Very Good

The trouble is that Brown does not have the panache to lean across the dispatch box and saw to Cameron, “I understand that you are concerned about strange people occupying high places in our public life – may I lend you a mirror.”

Minimum Wage Workers

Russ Roberts points out one of my favourite little factoids about the US minimum wage: how few people actually earn it.

I often ask students or people attending my lectures to guess the proportion of the US work force that earns the Federal minimum wage or less. The median guess is usually around 20%. In 2006 (the latest numbers available), the BLS reports that the answer was 2.2%:

Unfortunately, on the page he\’s taken his information from he\’s missed one thing which makes his case even stronger.

Nearly three in four workers earning $5.15 or less in 2006 were employed in service occupations, mostly in food preparation and service jobs.

 

That\’s your waitron units and barkeeps folks. And what do we know about people who do these sorts of jobs? Well, perhaps you have to have actually done them (as I have, everything from the graveyard shift in a Denny\’s to tending bar around the corner from this guy\’s place): they all make tips. In fact, so much so that there is (or at least used to be when that BLS report was prepared) a special minimum wage for those in such jobs, one lower than the official Federal minimum wage.

For example, way back when, the min. wage was $3.35 an hour. Waiters got $2.01. You didn\’t really care because even serving pancakes at 5 am you made another $25-$30 a shift ($50-$150 in a decent place). Barkeeps got $3.35 plus tips.

The BLS numbers are reporting what employers paid employees, not what people are actually earning. So we might in fact say that while the number being paid the minimum wage or less is 2.2% of the workforce, the number actually earning that figure is more like 0.5%.

Baby Music

Turns out BB (That\’s Baby Bigmouth- Ed) likes appalling renditions of Wipeout played on dusty guitars by her rusty-fingered dad, is rather partial to the odd bit of blues and likes nothing better than a bounce about to Beyonce with her mum.

That probably creates great marital harmony than the implications of her Dad bouncing about with Beyonce…..

How True

My perspective is classical liberal. I caution the reader not to slip into thinking that classical liberalism characterizes the foils Krugman sets against himself, chiefly Republican politicos. By and large, they do not represent classical liberalism, first, because they are politicos, and secondly, because they are Republicans.

From a study of all Paul Krugman\’s NYT columns. The basic thesis is that his committment to social democratic ideals obscures the fact that many actual proposals and positions are to the detriment of the poor.

You could substitute Conservative for Republican there and it would make perfect sense in the UK context.

Mr. Freedland Speaks Out!

Please Jonathan, learn what words mean:

The Black Monday of 2008, which saw £77bn wiped off London share values, was matched at one point yesterday on Wall Street, where even a drastic emergency cut in interest rates could not prevent wild volatility.

Volatility means changes in prices. Both up and down. The aim of cutting interest rates was in fact to increase volatility: they wanted to make share prices go back up again after they had fallen. So they didn\’t in fact want to prevent wild volatility, they wanted to cause it. Sheesh.

For they suggest turbo-capitalism is not just unfair – it is dishonest and dangerous. If that sounds excessive, focus, if you will, on the banking sector at the heart of today\’s mess. It was the reckless gobbling up and selling on of shaky subprime loans – mortgages given to bad-risk customers – by American banks, and the threat that those debts would never be paid back, that triggered the entire loss of confidence that stopped banks lending to each other and caused the run on our own Northern Rock. Those sub-prime debts were dodgy, but they were wrapped up and sold on as if they were triple-A-rated, pukka debts, as solid as a government bond.

That was dishonest – and you need only look at the cost to the taxpayer of Northern Rock, £24bn in loans and another £30bn in guarantees, to see how dangerous it has been for our economy and, given the diversion of public money that could have gone elsewhere, for our entire society.

The American banks have already owned up to $100 billion in losses on such products: those who made the mistake (the dishonesty if you must) have paid the price: we\’re not going to see this particular mistake repeated in our lifetimes. Please also note that all of this has happened before the bureaucrats have finished sharpening their pencils. Yes, markets do go wrong, as does any other system inhabited by human beings. The question is, what system clears up such mistakes best? Markets or those guys still working away with the penknives on their pencils?

As to Northern Rock, I\’ve not heard that their own loans sold on (the Granite paper) have defaulted. That was a different mistake, one of borrowing short and lending long (which all banks do) on a larger scale than was prudent. What\’s made that problem greater than it could and should have been is precisely that we\’ve got the pencil sharpeners looking for a political solution. Twenty years ago there would have been some City heads knocked together (if indeed NR hadn\’t been stopped from pursuing the path it did in the first place) and we\’d have had a messy, but adequate, solution back in August.

You could argue that capitalism is always like this, parasitical on the state.

Well, some of us do indeed argue that, that capitalism, in the form of big business, always tries to be parasitical on the State. Seeking rents and privileges. Which is why we argue that the State should not have the power to grant such rents and privileges. But that\’s not I think what you are arguing.

Whether it\’s the internet businesses that would be nowhere had it not been for the government research and development that created the web,

Grr, grr. The internet and the web are two very different things. The internet was indeed trialled by the US DoD. The web was something very different indeed, knocked together by one man over a week or two. That Sir Tim Berners-Lee was working at CERN at the time is pretty much irrelevant.

or the vast agribusinesses and others dependent on the "corporate welfare" of state subsidy – an estimated $92bn a year in the US, according to the libertarian Cato Institute – it\’s time to admit there is no such thing as a free market.

No one rational ever tries to state that there is, ever has been or ever will be a free market in anything. Markets are always constrained: it might be by customs, by law, by habit, but there are always constraints. There must be, for how can you have a market without a delineation of property rights?

The argument isn\’t "free markets" or "not free markets". It is always "freer markets" or "less free markets". And one very important part of the argument for freer markets is that we want to reduce the ability of people, whether they be unions, corporations, individuals, classes, professions, whatever, to seek rents and privileges from the State.

It is of course lovely that you quote Cato: but it would be interesting if you understood the point that they\’re trying to make. Archers Midland Daniel is as much a danger to, a leech upon, freer markets as the minimum wage or the UAW. And Cato (along with people like the ASI) are one of the few groups who proclaim this evident truth loudly enough that even you should be able to hear it.

This Does Not Compute

OK, we know that male dairy calve are worth nothing and are therefore shot at birth. We know that at least part of this is because we Brits don\’t eat veal.

But in their bid to turn out ever-greater quantities of milk at ever-lower cost, dairy farmers have come to rely on what US nutritionist Sally Fallon calls "freak" cows – animals with abnormally active pituitary glands. Hard-wired to produce copious amounts of milk, they have to be fed – not on fresh pasture, the natural food of ruminants – but on high-energy feeds such as maize and cereal grains, and high-protein foods such as soya.

These walking milk factories are so gaunt and bony in frame that their calves are impossible to fatten economically. That\’s why beef farmers who once turned dairy animals into good quality meat are no longer interested. And it\’s why thousands of calves have to be exported to the continent – where the veal industry thrives – to find a market.

Erm, but what is this magic that makes it economic for a Frog to fatten up the calf, but not the Brit?

Quite Simon

For the avoidance of doubt – and I would never want you to have any of that – let me state where, for what it is worth, I stand on the European Union. I am against it. This is not a johnny-come-lately position. I have been against it since before we were in it.

I was against it when many of those now against it were actually rather for it. I can still recall the visceral disappointment when, in June 1975, we missed the chance to come out of it. I look at Third-World and collapsing economies such as Norway and Switzerland, and think wistfully of what might have been.

Simon Heffer.

Could be Interesting, Eh?

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have been ordered by the information watchdog to disclose details of their expenses in a move which could lead to nearly all MPs\’ spending broken down for publication.

These are test cases: as we know this information is not routinely released, but someone has asked under an FoI request, for the details of six MPs, and the Information Commissioner has said that they should be released. Thus the details of all MPs can be found by asking fo such FoI information.

And?

Demand for trained nannies has sent their salaries to record levels, with many earning as much as teachers, nurses or police officers.

So what? Isn\’t this what you would expect in a properly functioning labour market? Roughly equal skills levels command roughly equal wages?

Publishing Press Releases

I do wonder sometimes:

They are famous for their sculpted bodies and minuscule bathing suits but Brazilians are getting fatter, according to a study.

More than half of all adults are overweight, said the report by the Brazilian Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

Bariatric surgery being that one where they staple your stomach smaller so that you don\’t eat as much. Has, I\’m told, a 1% death rate fom complications of the surgery. So now we take our statistics on weight problems in the population from the trade organisations of those who benefit from scaring people about weight problems in the population?

School Cookery Lessons

A list of those things that schoolchildren should be able to cook:

Carrot dippers and cheese and chive dip.

Potato and cauliflower cakes.

Vegetable soup with swede or turnip.

Cottage pie with parsnip topping.

Cucumber raita.

Spring greens stir fry.

Purple sprouting broccoli and fish parcels.

Spinach mushroom and onion lasagne.

Spring onion, smoked fish and new potato salad.

Veggie kebabs.

Peas and beans in tomato sauce.

Summer berry fruit salad

Sweetcorn on the cob.

Curried squash.

Chicken, leek and mushroom bake.

Poached pears.

Looks like a fairly political little list don\’t you think? No pork (and if you\’re learning to cook, pork is one of those meats that you do need to learn to cook properly), one beef dish (although not very much. 1lb of beef for 4-6 people is hardly lavishing it on people). Mucho mucho veggie stuff.

 

Blogger Needs Help.

So, got a spare fiver or so, perhaps a little more, sitting around in a PayPal account?

You do?

Good.

Go here, here and here. Then stick some cash into the paypal account on any of those pages.

Yes, of course the things he needs we have already paid for through taxation, and we all know how efficient that system is, don\’t we?

The man\’s struggling to afford an armchair that he can actually sit in. He was, until earlier today, wondering how to have a walking stick made to his needs (rather than an adjustable one which continually breaks). A bath that he can get in and out of would be nice, as would raised kitchen counter tops.

No, of course, we\’re not going to buy all those things for a stranger, someone we\’ve never met, someone we know only as a collection of electrons on a screen.

But we might club together and buy one of them perhaps?

No, don\’t gather here, go there and spend some money. Or at the least, repeat this post or the instructions in it on your own blog.

Yes Polly, there is such a thing as society: it\’s just not the same as the State.