More unlearning economics

This is just too good a comment to pass up.

I’ve had to study Public Choice Theory as part of my economics degree, and it really is the biggest load of rubbish I’ve ever read, and sums up how economics is not a science, but simply a pseudoscientific enterprise designed to promote the interests of the wealthy. We’re told by economists that governments are effectively rent seekers, who are not interested in the welfare of society but simply to feather their own nets. Their solution seems to be to privatise government and the let the market rule everything. Funny how neoliberal economists never apply their sceptical public choice theory to look at, for example, executive pay (and the cosy cartel that sets it), or the way businesses through extensive lobbying and funding given governments incentives to pursue policies in the interest of the 1%.

I’m glad there are economics students who also think what we learn is a lot of rubbish, and how biased the subject is towards neoliberalism. I’ve had to sit through 3 years of listening to my lecturers trying to convince me that the welfare system is hugely distortionary, high progressive income taxes are undesirable and should be replaced by flat taxes, privatisation of industry will improve efficiency and that governments shouldn’t do anything about poverty and inequality because it would “distort” their beloved market.

It’s high time people started questioning the pseudoscientific BS we’re expected to swallow. Eventually, with more people starting blogs like this exposing the subject (along with disbelievers like Steve Keen) hopefully funding for economics will dry up, and the discipline will cease to exist as a serious academic endeavour, like astronomy, and therefore will stop influencing policymakers.

Err, no. Public choice theory isn\’t stating that governments are merely predatory rent seekers.

It\’s saying that you can understand a lot about what goes on if you view them as such sometimes. It\’s a very useful explanation of why MPs\’ pensions are better than those of anyone else in the country. Why the PM\’s pension is simp[ly fantabulous.

Really, at heart, all that is being said is that the first thing to learn about economics is that incentives matter. So, look at the incentives of those in government as well as those out of it.

And the welfare system is distortionary: 70-90% (there are some poor souls over 100%) marginal tax and benefit withdrawal rates are distortionary. It might be worth having these distortions to reach your other goals, it might not be, but it\’s very definitely distortionary. High progressive income taxes might be desirable for some reasons….reducing inequality of income perhaps. But they also have other effects: such as reducing future economic growth. Which is the second thing you need to learn about economics. There\’s no such thing as a solution, there are only trade offs.

And you\’d better bloody well understand the trade offs you\’re making when you make decisions: which is what your economics course is trying to train you to do but obviously failing.

BTW, it\’s astrology you mean, not astronomy.

And most amusing is this from our unlearning econ guy:

Yes that sums up many problems with economics pretty well. My lecturers are actually about as moderate as it gets in a mainstream university so I’m lucky, but I still find it hard to write about models that I know are just wrong. It seems you felt similarly.

This is known as \”Doing a Ritchie\”.

Ignoring what you\’re being taught because it\’s obviously wrong, innit?

And you only need to read Ritchie to see where that leads you. About which I think my favourite is his reinvention from first principles of marginal utility as a refutation of neo-classical economics: neo-classical economics being the form of economics which introduced marginal utility, indeed, neo-classical economics being based on the insight of marginal utility. That\’s why we call it all the Marginalist Revolution, see?

Half remembered facts lead to a bad analysis

Senior bankers, private equity moguls and hedge fund managers appear cut off from the rest of us. They often pay little or no tax,

Eh?

What is this little or no tax? Is this some distand memory of the hedgie paying less tax than his cleaner? Which is really he pays a lower marginal rate than his cleaner, not less tax?

Romney made a fortune of an estimated $250 million dollars out of financial engineering and private equity, while benefiting from tax breaks, during his business career. He paid a reported 15 per cent tax on his profits – a rate considerably lower than most Americans.

Err, no. He paid and pays the capital gains tax rate on his capital gains. Exactly the same as all other Americans.

Economists say that the super-rich in the United States are now seven times better off than they were 30 years ago. Troublingly, this massive growth of wealth and power has come directly at the expense of ordinary people. Statistics show that the income of the average working male in the United States has flatlined since the 1970s.

Look at that logic. The rich have got richer, the middle have not got richer. So, how is the increase at the top at the expense of the not rich? The only way it could be is if the proceeds of economic growth have been asymmetrically divided. But that\’s not the same as taking stuff off ordinary people, is it?

Further, it\’s not actually true that average male wages have flatlined since the 1970s. It\’s that median household wage incomes have: and that just ain\’t the same thing at all. For households have got smaller (meraning higher incomes per capita) and household compensation has risen strongly. Much of that compensation coming in the form of better health care which, as it is employer provided compensation but not wages does not get included in the wages numbers.

But now we come to a real problem.

Murray exposes how the new United States upper class, which he labels a “cognitive elite”, has developed an hereditary stranglehold over the top professions and management positions. The brightest people tend to marry each other, then ensure that their offspring get to the best schools and universities, with the result that, to quote Murray: “The parents of the upper-middle class now produce a disproportionate number of the smartest children.”

Assortative mating. One of the things that is seriously driving household income inequality is the way in which marriage is increasingly taking place between people with similar education levels, working in similar type jobs. This is a result of the entry of women into the workforce as equals and the subsequent later age of marriage.

Quite simply, time was, marriage came from those around you, the family\’s friends etc. And upon marriage most women became housewives. Now marriage is contracted later, from among those one meets at university or at work. Or in hte social circles associated with work. Graduates thus marry graduates, professionals professionals, non-professionals non-professionals and so on.

Yes, there is an increasing stratification of household incomes, as we get one group over here, of two professional income households and another group over here of two non-professional incomes. Even if one of those incomes might be put on hiatus for some years, or part time. Two 50k plus professional incomes is going to lead to very different household incomes than two 25k median incomes.

Yes, this is a rise in inequality of household incomes. But to stop it you\’ll have to do one of two things. Change who people marry (and good luck with that one). Or return to taxation of households. That is, remove women\’s tax independence. Which should really go down well with the sisters. Not to say, how do you define a household when marriage isn\’t the defining attribute of a household any more?

I say this is a problem: it is if inequality of household income is something you worry about. But I cannot see any solution to this inequality that isn\’t a horrible retrograde step in terms of individual liberty. Men and women should be treated equally by the tax system. Taxed on their incomes/property, not changeably dependent upon who they shag regularly (to the extent that that happens in marriage tee hee). And we certainly don\’t want any system whereby who you can marry (or shag regularly, have children by) is determined in any manner by the State.

So I don\’t think there\’s a solution to that, is there?

This is really very amusing indeed

Private owners of capital used the state to force peasants – who, in the 14th century, worked about a quarter of hours that the average person does now – to work 12 hour days in factories.

We\’re supposed to believe that a peasant working in a subsistence economy works 10 hours a week are we? Assuming a 40 hour working week now.

Or given the average working year in the UK of something like 1500 hours, a peasant worked 375 hours a year? 7 hours a week, not even one full day\’s labour?

No, I think we can call bullshit on that one, don\’t you?

 

Correct

6. The best thing for wages and working conditions is full employment, and we can achieve this by getting rid of the minimum wage and regulations. This will increase wages and improve working conditions, but these higher wages and conditions won’t reduce employment in the same way as the regulations did before because free market.

Yup.

Because optimal.

There is some level of wages and working conditions which is the best we can do at any particluar level of technology or wealth. The trade offs of those in work having great wages and conditions and those who can\’t get work because their labour is not worth the great wages and conditions.

We need some method of calculating what is this optimal trade off.

It is possible that the flapheads and addlepates that go into politics are able to calculate this optimal trade off. Historical experience tells us that this isn\’t quite the way it works out.

It is also possible that Hayek was right, that it isn\’t possible to do such calculations about the economy because we have to actually use the entire economy to perform the calculations for us.

65 million people employing the wisdom of the crowds to reach that best as we can get to optimum instead of the flapheads and addlepates who go into politics.

Yes, quite, because free market.

Vodafone wins Indian tax case

Gosh, isn\’t this interesting?

Vodafone has won a landmark tax dispute in India over its $11bn acquisition of a 67pc stake in Hutchison Whampoa\’s Indian mobile unit, which later became Vodafone Essar.

Another Private Eye/Ritchie nonsense ground into the dust.

The Indian Supreme Court ruled that the taxman had no jurisdiction over the British mobile operator\’s acquisition.

India\’s tax office said Vodafone was liable for $2.5bn (£1.3bn) in tax because most of the assets from the deal were based in India and under local tax law, buyers have to withhold capital gains tax liabilities and pay them to the government.

Vodafone has consistently protested against the tax bill on the grounds that the 2007 deal was between two overseas companies, that the tax was applied retrospectively, and capital gains tax is usually applied to the acquired company, not the buyer.

There was no tax evasion, there was no tax avoidance. This is the Supreme Court we\’re talking about, the arbiter of what actually is the law in that land.

This was entire and pure tax compliance, every rupee that Vodafone should have paid in tax Vodafone did pay in tax.

I look forward to this judgement being popularised by those who first raised it, don\’t you?

Pondering The Troubles

Two bombs planted by Irish Republican Army dissidents detonated on Thursday night in the Northern Ireland city of Londonderry, but no injuries were reported as police quickly evacuated the area following phoned warnings.

This is pretty much the way it\’s been going for a century now.

One group starts to fight for that United Ireland free of the British. They fight, there\’s some movement or not some movement towards the goal, those fighting die, grow old perhaps, and compromise on the new status quo and stop fighting. But then there\’s a new generation who regard the new status quo as not enough and decide to take up arms for the next leap towards the goal. Old IRA, Real IRA, 32 County and so on…..I\’m sure I\’ve left one of more generations out of this.

Note that I don\’t say that this is entirely accurate in detail, only that it\’s possible to see this pattern. Which makes this:

\”These are the desperate actions of yesterday\’s men. They seem to be more wedded to the struggle than to the cause they claim to be pursuing,\” said David Ford, justice minister of the unity government.

Inaccurate. They\’re doing exactly what every previous generation has done. Exactly what McGuinness and Adams did, refuse to take the settlement reached by the previous generation as acceptable and taken up arms to over turn that settlement.

Yes, they\’re still terrrorists, vile scum who will kill the innocent for vague political goals, but they\’re hardly doing anything unusual in the history of Irish Republicanism.

The scandalous use of City\’s Cash

You\’ll recall, you well informed person you, the fuss that Nick Shaxson made over the City\’s Cash last year? How appalling it was that the City of London had some huge secret war chest of cash that was used to prop up the entirely evil system of late financial capitalism?

How the newly enobled Baron Glasman of Stoke Newington railed against this iniquity, how Ritchie leapt aboard the bandwagon and insisted that billions should be confiscated and used for the good of the nation?

Interestingly, a report on how the City\’s Cash is collected and how it is spent has recently been posted onto the net.

You can read it here.

This is what that man with the deep, deep, knowledge of banking, economics, taxation and the righteous way of living told us:

They tell him they’ve only got £3 billion of assets.

That’s £3 billion they don’t need to promote banking and £3 billion we need to save libraries, and so much more.

It’s so obvious what needs to be done – and the last thing that this money need do is promote global banking, but that’s what it’s being used for.

It really is time this tax haven within the UK was abolished.

If you read the actual report, they\’ve some £126 million coming in a year. Make up your own mind as to whether that\’s a decent return on £3 billion of assets.

How does that get spent? £55 million a year on schools, £19 million a year on open spaces (Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest etc), £17 million a year on markets (Billingsgate, Smithfield etc). That\’s the bulk of it, right there, in very standard indeed Local Authority type expenditure (why Yes, LAs do pay for schools, parks, markets, in places right across the country).

And, as I pointed out before, The City does have something of a financing problem. There are very few residents (9,000 I think?) meaning that there\’s not much to be had in council tax from them. And business rates, which you\’d think (in fact you know they are) would be substantial on some of the most valuable business properties in the world, well, that cash doesn\’t go to The City Corporation. We\’ve a centralised system you see, it goes off to central government where it is then allocated out around the country on the basis of need.

And as the City has City\’s Cash it doesn\’t have any need for any of the business rates so all of the business rates raised in the City go off to Burnley and the like.

So what we actually have, quite unlike what Glasman, Shaxson and Murphy tell us, is a local authority largely financing itself off land rents and the accumulated surplus from centuries of those land rents. Providing quite standard local authority services from that investment income. And the vast majority of current taxation raised from inside the City\’s boundaries is sent off to poorer regions of the country to pay for needed services there.

It is indeed possible to change the law, confiscate the City\’s Cash and spend it on libraries elsewhere. But if that is done (quite apart from the effects of changing the law to confiscate the money of a lawfully constituted LA) then there won\’t actually be any more money for libraries in Burnley: for the City would now need to be funded from the business rates which would have to be returned to the City rather than sent to Burnley.

In short, everything that Mssrs. Glasman, Murphy and Shaxson have told us is entire bollocks as none of them bothered to do a lick of research. I managed to work it out from first principles,  a bit of internet looking about and logic. Took about an hour. And here\’s the confirmation.

Now here\’s an interesting @richardjmurphy question

But the new that ratings agencies – the discredited Standard & Poors, Moody’s and Fitch – are to rate the success of hospitals in future really says all that needs to be known about The Tories’ objectives: the plan is very clearly to prepare businesses for sale.

Ignore clinical quality, care or any other factor that impacts health outcomes; just look to the financial bottom line.

The proposal actually seems to be asking someone to make sure that the finances of these newly independent hospitals are sound.

But that\’s not the interesting question.

We know that Ritchie insists that it would be much much better if everyone invested their pension money in bonds which are used to build things for local authorities, the NHS, social housing providers and the like.

So, err, who is going to rate those bonds?

The pilgrimage to Barnsley

Several years ago, a group of leaders from the Chinese church came to England on a holy pilgrimage. They had followed in the footsteps of one of Christianity’s great missionaries in the Far East, travelling for days to worship at the hallowed birthplace of their religious teacher.

When they reached their destination, the church leaders got down on their knees and prayed. “This truly is a sacred place,” they said. Canterbury Cathedral, perhaps? Westminster Abbey, or Stonehenge? Not quite. It was a branch of Boots. In Barnsley town centre.

For Barnsley, South Yorkshire, was home to James Hudson Taylor, the 19th-century missionary credited with taking Christianity to mainland China. And the site where Boots stands was once the Hudson Taylor pharmacy and family home. For his followers, the rows of painkillers and meal deals make for a shrine as worthy as Lourdes. And if a new heritage group has its way, the town could soon see thousands more pilgrims worshipping in the aisles.

Oddly, a distant part of the family followed in Hudson\’s footsteps. One of my Mother\’s cousins was born in China as a result.

Fair enough

The corporation had said there was an overwhelming case for the court\’s intervention because of the impact on the churchyard of the camp. The limited interference with the protesters\’ rights entailed in the removal of the tents was justified and proportionate, given the rights and freedoms of others, it argued.

There\’s a trade off of rights here, the courts are adjudicating that trade off.

\”The freedoms and rights of others, the interest of public health and public safety and the prevention of disorder and crime, and the need to protect the environment of this part of the City of London all demand the remedy which the court\’s orders will bring,\” said Lindblom in his lengthy judgment. The City had no \”sensible\” choice but to take action.

Telling the truth to mislead

When someone tells us he\’s going to give us the real skinny always worth looking to see what he\’s leaving out so as to mislead.

The point is this: we will always have big deficits as long as tax policy is radically different from the post-second world war average until about 1981. And Republicans now want to cut taxes, mainly on the wealthy, even further. So the GOP\’s moaning about the deficit has no credibility whatever to anyone who knows budgets. But most people, and most reporters, don\’t know that during the Eisenhower administration, the top marginal rate was 91%, and that it was 70% for the following two decades or so, and that capital gains (which accrue overwhelmingly to the rich) were usually taxed as ordinary income. That lack of perspective distorts a whole range of popular assumptions about social equity now versus, say, the 1950s.

Spot what he left out?

Yup, the brackets. That 91% kicked in at about $1.9 million in current dollars. Not the over $250k which is said to be \”rich\” now.

Oh, and, of course, it was that well known rightist Republican JFK who pointed out that such rates were counterproductive, lowered them and saw an increase in revenue collected (well, he didn\’t actually see it as a grassy knoll shot him but his successor did).

Plus, of course, he\’s making the usual Anglo-Lefty mistake of thinking that you can pay for big government by taxing the rich. You can\’t, to pay for big government you need to have a broad based consumption tax. Otherwise you\’ll kill economic growth.

Interesting point of the day. The US tax system is more progressive than that of most other OECD countries.

Well, that\’s you unqualified to be President then Mr. Gingrich

Newt Gingrich has pledged that on his first day as president he will set up a constitutional showdown by ordering the military to defy a supreme court ruling extending some legal rights to foreign terrorism suspects and captured enemy combatants in US custody.

The Republican contender told a forum of anti-abortion activists ahead of South Carolina\’s primary election that as president he would ignore supreme court rulings he regards as legally flawed. He implied that would also extend to the 1973 decision, Roe vs Wade, legalising abortion.

\”If the court makes a fundamentally wrong decision, the president can in fact ignore it,\” said Gingrich to cheers.

The oath is to uphold the Constitution. And it\’s the Supreme Court that decides, barring amendments to that Constitution, what that Constitution is.

Which leads to more than a little amusement. If there were a President Gingrich (God Forbid….and I\’m afraid that I can\’t see any in the current race (from any party) that I would actually want to have that office. Yes, even Ron Paul, there\’s some good stuff there but some very weird too) then he\’d be impeached as soon as one of these stand offs occured. And rightly so of course.

The amusement would come from the way in which it would be the outraged left which would lead the impeachment charge and, if he\’s tried and convicted and refuses to leave, then quite possibly removed from office by the military at the instruction of the Supreme Court.

You know, exactly what happened in Honduras and boy, didn\’t the US left complain about that?

This bizarre argument that in work benefits are subsidies to companies

This is becoming an increasingly common mantra, that the payment of in work benefits is a subsidy to the profits of companies.

Who wins, when the government makes up the shortfall, between the poverty pay a shelf-packer earns and what he or she needs to live on? Not the worker, evidently; not the taxpayer, who may get a certain empathy boost from the fact that nobody\’s starving, but reaps no economic advantage from this bizarre system; not the supplier to the supermarket, who often has his or her own case to make about deals so bad they often amount to a mugging.

The only winners are the chains themselves….

What?

How has anyone managed to get themselves so 180 degrees the wrong way around?

OK, so let us take it as being true in each and every particular. The solution is thus very simple. Stop all in work benefits , the supermarkets will pay their workers more and their profits will fall.

Is anyone actually suggesting this? No.

Therefore they obviously don\’t believe their own diagnosis.

Which is correct: the diagnosis is wrong. In work benefits are not a subsidy to the supermarkets (or any other employers). They are a subsidy to our own consciences.

Here is the market value of labour. It is what it is. We don\’t have monoposony at this end of the labour market. Retailers aren\’t able to deliberately hold down wages. However, we as a nation, a culture, say that (however hard some of us scream that it shouldn\’t be so etc, this is the general view) to be left to live on that market value of labour is unfair. So, we\’ve a system by which we all chip in a bit from our higher earnings to send money to those with a low value to their labour.

This comes in gradations of course: no one at all objects to the subsidy of the short bus riders whose labour value is near zero, who would be starving in the streets without some subsidy. Many object to the excesses of the other end of the spectrum, where some people gain more than the median income in purely housing subsidies.

But these transfers, these benefits, are subsidies to our sense of what is right and wrong, not subsidies to the profits of the corporations. It\’s compensation from those of us who have a high value assigned to our labour by the market system to those who have a low value so assigned. We might well argue about how much compensation is due, about the effects on incentives, about marginal tax and benefit withdrawal rates, but you\’ve got to get well over into Ayn Rand style stuff before you find anyone who thinks that there shouldn\’t be any such compensation flowing at all.

Thing is though, you can see many people nodding their heads when this \”benefits are subsidies to corporations\” line being trotted out. And what\’s needed is some punchy point to show the absurdity of it. Which I\’ve not really found yet.

If in work benefits are a subsidy to employers, then out of work benefits must be a subsidy to unemployment?

Ritchie\’s economic plan

A plan for #growth: close the tax gap; green quantitative easing; 25% of pension contributions invested in job creation. Go for it #Labour

There it is in all it\’s glory.

Reduce fiscal stimulus by collecting more taxes, print money to spend it and mandate that 25% of all pension plans be handed over to venture capitalists.

Anti-Keynesian, highly inflationary and enriching the finance industry. How very left wing of him.

Yes Seumas

China\’s glorious growth shows how infrastructure spending through state owned banks is glorious.

Alternatively we could note that GDP per capita (at PPP) in the US is $47,200 a year, in China $7,600 a year.

Catching up after decades of insane economic policy is generally thought to be easier than growing when you\’re already at the technological production frontier.

Good God Almighty: Seriously?

I know I\’m out of step with many…..with most….on this subject but:

They had both previously given notice of conscientious objection to any involvement in abortions and said they were not expected to participate in such treatment. But in 2007 the health board introduced changes that meant patients undergoing medical terminations were cared for in the labour ward, where the women worked. They were not expected to administer abortion-inducing drugs but management said requiring conscientious objectors to provide care for patients through a termination was lawful.

What?

But in 2007 the health board introduced changes that meant patients undergoing medical terminations were cared for in the labour ward, where the women worked.

Bed 1, \”Yes, a girl, we\’re calling her Maisie, we\’ve been trying for years to have a girl and now she\’s only a day away!\”

Bed 2, \”Kill mine, cut it up, haul it out and burn the remains\”.

Bed 3, \”Weak uterus I\’m told, have to stay here in bed for as long as I can to give the little chap as much chance as I can. He\’ll be premature but maybe not too premature if I just stay calm and quiet and here.\”

Bed 4, \”19 weeks? Yup, that\’s legal, get it out.\”

The same ward?

Sirsly?

Murder and sexual infidelity

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said juries should be allowed to consider the fact a victim had been unfaithful as a possible provocation – in defiance of a new law that banned it as an excuse.

How did we end up with a law that said that such infidelity could not be used as a (partial) defence? Which part of Labour thought that up?

They dismissed two but upheld the appeal by Jon-Jacques Clinton, who was jailed for life, with a minimum of 26 years, after killing his wife, Dawn, at their home in Bracknell, Berkshire.

The couple, who had two children – now aged 13 and 12 – had separated two weeks before the 2010 killing.

The day before her death Mrs Clinton, a dinner lady, told her husband she was having an affair with Tony Montgomery, who she had met online.

Clinton later discovered had regularly posted lurid comments about sex on the internet, including one on the day of their daughter’s birthday.

When he confronted her about the infidelity, Mrs Clinton taunted him saying “it should have been like that every day of the week” and that she had slept with five men and gave graphic details.

She also “sniggered” after discovering he had been looking at suicide websites, adding “it would have been easier if you had, for all of us”.

Clinton, a building site manager, was also under pressure at work and was worried how to cope with two children without her after a 17-year relationship.

He attacked her with a lump of wood and strangled her.

The point about murder is that you have to plan to kill someone. And when trying to work out whether someone was planning to do so it is necessary to look at all of the events that led up to the event.

Note that no one at all is suggesting that we have a Latin style creme passionelle*,  where having been cuckolded there is a right to hunt down and kill the participants in the two backed beast. Only that there is a difference between planning to kill someone and killing someone after provocation.

Also note that the man is not now to be set free, this is not a \”not guilty\” verdict**. It\’s been sent back for retrial. A jury will now decide whether that provocation is indeed a defence to a charge of murder. They being the right people and the right place to make such a decision.

Finally, note what\’s really interesting about the case. This isn\’t, as I\’m sure some will see it, the judges over ruling the lawmakers. This is the judges saying that the law is a lot more complicated than the lawmakers seem to realise. There are conflicts and trade offs throughout the system. The various needs to nail the guilty, spare the innocent, provide for fair trials to distinguish between the two and so on. And that complex web isn\’t quite as amenable to the will of Parliament as some lawmakers seem to think. The general rules about, as in this case, fair trials, the defences that can be mounted, count more than a specific line item in a piece of legislation.

It is much more important that it is possible to mount a defence for a jury to decide upon than it is that a majority of 635 people have voted to not allow a specific line of defence.

This is, writ small, one of the larger problems of our time. Vide Vodafone: Parliament\’s direct will in the matter may well be that the CFC rules hold. But having gifted jurisdiction to the EU courts on such matters that doesn\’t really matter any more. Abolishing the Lord Chancellor and then having to reinstate him in a different guise as so much of the basic law demands that we have someone named as the Lord Chancellor. Doesn\’t have to be Speaker of the Lords, but there does have to be a Lord Chancellor.

In short, the world is more complex than the pygmies who rule us understand it is.

 

* As Corporal Nobby Nobbs puts it.

** Well, I suppose you could view it that way. Not guilty as tried and convicted so far as the original judge ruled out that provocation by sexual infidelity defence. But you know what I mean.

So George didn\’t enjoy Stowe then?

In a paper published last year in the British Journal of Psychotherapy, Dr Joy Schaverien identifies a set of symptoms common among early boarders that she calls boarding school syndrome. Her research suggests that the act of separation, regardless of what might follow it, \”can cause profound developmental damage\”, as \”early rupture with home has a lasting influence on attachment patterns\”.

When a child is brought up at home, the family adapts to accommodate it: growing up involves a constant negotiation between parents and children. But an institution cannot rebuild itself around one child. Instead, the child must adapt to the system. Combined with the sudden and repeated loss of parents, siblings, pets and toys, this causes the child to shut itself off from the need for intimacy. This can cause major problems in adulthood: depression, an inability to talk about or understand emotions, the urge to escape from or to destroy intimate relationships. These symptoms mostly affect early boarders: those who start when they are older are less likely to be harmed.

It should be obvious that this system could also inflict wider damage. A repressed, traumatised elite, unable to connect emotionally with others, is a danger to society: look at the men who started the first world war.