August 2014

Err, yes, there’s an answer to this Nick

The worst recession since the 1930s ought to have produced mass unemployment. Yet the numbers in work have risen.

After years of stagnation under the inept management of George Osborne, the British economy is growing, which sounds good news until you learn that living standards are still falling and therefore the boom can’t last.

Straight from Karl Marx too. Once that reserve army of the unemployed is exhausted then wages will rise as the capitalists compete between themselves for access to the profits that can be made by employing labour.

It’s one of the reasons why we like markets, see?

For of course, if we had a monopsony, a single employer, then that competition wouldn’t occur and wages wouldn’t rise.

Timmy elsewhere

At the ASI.

If family size went up when the colonialists changed the South Seas diet then it cannot have been a worse diet, can it?


Or to make the same statement another way: the colonialists improved the diets of those who lived on such islands. It might not be an improvement by the standards of the modern prodnoses but population does respond quite well to food availability in a subsistence economy. That population and family size did increase is proof perfect that the diet was “better”.

They’re lying again, aren’t they?

Poverty is forcing people to have dangerously poor diets and is leading to the return of rickets and gout – diseases of the Victorian age that affect bones and joints – according the UK Faculty of Public Health.

The public health professionals’ body will call for a national food policy, including a sugar tax, as concerns rise over malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies in British children. It will also appeal for all political parties to back a living wage to help combat the illnesses.

Doctors and hospitals are seeing a rise in children suffering from ailments caused by poor diet and the faculty has linked the trend to people’s inability to afford quality food. Latest figures show there has been a 19% increase in people hospitalised in England and Wales for malnutrition over the past 12 months but experts say this is only the extreme end.

Rickets for fuck’s sake? Bit of milk and some sunshine cures that. And as the farmers keep telling us milk is cheaper than it ever has been. It’s not the price of food that is bringing that back: it’s, dare I say it, connected with our glorious new multiculturalism. And no, not particularly (although this is indeed part of it) that certain of our new fellow citizens insist that the distaff side of the family never actually see the sun, swathing them in voluminous robes so that they cannot.

It’s also down to the simple fact that melanin levels differ. As they should as people have adapted to climactic conditions in different parts of the world. There really is a reason why the indigenous inhabitants of North West Europe are a generally pinkish colour. So that they can absorb enough sunshine to convert that vital Vitamin D. Those that are blessed with more melanin need to spend more time in the sun in our wet and dreary climes.

This is, I’m afraid, behavioural, not a money issue.

And as to a “national food policy” where’s my lorry load of hempen to deal with these people?

Technological wonder of the day

So the extended tribe is here for the summer and the stepdaugther has just, from her laptop, added £10 to the lunch money of the granddaughter for use next week. She gets a little fob that she waves at the dinner ladies.

So far so good, stops people being beaten up for their dinner money I suppose. And now the wonder: the school actually provides, online, a register of what is then bought with that little moneyfob. It’s not quite possible thus to monitor what is being eaten at school for of course nothing ever works that way (“swapsies” for example) but what is bought can be checked.

Important? Exciting? Probably neither but there is certainly a lot that this technological revolution is providing that just isn’t showing up in the GDP figures.

And another Rotheram reverse ferret

Never has universal agreement looked more adversarial. If there is a single soul in Britain willing to suggest that the sexual abuse of 1,400 girls in Rotherham is not a societal failure of great seriousness, then they are keeping pretty quiet about it. Unfortunately, the people who are talking the loudest seem mainly to be interested in drawing attention to their own long-standing rectitude and by extension the long-standing lack of rectitude of their real or imagined ideological enemies.

It’s an article of faith among British institutions that “impartiality” or “fairness” or “justice” is arrived at via the presentation of opposing views. It’s the basis of our governmental and judicial systems. It’s the guiding principle of our foremost media institution, the BBC. The idea generally seems to be that there are two sides to every story, one wrong and one right. But there are usually as many “sides” to any story as there are people telling it. This is certainly true in the case of Rotherham.

I think Peter Simple is now filling in for Debbie Orr. That’s how it reads anyway.

But then Peter Simple always was at the very edge of Poe’s Law.

All of which suggests something sensible that the next (Long May Rusbridger Live!) editor of The Guardian might usefully do upon appointment. Insist that all of his writers, both current and would be, read the collected works of Peter Simple. And if any column or idea, logical train or even simile, could usefully have been inserted into such collected works then they’re not to use it.

Might make the paper considerably better: even if shorter.

And the racism reverse ferret arrives

But I’d go further. In a subtle way, such a claim – and indeed similar invocations of political correctness – represent a kind of racism. For what is being implied when a council or police force say they cannot stop a ring of men raping children? It is that there is a class of people who are different from the rest, a category that sits somehow outside, if not above, the law because of their race. That was the message of the policeman who told that frightened group in east London that his hands were tied: the usual laws don’t apply to that lot.

At the very least, the effect of such talk is racially divisive. It pits one group against another. It says to white people in Rotherham: “We’ll come after you, but we can’t go after them. Thanks to the PC brigade, that lot are untouchable. They are different.” So in reaching for a handy excuse for their own incompetence, the authorities of Rotherham have sprinkled petrol onto an already incendiary situation.

Lucky we have such casuists to explain things to us properly, eh?

Downs and abortion

I thought the law was pretty clear in such cases:

A South African women is going to the country’s constitutional court to claim thousands of pounds in damages after a medical centre failed to diagnose her son with Down’s syndrome.

The woman, identified only as Ms H. to protect the identity of her child, is arguing her son represents a “wrongful life,” as she would have aborted the foetus if she had been told by the clinic it was at a high risk of having Down’s syndrome.

As they point out:

The centre argued in court it did not have a legal responsibility to the unborn child at the time of the assessment, arguing the court does not have the right to deny the “unquantifiable blessing of life.”

The court agreed and dismissed her case in April, saying the “remarkable resilience” displayed by disabled persons refutes the claim that their lives are “inferior to non-existence.”

But for how long will this remain true? That, as the saying goes, no damage can come from the gift of life?

Bribery takes many forms

Chelsea Clinton is leaving her $600,000-a-year role as an occasional “special correspondent” with NBC News – a position that apparently earned her $26,724 for every minute that she appeared on air.

Amid widespread job cuts in the media industry, her remarkable salary for turning out a handful of feel-good segments provoked dismay and derision when it was revealed earlier this year by the Politico website.

No one at all was paying her for her presentation skills. But the daughter of one President, the daughter of a likely second one (yes, I know, but that is the way to bet currently), yes, that’s a reasonable little bung.

Measuring Mr. Darcy’s income

Hmm, no, not quite:

A conversion chart, supposedly showing the modern-day worth of Jane Austen characters’ fortunes, has surfaced on Twitter. At first glance, it seems to show that Mr Darcy’s supposedly vast 1803 fortune in Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice, worth $331,000 per year in modern US dollars, might not in fact stretch to quite the luxury of his 19th-century lifestyle if Darcy was alive today.

They’ve tried comparing it upgraded for standard inflation, and also as a percentage of GDP. That second is better, as it does give an idea of the percentage of society’s wealth that could be comannded with that income.

However, as Piketty points out himself, one of the great changes in the past couple of hundred years is the collapse in the value of land. Darcy’s income was £10k a year: that’s roughly (it’s more like £1.2 or £1.3 per acre in rent in 1820 money but still….and 1820 is a reasonable enough year as the Corn Laws were holding up those values after the Napoleonic Wars) the rent from 10,000 acres. A decent enough estate of course. Wouldn’t mind having that myself these days.

But enough to run a stately home the size of Chatsworth? Not a chance these days.

Current ag land rents appear to be around £100 an acre (this is screwed up by single farm payment which is about that again (roughly) but that goes to the farmer, not the landlord). So 10,000 acr5es brings in £1 million a year: before tax. Call it £600,000 then.

About what a top end City solicitor or accountant earns (pre-tax but still a lot less than a premiership footballer).

A very nice income but no, not drop dead I can buy anything and everything in the country.

And you’d not get more than a dozen servants for that these days either. Hardly enough to run a proper coach and four let alone a household full of them.

How very French

Daily flavours (ranging from standards like strawberry and vanilla to the more exotic liquorice and rhubarb, or foie gras and lavender) depended on the fresh ingredients available. For many years it was Berthillon’s habit to get up at 4.30am every day to take delivery of fresh milk, cream and eggs from Normandy or visit the wholesale market at Les Halles (later Rungis). It was also his practice, on Bastille Day (July 14), when Paris begins to get hot and demand for ice cream soars, to shut up shop and take his family on holiday for two months, reopening only in mid-September when the warm weather was almost over: “I am not interested in people who come here during a heatwave. I like them to come when it’s snowing and zero outside. Then they come to enjoy my fine ices and not just to cool themselves.”

And of course
it’s quite delightful to have a sprinkling of such in a country. But when the whole damn economy is run on such lines it can become more than a tad tedious.

Perhaps Tim Newman can do a tasting run for us….in September, of course.

The Glory of the Murph


Fascinating from the Murphmonster this morning.

Just eyeballing this the number of extant companies has roughly doubled over 12 or so years. The number not declaring taxable income has around and about doubled over those same 12 years. The number declaring taxable income has just around doubled over 12 years.

OK, so, proportions stay around the same.

I have to be candid: I don’t believe that. I think there are many more trading than say so. I think it’s utterly implausible that this is not the case.

Quite: that the proportion of companies not declaring taxable income stays static is proof perfect that there’s massive tax dodging going on.

Nothing like having proof of a contention, is there?

There’s a reason musicians don’t rate Frankie

Frankie Goes To Hollywood: ‘No one could touch us – people were scared’
No band has dominated a 12-month period like Frankie ruled 1984, with three singles all at No 1. Yet today they rarely get cited by other musicians. So what’s the legacy of the band that scandalised Britain?

It’s actually in the piece:

most of the backing track was pieced together by ZTT musicians

Gill, Nash and O’Toole – despite doubts about their musical input – were similarly essential, lad archetypes to offset the band’s arty epicureans. “They were Geordie Shore, three decades early,” laughs Morley. “They were the guys who, today, would be having sex on reality TV. A show that followed Frankie on tour would have been horribly sleazy. And yet their enormous capacity for vulgarity was part of the energy of the band. They may not have played on the records,

Pop stars undoubtedly but not actually musicians so much.

More people have access to mobile phones than to toilets, it says.


As I pointed out here:

It’s possible to be a little cynical about this phones versus thrones number though. Actual flush toilets aren’t in fact the problem. What is is the provision of water to flush them and a sewage system to flush them into. Both of which are largely government provided. While mobile phone systems are largely private company provided. Whether you want to call it the lust for profit or the greater efficiency of the private sector, it won’t surprise the more right leaning of us that phones do have a greater market reach than toilets.

There is more to it than just this of course. One obvious point being that it’s actually more difficult to provide running water and sewerage treatment plants than it is to provide mobile phone towers.

Timmy elsewhere

Might be on “World Business Report” on the World Service today. Dunno what time or anything, sorry. About limiting motor size on vacuum cleaners.

Along the lines of “well if these new light bulbs, or lower power cleaners, are such a good idea then we’ll all use them, obviously. That the politicians decide to ban the older types means they must think we’re all morons, just too stupid to work it out”.