Tim Worstall

Stealing Tractors

Hundreds of tractors are being stolen in an extraordinary crimewave that is worth £3 million a year and affects most counties in rural Britain.


They are particular about their pickings, and have a penchant for the distinctive green and yellow tractors of the John Deere brand. John Deere tractors usually cost between £63,700 and £75,000, and even second-hand models can be sold for up to £50,000. Some top-of-the-range tractors cost more than £100,000.

Taking that second hand value £3 million a year is 60 a year. So that "hundreds" looks like a tad of hyperbole, don\’t you think?

A Wasted Life


The Le Monde obit maintains that it is unclear what stance Lambert took in world war two; it seems that he may have argued for entrism inside collaborationist organisations rather than supporting the resistance. If this is true, that is obviously not to his credit. I’m not in a position to judge.

But Lambert gets more kudos for siding with the anti-Pabloites in the 1953 split in the Fourth International. His Parti communiste internationaliste was one of the principal components of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Formally, this was the correct side of the bust-up to be on, although ultimately what was to become the United Secretariat emerged as a far healthier political tradition.

By the early 1970s, the ICFI essentially boiled down to the PCI and the increasingly madcap Socialist Labour League in Britain; Lambert broke with the Healyites, and after a failed flirtation with the USec, ended up in a regroupment with the Latin American current around Nahuel Moreno. That wasn’t to last, either.

British supporters – the Socialist Labour Group, around Ken Stratford, Harry Stannard, Steve Lloyd, Mike Phipps of Labour Left Briefing, and RMT militant Martin Wicks – were active in the Labour Party during the 1980s. Thereafter, the SLG folded into Alan Thornett\’s International Socialist Group, today the soi-disant organised Marxist left of Respect Renewal.

An entire life based upon this idiocy? Lordy.

John Gray: Another Idiot!

This diatribe rather brought on a fit of the giggles.

The uncomfortable fact, which is ignored or denied by both ends of the environmental debate, is that an energy-intensive lifestyle of the kind enjoyed in the rich parts of the world cannot be extended to a human population of nine or 10 billion, the level forecast in UN studies for the middle of this century.

John, have you actually tried reading the UN reports? Specifically, the SRES, the economic models upon which the whole edifice of the IPCC, and thus global warming, is built?

Far from denying that the energy intensive lifestyle can be extended to 9 or 10 billion people, the whole system is predicated on the idea that it will happen. If you look at the A1 family, for example, it assumes that in 2100 the average living standard around the globe will be equal to that of the US in 2000.

So far from it being impossible, as you state, it is assumed. Which leaves you with one of two choices. You can carry on with your claim, that it is not possible, in which case you must reject the IPCC report, or you can accept the IPCC and reject your assertion.

Green activists, free-market economists and religious fundamentalists may not seem to have much in common, but they are all agreed there can be no such thing as overpopulation, or at any rate, nothing that can\’t be solved by better distribution, faster growth or a change in human values.

You seriously underestimate free market economists there. It\’s generally accepted (and indeed is again an assumption in the SRES models which underly the IPCC) that at a certain level of wealth (meant in its true sense, things like increasing lifespans, decreasing child mortality) fertility falls. All industrial nations (except the US) are below replacement fertility levels. We assume, as again the IPCC does, that as other nations get to similar levels of wealth as we were in the 60s and 70s, that their fertility will fall also to below replacement.

This is what leads, as with the A1 family again, to a population of 7 billion globally in 2100.

Far more than fantastical schemes for renewable energy, we need to ensure that contraception and abortion are freely available everywhere. A world of fewer people would be far better placed to deal with climate change than the heavily overpopulated one we are heading for now.

And that is simply ignorant. We know very well that what reduces the number of children is not access to either abortion or contraception: they have an effect only when the desire to reduce fertility is there. The more important point is for desired fertility to fall: the current state of knowledge is that 90% of changes in actual fertility come from changes in desired, only the last 10% from access to abortion and contraception. And as above, we know what reduces desired fertility, increased wealth.

Apparently this is extracted from his new book. Don\’t think I\’ll bother reading it (unless, of course, someone is interested in a review, one which might not be all that kind).

Alex Renton: Idiot

In a piece on rising food prices Alex Renton says this:

But the factors behind the price rises in Leith are exactly the same as those in Mexico, or in China – where, last Wednesday, the government introduced price controls on dairy products, meat, vegetables and cereals. And while food price inflation hit 18 per cent last year in China, there\’s no good reason why they should not do that here. In fact, there are a lot of reasons why they should.

So there are no reasons why there should not be price controls on food and reasons why there should. A few paragraphs up he says:

Habits will change, although it\’s unlikely we\’re going to see Soviet-style queues at empty shelves.

A complete idiot, obviously. The fixing of prices below the cost of production means that no one will produce and thus we will get Soviet-style queues at empty shelves.

Why is it that journalists are ignorant of the most basic concepts of economics?

Excellent News!

One in six British households is living in fuel poverty, the highest for almost a decade, according to new figures that threaten the government\’s target to eradicate the problem in England by the end of the decade.

Fuel poverty is defined as when a household spends more than a tenth of its income on utility bills. The consumer group Energywatch said yesterday there are now about 4.4 million of these in the UK, with just over 3 million in England alone.

We\’re worried about CO2 emissions, correct? That means that fossil fuel prices should rise, so that people use less of them.

Isn\’t it excellent to see how we\’re solving the problem?

What is a Charity

That does now seem to have become a rather political question, doesn\’t it?

The Charity Commission has unveiled its understanding of the new "public benefit test". Introduced by the Charities Act of 2006, the test stipulates that to count as a charity, an organisation must prove that it benefits the public. Last week, the Commission claimed that private schools do not pass it because they benefit only those rich enough to afford the fees. Unless private schools can prove that they also benefit people who are not rich, the commission concluded, they shouldn\’t have charitable status.

The commission was widely attacked for failing to recognise that relieving the state of the cost of educating 500,000 children counts as a benefit to everyone who pays tax. But the real enormity is the test itself, which is political prejudice masquerading as objective assessment. "Public benefit", as applied to charities, is meaningless. No charity benefits everyone: women\’s charities benefit women, cancer charities those with cancer, and charities for animals don\’t benefit people at all. It cannot be an objection to a charity that it benefits only part of the population, for every charity does that. In practice, the question becomes: which parts of the population will be allowed to count as "deserving"?

There are two ways to answer that question. One is to say that they all count equally: it\’s not the job of the state to decide who should receive charity – citizens can donate their money to whatever group they choose, provided that group is not involved in harming others.

The other is to give an unelected quango the power to decide who counts. I thought that was precisely the result that democracy was supposed to avoid, but evidently not: it\’s the result that the 2006 Act has produced. The commission\’s view of who "counts" is inevitably an expression of political prejudice.

Actually, it\’s not democracy which is supposed to avoid this, rather, it\’s civil liberty. Democracy is in fact exactly what the Commission is doing: picking and choosing according to the political dictates of those who have the backing from enough of the population to gain power.

It brings us once again the distinction between democracy and said civil liberties. There are those who insist that democracy itself is the goal: I would insist that it isn\’t. Useful, certainly, the least bad method we have, but it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The end is the maximum of freedom and liberty that we can all enjoy without popping from the sheer pleasure of it all.

And that means that we have clear and simple rules, ones simply laid out, which apply to all. As noted, a charity raising money to treat ovarian cancer does not directly benefit men. Should it be stripped of its charitable status? Sure, there are indirect benefits to men (wives and mothers less likely to die of a foul disease) but then the same can be said, as above, of private schools: children are educated at no cost to other taxpayers.

The problem here is too much democracy (imagine that the unelected quango were replaced with a popular vote on each and every charity: anyone think this would make things better?) not too little.

Mind Boggling

Point one:

We will never go back to selection

Point two (the next part of the same sentence):

but you could have a situation where 11-year-olds with a particular talent in a certain subject or the potential to go to a certain university are encouraged at an early age.

Leading to:

Potential Oxbridge students should be identified at 11 and given special mentoring throughout their school years to help them compete for a place, the Government\’s access tsar has proposed.

So when is selection not selection?

That\’s the Bloody Point!


Because of the cuts, the Compass theatre in Sheffield has cancelled The Dresser by Ronald Harwood, who said: "The Government has abandoned the arm\’s length principal of arts funding and is trying to use the arts for social engineering."

The entirety of the Arts Council budget is social engineering!

It doesn\’t matter whether you swallow the official drivel or take a more realistic view of the matter. The official line is that State support for the Arts increases the amount of art available (it being a public good) and is thus of general benefit. This is social engineering.

The realistic view is that it is indoor relief for show offs. This is also social engineering, as it buys political support for the State itself from those same highly vocal show offs.

Complaining that the subsidies going to one fom of theatre or another is social engineering is like complaining that people are eating apples not bananas: they\’re all fruits.

Good Grief


Hopes of a deal to end the row over holding terrorist suspects for up to 42 days have increased after it emerged that the Conservatives had offered an olive branch to ministers which could save them from a humiliating defeat.

They\’re negotiating over this? A basic principle of civil liberties, and they\’re going to do a deal?