November 2009

Today\’s Ritchie

Certainly a bee in his bonnet.

And all those who support the secrecy these places provide to facilitate this abuse should be ashamed of themselves. By offering your excuses you will, undoubtedly, be causing hardship beyond imagination and death as well.

Which is why I campaign for the abolition of secrecy jurisdictions – the BVI and Cayman included.

Strong words about an organisation using the courts to enforce their legal claim to an unpaid debt really.

In fact, there\’s nothing about secrecy jurisdictions facilitating this at all. Richard Murphy himself, as an individual UK citizen, could use exactly the same prcedure to insist upon payment of a lawful debt in exactly the same way.

Indeed, I think it odds on that in his business career he did so.

The hard right and a secrecy jurisdiction acting in concert: no surprise there.

Secrecy jurisdictions are captured states that are used to promote the hard right.

There will be howls of protest – but let’s be clear.

Err, perhaps howls of laughter at that absurd conjunction. For this is about the Swiss voting to ban the building of new minarets. And I\’m having an extremely hard time thinking up any manner at all in which Swiss bank secrecy makes the population a group of religiously intolerant xenophobes.

I can think of something interesting that could be said about this story:

The 57 per cent approval of the minaret ban

That there\’s a difference between human rights, perhaps liberty, and what we can get the masses to vote for on any particular day or subject. But then, you see, if we admit to that, that the expressed will of the hoi polloi is not to be listened to in some circumstances then we then need a system of deciding when it will and when it won\’t be listened to.

As in, for example:

But she’s wrong about the electorate. Compass did some polling with YouGov on a sample of more than 1,000 people to support this report, which I co-wrote. The polling was pretty emphatic……..The finding to this one was 78% strongly in favour or agreeing;…….Here the finding to this one was 59% strongly in favour or agreeing…….And the finding to this one was 62% favoured the first statement…….

As we\’ve already noted, just because the people will vote for it does not mean that it\’s something we should do. Which is a teensie little problem for Ritchie there who is arguing that we should do it because the public seem to like it.

New York\’s a different place

Or perhaps they\’re just in a different century.

Traditional Lamaze breathing classes are out,


Aren\’t \”Lamaze breathing classes\” still regarded as outre, on the edge and extremely hip over here?

How in $%&$ did they get to be \”traditional\” over there?

Erm, no Maddy

And they are right. Cameron is extremely bright and it is admirable that he – unlike many of his background – has eschewed money-making for politics.

We\’d all far rather the bright went off and did something useful like make money than that they\’d take it upon themselves to tell us how we should live our lives.

A problem with Lord Stern

This strikes me as really rather odd:

Recent weeks and months have shown country after country raising their ambitions on controlling emissions. It is now clear that if countries move together and they find ways to extend their action we could set the world on a responsible path. We can now see that it is possible to achieve an agreement that is effective, efficient and equitable. It will allow us to avoid the biggest risks of climate change, to overcome poverty worldwide and to usher in an exciting new era of prosperity based on a much more attractive and stronger form of economic growth – sustainable low-carbon growth.

Through innovation and investment in greener and more energy efficient technologies in the next two or three decades, the transition to the low-carbon economy can be the most dynamic period of growth in economic history. And the low-carbon world we can create will also be quieter, cleaner, more energy-secure and more biologically diverse.

This is an argument from an economist, remember, someone supposedly au fait with the subject.

He\’s saying that massive investment in more expensive systems of energy production is going to produce stronger economic growth.


Rather forgotten about opportunity costs there, haven\’t we?

Now, yes, I don\’t doubt that there will be economic growth reported from such actions. But that isn\’t the point at issue: look at that word \”stronger\”. Stronger than what? Stronger than if we don\’t invest all that money in energy production systems which are 2, 3, 5 times more expensive than the technologies we already have? If we invest it all in other things using the current technologies?

That doesn\’t seem to pass the basic logical test does it?

To repeat it with numbers. So, imagine (entirely made up numbers), we go off and spend £100 billion on high priced energy systems. We see some economic growth, yes. Or, we go off and spend £50 billion on current technology energy production systems and invest the other £50 billion in: well, anything really. A cure for cancer, anti-malarial stuff, better computers or in vitro meat production.

We would, in that second scenario, get both energy and a cure for cancer, less malaria, better computers or the ability to grow our own bacon sarnies in the kitchen. And as we\’d have two things (one of those plus energy) instead of just one (energy) we\’d have had more economic growth, wouldn\’t we?

Or if you look at it another way around, more narrowly, economic growth is defined as an increase in GDP per capita (or can be, and that\’s what we\’ll use). GDP itself is a measure of value added to the resources available to us. So if we use our resources to produce expensive energy, or we use our resources to produce cheap energy plus bacon sarnies, we\’ve had more economic growth in the latter system: by exactly the value that we put on bacon sarnies.

Yes, I know, this is simplistic, there are other things (like the damage from furture climate change that we\’re dodging) but it\’s an attempt to try and see what it is that Stern is claiming.

And as far as I can see his claim is nonsense. It might be worth giving up some economic growth to dodge the warming. It might be true that we\’ll see economic growth as a result of the investment plans. But it can\’t be true that we\’ll see more economic growth by doing things which add less value than the growth we\’ll see from doing things which add more value.

Take the German solar feed in tariffs. They cost $1,075 per tonne of CO2 not emitted. The cost of a tonne of emissions is $80 (by Lord Stern\’s numbers). Yes, we can see economic activity from people scurrying over rooftops in Germany installing the solar panels: but we\’re not seeing the reduction in growth caused by paying $1,075 to deal with an $80 problem.

It\’s Bastiat all over again isn\’t it?

Now it\’s always possible that I\’m talking tosh here, that I\’ve missed something. But I cannot see what it is. Anyone else want to pitch in?

Note that the question is very specific. It\’s not is this worth it, it\’s not \”there is no AGW\”, it\’s the very specific claim by Stern that spending lots on AGW will produce stronger economic growth than investing the same amount not on AGW…..some on energy production and the rest on other things.

Interesting little thought

William Rees Mogg muses over the electoral battleground of Somerset.

In the Somerset marginals a vote for UKIP will help to elect Lib Dem candidates to Westminster.

Which means that the UKIP vote will determine whether Jacob and or Annunziata Rees Mogg make it into the next parliament. They\’re two of the tribe that I didn\’t go to school with so I know only their public personae.

But that does sound like two good reasons to call for a UKIP vote, doesn\’t it?

Richard Murphy bans me from his blog

For a comment to be published I must be satisfied that:

1. It is legal;

2. It is polite;

3. It includes an argument that adds value to readers;

4. It appears factually accurate;

5. That the commentator is genuine;

6. It is not promoting an opinion usually associated with the far right political fringes (for these purposes the UK Independence Party and beyond within the UK domestic environment);

7. It is not posted by a person I consider to be usually associated with the far right of the political spectrum.

That\’s his revised blog comment policy.

It is of course his blog, his property, and he can do as he wishes with it.

But it is indicative of a certain mindset, isn\’t it?

Slightly chilling


Meglena Kuneva is European Commissioner for Consumer Affairs

We get this:

Indeed, non-sustainable products should be phased out gradually. Research has shown that many consumers believe that environmentally non-friendly products should not even be on sale.

So when does the legal ban on non-green products get handed down from Brussels?

Further proof that socialists are idiots

President of the socialist, Anglophone Vanua\’aku Pati party, he was elected Prime Minister in September 2008.

OK, so we\’ve established that he\’s a socialist.

The Prime Minister of the tiny Pacific nation of Vanuatu has been left red-faced and jobless because he forgot to hand in an absence note before heading to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago last week.

Prime Minister Edward Natapei lost his seat after failing to notify the speaker of the house that he could not attend parliament, even though he was out of the country on official business.

He had fallen foul of the regulation that members of parliament will forfeit their seat if they miss three consecutive sittings of parliament without notifying the speaker of the reason for their absence.

All he had to do was hand in a note saying he would be away.

So we\’ve also established that he\’s an idiot.

See, socialists are idiots.

Hardly a surprise

GIVING women a lengthy period of maternity leave could mean they miss out on highflying jobs, a new study has revealed.

The findings from three continents show that the more family-friendly a country tries to be, the less its women succeed in the workplace.

I\’ve been pointing this out to people for years.

British women fare better on the career ladder than in Sweden where a woman can take 60 weeks’ paid leave. There only 31.6% of managers are female.

Both, however, lag behind the United States, which has no statutory paid leave. To qualify for 12 weeks off without wages, they need to work in the public sector or for a firm that has at least 50 other employees within a 75-mile radius. American women occupy 42.7% of the top posts in their country.

Australia is the only other developed country that has no paid maternity leave, although women will be paid 18 weeks of the federal minimum wage from January 2011. Its women occupy 37.1% of managerial jobs.

The study from the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, Sweden, is entitled Why Are There So Few Top Female Executives in Egalitarian Welfare States? It says women in Anglo-Saxon countries where maternal leave is less generous climb higher up the career ladder than in Scandinavian nations where years of female-friendly legislation may have inadvertently disadvantaged women.

Blindingly obvious when you think about it.

If the gender pay gap/glass ceiling is a result of the deterioration of human capital by taking years out of the workforce then those places where women take more years out of the workforce will have bigger such problems, won\’t they?

Our second lesson from economics: there are always trade offs.

Dear Lord Above

This weekend it emerged that the unit has thrown away much of the data. Tucked away on its website is this statement: “Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites … We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (ie, quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

Are they serious?

They are? They\’ve thrown away the raw data? So no one at all can check what they\’ve done?


We\’re trying to take the most expensive decision the human race has ever had to make and they don\’t have the basic information any more?

Weird this

I actually agree with James Hansen:

Governments must place a uniform rising price on carbon, collected at the fossil fuel source – the mine or port of entry. The fee should be given to the public in toto, as a uniform dividend, payroll tax deduction or both.

Of course, I think he\’s hysterical over how much the tax should be, over what damage might be done by climate change. But the basic idea he\’s got there is entirely sound.

Whack on a revenue neutral carbon tax, shut the fuck up and let the market do the rest.

The MOD are silly bastards, aren\’t they?

Joanne Goody-Orris and her partner Maurice Benton, both 79, from Somerset, began sending packages to serving soldiers two and a half years ago.

Since then they have sent over 6,000 parcels containing everything from treats such as chocolate and crisps to necessities such as wet wipes and thick socks.

They drive hundreds of miles every week, collecting donations from local businesses, charities and individuals and setting up stalls at fetes and other events. They even spend hours writing four-page letters to every soldier.

But the Ministry of Defence has said that the troops have enough resources and has told the pensioners to stop sending parcels, claiming that the extra transport needed to take them to the soldiers could put servicemen\’s lives at risk.

Even if what the MOD says is true, they\’re still silly, stupid, bastards. Raising morale at home, raising morale at the battlefront, all for the price of the occasional truck for transport?

Silly, stupid, bastards.

O Tempora

Police spend £800,000 a year on music rights
Police forces are paying hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to allow officers to listen to music at their desks, in canteens and even in cell blocks.

Well, yes, I suppose it is news that police forces obey the law these days……

In which I correct Polly

Wise experts should stay well away, or recognise that the world of politics is an untidy and unclean necessity.

That should of course read:

People should stay well away, or recognise that the world of politics is an untidy and unclean necessity.

Politics is simply a vile necessity: a way of getting the bins emptied and society\’s scut work done.

Let them have as much power as is needed to do that, no more, and then ignore them. As long as the bins are emptied, why pay any more attention?

Something missing here…

Can\’t quite put my finger on it though…..

A Conservative Government would install London Mayor Boris Johnson as the first elected police commissioner

Umm, isn\’t there something of a difference between \”someone who has been elected becoming police commissioner\” and \”someone elected to be police commissioner\”?

And it what way does the former differ from the old system of the Met reporting to the Home Secretary? That, umm, system that we decided wasn\’t good enough?