basically, share prices depend to a large extent on the continuation of the massive subsidies which somehow trickle their way from ordinary taxpayers and ordinary bank customers, via the Greek government and ultimately back to various large European banks (for whose benefit this whole show is being organised).

So while the stock exchange as such is a free market (anybody can buy or sell), a large part of what is being bought and sold is corporatist welfare.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Thoughts on This...

From Toby Young in the Telegraph

When I have thought about it, I’ve thought that the best possible place to put any spare cash is into my home, because that’s likely to appreciate in value more than any other investment vehicle.

Do you think property’s a good investment then?
That’s indisputable, isn’t it? It’s not worth saying property’s a good investment. It’s a bit like saying: the sky is blue.
First, property’s unlikely to be beaten by any other investment vehicle, and second, you live in your home so it’s in your interest for your home to be as spacious and comfortable as possible. You don’t get any benefit from most other investment vehicles.

Does this really add up? OK, you get some utility value for your home, but you're paying a lot more in interest than the amount it rises. And you've got to heat it and maintain it. And you could put the money into other investments.

But there's also a thing I ponder about space in all of this. Me and Mrs The Stigler live in a house that's pretty snug. I'd prefer a little more space, she's not bothered, and I'm not that bothered, so we're not extending. On the plus side, that means we're living mortgage free.

We get around the lack of space by, if you like, outsourcing space. So, if my parents come to stay (which isn't often), we put them up at the hotel down the road. It's about £75/night, but a couple of times a year, that's going to be cheaper than financing the build of an extension to have a spare room that's sat empty. I like the idea of having an office at home, but in reality, I prefer to work where there's some background noise, like in a cafe.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Jowell on the Mansion Tax

From Politics

Labour's mansion tax policy created "toxic" levels of anxiety about the prospect of a Labour government, the party's leading London mayoral candidate said last night.

Former culture secretary Tessa Jowell claimed the proposed tax was "disastrous" for Labour's election hopes.

She claimed the tax which would have hit properties worth more than £2 million, was effectively a "three bedroom terraced house tax" in many parts of London.

Yeah, but...

Labour has increased its control of London to take 45 of the capital's 73 Parliamentary seats, despite heavy losses elsewhere in the UK.

Ed Miliband's party won target seats such as Brent Central and Enfield North while cementing narrow successes from the 2010 election in places such as Hampstead and Kilburn, Britain's most marginal constituency.

The party's gains left it with seven more seats than it polled in London five years ago, while the Tories lost one.

So, actually, in the place where the Mansion Tax was going to bite hardest, Labour support actually grew.

Jowell: fuckwit.

Burnham on the Mansion Tax

From the Telegraph

Andy Burnham, the frontrunner for the Labour leadership, has described Ed Miliband’s flagship mansion tax policy as “spiteful” and disclosed that his mother telephoned him to warn it was a vote-loser.

Describing the policy as “spiteful” and anti-aspirational, he said he knew it would lose votes when his mother Eileen phoned and told him it represented a return to the 1970s.

“It felt spiteful and went against the grain," he said. “We need to get back to communicating simple policies that will make a real difference to people.

“Labour looks like an elitist Westminster think-tank talking in language that people don’t understand. We lost our mooring.”

Jesus H Christ on a Bike. It was Labour's best policy, you idiot. In terms of public support, I refer to YouGov:

The poll reveals that 65% of people in Britain support introducing a mansion tax, while 22% are opposed and 13% are undecided. A plurality (49%) of Tory voters support the plan, while 41% are opposed and 10% aren’t sure. Labour and Lib Dem voters are strongly in support of the mansion tax, at 79% and 74% respectively.

So, even rather a lot of Tory voters, probably the less well-off end that are marginal voters support it. And most free-market economists of the Milton Friedman school support the broader tax, land value tax because the alternative is taxes on the productive economy. That's why land value tax is aspirational. We want people to not be taxed on their work, because that's what makes the world better. Taxing land values, created by the state, doesn't destroy productive wealth.

How many people in this country honestly have an aspiration for a £2m home? I'd love to own one of the big places on Rightmove in the beautiful Kennet Valley. If I made my millions, that's what I'd do. And you know, there are literally 3 over £2m. There's a load of lovely places costing £1.5m that I doubt I'll ever own. But let's say that the 9 bed place near Pewsey was my aspiration, does anyone think that I'd feel crushed at knowing that I'd have to pay £3K/annum to own a £2.3m home? I'd have had to have earnt £4m before taxes just to do so. another £3K/annum is like losing some spare change down the sofa at that level.

Under his leadership, Mr Burnham said, renters would be offered help to buy their home.

With what? We're going to take even more money out of the productive economy to hand to BTL landlords so that productive people can own a house? How is that a good thing, you dickhead?

As the British Property Federation says...

… on page 16* of this useful report:

The commercial property industry is taxed directly and indirectly in a variety of ways. The direct contributions from some of these taxes – including Stamp Duty Land Tax, VAT, PAYE and National Insurance contributions – can be calculated with reasonable accuracy and are illustrated below…

Other taxes directly paid by the industry, ranging from Corporation Tax to rates on empty property and the Community Infrastructure Levy, are much harder to assess. In addition, occupiers of commercial property paid £20 billion in Business Rates, some of which, effectively, will be borne by property owners as a result of the lower rents achieved due to this burden.

Actually, that should read "all of which" and not "some of which", but there you go.

* Spotted by Thomas B Hall.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

" 'It's the rules, Terry' ".

From here.

I quote:

"Europe claims to be a rule-based organisation. But however else the eurozone is run, it is not run strictly according to its own rules."

Y'see, people, and particularly non-Common Law jurisdictions see 'rules' as the way to run things.  That is that Liberty is something that the State 'provides'.  Whereas Common Law jurisdictions see the state as preserving and extending natural liberties.  That is we are all fundamentally free. The Libertarian 'self ownership' thingy.  

And the trouble with 'rules' based jurisdictions is (a) there can never be enough rules as societies and economies are too complex for rules to be drafted to cover every eventuality and development - who could have written a 'rule' for UBER say?  Which  (b) leads to endless gaming and manipulation of the 'rules' by the citizens, and also, tellingly, the governments that set the rules.  As the article also remarks:-

“From the beginning, the rules put in place for the euro, relating to bail-outs, monetary financing and deficit levels, have been ignored...”

The end game for all rules based societies must be dictatorship.  In the case of the UE that dictatorship is personified by its bureaucracies.

If the UK wants to preserve the Liberty of its citizens the fundamental incompatibility of the Common Law with the Roman code means we have to go.  Or, as I would prefer to say it, as an Englishman, we need to leave the EU to go its own way to perdition.

The Bleedin' Obvious

Quite frankly this, and being flexible in your deployments and aid has been bloody obvious for years.

The question is why hasn't it been done?

Answer.  From my own experience of meeting the Great and the Good is that mostly, they aren't.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, 18 June 2015


From the Guardian,

The 250-page report details five scenarios ranging from a “do minimum” gradual approach, which would take 32 years, to “a full move out” which would mean that parliamentarians can no longer work in the building for six years. This would cost an estimated £3.9bn.

The most expensive option – a rolling programme of work that would allow the palace to continue to function as a seat of government – would expect to cost £5.7bn in capital expenditure but would take 32 years to complete, the report says. Total costs could rise to £7.1bn and take 40 years in the worst-case scenario, an official confirmed.

The slowest option would mean it would be divided into 12 different zones, each renovated in turn with both chambers being closed for between two and four years at different times.

A mid-option would see MPs and peers vacate the chambers in turn, at a cost of around £4.4bn.

Sell the old building to the highest bidder, knock down Buckingham Palace and put a new parliament there and lease the land around it to developers. Might even make a profit on the deal.

The circular logic of the banking system.

From City AM:

Q Why would Greek banks need support?

The banks have lent money to the government. If the state defaults, banks will be unable to fully repay depositors. Money has been flooding out of the banks for months on fears this could happen.

They now have so little cash in reserve, that for every euro withdrawn, they must borrow an extra euro in reserves from the Bank of Greece, if allowed by the European Central Bank (ECB). If this emergency lending is removed, cash withdrawals and cross-border transactions would be limited.

So the government has to lend to bank so that banks can lend to the government? This is Emperor's New Clothes territory.

If the banks were taken out of the loop entirely, what we have is individuals lending directly to the government i.e. the government acting as its own bank, and people making deposits with it.


Land banking? Us?

From an infographic in the paper version of this article:

Berkeley land bank plots: 37,473
Homes sold last year: 3,355

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Cow attack news.

From The Daily Mail:

With the 40th anniversary of JAWS rapidly approaching, and shark attacks making the headlines, you may be forgiven for thinking that they are the most deadly animals in the world.

But despite being the ultimate killing machines, sharks are only responsible for on average one death a year. In fact, you should be far more afraid of bees, who kill almost 60 people a year, or even cows, which are responsible for around 20 deaths.

According to other sources, mosquitoes cause the most deaths, but hey.

They own land! Give them money!

From The Daily Mash:

NORTHERN pop stars are recording a benefit single for Londoners facing rising rents.

The musicians, including Liam Gallagher, Sting and Mark E Smith, have come together to raise public awareness of the humanitarian crisis being suffered by people in the capital still house-sharing in their mid-thirties [etc etc].

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (364)

We've heard this one a million times: "Ooh but what about the farmers, they'll all go bankrupt?". You can sort of forgive this when the man in the street says it, because he doesn't know that in the UK, 99% of the land value is the five or ten per cent of surface area which is urban/developed land, the three-quarters which is used for farming or forestry has such a negligible rental value (£5 - £50 an acre, net of subsidies) that it is barely worth taxing. What we ought to do first is get rid of the negative LVT i.e. farmland subsidies and then see how things pan out.

But here is an estate agent raising the eternal question "Is he deliberately lying or is he really stupid?":

Many commentators have advocated changing the current tax system which is linked to land and land ownership, to a new system similar to land value or wealth tax in other EU states. While the Scottish Government’s consultation highlights sustainability, it does not give enough consideration to the financial sustainability of our food production industry and how important that industry is in supporting our growing population.

The introduction of a Land Value Tax would require a revaluation of all property assets with some form of exemptions or banding. With most of our rural land involved in producing food we anticipate most of this tax burden will fall on farming families and be a further burden on the cost of food production.

None of that tax - or at most 1% of it - would fall on farmland. And a tax on rental values does not affect selling prices - it is selling prices which dictate the rental value, not the other way round. Price of wheat goes up, value of arable land goes up and vice versa.

The forestry sector would also be hampered as the land tax would be a major disincentive to planting schemes, when the Scottish Government is already 50% behind on their planting targets for commercial forestry.

Bollocks, it is the very lowest value land which is used for forestry i.e. steeper slopes, places in the middle of nowhere, places without much natural irrigation etc, which have a rental value of £5 per acre per year, tens of pennies per tree per year, with each tree increasing in value by 50p - £1 per year. Even with a tax of £5 per acre, forestry would still be profitable i.e. worth doing.

There is also a real risk that making structural changes to the way that land can be owned will lead to plummeting land values.

Withdrawing the farmland subsidies would do this, so what? And the LVT makes no difference to 'the way that land can be owned', in the same way as income tax doesn't affect your career choice much.

Given that much of the banking crisis was linked to the destabilisation of the commercial property world, politicians need to think carefully about the consequences of destabilising values within the agricultural sector.

No it wasn't. It was the bubble and subsequent bust in residential land prices which caused it. Surely he knows that? So keep prices low and you will not get any more busts. In any event, he is conflating farmland with commercial i.e. urban land.

Family farming businesses may find themselves unable to secure a working capital overdraft...

He must be aware that the price of UK farmland has trebled over the last ten years, were farmers not able to get working capital overdrafts until ten years ago? And why can't farmers do like other businesses and fund themselves out of retained profits? What about tenant farmers, what about new entrants?

... and any knock on effect on the financial sector would have widespread consequences for those far beyond the agricultural sector.

Nobody move or the puppy gets it.

Rent = privately collected income tax.

Mombers left a new comment on the post We own land! Give us money!":

Out of interest, I wonder how the means testing of rent controls works?

"Apartments can be deregulated under rent stabilisation if they are vacated at a monthly rent of $2,500 (£1,600) or if they reach that rate and the occupant's income reaches $200,000."

So does your landlord get access to your private financial data?

One would assume so - a bit like the tax office.

And do they really get to keep a portion of your income above $200k for doing precisely nothing...

Clearly yes. It's not clear from the article how much, but broadly speaking a percentage of it - a bit like income tax.

... or does that money somehow end up going to the public purse?

The landlord in turn will pay some income tax on that 'income tax' he has collected from you.

Fun Online Poll backfiring nicely

Over at The Daily Mail, is an article slagging off Jeremy Corbyn.

Scroll about halfway down the article to the poll "Which of the Labour candidates has the best chance of becoming PM?"

Jeremy Corbyn is comfortably in the lead (at the time of posting).

Monday, 15 June 2015

"Lack of women in London's refuse collection sector 'disappointing'"

From The Evening Standard:

More than one in four companies involved in waste management in London employ no women at board level, new figures claimed today.

According to the survey of more than 1,600 experts, leaders and investors, published today, 23 per cent of refuse collection businesses employ no women at all, from entry level to board level. Only 12 per cent had women in management roles.

The study, by the National Waste & Recycling Association, found nearly 60 per cent of respondents do not believe the capital’s waste collection services reflect the city’s diversity because of the lack of women operatives...

Russ Shaw, founder of NWRA, branded the figures “disappointing”.

"For a sector identified with underpinning public health and a green economy, these figures are very disappointing. We live in a city with a global reputation for diversity yet one of our most essential industries fails to reflect this from 'street' level to the most senior positions.

“London Waste & Recycling Week is a chance to showcase the scale of our sector but we must also use it as an opportunity to show women how starting as a dustbin woman can lead to a rewarding career.”

We own land! Give us money!

From the BBC:

"Our problem is rent regulation creates a subsidy regardless of whether they even need it," said Jimmy Silber, co-president of the trade group Small Property Owners of New York, and himself a landlord in Greenwich Village. "There's no assessment from government."

The "subsidy" is also paid for by one group, landlords, rather than society at large, he says.

"You have people living in the finest parts of the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side who are professionals and in finance who have rent-stabilised apartments. They don't deserve it. It's unjust," he says.

Nobody forced him to be a landlord and he's not actually adding any value, so what's his problem?

I do like the quip about "rich professionals in mansions" though.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Half-Right, I'd say

From The Telegraph:

Mr Starkey made the comments during an interview with The Sunday Times, saying: “What are the points of comparison?

“Well, we have a political movement that has a single historic explanation for why your country is facing such terrible oppression; it's either Versailles or the Treaty of the Union.

“You have a particular group of people who are responsible for this; it is either the English or the Jews.”

He went on: “You have as a symbol the twisted cross: the saltire or the swastika. You have a passionate belief in economic self-sufficiency: known by the Nazis as autarky and the Scots as oil.

“And also you have the propensity of your elderly and middle-aged male supporters to expose their knees,' he said, passing comment on the traditional dress of Scotland and Germany.”

He's right about the treaty and the people. The cross thing is nonsense. The SNP are not into autarky. Nazi autarky was about full self-sufficiency - producing things in Germany rather than buying them from abroad. The oil thing is, perhaps worrying in terms of Scotland viewing their country as a magic money tree rather than as an industrial nation.

The thing of wearing kilts isn't about showing off knees, it's about romantic nationalism. The idea of things being better in the past in your country. The Nazis had the Volkisch, a  folklore movement that looked back to the glorious pre-industrial past of the middle ages, and the ring cycle of Wagner which was a criticism of industrialisation. The kilts are the same thing. A time when Scotsmen were free. Never mind that it was created 400 years after Mel Gibson was fighting the English, and about 100 years after the act of the union.

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (363)

From Facebook:

What happens when the building is larger than some small towns and the location is all inside?

What happens when prefabrication makes construction so cheap even the middle class can afford to live there (and never has to leave to go to work, shop, get entertained etc)? What is the value of location then and what is the proper LVT to impose?

No need to speculate, as we know perfectly well.

1. Very tall or large buildings are only built in already densely populated areas, where land values are already high, so no practical or conceptual problem with valuations.

2. It makes no sense to build them out in the middle of nowhere, which is why this seldom happens (except maybe power stations and Arabs showing off), but if somebody were daft enough to do so, then the chances are that the location rental value would be nil or negligible.

3. Construction costs have got little to do with final selling prices. Final selling prices are fixed by the market, you subtract construction costs to arrive at residual land value.

4. The size or shape of the development (vertical city or horizontal city) is irrelevant, the total location value is independent of this.

5. There is no town or country on earth so large that "the location is all inside". At international level it is about trade. If we impose a trade embargo on Rhodesia, Iran or Russia and actually enforce it, we would see that living standards in the embargoed country would drop a lot and living standards in the rest of the world would drop a little bit.

The smaller the country being embargoed, the larger the loss to that country and the smaller the loss to the rest of the world.

6. If the owners of the building argue that all the value is internally generated and refuse to pay the appropriate LVT, then what happens if the government goes beyond a simple trade embargo and withdraws the police and fire brigade, builds a brick wall round it and cuts off water and electricity? What is the location value then? Nothing.

Therefore, any value in excess of 'nothing' is not generated internally, but by the benefits people on that site can access from the rest of society.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

French Tourism

From the Telegraph

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius unveils drive to end "paradox" of France being world's top tourist destination but among the least welcoming

With the attractions of Paris, the Alpine ski resorts, Riviera beaches and excellent cuisine, France has been the most visited country since the 1980s, welcoming 84 million tourists last year.

But the country has also been wrestling for some time with its reputation as one of the rudest places on earth for tourists.Now the French are being urged to be "more welcoming", as France prepares to launch a multimillion-euro tourist investment fund aiming to boost tourist numbers to 100 million by 2020.

There isn't a paradox. Tourism is almost entirely about seeing things, and mostly things provided by the state. The people that are providing things around those locations are mostly rent-seekers. A cafe on the Champs-Elysee or outside Windsor Castle can provide expensive so-so coffee with a frown because you're not going there because it's a great cafe with a reputation, but because you just want a drink and it's the first place. And as a tourist, you won't be a regular.

France is a lovely, welcoming country. I've stayed in friendly little hotels where they gave us a luxury room for the normal price because it was available, restaurants where they offered me a free glass of a local spirit to try. If you're in Cognac, a distillery tour is friendly and professional. The Champagne houses also do a good tour. I've eaten cheaply and had excellent service in Paris because I choose to eat in areas like the Sorbonne, Les Halles or the outer arrondisements, where you're sitting in tables next to Parisians... in places that have to be good because they aren't relying much on location and tourists. And my cafe tip is to turn off the Champs-Elysee and find a backstreet cafe full of locals where you'll pay quite a lot less.

(the exception to the state providing tourism is places like Disneyland, and in those cases, no-one is complaining about the service)

"NAACP leader accused of pretending to be a clown, according to her parents"

From NYmag:

Rachel Dolezal, the head of Spokane, Washington's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Circus Performers (NAACP) and a clown studies professor at Eastern Washington University, is under investigation after her own parents publicly alleged that she has been "disguising herself" as a clown for many years.

In interviews this week, Dolezal's parents said their 37-year-old daughter is actually of Czech, Swedish and German descent, and that she has managed to fool colleagues and public by fastidiously painting her face and putting on an exaggerated yellow wig before leaving the house.

Earlier this year, Dolezal posted a Facebook photo of herself with circus entertainers she identified as her parents, but on Thursday Larry and Ruthanne Dolezal produced a Montana birth certificate and childhood photos to prove she's their daughter.

During an interview this week, KXLY4's Jeff Humphrey confronted Dolezal about the photo, asking if her father is really a clown. "I don't understand the question," Dolezal responded. "I did tell you [that man in the picture] is my dad." Humphrey asked bluntly, "Are your parents white?" and Dolezal jumped into a small car whose wheels promptly fell off.

KXLY4 was interviewing her about the eight hate crimes she claims she's been the target of in the past few years. The network could only find three police reports - including two incidents where somebody slapped a custard pie into her face and one of being hit over the head with an oversized mallet - and there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. Some have alleged that Dolezal willingly took part in the incidents.

Friday, 12 June 2015

That's more like it.

From The Independent:

The NHS can save £5bn a year by getting better value for medicines, basic equipment and even energy bills, while also cracking down on staffing costs, a government-backed report has claimed.

Vast differences in the prices hospitals pay suppliers for essential items such as pills and artificial hips could be levelled out, saving millions every year, the report by Labour peer Lord Carter said.

On top of savings on medicines, more efficient procurement of everything from laundry services to dressings could lead to total savings of £3bn, it is claimed…

And so on and so forth, all good stuff.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Economic Myths: Profit maximisation

Exhibit A: from Wikipedia:

In economics, profit maximization is the short run or long run process by which a firm determines the price and output level that returns the greatest profit.

Which is of course not a myth at all. By trial and error and on the basis of very incomplete information, this is what businesses do - they tweak price and/or output levels.

Clearly, there is a sliding scale between perfect competition, where the market sets the price and all you can do is vary output levels; and a monopoly or cartel situation, where you can choose the best price/output combination to maximise profits.

It appears that the UK land bankers home builders have discovered that their profit maximising output level is somewhere in the region of 120,000 - 150,000 new residential units per year; they know that their own inputs (skilled labour, building materials) are price-insensitive, so an increase in demand for those means that their costs would go up disproportionately and profits would go down. Fair enough.

Exhibit 2: So why do all the Faux Libertarian twats in the City AM believe that if we "liberalise planning laws" that they will suddenly increase output? Why would they?

Which is why the six largest home builders own enough land with planning or outline planning for eight years' supply. If the government gave them planning permission for another million units or another ten million units, this would not change their profit-maximising level of output by a single unit.

(Of course, the whole notion that increasing supply of housing in high demand/high price areas would reduce house prices overall is nonsense anyway - there is simply no evidence for it or else house/land prices in large cities would be lower than in the countryside and they would be giving away apartments on Manhattan for free.

And don't give me "Spanish and Irish ghost estates", those were not built in areas of high demand/high prices and are thus irrelevant. They might as well have built them in the middle of the Australian outback for all the difference they make.)

Tee hee.

From The Daily Mail:

A bizarre row between two councils over who should mow a playing field has led to only one half being trimmed - while the other half's grass has grown four inches high. Walsall Council and Sandwell Council cannot agree which authority has responsibility for the field, resulting in each cutting their half of the three-acre site at different times of the year...

The leader of Sandwell Council, Cllr Darren Cooper, said...

"We are satisfied that our area is kept in a good condition and I we will be talking to the Walsall Council leader to see what we can do to make sure that this work is done as a combined effort in the future.

"This will be the case of the new combined authority proposals working well, even at grass roots level."

Well played, sir!

Inside Out

A made-for-children psychological horror-adventure yarn, from imdb, imdb, imdb and imdb:

Thirty years after WW2, a team of former GIs and German soldiers guided by their emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness - are taunted by a mysterious doctor released from prison after serving a long time for killing a man who tried to kill his best friend.

He just wants to live a normal life in an idyllic suburban neighbourhood whose exact location is only known by an imprisoned Nazi war criminal, but his best friend immediately gets him into a new heap of serious troubles in Headquarters, the control centre inside Riley's mind.

Or something like that.

Killer Arguments Against LVT. Not (362)

Posted by some complacent Faux Lib over at Reddit:

I definitely understand that taxes are needed for the things we enjoy the use of, such as roads, hospitals, police and fire (EMS in some cases), utilities etc. but, is there not a better way of collecting the money for these causes? I would rather pay higher sales taxes than fear losing my property.

The property tax just seems to go against everything America was founded for. I cannot own property, you essentially lease it from the government. Yeah, I will "own" the title to the property but if I do not pay taxes on that property my basic right of shelter is taken away.

This doesn't seem right, it does not seem like freedom. We are essentially modern day serfs. You never truly own anything, ever.

Deftly fielded by Cashto:

"The property tax just seems to go against everything America was founded for…"?

I take it you've never read Thomas Paine's Agrarian Justice?

"It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race."

Or as Thomas Jefferson put it in a letter to James Madison:

"Whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on.

"On the contrary, the common belief of the times was that whereas one's labor belonged to no one else but himself, the earth was the common property of all mankind, that there is no office in heaven where God has issue titles to land, but that to "possess" land was an act of seizing some portion of the earth for oneself, and therefore subject to the approval of society and government, and allowed insofar as the land could be put to productive use."

Or, to be a bit more philosophical about this, you can only 'own' things as long as you are alive.

Land ownership is something bestowed by society, it is man-made law, just like the right to vote. Everybody benefits by having the right to vote, the burden is that everybody else has the right to vote differently to you. And when you die, your right to vote simply ceases to exist. So if you want benefits from society (land ownership) then pay for it; if you are prepared to accept the burden of being excluded from land ownership, don't pay (but get the Citizen's Dividend).

And being practical, that is why you'd have to have a roll up option for Poor Widows In Mansions - to all intents and purposes they own the house tax-free until they die, but when they die, their right to vote lapses and some or all of the value of the home goes back into the pot for everybody else. It might happen that on the day the PWIM dies, somebody else turns eighteen and becomes entitled to vote, you can't seriously say that the right to vote was transferred or redistributed from the PWIM to the eighteen year old.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Completely inconsistent rulings on Christians and homophobes.

Case 1, bakery found to have broken anti-discrimination laws by refusing to bake a gay wedding cake.

Case 2, employee sacked for homophobic remarks wins unfair dismissal case.

IMHO both were 'wrongly' decided. If a business refuses to provide certain goods or services, so be it, the consumer can go elsewhere. And if an employee makes life unpleasant for other employees (which I don't think she did, she just spouted normal Bible stuff), then the employer should be able to sack him or her.

But put the two cases together into the following scenario, and what do you get..?

An open-minded bakery company, as a matter of company policy, is quite happy to make gay cakes. But when a gay man goes to order one, a homophobic employee flatly refuses to make it.

Can the employee be sacked? Case 2 tells us no, provided he can persuade the Employment Tribunal that he acted that way because of 'religious belief' rather just being a bigot.

But can the jilted customer then sue the bakery for discrimination? Case 1 says yes, but if there were any consistency, then the answer would be no.

Or to sum up, if it's your own business, you are bound by anti-discrimination laws, but employees can do what they like.

Badly designed taxes, part the manieth.

From City AM:

HSBC moved a step closer to leaving the UK yesterday, piling pressure on chancellor George Osborne to take action to persuade the bank to stay...

Osborne is speaking at the Mansion House tonight, and is expected to soften his bank-bashing tone. But the industry does not expect him to take any big steps, such as cutting the bank levy which he introduced and has hiked nine times.

That levy is a major cost for HSBC – it is a 0.21 per cent charge on its global balance sheet, and is expected to cost it $1.5bn (£975m) this year. By contrast Barclays is set to pay around £600m, and RBS less than £300m.

Well, duh.

There is a basic principle of taxation called 'the territorial principle', which means that governments can get away with taxing profits and assets in their own country, regardless of the residence of the earner/owner, but if they try taxing residents of their own country on their income and assets in other countries, those residents will go elsewhere.

In other words, the bank levy ought to be applied only to the UK portion of banks' balance sheet, regardless of whether they are UK banks or not, in which case HSBC's bank levy would fall by three-quarters and they probably wouldn't be too fussed about it.

To give a silly example, we can charge fuel duty on fuel purchased/used in the UK, but we cannot expect UK residents to record how much petrol they purchase/use when they are abroad and then pay tax on it here.

(Taken to its logical conclusion, the tax which best complies with the territorial principle is LVT and similar taxes).

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Doesn't really tell you much

From the Telegraph

In the latest blow to the troubled supermarket, Tesco ranked at the bottom of a list of eight grocery chains that included, in ascending order, the Co-operative, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose in the top spot.

Market share chart

Statistic: Market share of grocery stores in Great Britain for the 12 weeks ending March 29, 2015 | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista The co-op seems to be in the most trouble.

Life copies satire

From The Daily Mail:

Paul Gascoigne reveals he used to get upset when he heard the Gaza Strip mentioned on the news - because he thought they were talking about him.

It's a good job he didn't read about the Gazza ceasefire collapsing!

Fun with numbers: Building on greenbelt land has soared over five years

From the BBC:

The number of new homes being approved on greenbelt land in England has increased five-fold in the last five years, according to figures obtained by the BBC...

Shock! Horror!

In 2009-10 planning permission was granted for 2,258 homes, while in 2014-15 the figure rose to 11,977... England has 14 green belts, covering 13% of total land.

(Remember that the UK is 10% developed and 90% farmland, forests, waterways etc, some of which counts as "greenbelt".)

In other words, we could build a whole additional country on the greenbelt, another 27 million homes with roads, factories, shops, schools etc to match and still have some left over.

At this rate, it would take over 2,000 years (27 million homes divided by 11,977 homes) to do this and we still wouldn't have filled up that small part of undeveloped land designated quite arbitrarily as greenbelt.

So I'm not losing any sleep over this just yet.

Monday, 8 June 2015

None so blind as those who will not see.

Din said, on the topic of new development tending to push up the price of existing homes, not down:

I can see an issue with statistics that could affect the calculation of the average house price when new houses are built.

The new houses will be in less desirable location areas and so they will in fact be cheaper than the established houses. Therefore a naïve calculation of all house prices that does not take that into account will conclude that in the short term the average prices have gone down and incorrectly include the established houses in that statement of price movements.

Correct. We have to compare like with like and just look at selling prices of pre-existing homes before and after the new development.

Then people just start making stuff up:

The new houses will be in more desirable location areas (1) (less social housing) and bigger (2) and so they will in fact be more expensive than the established houses(3). Therefore a naïve calculation of all house prices that does not take that into account will conclude that in the short term the average prices have gone up...(4)


1) Clearly, you build houses in the most favourable locations first - overlooking the river, the sea or the park, near the station, near the shops; the newer homes will be further away from all these lovelies.

It is only in very expensive/densely populated areas where it is just about worth while knocking existing houses down and building more densely that the new homes are in the most favourable locations - happily, the study focused on "suburbs or villages" so we can more or less rule this out.

2) From The Independent: "The average floor space for a dwelling in the UK as a whole is currently 85 sq metres, whilst new-builds average only 76 sq metres"

3) Any real life evidence for this? According to Nationwide, there's actually not much in it - average price of 'new-build' currently £192,434, average price of 'older' a shade higher at £192,434.

4) He has missed the point anyway, the point is to compare like with like, and it is pretty clear that this is exactly what the LSE did, i.e. they looked at selling prices of pre-existing homes, which went down slightly during construction period and then went up even higher afterwards.

Something else we ought to mention is s106 Agreements, whereby the developer has to fund all sorts of goodies to keep the local NIMBYs happy, you don't need to know much about economics to realise that these will push up values of existing homes.

Er, no it doesn't.

From the BBC:

Mohammed Shafiq is from The Ramadhan Foundation, an organisation which represents Muslims in Britain.

He says: "In the end, if you make that choice to leave Islam you're making a conscious choice to move away from your family as well and move away from the wider community."

Yes, that would appear to be true so far...

"This applies equally to all the other faiths."

Nope, nope and thrice nope.

"Building new properties doesn't drive down house prices"

From City AM:

Building new properties doesn't drive down house prices, according to a study by the London School of Economics.

By looking at the price impacts of a series of Barrat Homes developments in suburbs and villages over the past five years, the researchers found no evidence of a price depreciation.

In fact, in some cases the opposite was true – the report, seen by the FT, says: “Developments of the size and scale studied, even in areas where originally objections were significant, can lead to more rapid rises in local house prices.”

Eight developments were looked at in total, each containing 300 new homes. All were based in the Midlands and South of England.

The results are contrary to the opinion held by many economists that more houses are needed to keep future house prices in check. The consensus is that between 200,000 and 300,000 new homes are needed each year, but in 2013-2014 the UK fell short of this with 141,000.

Which is what observant people have been saying for years. I only cottoned on to this a few years ago, thanks to their valiant efforts.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Daily Mail on top form

Wife of Harley Street dentist found dead at £2m Cambridgeshire mansion

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Those 1200 World Cup Construction Workers Deaths

A rather excellent piece on the Radio 4 website which demonstrates how to not only dig behind the statements (The ITUC were including all workers in Qatar, not just those on the World Cup) but also why it's worth looking at better rather than perfect (Indians in Qatar are less likely to die than Indians in India).


Friday, 5 June 2015

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (361)

Two traditional KLNs can be dealt with in one fell swoop:

1. "If you tax something, you get less of it."

2. "Weak form LVT, i.e. rent/price controls, means that the quality and quantity of housing for rent or sale goes down."

1. This is clearly true if we are taxing things with elastic supply (labour, capital, enterprise) but clearly the amount of physical land is entirely unchanged by a tax on it, and whether you like it or not, the UK has more than enough physical surface area for its population.

LVT is of course primarily a tax on urban land, which makes up 10% of the surface area but 99% of the total value, where the value of land depends on the efforts of the whole community (private sector, public sector, everybody).

2. Yes, this is also true, but let's imagine the 'government' as a corporation in its own right, owned equally by all citizens, which is in the business of providing 'public goods' for the benefit of all its citizens.

Those public goods push up the value of land (or enable the private sector to do so), so if you cap the amount of money the government can collect from land values, this reduces the quality and quantity of 'public goods' available. Imagine the whole country as a hotel, the hotel owner makes a profit by making his place as nice as possible and charging room rates accordingly - so taxes on land values are the natural source of income for 'the government'. If the hotel owner is not allowed to charge more than £10 a night, what sort of quality accommodation are you going to get?

For sure, 'public goods' can be paid for out of taxes on earnings and capital, but this is a second best solution for obvious reasons (depresses overall wealth and ends up transferring wealth from providers of labour and capital to land owners).

So we can merge the two statements into one longer statement, which ends up being an argument for LVT and against taxation of earnings, capital etc.

Hannah eats some sweets: easy

From The Daily Mail:

There are n sweets in a bag. Six of the sweets are orange. The rest of the sweets are yellow.

Hannah takes a sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet. Hannah then takes at random another sweet from the bag. She eats the sweet.

The probability that Hannah eats two orange sweets is 1/3.

Show that n^2-n-90=0

The answer, as so often, is in the question.

Rearrange "n^2-n-90=0" to "n2 - n = 90" and solve, n is obviously 10, then retrace your steps.

Probability of two oranges is: (6/n)x(5/n-1) = 30/n^2-n

We know that: "n^2-n" must be 90 (30 is one-third of 90)

As a check, substitute 10 for n in the first equation, (6/10)x(5/9) = 30/90 = one-third.

Is there anything more to it than that?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

"Beware of the bison!"

Hairy American cattle are getting in on the act, from The Daily Mail:

Yellowstone National Park warns tourists after two are gored in a week

* Pamphlet warns animals may be wild, unpredictable and dangerous
* On Tuesday a 62-year-old man was thrown in the air several times
* Officials say increased tourism has put more people closer to the animals
* A male bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and sprint three times faster than a man

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Killer Arguments Against LVT, Not (360)

There was another good (as in 'really bad') argument against LVT in this article in Forbes:

I think a good comparison, and indeed a related phenomenon, is the agglomeration effects of urban labour markets. It’s not clear where these agglomerations rise from specifically, and empirically it’s difficult to measure an individual’s contribution.

Yet the total effect of this agglomeration on total U.S. output and productivity is huge, and it is ultimately made up from the choices of individuals to show up and participate in these markets.

The difficult empirical measurement of rents in this context, and the economic importance of the total spill overs, mean we should be very hesitant about trying to tax away the individual rents any one individual accrues from showing up.

Does this man even think about what he is saying? Does he not realise that he has demolished his own argument?

1. He is right to say that the rental value of land arises mainly from 'agglomeration' effects, i.e. private efforts, with the government playing an enabling rôle (roads, public safety, public transport etc). The question is, should this be collected by landowners or collected by the government instead of collecting taxes from private effort and enterprise?

2. The total agglomeration effect is easy to measure - it is the same as market rents, and no, we don't have the foggiest idea how much each individual adds to or subtracts from the total value, it's like twigs on a fire, you can't light one or two twigs, but chuck those two on a roaring fire and it will burn even hotter.

But so what? The LVT collected depends on the overall temperature of the fire, and not on 'by how much hotter the fire is now that we've chucked those two extra twigs on'. The overall temperature of the fire is easy to measure and the second question is a philosophical question as much as anything.

3. Remember that all these individuals are currently paying income tax; each one has to declare his income and pay tax on it; income tax has the effect of depressing reported and actual incomes for obvious reasons. A newcomer has to report his own income as well as paying rent to incumbents.

4. So what happens if we replaced income tax for that city in its entirety with a Poll Tax? The Poll Tax would be equal to the total income tax divided by the number of residents, which gets rid of the disincentive to earn more or to lie on your tax return. Above average earners would be laughing, but below average earners would not, so many low earners would be forced to move away, which is not good.

5. So we can make the Poll Tax more progressive by having Land Value Tax instead, where you can choose how much tax you want to pay i.e. by choosing a mansion in a nice area or sharing a flat in a tower block in a cheap area. Poor Widows In Mansions would move away, freeing up space for more workers.

6. Averaged out, it is clear that working people's/businesses' total tax bills would go down (same total bill, more workers/businesses = win); the extra workers/businesses increase agglomeration effects (win); so tax paid as a % of total earnings would go down even more (win); and the Land Value Tax would not be a disincentive to earning more, indeed it would be an incentive to do so (win), and newcomers would only have to pay quasi-rent (LVT) but not income-tax-plus-rent as at present (win).

Looks like a win-win-win-win-win to me.

Daily Mail on top form

'Mary Poppins' nanny hired on Gumtree 'stole £171,000 worth of valuables from her investment banker boss

Third bullet point:

* Also accused of taking designer clothes after ransacking £3.5m home

She clearly wasn't Mary Poppins though. Fourth bullet point:

* Police found her days later, driving around in employer's top-of-range car

Surely the real Mary Poppins would have used her umbrella to fly away.

Like Home-Owner-Ism, but without the subtlety...

Spotted by Random in The Guardian:

Tony Abbott has brushed off the Treasury secretary’s comments about a housing bubble in Sydney by instead accusing Bill Shorten of wanting house prices to go down.

Labor asked the prime minister in question time on Tuesday whether he agreed with the government’s top economic adviser, John Fraser, who told a budget estimates hearing that Sydney was “unequivocally” experiencing a house price bubble and this was also the case “in higher priced areas in Melbourne”.

Abbott said millions of Australians had home mortgages and the last thing they wanted to see was a decline in the value of their most important asset. He then turned the attack on the opposition leader, claiming that Shorten was saying people’s houses were worth too much and was “talking down our economy”.

And so on and so forth. You do wonder whether Abbott is really so stupid that he actually believes in what he is saying.

They have gone stark raving mad (2)

From the Scotsman

In a stark overview of the nutritional value of pet snacks, a few products are shown to contain as many as 415 calories, more than a glazed doughnut.

The news has prompted calls for owners to turn to healthier treats and monitor more closely how much food they are giving their pets. Animal welfare experts said manufacturers should start letting people know the contents of the snacks so they can help maintain a balanced diet for their pets.

Unlike most food packaging, treats for cats and dogs contain very little nutritional information, but the analysis by a leading insurer revealed a host of well-known brand names are rich in calories.

Dreamies, one of the most popular snacks bought for cats, contain 21 calories per serving and 415 calories per 100g. Rival Whiskas Temptations fares little better, with 16 calories per serving and 415 per 100g.

They're called "dog treats" for a reason. They're not food, they're something you give the dog as a treat. Even within a few sentences, the scaremongering of "as many calories as a doughnut" rapidly descends into 1/25th of the calories of a doughnut.

And here comes the same standard stuff being said about us hoomins:-

“I would be delighted to see calorie information made available on all pet treats and believe it would have a positive impact in helping tackle the country’s growing pet obesity crisis. Obesity can lead to numerous life-threatening health problems, the most common of which are arthritis and heart conditions in dogs, and diabetes in cats.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

They have gone stark raving mad.

Gleefully regurgitated by The Guardian:

Office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work – building up to an ideal four hours – in order to avoid the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, according to a study co-commissioned by Public Health England.

Research has long linked excessive time spent sitting to increased risk of morbidity or premature death but the advice, co-commissioned by Public Health England and published on Monday, represents the first time British workers have been provided with quantifiable targets for getting out of their seats.

The study authors, who include experts from the UK, US and Australia, call for a revolution in the workplace through the use of sit-stand desks, standing-based work and regular walkabouts.

They also urge further research into whether facilities such as toilets should be moved further away from staff, some emails could be replaced by hand-delivered messages and employees could have alarms on computers or personal motion assessment devices prompting them to move.

Jeremy Hunt on top form.

From the BBC:

... the pay packets of some NHS senior managers will also be trimmed. Currently, more than a fifth of all directors in the NHS earn more than £142,500 - the amount the Prime Minister is paid. Mr Hunt is asking Trust bosses to justify why.

Mr Hunt said: "The NHS is a public service and needs to show restraint on handing out generous pay packages as a matter of course.

"Expensive staffing agencies are quite simply ripping off the NHS. It's outrageous that taxpayers are being taken for a ride by companies charging up to £3,500 a shift for a doctor. The NHS is bigger than all of these companies, so we'll use that bargaining power to drive down rates and beat them at their own game."

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has said the rising costs are partly due to hospitals putting more nurses on wards, following the public inquiry into the Stafford Hospital scandal. Others blame government mismanagement of the NHS.

I'm not sure that the NHS is "being ripped off" so much as "chucking money down the toilet", so Hunt is being generous to them. If you need permanent staff, then employ permanent staff; and to the extent that they have to balance out peaks and troughs, there is no earthly reason why the NHS can have its own pool of nurses in each area, it can't be rocket science to co-ordinate this.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Cancer Treatment

From the BBC

A fundraising appeal is being launched in Wiltshire to help hundreds of radiotherapy patients receive treatment closer to home.
The Great Western Hospital (GWH) in Swindon needs £2.9m to equip its own radiotherapy cancer treatment centre.
Around 700 people had to undertake a 60-mile round trip to Oxford for treatment in 2013/14 - some doing it several times a week - the NHS said.

I'm curious about the ongoing costs of this. OK, you raise £2.9m for equipment with I guess, a five year lifespan. But now you've got a load of duplication of staff like receptionists, administrators and maintenance people. You no longer have a single centre of excellence - the expertise gets split.