As I was saying

It also stated: \”Despite the impression given by the media, the actual number of homosexuals is quite small. Essentially all surveys show the number of homosexuals to be only 1-3% of the population.\”

Drugs charities and experts yesterday expressed surprise that someone of such stringent opinions could be appointed to the committee.

Some of his other views do seem a tad, erm, strong shall we say, but that particular bit seems to be simply a statement of fact.

But why would anyone declare a statement of fact to be \”stringent\” if there wasn\’t some political malarkey behind the number?

An interesting note to add to our new curriculum using population surveys of gays to teach children about statistics, eh? Or even the political use of them?

I\’m fascinated by this

Children are to be taught about homosexuality in maths, geography and science lessons as part of a Government-backed drive to \”celebrate the gay community\”.

Notably this one:

Maths – teaching statistics through census findings about the number of homosexuals in the population,

Because that could be an extremely interesting set of lessons in how careful you\’ve got to be with statistics and definitions.

For there is very definitely a tendency for some to rather over estimate the number of gays in the population: Peter Tatchell has been known to insist upon 10% of the population for example. His definition seems to be anyone who has ever had a same sex sexual experience: a slightly odd definition, given that defining anyone who has ever had an opposite sex (or perhaps these days we\’re supposed to say other sex) experience as heterosexual would probably define Mr. Thatchell as such.

Then there\’s attempts to actually count the people who are what we might call \”really\” homosexual, people who are exclusively pursuing same sex relationships. More like 1-2% of the male population and a little less of the female.

Our statistics lessons could explore these problems of definition, explore how even using the same definitions we find that different methods of counting give us diferent numbers and even, if we were to be trying to actually teach children something useful, why certain sets of numbers are touted by those with one or another political axe to grind, others by others.

Sadly, the lesson plans aren\’t ready for download as yet so we can\’t check and see whether they\’re doing this.

Or, as I suspect, just telling the kiddies that there\’s \”lots\” of gays you know.

How do you turn on a TV set?

Another one of those things you find out when the wife\’s away.

I know that I sometimes make short planks look clever but I am struggling to believe that I\’m quite this dim.

I can\’t work out how to turn on the TV.

When she left she said, look, press this one on the Sky remote and this one on the TV remote and it\’ll work.

Which it did. But something\’s gone wrong with that and I cannot for the life of me work out what it is.

Using the TV remote I can get the TV to turn on. Get a blank blue screen, but at least I know electricity is going into it.

I can also get the little light on the front of the Sky box to go from green to red and back again by using the button on the Sky remote.

But absolutely nothing else at all seems to have any effect. I can\’t get what I\’m obviously try to get, which is the Sky menu.

What is the little secret here? What\’s the important but that I\’ve never found out?

Update: the solution is in the comments there.

Make the rich pay!

But who are these rich who should pay?

The economists reckon (based on tax-filing data) that an income of around $107,540, excluding realised capital gains, puts an American household in the top 10% of American families. To get into the top 5%, you need to earn less than $150,000. To me, it\’s something of a wake-up-call to realise that a couple who make $75,000 each are in the top 5% of American households.

Well, actually, two New York City teachers in a household, each with a modicum of qualifications and tenure, would be those rich who should be paying for everything.

Which isn\’t really what people think they\’re saying when they do say that the rich should pay for it all, is it?

Oh how true

A surrogate mother is said to exercise \”choice\”. Of course, she is entitled to rent out her womb to whomsoever she likes. However, choice presupposes that we live in a society in which there are no serious differences in power, income and authority between individuals. And we don\’t.

But I\’m not sure that that is the worry at the heart of all of this. That some people can make choices that others are not able to, the inequality of choices.

I have a sneaking suspicion that it\’s actually the greater equality of choices which worries.

What surrogacy does is allow a man (of sufficient wealth, to be sure) to have a child without having to woo and nuture a relationship with a woman. And that has been one of the great powers that women have had over men over the centuries, that it\’s been necessary to do this in order to get both sex and children.

Surrogacy is thus a loss of power of the sisterhood: as, for example, Ronaldo\’s recent case shows. No need for him to committ to marriage, alimony, a relationaship, in order to have a child.

Devadasi

So, there\’s a new film out about the devadasi: temple prostitution in India in effect.

The devadasis have a multilayered story, a story in which poverty, deprivation and injustice against women is central – but what has happened to them is absolutely an outcome of imperialism and the impact of British rule in India.

Gosh, that\’s interesting.

The first legal initiative to outlaw the devadasi system dates back to the 1934 Bombay Devadasi Protection Act. This act pertained to the Bombay province as it existed in the British Raj. The Bombay Devadasi Protection Act made dedication of women illegal, whether consensual or not. According to this act, marriage by a devadasi was to be considered lawful and valid, and the children from such wedlock were to be treated as legitimate. The Act also laid down grounds for punitive action that could be taken against any person or persons found to be involved in dedications, except the woman who was being dedicated. Those found guilty of such acts could face a year’s imprisonment, a fine, or both. The 1934 Act also provided rules, which were aimed at protecting the interests of the devadasis. Whenever there was a dispute over ownership of land involving a devadasi, the local Collector was expected to intervene.

In 1947, the year of independence, the Madras Devadasi Prevention of Dedication Act outlawed dedication in the southern Madras Presidency.

So imperialism and British rule are responsible for trying but not succeeding in wiping it out then? Amazing what we can still get blamed for isn\’t it?

No, don\’t call me cynical here

The head of the civil service has ordered an inquiry into the government\’s localism reforms amid growing concerns that its \”big society\” plans risk eroding the basic democratic principles of transparency and ministerial accountability, the Guardian has learned.

There are fears by those at the top of Whitehall that parliament\’s fundamental right to hold the government to account for its actions is being tested by the scale of the coalition\’s ambitions to devolve power from the centre to local communities and outsource services to charities and the private sector.

Gus O\’Donnell, the head of the civil service, has asked a senior colleague to investigate the democratic impact of the government\’s localism bill, which is intended to end Whitehall\’s domination of the political system and devolve power to local people.

Sir Bob Kerslake, the permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, will investigate the \”accountabilities issues\” being thrown up by the plans. O\’Donnell told MPs this week that the issue was \”absolutely crucial\” to the project\’s success.

No, really, don\’t call me a cynic.

Now, think back to what we know about bureaucracies and bureaucrats, from Parkinson through Peters to Buchanan and Tullock. The motivating aim is not to actually achieve something, reach a goal, other than the continued existence of said bureaucracy.

So if someone comes along and says, well chaps, we\’re simply not going to need you to deal with these issues and problems over here, what will be the instinctive reaction of the chaps?

Quite. But you can\’t not have the bureaucracy: doesn\’t matter the reason why not, you just can\’t.

And a reason will be found.

No, I\’m not a cynic. Rather, a realist.

Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network

So our Geoffrey Lean gets all excited about the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network.

For today it will launch an attempt to become Britain\’s first solar town.

Backed by the local MP and chamber of commerce, the scheme aims to generate a third of the electricity used by the town\’s 10,000 people from renewable sources – mainly the sun – by 2015, and make up to £450,000 a year for community projects from the Government\’s feed-in tariff.

The Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network, a not-for-profit co-operative, will put solar panels gratis on the roofs of local homes and businesses, allow them to use the free electricity, and collect the tariff for the community fund. Local landowners will be offered attractive deals to install larger arrays and a couple of wind turbines will be added to the mix. Anyone from the town can join the co-operative and decide how the money is spent.

Fascinating. But there\’s something to strike terror into the heart of anyone numerate on that website:

WREN has links with the renewable energy industry, the co-operative movement, the New Economics Foundation NEF,

And yes, you\’re right, nowhere is there any explanation of how this actually works.

The way it\’s all written they seem to have found that elusive invisible money tree. They\’re going to make a profit from the feed in tariffs are they? But the feed in tariffs are calculated to give an 8% return on the capital invested.

And they\’re giving the solar panels away for free. So, erm, where is the capital coming from? And that is something that I can\’t find anywhere. Who is paying?

I suspect that it is of course us who are doing so. We\’re buying them these free solar panels out of our taxes.

The community of Wadebridge and surrounding villages are entitled to benefit from their own natural energy resources and subsequent production, rather than the traditional model of large companies profiting outside of the town, the county of Cornwall, or even outside of the UK.

Doesn\’t really fly, does it? If we\’re putting the capital in then we get the capital returns, no?

Or if you want to think of it another way, some poor sod in Middlesborough is coughing up his taxes so that the people of Wadebridge get to have \”free\” electricity plus £450,000 a year to spend on community projects.

Why?

If anyone can find out where the money is coming from I\’d love to know.

Rising school fees: which claim is correct?

The cost of sending a child to a senior independent school has soared from around £6,000 to almost £30,000 in 25 years, it was disclosed.

In the last six years alone, fees have increased by around a third at some schools, figures show, quicker than the rise in earnings.

OK, but perhaps these peeps are right?

But independent school leaders insisted the figures were \”highly misleading\” and rises were in line with an increase in general education costs, including teachers’ salaries, pensions and the price of building work.

The way to sort out such counterclaims is to go and look at the different inflation rates: of prices in general and of wages. Which you can do here.

£6,000 in 1984 (used because 2010 isn\’t in the database yet, but I still want to get 25 years in) is in 2009 £14,400 using the retail price index. But the general inflation rate isn\’t quite right for a labour heavy service like education, as William Baumol tells us. So, upgrading by average wages gives us £23,300 instead.

So, at £30,000, yes school fees do seem to have risen substantially faster than teahers alaries etc would seem to indicate.

Yet the schools don\’t make profits, so that extra money must be going somewhere. I would suggest (suggest only, I don\’t actually know) that there are two things here.

1) That wages rise is the average wage rise. And as we know there\’s been an increase in the gap between average and higher paid workers over the past generation. Could be that private school teachers have been on the, for them, right side of that change. I think I\’m right in saying that State school teachers have had higher than average wage gains over that time and they are the competition after all. So there\’s been some specific, as well as the general, wage inflation for schools over that time.

2) I\’m told that the private schools have \”got better\” over that time as well. \”Got better\” in the sense of having smaller class sizes (thus requiring more of that more highly paid labour per pupil) as well as generally better living conditions and food etc.

Quite how much of the price rise you want to ascribe to each is up to you. Well, in the absence of someone doing some real research that is. Price rises on inputs or the use of more inputs?

Quite right Mr. Krugman

But I do know my economic history, which means that I know how often governments refuse, sometimes for many years, to do the obviously right thing

Which is why it\’s always so puzzling hearing you talk about all the other and more things that government should be doing said wrong things about.

Wise words to blog by

There are things that good taste and the law will simply not let you say in print. My current favourites are \”Murderer acquitted\” and (in a report of an Easter religious play) \”Paul Myers, who played Jesus Christ, emerged as the star of the show.\” Try and work out which one has the taste problem, and which one will cost you approximately half a million per word.

Although we should note that we rather like taste problems around here.

Err, yes, this is Deirdre McCloskey\’s point

Greed, avarice, and envy were among the deadly sins. Usury … was an offense against God. It was only in the eighteenth century that greed became morally respectable.

Quite.

It\’s exactly at the point that what were formerly thought to be sins became regarded as the bourgeois virtues that we started to have sustained economic growth.

But M\’Lord Skidelsky wishes to decry this rather than celebrate it. Which is why he is a historian and biographer, not economist.

Fun fact from the New Home Front report

Andrew Simms tells is that the huge effort made to recycle led to 111,000 tonnes a week of scrap metal being collected.

According to the Reportlinker report, the volume of scrap metal consumed in 2008 stood at 5.6 million tonnes

Oh, so you mean the same amount that the market unadorned now recycles then? A hundred and something thousand tonnes a week?

The New Home Front

A report from Caroline Lucas:

The changes now underway in our climate, if unchecked, pose probably the greatest threat to Britain that we have ever faced. Our health and security, our society and way of life, our natural environment, even our coastline, are all at risk from uncontrolled natural forces – disease, drought, flood and storm. In terms of the human and financial cost in the UK and internationally, the impact over the coming decades has been compared to the world wars of the twentieth century.

Has it now? Only by someone who doesn\’t know what they\’re talking about I think.

In 1918, fully 50% of the economy was being spent on the war.

M\’Lord Stern has said that if everything goes wrong (that is, that climate sensitivity is high, that if we have a regionalised and localised capitalism powered largely by coal) that in 2100 the costs of climate change might be 20% of the vastly increased (some 7 times present) GDP of the time.

Not really the same, is it?

That’s why I commissioned this report from the leading writer and analyst Andrew Simms,

Oh God, it\’s going to be a stinker, isn\’t it?

Use of household electrical appliances dropped 82 percent. A war on waste, new social norms and rationing helped general consumption fall 16 percent (and more so at household level).

So, households were more than 16% poorer (this is indeed what a greater than 16% fall in consumption means) and this is something to be praised is it?

The nation’s health improved. After an initial upward spike at the beginning of the war mortality rates fell dramatically among both men and women as active health policy was introduced, diets changed and people become more active.6

Might be worth mentioning the rather large spike in mortality caused by bombs, guns and tanks really, no? And \”becoming more active\” is a euphemism for hard labout digging the veg patch, isn\’t it? Gosjh, how wondrous that millions got to return to the peasant lifestyle, eh?

A determination to enjoy life grew. Spending on ‘amusements’ went up 10 percent

Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die…..

Britain faces the need for a rapid economic transition in the face of climate change targets, energy insecurity and the peak and decline of global oil production. Based on recent trends, and using a cautious, conservative estimate of environmental risk, in just 71 months from January 2010, taking us to the end of 2016, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere means that it will become ‘more rather than less likely’ that temperatures will rise by at least 2C.10 This is generally considered a critical threshold, after which environmental dominoes begin to fall more unpredictably and potentially uncontrollably. In other words we enter a world of ‘climate roulette,’ in which warming becomes possibly irreversible.

This is a calculation made by Andrew Simms to get himself a 100 piece contract from The Guardian: one a month detailing how close we\’re getting to this \”crisis point\”. There is no validity to said calculation.

Lloyds of London recently predicted that problems of supply not matching demand could see oil at $200 per barrel by 2013.

You what?

No, not $200 a barrel: that could indeed happen. But what is this drivel about supply not matching demand? You\’ve just said that the price will be $200, which will therefore be the price at which supply equals demand. For supply matches demand at a price.

Turn this around for a moment to see the stupidity of it. Solar cells: it would be really great to have a system that we can put on the roof for 50 cents. Certainly solve and awful lot of problems if we could. But we don\’t have such: systems for the roof cost £20,000 (say). So supply doesn\’t match demand at 50 cents but it does at £20,000. Complaining about oil being $200, where supply matches demand, is exactly the same as complaining that solar power systems cost £20,000, not the 50 cents we\’d rather like to pay.

The UK’s reliance on imported energy is rising and has risen steadily since 2004 when declining North Sea oil production meant we first became unable to meet our own energy needs since the North Sea’s heyday.

This international trade thing\’s pretty shit hot, isn\’t it?

Innovations like the Green Investment Bank and Green bonds and pensions to help pay for the transition will create a healthier finance system too.

Oh dearie me, that\’s the voice of Ritchie there. And they\’re still not getting it.

Green bons and pensions don\’t work: because there is no mechanism by which the social benefits (the getting rid of those externalities of climate change from emissions) can be paid to the investors. So there isn\’t actually a return that can be distributed.

Except, of course, if you manage to create a viable system of subsidies, Pigou taxes and so on which will enable a return to be made. But, and here\’s the kicker, once you have created that system you no longer need Green bonds or pensions. Because now such investments are attractive in their own right, as normal bonds and normal pensions.

So either Green bonds cannot exist, because there\’s no return to them, or Green bonds don\’t need to exist as such investments are attractive anyway.

Thirdly, moving to levels of economic equality comparable with that, say, of Denmark, would create an economic safety net to buffer the process of change.

Eh? That\’s a bit of a leap isn\’t it? That a Gini of 0.25 rather than one of 0.35 (dimly remembered numbers) is part of the solution to climate change?

There\’s just a hint of a soupcon of a suspicion that perhaps climate change is being used as an excuse to pile in the kitchen sink n\’all of Mr. Simms\’ desires, no?

Have a look at pages 16 through 18. He\’s positively frothing at the mouth at being able to run a vast propaganda campaign backed up by rationing and sumptuary taxes. I rather get the impression that Our Andrew would like to have this power over his fellow citizens, climate change or no climate change.

Also worthy of further exploration is the relative success in war-time Britain of efforts explicitly to substitute cultural activity and production – theatre, music, film, art, festivals, sport, and numerous other local entertainments – for material consumption.

All very cultural commissar isn\’t it? You will sing Kumbaya rather than play Call of Duty. Although I would certainly support Mr. Simms asking Julie Bindel to reprise the Windmill Theatre productions.

All people needed was ‘to be told precisely what to do’

Yup, he\’s positively foaming with the desire to impose rationing.

While people grumbled about rationing, and were often prepared to bend the rules or buy black market goods, it was still seen as fairer than the alternative of allowing prices to govern demand, so that goods became unaffordable to all but an elite, as in Soviet-era Russia.

Eh? Since when did Soviet Russia use prices rather than rationing? Quite barking.

Anyway, the conclusion is essentially that we\’ve got to do everything that nef has been suggesting over the past decade. From personal carbon rationing to fiorced collectivisation of \”underused\” property.

The only thing really missing is the reason why? Oh, they talk about \”climate change\” a lot but don\’t quite manage to tell us why a move to a non-cabon emitting energy system (say, thorium cycle, or solar PV plus fuel cells) wouldn\’t solve the problem rather than having to appoint froth mouthed loons like Andrew Simms to rule over us all.

And that really is the important question that has to be answered, isn\’t it?

There\’s a great deal of truth in this analysis

Labour’s future in England is conservative. The country’s radical traditions are rooted in the political struggle for the liberty that Edmund Burke describes as “social freedom”. There is a powerful strain of rebellious individualism in English socialism that helped to create a politics of liberty, virtue and democracy and a vast popular movement of voluntary collectivism,

co-operatism and mutual self-improvement. English socialism shares antecedents with Toryism, but differs from it in one significant way. It was a militant defence of a common life, and of individual labour and creativity against the unaccountable power of capital and against the usurpation of the state.

Burke\’s little platoons perhaps, the Big Society even. That great flowering of the English working classes which led to the mutuals, the Providents, Building Societies, the CoOp.

Certainly, would love to see that strand of Englishness resurgent.

But if I might add, purely in a spirit of helpfulness of ourse, that there\’s another strand of Englishness which also needs to be taken into consideration?

The hatred of the petty bureaucrat? Hmm, no, not hatred, for we don\’t really do that except about the French. The mockery of, the despising of perhaps, the man with the clipboard. The \”jobsworth\” is a standard figure of fun here, in a way that the similar civil servant, local council employee, just isn\’t in a more Germanic society.

As an example, I\’m told, although I never quite believe it, that in most of Germany the local council will make rules about how often you should sweep your driveway. The very notion of such a rule in England is ridiculous: the entire population would be howling with laughter at (no, not with) any politician who suggested such. Yet, again I\’m told, such rules strike most Germans as not just reasonable but necessary. But of course such matters should be a matter of local law.

If Labour could grasp this point, that we really don\’t like a controlling army of paper shufflers telling us what to do, along with that voluntary collectivism, then they\’d do much better.

The major problem with this vision is of course that a goodly chunk of those who are the Labour Party are those very paper shufflers.