Not all that surprising


Home buyers in the South are paying more than three times as much stamp duty as those in the North of the country, new figures show.

An ad valorem tax is higher where prices are higher? Slap me with a wet kipper. You\’ll be saying that income tax revenues are higher in the South, where wages are higher, next.

It added that the amount of stamp duty now paid by residents in the South – which is made up of London, the South East, South West and the East – was equivalent to around 25 per cent of average annual earnings.

In the North it was only around 10 per cent of average pay.

And that shows the stupidity of the system in itself. We actually want to have labour force mobility. People moving to where the jobs are. And we\’re going to have a tax equal to 25% of annual wages on people making such a movement? Idiocy.

The Demon Booze

The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions has increased by almost a third in just two years as 24-hour drinking laws and the greater availability of cheap alcohol lead to increased consumption.

So people are doing as they wish, perhaps to their own detriment.

Based on data from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, these admissions cost the NHS almost £90,000 a day – or more than £32 million a year.

Given that revenues from booze duty are in the billions of pounds a year, people are paying for the external effects of their actions.

The problem is what? Free people are, after all, free to decide how they want to kill themselves, are they not?

Criminalising Paid Sex

I hadn\’t realised that the idiot Dennis MacShane was involved with this idea to criminalise the purchase of sex.

They say there is no other way of dealing with this scale of misery, but before another law is rushed on to the statute book, with everyone involved feeling the warm glow of a ready solution, it is worth seeing whether the MacShane amendment will work and what sort of principles it is founded on.

As proposed, his amendment makes a distinction between buying and selling sex. While a man will not be able to buy sex in a designated area, it will not be illegal for a woman to sell sex, as long as she complies with the laws concerning the sex trade, chiefly soliciting. Also, it will not be illegal for a man to buy sex from another man or a woman to buy sex from a man, or a woman from a woman, though all these variants in the sex trade – some extremely rare, I grant you – will have to comply with the law in other respects.

So we must conclude that the government does not view the act of buying sex is wrong in principle. This is a shaky position to start from if we are about to introduce yet another criminal offence, because it will be clear to everyone that the exchange that takes place between a man and a woman and a man and a man is exactly the same. The same levels of revulsion, pleasure, release, exploitation, abuse, regret and despair may exist in both transactions, yet only in one will an offence be committed.

Now that I know he is involved it neatly explains why it\’s such a howlingly stupid idea. The man\’s never uttered a sensible word in his life, including the times he\’s used "and" "is" and "a".

Hilary Benn on Climate Change.

There\’s something slightly unfortunate about this:

The world now understands that climate change is not just an environmental problem. It\’s also a security, economic, political and migration problem. What are we going to do when people begin fighting not about politics, but about water? What will we do when people start arriving on our shores fleeing not political persecution, but environmental catastrophe? And what will we do when the countries to which we sell goods can\’t buy them any more because they are having to deal with rising sea levels or crop failure?

The current estimate for climate change refugees is some 200 million over the decades. That is, on a yearly basis, about the same as the current global rate of international migration (no, not the UK one, vastly inflated by intra EU movements). While it\’s something to think about it\’s not a major problem. Water has a simple solution. Allocate property rights and price it correctly. Where water does cause conflict (say, arguably, Darfur) it is because there are no clear rules on who owns access to what water there is. As happens with any commons, when demand for the resource outstrips the natural capacity then management of access must be instituted.

As to falling exports, that\’s inane: we\’ve known sincce 1817 that it is imports which are important, not exports.

The unfortunate thing about this is that the writer, Hilary Benn, is the Secretary of State for the Environment, our chief negotiator on issues to do with climate change, and he clearly has no clue as to what he is talking about.



Hoist and petard comes to mind.

The high-profile demonstration, intended to highlight the force\’s anger over its recent below-inflation, 1.9 per cent pay rise, is threatening to become a major political flashpoint in the new year. The police claim their preferred route for their march is set to be banned under archaic \’sessional orders\’, laws drawn up in the early 19th century to combat large-scale radical protests that threatened a disturbance of the peace.

The orders are renewed by Parliament each year and invoked by the Metropolitan Police if the force believes a protest will prevent MPs from going about their daily business. Critics of the orders claim they are a heavy-handed response designed to stifle peaceful protest.

I wonder how many of said demonstrating police have refused to impose such restrictions on others?

Spiralling Teenage Pregnancy Crisis.

Sex education initiatives are failing to control the spiralling teenage pregnancy crisis, ministers have admitted for the first time.

Sounds bad, eh? So, how much has the pregnancy rate risen?

The Government committed itself in 1999 to halving the teenage pregnancy rate among 16- and 17-year-olds by 2010, compared with 1998 figures.

However, by 2005 – the last year for which full figures are available – the rate fell by only 11.4 per cent. The same figures show that between 1999 and 2005 the overall number of 16- and 17-year-olds becoming pregnant increased from 39,247 to 39,804.

Err, the rate has fallen: what\’s risen is the number of teenagers.

This is a spiralling crisis?

Even the Japanese…

….get sucked into silly government subsidy boondoggles.

The Japanese Government is secretly hatching plans for a huge underwater treasure hunt in the depths of the East China Sea in an urgent effort to secure supplies of the “vitamins of industry”.

The ambitious project, which could begin as early as next spring, will probe the seabed for deposits of ultra-rare metals used extensively by Japanese electronics manufacturers and other cutting-edge technology players.

In a briefing with The Times, senior officials at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) described plans to tap “huge, black submarine boulders” for possible deposits of rare metals extruded from the Earth\’s core. If the state-sponsored quest is successful —and its multimillion-pound budget seems certain to win parliamentary approval — Japan may realise an old dream of resource independence from its sometimes troublesome neighbour China.

The metals they\’re looking for? Gallium, germanium and indium.

They are indeed essential to the electronics industry, but going prospecting for ore on the seabed, risking a clash with China, is insane.

Gallium is extracted from the Bayer Process, the method we use to turn bauxite into alumina (on the way to making aluminium). I don\’t have the exact numbers at my fingertips but there\’s some 35 such plants around the world and fewer than 10 of them have the necessary (and relatively cheap) extraction equipment. Spending a few million (each) on adding a capture circuit to a few more of them would make better sense.

Germanium is similarly extracted from other ores. If that\’s not enough, fly ash (the residue from a coal fired power station) is a decent source: we know how to extract it too. Indeed, the mines at Vorkuta are famed for having 1 kg of Ge per tonne of coal. I\’m a little out of date here but the last time I sold Ge scrap I got $500 per kilo for it: meaning that the waste from burning certain coals is worth 10 times the coal itself. You could stick a capture circuit on the side of Drax and supply the world.

Indium, I can\’t remember which it is, lead or zinc….but again, it\’s there in ores that are already being processed and not every plant doing such processing extracts it.

Better to process ores lready being consumed than to go rootling around the seabed, don\’t you think?

What a Guardian Leader!

Rare is the good news story on the environment; rarer still does it come from the private sector.

It is to giggle, isn\’t it? Good news on the environment has been bombarding us from every side for centuries, almost all of it coming from the private sector. Farming becomes ever more productive, reducing the amount of wild land being ploughed up. Energy is used ever more efficiently reducing both fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions needed to create a certain level of wealth. Wealth itself, lifespans, increase, leading to falling fertility rates.

Good news about the environment from the private sector is rare?

So today\’s report in the Guardian of a possible breakthrough in solar power is to be celebrated. If all comes good, it will mean photovoltaic (PV) cells can be produced nearly as easily and quickly as on a printing press – and rather than being confined to the roofs of smart homes, PV cells could eventually be put on a variety of small surfaces.

This is indeed good news and to be welcomed. However:

To get there, however, will require a lot more government support.

Err, no.

Nanosolar, the company making today\’s announcement, had among its financiers the US government. That\’s right: Kyoto-busting President Bush is funding this green innovation.

Yes, this is true.

The UK government has a subsidy for renewable energy – but it is clearly not set high enough, because alternative-energy use in the UK is way behind target.

And this simply shows that the UK government aimed its subsidy in the wrong direction. Spending the cash on basic science, something which is a public good, rather than on subsidising Jeremy Leggett, which is not a public good, turns out to have been more effective. Really, who would have thought it?

By successfully fostering green technologies, the UK could become a centre in this fast-developing business. But doing that means spurring companies on with subsidies and firm targets.

Again, no. There\’s two possibilities here. One is that this new technology does not work as advertised. Thus the argument for subsidy fails, as we don\’t have an example of its being successful. The second is that it does work, in which case we can stop subsidies altogether. For we now have a technology which makes solar cheaper than coal, which was our aim. OK, so we\’ve done it. No more cash subventions needed.

We do have  phrase which describes the stupidity of continuing such spending after we\’ve succeeded. For who bothers to reinvent the wheel?

Recycling Idiocy

Sadly, another indication that we are ruled by idiots.

With pilot schemes already going well, within two to three years she is determined to see pails of rotting food routinely collected along with the rubbish, then processed at local plants to generate electricity. She foresees a day when every town will have its own anaerobic digester.

The aim of all of this is to stop food going into landfill where it rots and produces methane. "She" is the head of WRAP, the organisation trying to get us all to recycle more.

But why is this idiocy? Why not do this?

Well, the thing is that food that goes into landfill goes through anaerobic decay to produce that methane. Which is then collected and used to generate energy. The proposal is that we should all have rotting food in our houses, waiting for the weekly collection, have a new and discrete collection system (with all of the associated emissions) and new plants, one in every town, where the food wastes can go through anaerobic decay so that the methane can be collected and used to generate energy.

That is, that we\’re going to do what we already do, just in a new and vastly expensive manner, a method with higher, not lower, emissions.

As I say, we\’re ruled by idiots.

The Anglosphere

There\’s a simple answer to this:

That raises a painful question. If Australians, Indians, Canadians, and even Americans can recognise the Anglosphere as a new factor in world politics, why is it something from which the Brits themselves shy?

It\’s that Brits themselves don\’t shy from dealing with the Anglosphere. As the very article itself points out, what creates the thing itself is that we all engage with it. However, the political classes are hesitant to even admit that it exists. There\’s been a 50 year "campaign" (not the right word, I don\’t mean to imply that everyone involved is consciously working towards this aim, rather that it\’s a general assumption) to detach the UK from that Anglosphere, from those cultural links, and attatch the country to Europe.

The stupidity of the aim itself becomes clear if we consider trade. The idea of barrier free trade across the continent is a good one. The larger a free trade area, the more specialisation there will be and thus the greater the wealth created. Unfortunately, at the same time we were told that we must raise barriers to our trade with the wider world, that Anglosphere. Again, the thought that places geographically close to each other should trade with each other is a reasonable one. But the decision to raise the barriers to long distance trade was signed up to only 6 months after the invention of container shipping: something which completely changed the economics of such long and short distance trade. As long as you\’re on the network (Brad Delong\’s done an excellent review on this) geographic distance now means very little: Bristol to Brindisi costs about the same as Bristol to Brisbane.

So the political move to more local trade began just as the very concept of "local" with respect to trade became moot.

Politicians are like Generals, always ready to fight the last war. Which is, of course, why we shouldn\’t allow them to plan the future for us.

Joy! Joy

More bansturbation!

Motorists could be banned from smoking behind the wheel of their own cars while driving them as part of their job, it has emerged.

Isn\’t that wonderful? Your car, with no one else in it, becomes another place where you may not smoke. It gets better too:

Prof Richard West, the Government\’s leading smoking adviser, has called for a complete ban on smoking at the wheel.

He said: "It may seem draconian but the Government should legislate."

Not even the fig leaf about passive smoking is there. Just, I\’m agin it so it should be banned.

Now, where did the wife put that festive length of hempen rope she bought to lower my blood pressure….

Iain Dale\’s Sex Life

The last thing I do before my head hits the pillow is check email or approve blog comments. You might think that\’s sad, but there you go. And it takes me approximately one minute to fall asleep.

Exciting, isn\’t it?

Shock, Horror!

The latest entry has the results of a ComRes Poll, which shows that 44% of MPs now favour Fixed Term Parliaments. Sadly only 25% of Tory MPs have seen the light. Meanwhile 41% of Labour MPs and 88% of LibDems are on the side of the righteous.

44% of parasites want to know how long they\’ll keep their job for.