Interesting Political Party

Unfortunately, you can\’t vote fo them as they\’re in Australia:

It is not moral to give away other people\’s money.

The LDP doesn’t believe that the government should have any role in regulating, controlling or monitoring our love lives.

Adults should be free to control their own sex lives without the coercive interference of the government or any other group.

Raising a child is the job of parents, not the government.

The LDP supports free choice for adults.

The LDP believes that each individual should be allowed to discriminate using their own property, but should not be able to use to the government to discriminate against any group.

And a lovely answer:

What would your Party do to safeguard family time?

Nothing.

Honest politicians, eh? Who would have thought it possible?

Errm, Dean, Well…

I see your point but….

The regulatory policy that states had in place was deliberately to designed to have a cross subsidy, with industrial users paying more so that residential and commercial users could pay less. One expected result of deregulation would be that this cross-subsidy would be eliminating, which would mean that electricity prices for residential and commercial users would rise relative to prices for industrial users. It would be quite striking, if it turns out that even industrial users did not benefit from deregulation.

I\’m perfectly willing to agree that such a cross subsidy was in fact what was planned, what was desired. However, I would argue that there is at least the possibility of an alternative explanation of the results of deregulation. That such a cross subsidy was not in fact achieved. That, despite the desires of the planners, it was actually industrial large users who were subsidised by residential and commercial users.

That does at least explain the observed facts, that industrial users are facing higher (I assume relative to commercial and residential…for if everyone is paying higher prices then that might just be changes in raw materials or fuel costs) prices under the deregulated system.

It also fits with my own prejudices Bayesian Priors, that when a system of such cross subsidy, of regulation, is set up, whatever the intended outcome, those with the biggest incentives are going to be those who strive most to make sure that the system benefits them. Thus the industrial users, given that they had vastly higher and more concentrated benefits from gaming the system than residential users did, worked harder to make sure that they system benefitted them, not the residential users.

In short, such planned systems might have an intended outcome, and we often see when they unravel that the actual outcome was the opposite of what was planned.

A good reason not to have such planned systems, of course.

 

Making Politicians Behave

Jamie Whyte has an interesting idea:

When no amount of prior regulation reduces the quantity of subsequent regulation, it is clear that politicians\’ incentives to legislate are disconnected from any good that their laws might do. How can this preposterous situation be remedied?

An attempt is currently before New Zealand\’s Parliament. The Regulatory Responsibility Bill aims to improve the quality of legislation by specifying principles of responsible regulation and requiring the sponsor of any new Bill to report on its compliance with these principles.

The principles are simple and uncontroversial but still sufficient to rule out most recent British legislation. For example, one states that legislation should not diminish the rule of law by creating uncertainty as to whether actions are lawful. That would dispose of Britain\’s “incitement to hatred” laws. Another states that legislation should not diminish freedom of contract. That would rule out most employment legislation, which is little more than a conspiracy against freedom of contract. And the principle that a Bill should not be passed into law if its goal could better be achieved without it would do for almost all other legislation of recent years.

Alas, the Bill does not go far enough. It provides no extra-parliamentary mechanism for ensuring adherence to its principles, explicitly ruling out judicial review. The shame of publishing a report about their misguided, principles-violating legislation is supposed to keep politicians honest.

As the first comment points out, that mechanism was in fact the House of Lords.

But the general thrust seems sound. If we cannot have my preferred solution to politicians (hang them all and let God sort them out) then can we at least make them irrelevant?

Enoch Was Right!

I\’m still really rather amazed about this scandal over Enoch Powell:

Nigel Hastilow, Conservative candidate in a Midlands marginal, wrote in a newspaper in Wolverhampton (where Powell was MP when he made his infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968) that most local people think immigration is our biggest problem, and that “Enoch was right” to say mass immigration would change Britain “irrevocably”.

Because of course this is entirely true. Mass immigration did change Britain irrevocably. As did the invention of the telephone, the seed drill and as the internet currently is. That is simply a complete no brainer.

The rather more complex question is whether all four changed Britain for the better: I happen to think so, yes, but that\’s a rather different matter. That the change was predicted and that the change has happened are simply facts, facts that cannot be argued with. So why the lynch mob?

Simple Answer

A quarter of graduates do not have full-time jobs more than three years after getting their degrees, according to government figures.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency, which examined the career progression of 24,000 people, also found that 20 per cent of those who were employed were not working in graduate occupations.

So too many are getting a degree then.

Absolutely Agreed Polly!

It\’s time to end faith and grammar schools that damage children\’s chances and limit most parents\’ choices.

It is absolutely the time to remove the limits on most parent\’s choices. Of course, we shouldn\’t do that by the method you advocate, which is that pupils are assigned to a school, rather, we should work the other way around. We should maximise parents\’ choices by slapping a voucher on the back of every kid and letting parents choose as they wish.

As they do in Sweden.

Yes George

You\’re right:

It doesn\’t get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava. The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the district of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought. It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.

This is indeed insane. But what causes this insanity? Well, have you noted that little phrase, "government decided"? Yes, that\’s it. It\’s government, the planners, who have made this howling error. There\’s our own system of governance, the EU, insisting upon 10% biofuels, then there\’s the Swazi one, making their own error given those incentives.

You see, something we keep trying to tell you: politicians and bureaucrats do not make decisions which benefit us all, they make ones which benefit polticians and bureaucrats: which is why we would like them to have as little decision making power as is possible, consistent with still having a State capable of doing the things that it must.

Ziegler took up the call first made by this column for a five-year moratorium on all government targets and incentives for biofuel: the trade should be frozen until second-generation fuels – made from wood or straw or waste – become commercially available.

And there you go, falling immediately into the same trap. It\’s no good going around pointing out the errors of planners: you need to point out the error of such planning.

A recent study by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen shows that the official estimates have ignored the contribution of nitrogen fertilisers. They generate a greenhouse gas – nitrous oxide – that is 296 times as powerful as CO2. These emissions alone ensure that ethanol from maize causes between 0.9 and 1.5 times as much warming as petrol, while rapeseed oil (the source of more than 80% of the world\’s biodiesel) generates 1-1.7 times the impact of diesel. This is before you account for the changes in land use.

I haven\’t seen the study but I\’m willing to believe it. David (?) Pimental has been making the same point about maize derived ethanol for nearly a decade. But that hasn\’t stopped the idiot planners from pushing it forward.

If the governments promoting biofuels do not reverse their policies, the humanitarian impact will be greater than that of the Iraq war. Millions will be displaced, hundreds of millions more could go hungry. This crime against humanity is a complex one, but that neither lessens nor excuses it. If people starve because of biofuels, Ruth Kelly and her peers will have killed them. Like all such crimes, it is perpetrated by cowards, attacking the weak to avoid confronting the strong.

A little strong perhaps, but sound in essence. Yes, indeed, we must stop this push towards biofuels, for it is indeed economic nonsense.

But do remember this little episode next time George has a suggestion for dealing with any particular problem, won\’t you? The planners are not always right.

Taxation Bananas

This is good news don\’t you think?

Richard Murphy, a tax expert who advised the NAO on its report on the performance of the UK Revenue and Customs, said that large companies are effectively now able to set their own tax rates. "Corporation tax is falling worldwide as a percentage of profits. Corporations seem to be deciding what they should pay, not as a percentage like the rest of us, but as a sum above which they don\’t want to go."

John Christensen, a former economic adviser to the Jersey government and director of the campaign group Tax Justice Network, said the Guardian investigation confirmed that the flight of capital was continuing, having reached unprecedented levels in the 1990s. "The trend in the last 30 years has been to shift the burden of tax away from companies on to the consumer and labour. Capital is increasingly going untaxed."

For as we know, the taxation of corporate profits actually leads to lower wages. Proof here. So we can in fact celebrate these glorious upholders of the workers\’ wages at the expense of the predatory State.

We might also note that capital isn\’t in fact going untaxed: it\’ just being taxed where it ought to be, at the level of the individual, when they receive their dividends or capital gains. A good thing all round then.

WW III and Climate Change

This is nonsense of course:

The battle to deal with climate change needs to be fought like "World War Three", the head of the Environment Agency has warned.

…..

"This is World War Three – this is the biggest challenge to face the globe for many, many years. We need the sorts of concerted, fast, integrated and above all huge efforts that went into many actions in times of war.

"We\’re dealing with this as if it is peacetime, but the time for peace on climate change is gone – we need to be seeing this as a crisis and emergency," she said.

Something that is going to happen over several centuries is nothing like a war at all. This is simply the institutional memory of a bureaucracy harking back to the days when they got to boss people around.

She said measures such as improving the resilience of existing homes to flooding, not building on floodplains and improving water use efficiency were needed.

That\’s more like the sort of level of things we\’re talking about. Sticking water meters in, not doing things isanely stupid like building on ht Thames Gateway flood plain….simple enough and not in any way "war".

Robert Watson, chief scientist of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was asked later whether Britain needed to spend 42 per cent of its budget on climate change as the United States did on the war in World War Two. He said tackling climate change required will but was possible at relatively little cost.

Quite, in fact, if we were actually being sensible about this we could tackle it at no cost to us. Allow those in the future, who will be far richer than us, to deal with it.

Darling in Sensible Act Shocker!

I know I shouldn\’t say it, but it looks like the man actually did something sensible. How it grates to say it though….

Speaking to the BBC\’s business editor Robert Peston for a File on 4 programme tonight on Radio 4, Mr King said the emergency talks broke down after Lloyds demanded a £30 billion Bank of England loan at competitive rates as part of the deal.

Critically, he said he told Mr Darling this was "a matter for government" to decide.

The governor said: "I said to the Chancellor, \’This is not something which a central bank can do: they don\’t normally finance takeovers by one company for another – let alone to the tune of £30 billion, which is rather a large amount of money\’.

"So I said, \’This is a matter for government, but you have to recognise that if you were to make available such a facility to one bank, you would have to make it available to any other potential bidder and therefore it will become public.\’

"And I don\’t think it took the Chancellor very long to recognise that not only was this something which central banks don\’t do, it\’s also something that governments don\’t do."

For of course, any such deal would have rescued the shareholders in Northern Rock. Exactly what shouldn\’t happen. Preserving the financial markets, yes, but preserving the wealth of those who have gambled and lost, no.

Planners! Planners! Hurrah ! Hurrah!

Isn\’t this lovely boys and girls? We\’re to have two more areas of the economy planned for us. Works so well, as we know, doesn\’t it?

Gordon Brown will announce a house-building drive, creating a series of "eco towns" across Britain.

Yes, that\’s right. Instead of houses being built where people actually want to live, close to other people, they\’ll be built where no one currently lives. This amazing plan is brought to you by the same people who are knocking down 400,000 homes across the North. Amazing how incredibly intelligent they are, isn\’t it, to know that destroying housing at the same time as insisting we need more housing makes sense?

Further, they\’re going to build these new towns where there are no jobs. For, you see, these will be "New Towns". Eco-towns even, ones where everyone will have to commute to somewhere else in order to make a living. We\’re soooo lucky to have these clever people directing us, aren\’t we?

Ministers will also announce a new Immigration Bill, drawn up in the past few weeks amid growing criticism about the projected growth in population. It will introduce a new points-based system that will restrict immigration from outside the EU to those with skills required in Britain.

More joyousness! Seriously! Ministers will decide what skills the economy needs, they have that perfect knowledge require to work out that we actually need another plumber, but not a plasterer, another Gender Studies lecturer but not another ditch digger. Are we not lucky to be ruled by such omniscient beings?

This from the people running a school system that cannot even impart the most basic skills to a large chunk, after 11 years of forced attendance.

Yes, I\’m sure it will all work out very well, just as planned economies always do.

Aren\’t we lucky, lucky, little boys and girls.

The Angry German

An occasional series in Esquire:

What\’s with all the friendliness? Everybody in America seems to want to make sweet love to all their colleagues while behind their backs they want to ram rusty screwdrivers down their throats. In my country, it\’s the other way around: Everyone at the workplace is unfriendly to each other, and then they are best friends over the weekends playing football. When I started working here, one of my first e-mails went to a senior database administrator. It said: "Database is down. Fix it." It landed me a first-row seat in the department head\’s office, getting a talking down about work culture. To this day, I don\’t see anything wrong. I didn\’t say, "You stupid fuck, you let the database go down while masturbating to Mexican donkey porn. Fix it." Now, I learned that the proper way to say this is: "I know you are really busy, but I cannot continue my work while the database is inaccessible. If you don\’t mind, could you look into the problem and let me know if there is a chance you can rectify it? Sorry to be a bother." No wonder shit doesn\’t get done in time when you have to write a freaking novel for each simple thing.

Anyone who has dealth with both Germans and Americans will see the truth of his statements. More articles here.

Blogger Down!

We appear to have a UK based blogger who can do with a little bit of help. A graduate medical student who is about to get thrown off her medical course for lack of money.

Who she is and why this situation has arisen I don\’t know. But, Billsticker does know her and says that this is all kosher and that\’s good enough for me.

The blog of Merys is here.

So, as much as it pains me to do so… I\’m asking for your help. I know I\’m not a charity case, but I\’ve come too far to give up now.

The access to learning fund has rejected me, along with my university hardship fund. The bank won\’t give me a career development loan, so basically I\’m screwed.

Now I agree that someone who is, by any world standard, rich, is not the most urgent call on your limited charitable funds, so do make up your own mind as to whether you\’d like to toss the odd pound or two her way. She has PayPal enabled for your convenience if you should decide to do so.

Despite that suspiciously Welsh sounding name I\’ve done so: but then as the capitalist bastard that I am I can afford to do so, can\’t I?

Up to you.

 

The One Leg Necklace

I know, I know, I shouldn\’t believe everything I read on a celebrity gossip site. But this:

Paul’s daughter has exacted her revenge on her wicked stepmother by reportedly designing a one-leg necklace.

Fierce!

The silver, single-limbed pendant was unveiled to a select group of fashion industry players in Paris last month as part of McCartney’s debut jewellery collection, and is set to launch for spring/summer 2008.

Fierce? Good grief!

I\’m Very Confused

And please stop laughing at the back there, yes, I kow, not an unusual situation.

Richard Murphy:

But what is clear is that in this case the banks, despite having a useful role for which they have been given the right to claim for themselves about 97% of all seignorage, worth about £45 billion a year for their profits, have declined to support Northern Rock even though it is, according to the Bark of England solvent and able to pay its way.

Hunh? Are bank profits in the UK actually £45 billion at all? I\’d be astonished if they were (note, profits from banking in the UK, not of global banks that happen to have their HQ here). The links gives me this:

That technical factor also points the way to monetary reform at the national level. Dematerialised non-cash money (i.e. electronic bank-created money held in bank accounts and transmitted between them by modern information and telecommunication technology) is now overwhelmingly important. About 97% of this country\’s money supply is created in that form by commercial banks, and only 3% as banknotes and coins issued by the Bank of England and the Royal Mint.

The commercial banks create the non-cash money out of thin air, calling it credit and writing it into their customers\’ current accounts as profit-making loans. That gives them over £20 billion a year in interest, while the taxpayer gets less than £3 billion a year from the issue of banknotes and coins. Stopping
commercial banks creating non-cash money, and transferring to the central bank responsibility for creating it and issuing it debt free to the government to spend into circulation, will result in extra public revenue of about £45 billion a year. This is the reform with which this book is specifically concerned.

Errm, is this just fractional reserve banking all over again? I think it is you know. Didn\’t know that Murphy hung out with the LaRouchies.

New Blog!

Liberal Conspiracy.

Opening with many heartfelt paens to the joys of, well:

There is no denying that Liberal Conspiracy is partly born out of the frustration that many organisations who champion liberal-left ideals do not cooperate much with each other. It isn’t just the sectarianism that has traditionally been the preserve of hard-left socialists.

As our politics splits up into single-issue groups concerned about the environment, civil liberties, feminism, anti-racism, social justice, alleviating poverty etc – there isn’t much dialogue taking place between them and there is certainly a lack of broad coalition-building to push for political aims together. We want to be the network hub where other organisations sharing our ideals are promoted and their campaigns highlighted.

It’s all part of building a vast liberal-left conspiracy of course.

Mmmm hmmm.

I hate to tempt fate but, fingers crossed, touching wood and stroking a rabbit’s foot, this blog could turn out to be a rarity: a place where liberals and lefties gather to debate that I don’t feel an immediate urge to leave.

I doubt I’m alone in feeling that way. No need here to recap the British left’s long and turgid history of ideological introversion and sectarian scrapping.

Chris Dillow\’s a part of it which means that it will at least have some good writin and interesting arguments.

I\’d give them, say, three days before the ideological introversion and sectarian scrapping start. Maybe a little longer, perhaps until Chris points out (again, and correctly) that you can\’t have both a large State and a redistributive one. Or that markets actually solve many of the problems "left liberals" whine about.

The Low Carbon Kid Part II

This actually rather worries me. This bloke actually works as a news editor for Defra: thus he\’s influencing how the Beast of Government actually views these things:

Renewable energy will, by contrast and by definition, last forever. Oh yes, and it\’s free.

You what? Free energy? What is he drivelling about?

 

Paul Krugman: Wobbled By Wealth

Err,

The public wants change. … Nor is the demand for change solely about Iraq: there has been a strong revival of economic populism. Democracy Corps asked those who believe America is on the wrong track to choose phrases that best described … what’s gone wrong. The most commonly chosen were “Big businesses get whatever they want in Washington” and “Leaders have forgotten the middle class.”

So much, by the way, for pundits who claim that Americans don’t care about economic inequality…

Paul laddie. That first answer isn\’t a condemnation of economic inequality. It\’s a condemnation of the way in which the State pokes its nose into economic life. If Congress weren\’t so hell bent on detailing what we all may do then business wouldn\’t be in there buying the right to do as they wish. The way to stop business buying such influence is to stop Congress attempting to have such influence capable of being bought.