If you say so Nick

Trust is what we who earn our living from the media depend on, and any decline in trust is a cause for concern. The latest data from the Reuters Digital News Report shows a decline in trust in the UK media of 7%. In one YouGov survey, Wikipedia was held to be marginally more trustworthy than the BBC. So what’s the problem and what can be done about it?

It is due, I believe, to two main factors: the increased polarisation of our society and the increased use – particularly by the most committed and most partisan – of social media and alternatives to what they call the MSM, the mainstream media.

Of course, it could be just that competition is showing up the inadequacies of the incumbents….

The glory of coalition politics

A deal with the FDP and the Greens is Mrs Merkel’s only realistic coalition option, but the parties disagree on issues including energy, taxation, Europe and migration, complicating the path to a so-called “Jamaica” coalition – a reference to the parties’ respective colours: black, yellow and green.

On Wednesday, the Green Party said it would refuse an “upper limit” to the number of refugees entering the country.

A massive shift in voting against immigration. Leading to government allowing more immigration.

Doesn’t coalition politics reflect the will of the people so much better?

Blithering idiot

He promised that cities would be given the power to control rents, and his advisers indicated that he wanted to go further than a pre-election promise to limit rent rises to the inflation rate. “Rent controls exist in many cities across the world and I want our cities to have those powers too and tenants to have those protections,” Corbyn said.

Assar Lindbeck: “next to bombing, rent control seems in many cases to be the most efficient technique so far known for destroying cities”

Labour sources said the party would be looking at models of rent control in cities across the world as part of a review, and said the property market was “dysfunctional”.

If you think it’s dysfunctional now you just wait until there’re rent controls.

Does no one remember how bloody difficult it was to rent a place when we had rent controls in the 70s and early 80s?

From a Parliament report:

The application of rent controls coincided with a decline in the private rented sector. The
sector had made up nine-tenths of the housing stock in 1915 but had reduced to onetenth
by 1991. Rent control has been widely identified as a factor in this decline; it is
argued that there is a direct correlation between reduced rental returns and reduced
investment in the sector.

Trump’s tax reform

What joy with the new Republican tax reform framework – anything that makes the Economic Policy Institute whine is obviously a good idea. That teachers’ union head Randi Weingarten is having hysterics is just icing on that cake which is not, this time, a lie. The plan’s not perfect, that’s true, but this is politics — being absolutely right isn’t something available in this sphere of life.

Ahh, economics, it’s all so complicated, isn’t it?

As the FT has reported the Office for National Statistics is revising a number of features of UK national income reporting from this month. One thing that will change as a result is the way that the UK current account deficit with the rest of the world is recorded (it’s always been a deficit in the chart that follows, so I only give it one sign in my description). This is what it will look like before and after revision.

OK, current account deficit, fine.

Now, let’s ask a simple question? Who has delivered the biggest run on the pound? I think the answer is obvious.

Err, sorry? I mean, sure, the value of the pound and the trade deficit are linked but not directly like that.

BTW, if you want to insist upon “run on the pound” then the answer is Gordon Brown.

Yep, even larger than John Major…..

Fun how the sums never do add up, isn’t it?

Simon Woolley and The Guardian are telling us all how appallingly white Britain’s elite is. This is rather a large campaign by them in fact. One part of which gives us our nomination for the most egregious piece of innumeracy to appear in The Guardian:

But right now, the path to power for minorities is strewn with rocks and hurdles. A BBC study last year – accompanying David Harewood’s documentary Will There Ever Be a Black Prime Minister? – highlighted the fact that 50% of the 2014 intake for Oxford and Cambridge University was taken from five private schools.

Surely one of The Guardian’s editors was going to catch that? After all, most of them did go to private schools and then onto Oxbridge. They’d thus have personal experience of the relative sizes of the various institutions.

We have another name for this laddie

Momentum’s The World Transformed has discussions on everything from the nature of work, the housing crisis and rebuilding Britain’s democracy to the challenges facing a radical left government. But it’s done in a participatory way: meetings break out into groups to discuss and debate the issue at hand.

Reinforcement of groupthink.”

‘Coz there ain’t anyone there saying they’ll solve housing just by issuing more planning chitties, is there?

Oh dear, George doesn’t understand what a commons is

That it is necessary to explain the commons testifies to their neglect (despite the best efforts of political scientists such as the late Elinor Ostrom). A commons is neither state nor market. It has three main elements. First a resource, such as land, water, minerals, scientific research, hardware or software. Second a community of people who have shared and equal rights to this resource, and organise themselves to manage it. Third the rules, systems and negotiations they develop to sustain it and allocate the benefits.

A true commons is managed not for the accumulation of capital or profit, but for the steady production of prosperity or wellbeing. It belongs to a particular group, who might live in or beside it, or who created and sustain it. It is inalienable, which means that it should not be sold or given away. Where it is based on a living resource, such as a forest or a coral reef, the commoners have an interest in its long-term protection, rather than the short-term gain that could be made from its destruction.

No, just no.

A commons is a resource, entirely true. But it’s a resource with common access – thus the name. And Garrett Hardin told us a lot about these. When demand for the resource is below regenerative capacity then it can simply motor along as is. When demand rises above that then some form of management must be imposed. Hardin thought there were two, state (regulation that is) or private property. Ostrom added the third, the community of users themselves, spontaneous order that is. Which works, up to some number of people – a couple of thousand tops.

That is, everything after the sentence stating that a commons is a resource, everything is about how people manage that access to the common resource, that’s not part of the definition of what the resource is, nor a commons. It’s in fact a definition of those commons which have survived, because people have worked out a method of limiting access.

George is entirely missing the point that is. And in doing so he’s also entirely missing the vast amount of work that’s been done on this sort of thing. Coase for example, illuminates which of the three methods we might use in certain circumstances. Hardin himself was insistent that which of his two methods depended on circumstances, nothing else. We might, as we actually do at times, be able to deal with water rights through private contracts. Atmospheric pollution less so and regulation is more likely as a solution. Or at least government action. How many cows the 30 farmers of the village can put upon Minchinhampton Common might well be left to the saloon bar of the Dog and Duck. Or the Manorial Court which is much the same thing as Ostrom’s communal regulation.

By not grasping the underlying economic point Monbiot is thus able to ramble off into wibble, sadly.

Isn’t this fun?

The Senior Lecturer now needs to write letters to The Guardian rather than being hired to write articles:

In your editorial (26 September) on John McDonnell’s proposal that PFI contracts be bought back by a future Labour government you suggest that any such action might be constrained by the need to persuade the financial markets to continue to lend the government money. This was an error on your part: this constraint does not exist.

Firstly that is because no government has to borrow. Quantitative easing proved that. In the UK the government (via the Bank of England) has done £435bn of QE, with the result that the government owns nearly a quarter of its own debt now, effectively cancelling it and all the interest payments due on it in the process. What this means is that another £58bn of QE could be used to cover capital costs of PFI without any difficulty. The remaining cost of buying out the service element may be little more and since QE debt carries no interest cost, there may be precisely no cost at all to buying these PFI contracts back into government control as a result. This was precisely the basis of People’s QE, which I created in 2010 and which was one of the platforms on which Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour leader two years ago. In that case the idea that we are beholden to the bond market “confidence fairy” (as Paul Krugman so aptly named it) when proposing such a move is just nonsense. The fact is that if bond markets are truculent any government can just work around them.

Second, your editorial also ignores the fact that there is enormous demand for government debt from the growing number of relatively (and I stress relatively) wealthy retirees needing a secure home for their money. The enormous cash piles of multinational corporations only adds to this demand. That demand proves that in fact those buying government debt are not doing the government a favour: it is instead doing them a favour by providing them with the secure savings opportunity that they crave.

People’s QE was one of the core pillars of Corbynomics and can deliver the end goal of cancelling PFI. It is time for it to re-emerge centre stage and see off once and for all the interminable questions of how PFI repurchasing and other infrastructure investment will be paid for.

Professor Richard Murphy
Professor of practice in international political economy, Department of International Politics, School of Social Sciences, City, University of London

Isn’t that gorgeous? Note that he still thinks business buys gilts – they’ve some £1.5 billion of them, 0.01% or so of the total.

Well, no, not really

Parsha is keenly aware of the incongruity of going to work each day at one of the richest companies in the world after sleeping in the back seat of her car. “Sometimes people ask me, ‘Where do you live? What city do you live in?’” she said. “I just feel ashamed.’”

Parsha earns well above Facebook’s minimum wage – she is a content specialist, moderating live videos and other content – but she still hasn’t been able to find an apartment or room that she can afford alongside her student loans and other bills. She’s set up a GoFundMe page, and shared it on Facebook.

“It’s not enough pay to survive based on the rent that’s out there. How can people survive? A one-bedroom is at least $1800,” she said, underestimating what she would likely have to shell out for an apartment of her own.

“That’s my whole check right there.”

Well above” so, say $20 an hour? 180 hours a month, $3,600.


The more amusing thing about this piece is that it’s all about how people who work at Facebook can’t afford to live there. Which is entirely true by the way:

But those wages only go so far in a region with out-of-control housing costs.

That it’s the local governments which cause this isn’t one of the things they deign to mention.

This is actually important

BP has started production at the Khazzan project in Oman, the largest of the new projects it has scheduled for this year, as the oil major attempts to export its US fracking experience around the world.

The $16bn gas project uses the same controversial drilling technique that has unleashed an energy revolution in the US. Fracking has been used to prepare around 200 wells that will tap gas three miles below the earth’s surface in extremely hard, dense rock.

Yeah, yeah, BP, engineering excellence etc.

And yes, I know, they’ve been fracking for oil in the UK for decades now.

However, there’s an important point about advances in extraction technology. Say that we’ve got a field or a well (Macondo? Sure, went wrong but….) in 5,000 feet of water and then deep under that. We work out how to drill and extract all the same. This does not then mean that we’ve got that extra oil from that one field or well. It means that we’ve, at least potentially, got all the oil that lies deep under the seabed in 5,000 feet of water.

Being able to frack gas in Pennsylvania does not just mean that the Henry Hub price goes down and the US chemicals industry booms. It means that we’ve the whole world to go explore again for gas deposits that can be fracked. Being able to process nickel laterites (something only worked out in the past couple of decades) does not mean that we’ve the nickel and cobalt output from Murrin Murrin. It means that all nickel laterites around the world are now potential sources of nickel and cobalt.

This is the bit about resource availability that the exhaustionists aren’t getting. Technical advance doesn’t just mean opening up the one deposit, it gives us a whole new world, another Earth, to go explore.

We can now hard rock frack three miles down? Great, so that’s the entire planet we can explore again for gas deposits in hard rock three miles down.

Or, as we might put it, technology creates new worlds for us.

Not great but not bad either

As a joke that is:

She said: “Harry can’t actually fly a helicopter so they had to make him co-pilot. “So he just sits there going ‘vroom vroom”.

Others know more than me on this but isn’t the co-pilot the one who kills people?

Ms Dent Coad also made inflammatory remarks about the Queen’s husband, telling the audience: “The Queen might want to step back when she hasn’t got her (cough, cough) soulmate beside her.” She added in an aside: “He’s been mucking about for years, he’s not been a faithful husband.”

You’ve had a word with Jezza about his love life, have you?

So, Wakefield didn’t win then

The UK has eliminated measles for the first time, global health leaders have said.

Elimination of measles or rubella can be verified once a country has sustained “interruption of endemic transmission” for at least 36 months, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The UK nearly achieved this in the 1990s but was set badly off course by the MMR scandal, which saw vaccination rates plunge.

Health officials said rates have now reached the recommended 95 per cent coverage level in five-year-olds.

The European Regional Verification Commission said the UK has now achieved elimination status as of 2016 for measles.

In the year of my birth measles killed 127 children. And left some unknown, larger, number permanently blinded and or brain damaged.

The last known case of smallpox (other than infected lab workers) was when I was in secondary school, the declaration of victory just before I left it.

It always rather worries me when people say that living standards aren’t rising. Continuing to live is, I tend to think, a rise in standards. So is parents not having to carry a little white coffin….something the modal family of a century ago was likely to have to do.

Well, I agree, of course, but consider the source

The Guardian really does need to improve its economic literacy

That’s the Senior Lecturer saying that…..who also says:

Second, this comment ignores the fact that there is enormous demand for government debt from two sources. One is the growing number of relatively (and I stress, relatively) wealthy retirees needing a secure home for their money. The other is big business that is sitting on massive cash piles because it has no idea what to do with all the profit its monopoly based activities now generate for it, and so they lend it to governments as the only secure place to deposit mountains of cash.

Hmm. Who owns gilts is here. (“distribution of gilts holdings as an .xls). That big business stuff is “private non-financial companies” who own £ 1.5 billion or so. As low as it’s been since 2010.

Err, no, that really is £1.5 billion, local government 500 million, public corporations 500 million, monetary financial institutions (not just BoE, but others like them) 640 billion, insurance companies and pensions funds 550 billion, other financial institutions 135 billion, households 85 billion and overseas 520 billion.

Those big businesses looking to stash their profits aren’t even 0,1% of the market. Err, yes, really, zero point one percent not even.

At which point the senior lecturer tells us:

It really is time that the Guardian woke up and smelt the coffee on economics, because right now it is about as economically literate as the Mail, and that’s not a commendation.

Err, yes Ritchie, if you say so.


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Err, Whut?

When he wasn’t making fun of his parent company, Oliver clarified how oligarchies allow businesses to create undesirable standards that hurt customers. Airlines, for example, are able to charge at least $25 for checking an extra bag, made possible because American Airlines started to do it and its competitors followed suit.

Over here in Europe we don’t have oligarchic airlines at all. It’s a hugely and vastly free market. We’ve also got charges for checking an extra bad.

Meaning that fees for checking a bag might not be the result of oligarchy….

On The Guardian’s the Colour of Power report

But their real error lies in their complete refusal to even engage with the subject of age cohorts. They draw their numbers for BAME Britons from the 2011 census. Which is the right source, it’s the best we’ve got, it gives us some 12.5 per cent of the population as such. But that same census also lays out that ethnic composition by age group. Among those over 85 – what we might call the top dogs of the last generation, or at least those they were drawn from – we’ve about 2 per cent BAME. Among those under 4 we seem to have some 21 per cent BAME. It’s a reasonable gradient between those two as well.

Large scale immigration is a fairly recent phenomenon. As such, the portion of BAME Britons declines as we work our way up through the age cohorts. Sure, we can all argue about which group we should be using as our proper comparator here, maybe it’s those past 50, or past 55, but we do start to get to groups which are some 7 and 8 per cent BAME when we consider those we think will have risen to float on the cesspool of national power.

It’s a truly terrible report.