September 2008

George today

So, all of what\’s going on, all that\’s wrong in the world, is as a result of businesses buying regulatory favours through the political process.

I find it difficult to disagree with the basic thesis, although "all" seems a little strong.

And of course there\’s nothing remotely free market about such client capture of the regulatory State.

But George seems to think this proves that free markets don\’t work.


If what we\’ve got isn\’t a free market then how do the problems in what we\’ve got show that free markets don\’t work?

Babies and breast cancer

Scientists who examined research covering more than 600,000 women across the world found that for every pound heavier they were at birth, the risk of developing breast cancer increased by six per cent.


We also know that smoking during pregnancy reduces birth weight (I think it\’s 1 cigarette per day reduces weight by 6 grammes?).

Thus pregnant women should smoke in order to protect their children from breast cancer?

Oh well done lads, well done!

According to the Bank of England, mortgage lending in August fell by 95 per cent compared to the previous month – a drop fuelled by uncertainty over falling house prices and speculation over a possible stamp duty holiday.

That uncertainty over the stamp duty.

People who have worked in hte real world know that a decision, any decision, is at times better that umming and ahing until you make the "right" decision. It\’s uncertainty that kills markets….well done lads, just when we didn\’t need it you added two months uncertainty to the housing market.

God I hate computers

So I\’m sitting here in this nice new (to me) office and I cannot get my spiffy little netbook to connect to the network.

Obviously, the router itself is working as on this other computer I can access the net.

And yes, it is indeed a wi fi enabled router. But will that netbook see it?


Now could this have something to do with hte USB modem that was recently installed?

Update. Ah, there\’s a switch you have to press to get it to look for Wi Fi.

Still hate computers though.


Might there be an agenda here?

Telling us to grow our own food. Hmm, mebbe, if that\’s what you want to do. But there\’s something of a political agenda here, don\’t you think?

Prof Lang, who advises the Government on the crisis, said that people who relied on the large supermarkets for their food did so at their peril.

"Ultimately people have to take more control of their food systems," he said.

"If you depend on Tesco or Sainsbury\’s or Waitrose, you are a consumer. In other words your food supply is under their control. But if you garden and can grow at least some food to eat, however little, then you are injecting a little food democracy into your food supplies and asserting your food citizenship."

He\’s the bloke that invented food miles. You know, that idea that it\’s the transport of food which is bad for the environment? That wsa before anyone actually looked at the question, did the sums, and found that transport from farm to retailer is actually only 11% of emissions from the whole process. It matters a great deal more how the food is grown than whether or not it is transported.

So worth taking him and his agenda with a pinch of salt.

Les Anglos

This is, of course, a crisis only of Anglo Saxon casino capitalism, isn\’t it?

Those Continentals, with their much better regulated banks, don\’t have the same problems.

That\’s why Swedbank is on the ropes, why the Danish banking system is imploding, why Fortis is being taken over.

It\’s only the Anglos, of course.

Bradford and Bingley

Financial crisis: Bradford & Bingley nationalisation will cost taxpayers £150bn

Erm, no it won\’t.

The total loan book for B&B is £40 billion or so. So that is the total exposure. Add the Northern Rock exposure and that\’s how you get to £150 billion.

But for it to cost that much you have to value those mortgages at nothing. That every one of them will fail, that none will be paid and that the costs of repossession and resale will be equal to the value of the debt. That is, that all of those houses are worth damn near nothing.

We might indeed be having problems but they\’re not that bad as yet.

It\’s easy enough to believe that we taxpayers will take a haircut of 10%, 20 % even, just as it\’s possible that it could be a wash, but it really ain\’t gonna be a 100% loss.

Or if you prefer, if events do lead to a 100% loss then we\’ve all got much greater problems than that loan book.

Dennis laddie, Dennis


In Berlin recently, David Cameron promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty were he to become prime minister and the Treaty were not to be ratified. That would mean that the first period of any Tory government unleashing, as its main contribution to international politics, a festival of xenophobic hate against Europe. The Tories, BNP, UKIP and the Daily Mail would win the vote – but at the cost of reducing Britain\’s influence across the Channel and Atlantic to zero.

You\’ve still not got it, have you?

It\’s nothing to do with xenophobia, nothing to do with Europe.

It\’s about the specific political structure that is the European Union.

Those Exploitative Western Multinationals

Pigs, aren\’t they? Oppressing third world workers, extracting profit from their hides.

Worth having a quick look at this Peter Hitchens piece.

Don\’t you think they\’d all rather be working for a mining company listed on the LSE? You know, being exploited in the name of international capital?

Michael Meacher

For Labour to have a fighting chance at the next election, radical demands surfaced at Manchester for significant policy change. Not just a crackdown on short-selling, but action against speculators in general. Not just providing local authorities with social grants to build 2,500 social housing units, but allowing them to borrow against their housing stock as collateral to launch a housebuilding programme for the 1.7m applicants on waiting lists.

Erm, borrowing money on the back of housing. Isn\’t this the speculation that got us into this mess?

Tsk My Lord, tsk.

Yesterday critics were quick to attack Cameron for taking money from hedge funds. \’Now we see that the same hedge fund wolf pack who brought HBOS to its knees are bankrolling the Tory party,\’ said Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman. \’No wonder David Cameron and George Osborne wouldn\’t condemn short-selling or the hedge funds\’ disgraceful behaviour.\’

Short selling didn\’t bring HBOS to its knees. Open short interest was under 3% in the week leading up to the rescue bid.

Be useful if those deciding to comment upon such matters were actually informed, wouldn\’t it?

Oh Dear

Nice to see old Adam quoted of course, but perhaps not to support this point.

By losing sight of the purpose of investment, its practitioners have succumbed to the illusion of wealth. This is why it is time to rebuild a new financial architecture on firmer bedrock, not simply patch up the old one with more regulation and public subsidy.

This will mean a much smaller banking industry than Britain, particularly, has been used to. But it will also release thousands of our brightest minds for more productive employment.

Yes, governments should do what they can to minimise the pain of transition. Some good companies will go to the wall along with the bad, but we must not lose sight of the need for lasting change in our economic priorities.

Those banks that remain will not be able to use leverage to inflate their importance in society. As Adam Smith suggests, we may be surprised to find that there is plenty left behind upon which to build our future prosperity.

Smith of course spends several pages pointing out the advantages of fractional reserve banking and of leverage. Indeed, he concludes that it\’s a vital part of the wealth creation process.

Bankers justified their use of leverage by pointing to sophisticated "risk models", which showed they could cope with the odd loss. The fact that they haven\’t shows not just that the risk models were wrong but that the profits made possible by leverage were not real.

Well, sorta. Bad risk models, most certainly, but that doesn\’t mean that all profits from the use of leverage are not real. It means that those made by leverage supported by those bad risk models were transient.

It was that mispricing of risk which was at fault, not the much more basic (and desireable) concept of leverage. After all, there were and are banks out there that were just as leveraged but with better risk models….and they\’re doing just fine.


Really Vince?

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said: “The Bradford and Bingley boil must be lanced now. The Bush administration has already had to nationalise mortgage lending and it looks as though a similar prospect is staring us in the face.”

I\’ve not noticed that the US has nationalised mortgage lending.

I have noted that they\’ve nationalised two semi-state actors, two intermediaries in the mortgage market. But we, fortunately, never went down the route of having such state backed intermediaries, so we\’ve not had to do the same,.

How the world changes

A useful little example of the incredible inefficiency of Soviet farming.

In the 19th century Russia and Ukraine were the bread basket of Europe, but production dropped under Josef Stalin’s forced collectivisation policy and by the end of the Cold War the Soviet bloc had become a net wheat importer.

Now thanks to rising world food prices and a new law allowing foreigners to own land, Russia is once again exporting. With the proximity of Black Sea ports to wheat-deficient Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Russian wheat has a competitive edge.

Private property, eh?

Private v. public education costs


The Rev Tim Hastie-Smith, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, claimed that fee-paying schools work out cheaper because millions of pounds of public money is spent on bureaucracy.

His claims come as research for the Independent Schools Council found state school education cost at least £9,000 per child per year. The average cost of putting a child through private school is £9,069 per year, but some charge less.

Mr Hastie-Smith said that the total state education budget for the last school year was £77.7 billion but claimed that there were “enormous extra costs from bureaucracy and monitoring” that were unaccounted for.

Given the source, a little salt is required with that, but that it\’s even nearly true, given the huge disparity in outcomes, tells us that there\’s something severely wrong with the way that we spend money in the state school system.

Those eco towns

Cabe is also calling for all homes to be powered by renewable energy with gas supply only available as a backup. It said there should be at least 50 dwellings per hectare (2.5 acres) rising to 100 in the centre,…


At 50 per hectare that\’s 2,178 sq feet for a house and a garden (yes,?). Or a plot 10 decent paces by 20 such paces? For house and garden? Are these supposed to be houses or rabbit hutches? 200 m2 for house and garden?

Half of that for the house (two stories providing 2,000 sq feet of space, sounds reasonable, yes?).

Going to be a bit of a bugger growing your veggies on the other 1,000 sq feet isn\’t it?

Oh, and, umm, can\’t you only build houses to PassiveHaus standards at densities of less than 14 per acre or something?