Jackie Ashley and Economics

Slightly sad that one of the country\’s leading commentators misses such an obvious point:

Sport and culture shouldn\’t be vying for funds.

Sigh. We have unlimited desires and we have limited resources. Thus, whether we are talking about tax money or private spending, different things are, have been and always will be, vying for funds.


Maddy, Maddy:

There are three big concerns on EPAs. First, every developed country has used tariff protection in its history to develop industry, but EPAs restrict that capability and could unleash a surge in European imports that could wipe out fledgling industries such as Kenya\’s dairy sector, as well as undercut prices of agricultural products. Second, governments themselves stand to lose a major chunk of their revenue that comes from tariffs; for instance, Zambia would lose $15.8m – the equivalent of its annual HIV/Aids budget. EU assurances that there would be aid to compensate only underline how this would increase dependency on aid. Third, the most complex and most important issue of all is how EPAs will affect regional trade. If you can get cheap widgets from the EU, why bother importing from your neighbour in Africa or the Pacific? UN studies have indicated that EPAs could lead to contraction in exactly those low and medium technology industries that are the basis for successful industrialisation.

I won\’t waste my energy trying to overturn your near insane belief that tariffs lead to economic development. But please, just try this. Joe Stiglitz (yes, the Nobel Laureate, the fellow Guardian writer, the go to guy on this sort of trade policy for the interventionists) pointed out in one of his papers on the subject that even if infant industry protection, import substitution and so on did in fact work, it would only do so if the rulers, the politicians and the bureaucrats, were wise, omniscient, incorruptibles.

This clearly isn\’t the case in Africa now, is it? So, as his paper then goes on to state, it rather makes all of these plans about developing behind such barriers rather moot, doesn\’t it?

As Dani Rodrik likes to say, we may often have to go with the second best solutions: as Africa is run by theiving hyenas, even if what you say about tariffs is correct, we still don\’t want industry being developed by such politicians, so free trade is still the way to go.

Bjorn Again

Bjorn Lomborg\’s piece is most amusing. Simple, cheap and effective things we could do to reduce urban temperatures. Pretty much a summary of part of his latest book.

Of course, the Greenies will hate it. Simply using white roof tiles instead of dark isn\’t the sort of societal change that they so clearly desire.

Frank Steinmeier

Frank Steinmeier is the German Foreign Minister. We have a certain problem on our hands if this is the level of his understanding of matters economic:

Nevertheless, Germany stands to lose more than any other country from any protectionist-minded retreat from globalisation. In the first six months of 2007 alone, the value of German exports nearly passed €500bn.

Look, exports are a cost to an economy, not a benefit. The benefit from trade comes from the imports, not the exports. If we approach all of this globalisation stuff from the wrong end then of course we\’re going to mess it all up.

Imports are what we want, they\’re the things that make us richer. Exports are simply the costs that we bear in order to gain the imports.

The Extent of Autism

I\’m not all that sure about these numbers:

There are approximately 540,000 people with autism in the UK, of which 433,000 are adults who are largely unemployed.

That 540 k number: Just under one in 100 of the population or so. That looks to me like it\’s the number of people with both autism and autism spectrum conditions (like Asperger\’s Syndrome). That fits in with Simon Baron Cohen\’s (the leading researcher in the field) numbers.

Sort of important to note the difference though: Aspie\’s can be as little as being socially not very acute, while "classic" autism goes al the way to not interactinig with the outside world at all.

No, not the most massively important point ever, just an example of the way in which numbers can be expanded to make a case.

The Tories



He’s similarly enthused about David Cameron. “You know, he’s 39 years old, he can moderate the party, and he’s not getting caught masturbating in public parks like half the Tories. They get caught with a stocking around their neck, poppers, and gay porn. What kind of party is that? It’s like an Evelyn Waugh novel.”

Nine Things on the Muppets

That wouldn\’t be allowed on TV today. This is absolutely superb, do read it all:

But whatever the laws and customs of the Muppet world may be, there’s simply no excuse for the actions of certain individuals. One calypso number involves Miss Piggy singing a rather flattering verse about her love for Kermit, only for a dismissive Kermit to respond with the couplet ‘table, napkin, knife and fork / is the only way to handle pork’. Even by ‘70s standards, this is surely the most repellent racial attack you could expect to see on television, far more hideous than notorious sitcoms of the era like Love Thy Neighbour, Curry and Chips or Let’s Stab the Amusing Paki. Mind you, in the wake of Celebrity Big Brother, it’s at least refreshing to see the pig-faced woman on the receiving end for a change.

And there\’s more:

Wagner from the Royal Opera House. Today’s cultural highlight on BBC4: Wagner’s epic masterpiece Siegfried and Roy, including Bryn Terfel’s masterful interpretation of the famous “This Tiger’s Eating My Face” aria. Next.

Blog Information Bleg

So, techie types.

I want to get a decent (free) stats package for the other blog. Specifically, I want to be able to find out the number of page views of any specific page on a given day.

Any ideas?


Sensible Politicians?

Good Grief! Who ever would have thought it? A sensible idea seriously being considered by politicians?

THE Dutch health minister, Ab Klink, is considering a recommendation to offer free health insurance for life to anyone who donates a kidney for transplant.

A leak of the proposal last week sparked a debate in the Dutch press as to whether it represented the first step towards a trade in human organs. Critics warned that it may put pressure on poorer people to give up their organs.

The scheme was welcomed by transplant campaigners. Bernadette Haase, the director of the Dutch Transplant Foundation, said: “If it is properly run and well organised, it could be a solution.”

A survey commissioned by the Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam suggested that the idea would enjoy significant support. It found that up to 15% of the public said they would probably be willing to donate a kidney if they received compensation.

Professor Willem Weimar, who helped to conduct the survey, said potential donors were asked whether they would prefer €50,000 or free health insurance. Up to 80% chose the insurance.

Others called for more radical ways of ending the donor shortage. Andries Hoitsma, a professor of surgery, called for a regulated free market in kidneys with prices of up to €50,000.

As I\’ve noted before, there\’s one country in the world without a kidney shortage. Iran. There\’s also one country in the world with a paid and regulated market in human kidneys. It isn\’t a coincidence.

But don\’t cheer too loudly for this outbreak of common sense. They are, after all, only reversing the previous bad policy. For it is the ban on the trading of organs that the politicians themselves imposed which has led to the problem in the first place.

The IPCC\’s AR4

Keep an eye out, eh?

Over a longer period – centuries or even millennia – rising temperatures could melt the Greenland ice cap, raising sea levels by an extra 22ft.

Wait for the usual suspects to miss that centuries to millenia. Who do you think will be first? Monbiot in The G perhaps?

Rachel Nickell

Yes, DNA science does advance and yes,of couse it would be a good thing to finally clear up the murder of Rachel Nickell. Just one small quibble?

The tests, part of a 13-year reinvestigation into Nickell’s murder, are said to show a one-in-five-million chance that the DNA did not belong to Napper.

Is that what they actually mean? For I\’m not sure how that can actually be calculated. Don\’t they mean that only one in 5 million have that DNA? Thus that there are in fact 10 people in the country with it?

Good Old Will

Reliable as ever is Will Hutton. I agree with parts of his analysis, that bidders are indeed tryingto dump the losses at Northern Rock onto the taxpayer while claiming the profits for themselves: that\’s pretty obvious. It\’s also what any sensible person would try to do, even if they can\’t quite manage to pull it off. However, Will\’s logic then goes a tad awry.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has made some woeful misjudgments over this crisis, but at least he wanted to show private sector sharks some cold steel. No such attitude seems to exist in Whitehall.

The problem is with the politicians, their being muppets essentially. Agreed.

So Will thinks that the politicians should take over the whole bank, nationalise it.


Your Documents Please

I\’ve missed this one so far:

We now accept with apparent equanimity that the state has the right to demand to know, among other things, how your ticket has been paid for, the billing address of any card used, your travel itinerary and route, your email address, details of whether your travel arrangements are flexible, the history of changes to your travel plans plus any biographical information the state deems to be of interest or anything the ticket agent considers to be of interest.

What\’s Porter on about?

Combined with the ID card information, which comes on stream in a few years\’ time, the new travel data means there will be very little the state won\’t be able to find out about you. The information will be sifted for patterns of travel and expenditure. Conclusions will be drawn from missed planes, visits extended, illness and all the accidents of life, and because this is a government database, there will be huge numbers of mistakes that will lead to suspicion and action being taken against innocent people.

Those failing to provide satisfactory answers will not be allowed to travel and then it will come to us with a leaden regret that we have in practice entered the era of the exit visa, a time when we must ask permission from a security bureaucrat who insists on further and better particulars in the biographical section of the form. Ten, 15 or more years on, we will be resigned to the idea that the state decides whether we travel or not.

Who pays for the £1.2bn cost over the next decade? You will, with additional charges made by your travel agent and in a new travel tax designed to recoup the cost of the data collection.

Obviously, at some point my eyes glazed over and I missed it all. Anyone got further details? At first glance this would seem to fall foul of the freedom of movement…..or does that have a "security" get out clause?

Ah, I see more of it with Jenkins:

This is not responsible government. Yet on the advice of a self-confessed “simple sailor” security adviser, Admiral Lord West, Brown is now to encircle Britain with an “e-border”. All comers and goers are to be electronically recorded and asked to supply addresses, phone numbers and computer details, up to 53 items of personal information. Officials are to be given powers to revoke visitor visas at immigration desks without appeal. It will make America’s draconian immigration control seem like open house.

I\’ve been subjected to that cancellation of visas without appeal myself. It\’s quite possibly the one most important thing about the US practice that I would insist should never be tried by any sensible nation.

Sheesh. Still, at least al the Federasts will be annoyed, it entirely puts to an end any idea of joining the Schengen arrangements. Other than that I can\’t actually see any merit at all.

Raise Alcohol Taxes!

Yes, we\’ve got the doctors insisting that booze must become more expensive:

Heavy taxes must be imposed on all alcoholic drinks if Britain\’s "binge-drinking" culture is to be broken, doctors will warn the Government in a report.

The taxes should be "proportionate", with the biggest levies imposed on drinks with the highest alcoholic content, says the British Medical Association.

You would rather hope that intelligent and well educated people like doctors would note a few things. For example, that we already have high alcohol taxes and they are indeed higher on those drinks with higher alcohol contents (Table 1, page 3).

Secondly, that we have free trade amongst the EU nations. That means that you can buy elsewhere and consume in Britain: paying the lower duty levels elsewhere. Finally, that we already have, relative to many other EU members, high alcohol taxation. Higher, in fact, than nations which do not have a binge-drinking culture.

Oh well, perhaps intelligent and well educated is not the same as capable of thought.

Museum of Europe


A recreation of a torture chamber used during Spain’s Franco-era is shown at the temporary quarters of the Museum of Europe in Brussels. Organisers hope to open a permanent museum in the next few years that will illustrate the Continent’s road to unity after the Second World War. Scarlet lingerie, a Soviet ballistic missile and the good-luck charm of a Portuguese lorry driver are other unexpected items in the exhibition, called It’s Our History. Plans for a permanent museum have been delayed by legal, political and financial problems.

Wouldn\’t it be interesting to add a few more torture chambers? Post WWII we might have a Greek one (the colonels), a Portuguese one (Salazar et.al….after all Amnesty was founded to protest the jailing here of two students), so a trio from the Fascists. Then we\’d have a Lithuanian one, a Latvian one, An Estonian one, East German, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Romanian, Bulgarian…or is torture by socialists not something we care to remember?

Those Rape Conviction Figures

Of course we must do something about the fact that only 5% of reported rapes end up in convictions. Of course:

The worst day of Paul Haslam’s life began at 3.30am with a loud knock on the door from the police. They told him he was being arrested on suspicion of rape, and took him to Charles Cross police station in Plymouth.

There, he was questioned about what had happened the previous evening, when he had spent the night with a girl he had known for only a short time. He knew he had done nothing wrong, but he did not know how he could prove it.

Later that day Mr Haslam was released without charge. Three weeks later he received a letter telling him that no further action was being taken. By then he had lost his job and had to tell his family about the arrest.

Mr Haslam, 30, had hardly thought about that day nine years ago until he read in his local newspaper this week that the woman who made the false allegation against him had since done the same thing to seven other men.

Gemma Gregory left a trail of disrupted lives across the city of Plymouth. A judge gave her a 12-month suspended jail sentence for perjury for her latest false accusation and ordered her to undergo psychiatric treatment.

No woman would ever accuse a man of rape if it hadn\’t actually happened now, would they? A simple system of accusation and conviction should be suitable, don\’t you think? For we must always listen to the voice of the victim. This insistence upon evidence is simply so patriarchal, testament does, after all, share the same root as testes.

Gosh, I Never Knew That!

Stunning information here:

The economics alone are questionable. The massive and detailed Stern report last year concluded that the negative impact of climate change could cost the world economy 20 times more than acting to prevent the damage in the first place.

Really? As I recall it, if we spend 1% of GDP per year then in a century we save 20% of GDP. That was it, wasn\’t it? Leaving aside all of his funny stuff about discount rates and so on.

Lawson\’s concern is that nothing interferes with globalisation,

Well, quite. As the SRES tells us, it\’s globalisation that\’s goingto lift the poor up out of poverty. That is what we want, isn\’t it?

The End of Hardbacks

So it looks as if the era of a literary novel being printed in hardback before paperback is over. It\’s really rather odd that they don\’t actually explain what is really happening though.

Hardback then paperback is in fact simply a method of price discrimination. The publisher is trying to charge a higher price to those who really want the work and then a lower price to those prepared to wait a year for the paperback. If publishers are now to stop doing this, it will be because this form of price discrimination no longer works. The reason it doesn\’t is explained:

Libraries, which used to in effect underwrite the hardback market by guaranteeing to buy almost every new literary novel, have diverted resources to music, computers and DVDs.

Isn\’t that lovely? The literary fiction market, all those arty types writing and reading the most incredibly boring codswallop, has been subsidised by your tax money all these years. Good that it\’s ended then, isn\’t it?