June 2018

An interesting little thought

At which point a bit of history. Fourth century AD and the Goths turned up on the Danube border of the Roman Empire. The usual reason given being that they were being driven west by the expansion of the Huns further east. Lots of argy bargy about whether they should be let in and so on. They and similar confreres (Visigoths, Ostrogoths etc) went on to sack Rome, conquer Spain and Carthage and so on, all that mess of the late empire.

The point being the number of them. At this distance numbers get shouted about but the Goths might have been about 100,000 people. That’s kids an’ all. Roman Empire population was perhaps 50 million.

Which is interesting, isn’t it? Because 2015 saw some 1 million refugees – that’s asylum and economic together – coming into an EU of 500 million or so. 0.2% of population both times.

No, this is not to say that they’re going to sack Rome – not that anyone would notice these days – but it is to say that this is a point of such size that we cannot just ignore it. Something must be done – so, what?

Oh dear

Usually huge droves of spectators cramming onto street corners signifies the visit of a high-profile celebrity or member of the Royal family.

But hundreds of people lined the streets of Somerset to watch youngsters ride Vespas, vintage cars and Hummers to a school prom that accepts thousands of guests each year.

What is usually a proud day for parents turned into an event of huge proportions in Midsomer Norton, Avon,

Well, which, Somerset or Avon?

Running from memory M Norton never was in Avon although it might still have a BAx post code. And Avon doesn’t really exist any more anyway.


Authors laid the blame for the decline at the feet of publishers, with the Society of Authors chief executive Nicola Solomon estimating that authors were paid just 3% of publishers’ turnover in 2016, based on their profits.

A reasonable guess is that the farmer receives, for his labour, less than 3% of the price of a loaf of bread. And?


Apparently it’s important to be civil. Whatever pageantry of violent intolerance is playing out in the news, liberals and women and people of colour must moderate our language so that certain sensitive Caucasian gentlemen in the room aren’t made uncomfortable. We must remember that their feelings matter. We must not, for example, point out that violent misogyny – from online harassment and stalking to domestic abuse – is the live wire running through the machinery of mass murder, white supremacy and far-right mobilisation in Trump’s America and beyond.

Yes, Laurie. I’m sure it’s not long now before the revival of Hostess Twinkies is a symbol and symptom of misogyny.

It’s the theme that connects the “incel” movement with Islamic State, the refrain that runs from 1930s Berlin to Washington in 2018.


Such a tough question

Why is Trump still so popular? He gives his base what they want
Cas Mudde
A recent Gallup poll showed that, at the 500 days mark, Trump was the second most popular US president among his own constituency. How is that possible?

I dunno, I think I’d mutter something about democracy myself. Maybe even that you share a country with quite a lot of people who don’t think a you do. Which is why democracy, to sort out those differences, provide a non-bloody way of deciding things.

Who else if not Jacinda?

Jacinda Ardern is the very hero the global left needs right now
Van Badham

Guess so really. She’s had enough time to talk the talk but not enough for us to see the outcome of anything she’s done.

There isn’t really anyone else. All the other global lefty heroes have ha enough time for the results to become clear which is a bit of a pity as they’re near universally shit.

Well, yes

EXCLUSIVE: What break in..? £90m ‘burglary’ at billionaire James Stunt’s Belgravia mansion NEVER HAPPENED, claims ex-bodyguard on duty all night

I might have mumbled something about how in my opinion something like this was a vague possibility.

You’ll not believe this

The clim that periods cost the average British woman £500 a year. The calculation is as follows:

Next, respondents were asked to think of the average amount of money they spend each month on different areas relating to their period, with the totals emerging as follows:

· Pads/tampons/panty-liners/menstrual cups – £13

· New underwear (due to spillages) -£8

· Pain relief – £4.50

· Chocolate/sweets/crisps – £8.50

· Other (magazines/toiletries/DVDs etc.) – £7

Taking these monthly estimates into account, researchers were able to work out that the average period costs £492 annually.


This is a pity about Dan Davies

That’s the City type who used to write for The Guardian, Crooked Timber, Dan Davies. Not someone I like nor agree with – I have more than just a suspicion that the feeling is entirely mutual – but there has always been an enviable verve to his writing. Sure, some of the stylistic tricks* can become overdone but there’s none of us not guilty of that.

There there’s this extract from his book.

All that life and joy seems to have gone from the style. Might be the way The Guardian has extracted, might be the editor ironing it out for the book buying public. But a pity all the same.

**Footnotes to footnotes***
*** As with Gibbon, that’s where all the jokes are****.
**** Or the dirty bits at least.*****
***** In Latin


Again, America is not perfect and it’s undoubtedly true that some women have been harmed, harassed, and hassled by some men. It is not true that this rises to anything like the level of oppression suffered by other women elsewhere. To assert so is not just a delusion, it is ridiculous.

Consider this: Current debates over female reproductive rights in the U.S. seem to be concentrating upon whether employers must righteously pay for contraception, whether justice requires taxpayer funding of abortion infrastructure (even if not the act itself). Significant parts of the world are still pondering whether forced female genital mutilation is both just and, or only, righteous. To percieve those as equal violations of women’s rights is an obscenity.

Even better economics here

From the Tuberosa:

I would stress that this is the likely apportionment, in my opinion, within the UK. But as my evidence also suggests, the overall shadow economy in that country is approximately 10% at present. In those countries where the shadow economy is proportionately somewhat larger, and this is true for the vast majority of EU member states, so too might the proportion of VAT loss attributable to activity in the domestic shadow economy also be higher, in my opinion. I stress then that in my opinion when it comes to VAT fraud, important as international issues are, domestic tax gaps are now by far the most important issue of concern.

That pesky Laffer Curve, eh?

Tax as a portion of GDP is rather higher in most EU member states than it is in the UK. As Tuberosa tells us, they have rather larger tax dodging economies, thus more VAT going uncollected.


All we’re saying with Laffer is that at some point that dodging – in any and every form, from evasion through to working less or differently – outweighs the extra revenue from those not dodging.

Great economics here

A very senior economist of my acquaintance said this in an email today (due to Chatham House rules I cannot disclose who):

If mainstream monetary theory cannot explain fluctuations in prices and activity, it is surely wrong to subordinate macroeconomic policy to an inflation target.

That pretty much kills dead the whole debate on central bank independence in my opinion. I was most amused.

Milton Friedman said that inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon. That plus MV = PQ is pretty mainstream.

What is it about those two that The Great Tuber disagrees with?

If only the young Mr North read his own material

8. It’s all part of the “invisible government” that we take for granted. That’s why toryboy morons assume we can get rid of it. To them, these non tariff barriers are just protectionist devices cooked up by Brussels bureaucrats with nothing better to do.

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Pete North

22h22 hours ago
9. So let us put this to the test shall we? If JRM thinks deregulation to African levels is right for the UK let him put his money where his mouth is. Let’s let him pick one, from three containers of baby milk, to feed the latest of his brood.

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Pete North

22h22 hours ago
10. Then let’s lace one of them with powdered floor bleach and ask him to take the gamble. What then do you suppose the arsehole’s view on non-tariff barriers would be? I wonder.

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Pete North

22h22 hours ago
11. And if you think I’m building a straw man here, here’s Tim Worstall of the ASI’s worldview. They really do think like that.

http://peterjnorth.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-freedom-to-die-horribly.html …

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Pete North

22h22 hours ago
12. This is the mentality behind the Toryboy think tanks and BrexitCentral. They really genuinely don’t have the first clue. This is why they only talk about tariffs. Anything else is light years beyond their understanding.

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Pete North

22h22 hours ago
13. You would think that think tanks claiming to represent commerce would have a better handle on this but in the end they are free market dogmatists who favour their own scripture over real world evidence. London free marketeers are cult.

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Pete North

22h22 hours ago
14. What they don’t understand is how regulatory controls add value. Most trades in goods are not one of purchases. They are part of established value chains. Business wants to stay in business and its only fly by nights who want one off trades.

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Pete North

22h22 hours ago
15. In this the essential element of any value chain is trust. Supermarkets can but with confidence if they can see that trusted institutions have certified produce – and that in turn is peace of mind for the consumer. It also reduces waste and improves quality.

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Pete North

22h22 hours ago
16. Trade analysts will often say that an FTA doesn’t necessarily reduce prices, but it does improve the quality of value chains and trade facilitation measures removing bureaucratic overheads increase the profitability. This is why we have regulatory harmonisation.

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Yep. I – we – agree that trade and business is a multiple iteration process. We all end up trading with those we trust. On the grounds of getting what we asked for. Without that powdered bleach, unless a box of powered bleach is what we actually asked for.

Which is why we don’t think that regulation by the bureaucracy is all that important. Because people do trade with those they trust, trust doing that job of regulation rather well. Regulation does have its merits, most certainly. If all are following it then it means that you can take a flyer on some supplier you don’t know, who doesn’t have a reputation nor track record. As long as new entrants can afford to meet the paperwork costs of the regulatory standards of course. But then it’s not entirely unknown for people to lie about having followed the regulations, so it’s less effective than it might be.

Note that this isn’t the view merely of some Tory Think Tank Boy. I supplied much of the world – for a decade – with its desires for one specific metallic element. As far as there was any international standard for the material I wrote it. The thing I was really selling was that I delivered what I said I would when I said I would. When I didn’t – mistakes happen – I corrected matters. That’s why I got repeat orders.

Quite, regulation matters, but who is doing the regulating? That trade works on the basis of trust means that trust – and verify! – works. The bureaucracy might be nice, might not, but it’s not necessary.

I did, in those metal days, have one intervention with that regulatory apparatus concerning international trade. A bloke in the US bureaucracy wanted a sworn statement that 10 kg of scandium oxide was not an animal product.

Most useful, that declaration, most useful to all concerned.

Can’t you just smell the subsidy coming here?

The rise of so-called “fake news” means it is “vital” that high-quality journalism is supported, the Culture Secretary has said as he launched the latest stage of an inquiry into press sustainability.

Matt Hancock said a “fearless and independent press” is one of the foundation stones of democracy, but has been undermined by “dramatic technological changes”.

New research shows revenues from circulation and print advertising have fallen from £7 billion to just over £3 billion over the last decade as Facebook, Google and other websites have swallowed up an ever greater share of advertising spend.

At the same time, a Government review has highlighted “the role and impact of digital search engines…

They’re going to try and tax that digital side to support that legacy media. You can just taste the thought, can’t you?

All British media in a BBC style financial straightjacket.

Media plurality my arse.

Headline Contest

So, Gay Pride Evet, some women get into an argument, fight breaks out. The Mail’s headline:

Huge all-female brawl breaks out at San Francisco Pride parade after one woman asked if Kehlani was still singing and got a rude response

Should be possible to better than that, no?

Rug Munchers Riot In Rage…..?


Experts have a very clear role in society: I hope no one would suggest otherwise. But I have a real problem with the suggestion that elites are experts. And as far as I can see being a banker, or being an economist, is not a qualification for having expertise in making the political judgement on the stimulus or otherwise needed to direct an economy, which is always a political choice.

A banker or economist knows less than a votestealer spending to regain election?

I am entirely willing to accept empirical evidence, within the boundaries within which the research took place. Extrapolation beyond those boundaries is always dangerous. It is my contention that the pre-2008 economy has gone for good: there will be no return to the old ‘normal’. Most informed opinion seems to think we will face perpetual low-interest rates.

“Informed” is carrying a lot of weight there, no? For anyone who says otherwise is “uninformed,” obviously, eh?

I will be sharing my opinions with my correspondent.


Normally I’d be against mob rule

But since the Two Minute Hate is aimed at Trumpistas I’m just fine with it. Emmanuel Goldstein would be beyond the pale, but a Press Spokesman?

Donald Trump’s enforcers have lost the right to civil courtesy
Gary Younge

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ ejection from the Red Hen restaurant might ordinarily be dubious. But these are no ordinary times

Recall, these are the people who insist it should be illegal to stand outside an abortion clinic and ask those entering whether they really, really, want to kill their own child.

One can have any view you like either way but both seem a bit odd.

Yes, well done, this is how evolution works

Bees must become city dwellers to in order to survive, according to a new study which found the insects now fare better in towns.

Scientists compared the progress of colonies in urban, village and rural environments and found numbers are roughly three times healthier in built-up areas than in the country.

The researchers at Holloway University believe predators, agricultural pesticides and a reduction of food in rural areas mean city gardens and other green spaces have now become safer and more nutritious for bees than their traditional habitats.

The crucial pollinators are under significant strain, partly due to the intensification of arable farming.

Environment changes, certain parts of previous species thrive, others don’t. That’s how that evolution thing does work.

But the really interesting part here is – well, we should be having more suburban sprawl, shouldn’t we? Because that’s where biodiversity exists, isn’t it?

So, this gender equality then?

Women should no longer be sent to prison unless they have committed a serious crime, the Justice Secretary says today, as he unveils a “step change” in the way the justice system deals with female offenders.

Ministers want to “break the cycle” of sending women to jail after it emerged less than 40 women behind bars in England and Wales have committed a violent offence and most others are serving just a few months for crimes like shoplifting.

False accusations of rape, perjury, they’re not violent crimes. So presumably some bird who lies her head off to get a bloke jailed doesn’t have to serve time herself then?


The instruments that the government can use to deliver economic policy

There are remarkably few instruments available to the government to influence economic policy within a democracy. Beyond political persuasion, they are:

Tax system design;
Targeted tax yield;
Specific spending objectives;
Total government spending;
International capital controls;
The base level of interest;
Banking regulation, including on lending.
Each of these could be explained in greater detail but in essence they are all the weapons there are in the armoury.

Of microeconomics there is not a hint of a scintilla of an iota of understanding.