This is easy for Venezuela

President Nicolas Maduro has said Venezuela would launch a cryptocurrency to combat a US-led financial “blockade,” although he provided few clues about how the economically crippled Opec member would pull off the feat.

The solution to hyperinflation always is a new currency. One that is rigidly limited in issuance so that people can have confidence in it. Maybe not a sufficient criterion, but a necessary one.

So, hands up everyone who thinks Maduro is going to launch a currency with a hard and not breakable issuance limit?

Quite, it’s not going to work, is it?

The new Christmas food according to The Guardian

No, not turkey kebab, turkey taro nor millet and turkey, despite our new national vibrancy:

One Christmas my mother gave me Helen Forrester’s memoir Twopence to Cross the Mersey. What timing! I was warm, overfed on mince peas…..

Hmm, maybe the subs have been at one of those booze advent calendars?

Looking at the actual complaint though:

Forrester was born in 1919 to socialites who built a glittering life on the tick. Then her father went bankrupt in the Great Depression, leaving his family of seven children with only the clothes they stood up in. They decamped to Liverpool, across the Mersey from Forrester’s grandmother, but could never summon up twopence for the ferry. The book is a calm, sad account of a childhood of bitter cold and near-starvation. Her mother numbed her misery with aspirin; her father sought out parish handouts. They lived in a single room. Forrester left school to care for the children, waking at dawn to creep along the street skimming half an inch from the milk bottles on the doorsteps, so that her baby brother would survive.

I never forgot it. It comes to mind when I see the remains of Grenfell Tower, or read about food banks, or people dying with empty cupboards and half-completed government paperwork on the table. It made me realise that poverty isn’t a natural law, nor is it symptomatic of lack of moral fibre. It is a monstrous and an avoidable evil and, so long as society harbours vast inequality, it will always be lying in wait.

There’s something that the dim bint is missing. Missing very badly.

Leave aside the level of whatever welfare state there was at the time (it wasn’t that bad actually, not by the standards of the time etc). Think instead of average incomes. £165 a year for the nation as a whole. Upgrade that to current day incomes and its some £44,000. Upgrade it by goods and services inflation instead, to give us actual living standards and it’s more like £19,000. That’s the average income for the nation.

Two adults and 7 children on £19,000 a year? Yup, that’s poverty by modern standards, isn’t it? It’s also not an evil, it’s not something to do with inequality even. It’s just that the past was poor, poorer than any of us ever realise. The point being that it’s this very capitalism and free markets which have risen us up out of that shit.

No, really. Note that by using the average we’re not addressing distribution of incomes at all. That structural inequality and all that shit are being entirely ignored. The difference between 19 and 44 has been provided by economic growth, nowt else.

Hasn’t the world changed?

Outgoing Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat has defended his decision to delay the introduction of a female lead by saying the show isn’t around to pander to “progressive liberals”.

The argument is over whether the last Dr Who should have been female, rather than the next one will be. But, but, shouldn’t the last one have been as well?

At which point, hasn’t the world changed? That a director has to defend his decision that a male character be played by a male actor?

Well, yes, OK

We know that money buys freedom but we cannot simply maximise freedom by giving people more money. The only result would be inflation. Better is to maximise disposable income for everyone—net income minus essential spend on basic subsistence, housing and energy (rents that act as a drag on productive activity).

Increasing disposable income for the whole of society opens up choices—including ones that GDP cannot measure, for example to do more in the community or spend more time with the kids. Disposable income changes the focus towards productive economic activity rather than wealth extraction. Investment in housing, sustainable energy, and transport infrastructure provide the foundation for a freer society where we are enabled to pursue a productive life.

A second key ingredient in choosing the right metric is to use median measures rather than a crude average (or mean). To see the difference, imagine a football team where one player is earning one million pounds per week and the other ten earn one hundred. The average salary is close to half a million whereas the median income is only one hundred. If the pay of the star player is increased to two million then average income doubles while median incomes remains almost the same. By optimising median income we optimise the distribution such that everyone can be maximally economically active. The importance of using the median measure is discussed on Jonathan Andreas’ medianism blog.

If political-economy is to be of any use, it should not just try to understand the world but also try to improve it. Progress implies that something should be optimised. The GDP money-metric is a crude goal for life, better to maximise median disposable income, first by addressing the optimal distribution and second by provision of universal basic services (health, education, housing, and transport). By switching away from GDP to median disposable income we get closer to maximising freedom, and that matters.

However, given the way that real world economies work we find that higher GDP does translate through into higher median disposable incomes. Perhaps not at the margins, the 5 or 10% differences between two economies, but most certainly over time and relating to any large differences in GDP. Median disposable income is higher in 2017 Britain than 1950 Britain? In 2017 Britain that 2017 DRC Congo? GDP tracking that really quite well, even if not exactly.

Ms. Lucas misunderstands

We know that infinite economic growth simply isn’t compatible with a planet of finite resources, and we also know that the treatment of environmental concerns as “externalities” in pursuit of never-ending GDP increases is incredibly damaging.

We don’t deliberately treat environmental concerns as being something outside our area of concern. Instead, we note that GDP, and other market based measures, don’t capture externalities very well – that’s actually what the word means, that these righteous and just concerns are external to market processes.

We then try to shoehorn them into our decision making process as best we can, there are entire libraries stocked with discussions of this very point. Usually, by adding the price of them to those market processes.

Ritchie and Bitcoin

Now there’s a surprise. A tax haven is promoting the use of cryptocurrencies whose use is untraceable

The entire point of the blockchain is that every transaction, ever, is traceable.

It might be anonymous, at least until it meets the rest of the financial system, but it really is traceable. Because that’s what the blockchain is, a listing of all and every transactions ever.

Welcome to the real world

She dazzled the nation at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, taking home two gold medals.

But now Hannah Cockroft MBE, the world record-breaking wheelchair racer who has won five gold medals for Britain, fears she will become trapped in a cycle of unemployment once she is too old to compete professionally, joining the ranks of Britain’s 800,000 young people who are not in employment or training.

Her comments come amid wider concern that the champions of London’s 2012 Games are falling into uncertain futures, with many having little work experience outside athletics.

This is rather what happens to all professional athletes, isn’t it?


The Government’s social mobility adviser is quitting over claims that ministers are failing to make the “necessary progress” to “bring about a fairer Britain, it emerged last night.

Alan Milburn, a former Labour Cabinet minister has said there is “zero prospect” of the government tackling social mobility.

It was reported last night that was joined in walking out by his three fellow commissioners, including the Conservative former cabinet minister Baroness Shephard.

Given the reports they’ve been releasing we should welcome this, no?

So, an interesting little thought

Probably someone’s going to get here before us. However.

Advent calendars have all become rather more posh these days. Some of them have very much more in the value of the products (usually, to be sure, the “brand” composing much of that value) than the price of them.

And then, well, how many advent calendars get sold after the beginning of advent? And how many after Christmas?

So, there will be overstocks, somewhere, and what happens to them? At what price? And how do we find out? How do we buy them?

There are bourbon tasters, beer ones, wine, fizz etc. Some of which seem to be about £50 for perhaps £80 of booze. But overstocks? Would they get down to £10? For 500 pieces say? 10 people each in for £500, that’s doable isn’t it?

But would they get down to that price and if they did, where would they be for sale?


And, you see, I think it would be the booze ones which would fall furthest in prices. Because who is allowed to resell them is limited by law (no e-Bay, Poundland etc).

Idiot damn stupidity from the UN

The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the world’s richest nation – and its president – to account for the hardships endured by America’s most vulnerable citizens.

There is no extreme poverty in the US. OK, slight correction, absent significant mental health or addiction issues there is none.

There’s inequality, most certainly there is, but that really isn’t the same thing.

At which point, a prediction about this report, as and when it comes out.

With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality.

That US poverty number isn’t a measure of suffering nor of inequality and it most certainly isn’t one of poverty, not even just poverty let alone extreme such.

The American poverty number (this one, the Official Poverty Measure, OPM) is, very largely and accurately enough for government work, the number of people in poverty before what government does to alleviate poverty. The other measure, SPM (Supplemental etc etc) includes some but not all of what government does to alleviate and also is pegged to median income (the OPM is pegged to an absolute real income measure). It is thus a measure of inequality, not poverty.

Sure, the US welfare state isn’t as extensive as many in Europe but still, it does move the Gini by some 10 percentage points or so. But here’s the prediction – the UN report will ignore all of that and its starting point to measure US poverty will be the OPM. As near every other international comparison of poverty does.

Fun fact – food stamps. The average payment to the average recipient (that is, the average amount that someone getting food stamps gets, not the average across the entire population) is $29 per person per week. That is enough, yes controlling for different prices across geography, to put the recipient in the top 50% of global incomes. Another fun fact. The average real income (again, adjusting for prices across geography) of the bottom 10% of Americans is within a percentage point or two of the bottom 10% in Denmark, Sweden or the UK. Yes, after adjusting for free health care and all that. The bottom 5% over there do worse (20 to 30%) than the bottom 5% over here but it simply ain’t extreme poverty anywhere.

The bottom 0.5% of Americans, the homeless etc, yep, shitty – but then that’s significant mental health or addiction problems just as it is for us here.

But as I say, the UN report will ignore all of that, won’t it?

Err, no, not really

The office Christmas party is a chance to let your hair down but there’s a danger of waking up with something a lot nastier than a hangover the next day.
One in five say they’ve had a sexual encounter with a co-worker at the annual bash, according to a new survey.
And one in ten admit they’ve caught a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

It ain’t true that 10% of the population shag at a Christmas party. And it certainly ain’t true that 50% of shags lead to an STD.

OK, that second might be influenced by adding up multiple years of shagging at the party but still, no, not true numbers.

What a way to run a continent, eh?

The European parliament’s health committee this week voted down a proposal from the European commission that would have allowed the use of phosphoric acid, phosphates and polyphosphates in kebab meat made of mutton, lamb, veal, beef or poultry.

The full European parliament is now due to vote on the issue when it sits in Strasbourg in two weeks time. If it is rejected by the parliament, that would send the proposal back to the commission, leaving the future of the doner in limbo.

The European parliament’s Socialist and Democrats (S&D) and Greens/European Free Alliance groups have drafted a resolution to veto a proposal to authorise the use of phosphates in “frozen vertical spit meat” because they argue that there is no proven technological need.

No, not the specific proposal, just the very idea.

The governing body for 500 million people concerns itself with minutiae like “frozen vertical spit meat”? This has always been my main underlying argument against the EU. Fine with the idea of “free movement and trade” being decided up at that level. But the details belong well down the governance pecking order. And no, it isn’t necessary to have the same detailed rules for all to have free trade. You can have trade and competition in standards as well. The correct level for the governance of such additives in doner kebabs is the individual purveyor and her customers.

We are descending into lunacy

Harry Redknapp ‘will make 30 people homeless’ with flats plan

Fer fuck’s sake.

Plans by the football manager Harry Redknapp to demolish a former hotel and replace it with “posh” apartments would result in 30 people being made homeless, including several with disabilities, cancer sufferers, ex-offenders and other vulnerable individuals, according to opponents to the scheme.

Clifford Henley, one of the residents, claimed Redknapp – who was sacked by Birmingham City in September – stood to make a fortune from the 21 flats and three mews houses, adding: “To be chucking 30 blokes on the streets with no consideration whatsoever – it’s brutal.”

Henley claimed the proposals would mean “the destruction of this perfectly habitable building for massive profit … It’s just walking over poor people”. But a spokesman for Redknapp’s company defended the scheme, saying the planned development of one- and two-bedroom properties “is not ‘posh’”, with prices ranging between £160,000 and £300,000, and was open to buyers using the government’s help-to-buy scheme.

So, how many people live in 2 bed flats these days? 3? Two and a kiddie? One beds? Two adults?

So, housing for some 50 people is going up, housing for 30 coming down. This is a net addition or subtraction from the housing stock?

Don’t forget, if we can;t ever knock down old housing then we cannot regenerate the UK’s housing stock (and thus make it energy efficient and all that), have any urban regeneration of whatever and are left only with building upon greenfield sites.


Well, no, not really

They are a much loved late-night snack for revellers as they flock home at the end of a night.

But the future of the kebab is now hanging in the balance, after it emerged that the high street delicacy may be banned from Britain under European Union plans to combat heart disease.

A move by the European parliament to ban the phosphates necessary to keep seasoned kebab meat moist and flavoursome is said to pose a risk to kebabs.

They’re not necessary. They’re “necessary” only in the sense that meat cot off and being store until served needs to be kept moist. Somewhere that cuts off the, ermm, whatever the technical word for the stack of meat is, to order don’t need it. But this is wrong, wrong, wrong:

“Doner kebabs are a much loved staple in takeaways up and down the country and have been enjoyed since the 8th century BC.”

Complete bollocks. The doner kebab dates from around 1974 in Germany. There’s a certain little argument about precedence between two Turkish gastarbeiter but we do know that’s where it all started.

Bread and meat, salad on the side, sure, 8,000 BC. Sticking it all together into a sandwich, 1974-ish. And it’s the sticking it all together which is the doner. The real lesson of all of this being quite how long innovation can take…..

An interesting retirement hobby

A 70-year-old woman living in a Vermont retirement home passed her time experimenting with homemade ricin, even testing it on fellow residents, the Justice Department said Friday.

No one had apparently been killed by Betty Miller’s activities at the bucolic Wake Robin retirement home in Shelburne, Vermont, which advertises a population of “vibrant, engaged people and a community in which you can be yourself.”

But Miller was arrested by FBI agents Thursday amid fears she had stockpiled a weapon of mass destruction.

The FBI was alerted to a dangerous substance at the home earlier this week, and discovered a bottle labelled “ricin” in her residence. Tests confirmed it contained the deadly substance.

“Miller stated that she had an interest in plant-based poisons and had conducted internet research on how to make them,” the FBI said in a statement.

“She stated that she manufactured ricin in the kitchen of her Wake Robin residence and, to test its potency, placed the ricin in the food or beverages of other residents.”

An FBI WMD team returned for a search of her apartment and found more ricin, and components from plants, including apple, yew, cherry, castor and foxglove, which all can be used to produce poisonous substances.

Why not learn how to poison people?

Extra points could be awarded for claiming to be Wiccan and thus covered by First Amendment protections…..hey, it works for some Indians and their drugs.