Tim Worstall

Polly on Poverty

Most voters have a profound sense of justice

Indeed they do Polly, indeed they do.

But the word "poverty" plays badly with focus groups, even with the poor themselves: people are unconvinced it exists outside Africa. "Redistribution" does badly too. Mention the word benefit and people add "scrounger" on the end – often encouraged by Labour ministers who should know better. As a result, Labour never talks up its children\’s programme except to the poverty charities, as the two Eds did yesterday.

And therein lies the problem with your plans. Poverty, the general public thinks, does not exist in the UK as a general rule. The shoeless, foodless child will get any of us opening our wallets, whether directly or through the tax system. But when people look at the world around them they don\’t see that. Your definition of poverty (less than 60% of median income, or, if you prefer, well into the top 20% of global incomes) strikes most as not being poverty but simply some having more than others. And to the Great British Public this isn\’t the same thing, nor is it a matter of great concern.

Which is why, as younote, it doesn\’t play well with the public.

As for child poverty, do not underestimate the scale of Labour\’s task. As the median income moves up 2% a year and benefits for parents are not up-rated with earnings, the target keeps getting harder to reach. It means running fast up a down escalator.

And when people realise that then your project will be stone dead. For you\’ve let the cat out of the bag. This isn\’t investment, a one off payment to solve a problem, it\’s a committment to steadily increasing spending forever. Higher taxes, rising steadily, forever, to "solve" something which, as you point out, most don\’t care about. Perhaps that\’s why the politicians don\’t talk about it, eh?

How to Get a High Traffic Blog

Ashley Youmans\’ website address was receiving about 1m page impressions an hour yesterday morning,

Charge the Governor of New York for sex, obviously.

A properly monetized web page should get somewhere north of $10 per CPM so being found out is more profitable per hour than doing the deed as well.

Iain Dale\’s Right You Know

He then used a barrage of statistics to "prove" that Britain has one of the lowest rates of business taxation in the world, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The actual headline rate of corporation tax is really pretty irrelevant. There\’s so much fiddling going on with what is actually a profit for tax purposes that just looking at it being 28%, or 30%, tells you almost nothing.

Have a look here. Corporate taxes as a percentage of the total tax take.

Rank   Countries  Amount  (top to bottom)   
#1   Luxembourg: u20.5%   
#2   Norway: u18.9%   
#3   Australia: u16.8%   
#4   Ireland: u13.1%   
#5   Korea, South: u12.8%   
#6   Japan: u12.2%   
#7   New Zealand: u12.1%   
#8   Czech Republic: u11.8%   
#9   Greece: u10.4%   
#10   Canada: u10.1%   
#11   Finland: u9.3%   
#12   Spain: u9.1%   
#13   Switzerland: u8.8%   
#14   Netherlands: u8.8%   
#15   Slovakia: u8.2%   
#16   United Kingdom: u8.1%   
#17   Belgium: u7.6%   
#18   Italy: u7.6%   
#19   Turkey: u7.1%   
#20   United States: u6.7%   
#21   France: u6.6%   
#22   Poland: u6.3%   
#23   Hungary: u6.2%   
#24   Denmark: u5.8%   
#25   Austria: u5.1%   
#26   Sweden: u4.8%   
#27   Iceland: u3%   
#28   Germany: u2.9%   
  Weighted average: u9.3%    

You\’ll note that, for example, Ireland, which has a much lower headline rate, collects vastly more of its budget from taxing corporations. You\’ll also note that Germany, which has a much higher corporate profits tax rate, collects almost nothing from such corporations.

As I say, the rate is almost irrelevant unless you take account of how you\’re defining profit for tax purposes in the first place.

One thing though: the tax take from corporates in the UK is just under the weighted average. That corporations don\’t bear the economic burden of a tax is another matter, but by international comparisons the UK is in the middle of the pack.

The National Trust

Well, yes:

The report says land and its natural resources were undervalued, underfunded and needed better care……The trust, which manages 250,000 hectares of open countryside and 700 miles of coastline, says it had drawn on its experience as Britain\’s biggest landowner after the Government in writing its Nature\’s Capital report.

When the largest landowner in hte country is a charitable trust, one which does not manage land for its economic value, then, yes, it\’s pretty clear that here will be a misvaluation of land by the market.

Anyone Surprised?

Ante-natal classes are failing to prepare women for the painful reality of childbirth, a study claims today.

New mothers are often shocked at the "intensity" of the agony they experience in labour, researchers from Newcastle University found.

"Unrealistic" expectations also led many to believe that they wouldn\’t need pain relief during childbirth.

We\’ve had decades of hippie dippy propaganda about "natural childbirth", about how it is the most rewarding off experiences, about how the use of pain relief somehow detracts from the experience.

In truth, it might be some of those things, but it\’s also damned painful. The blame clearly lies with those running the classes, their being a tad unrealistic in what they tell people.



Project Quaero

The European Union\’s competition watchdog has appoved the use of €99m (£76m) of French state aid for a consortium attempting to build an internet search engine to take on Google.

It\’s French money being spent on a French project, so, good luck to them, no skin off my nose. However, I do smell at least a whiff of politicians being bewitched by technological dreams here. Google\’s a great search engine, there\’s no doubt about that. However, the actual company Google isn\’t valuable because of the search engine at all. The value is in Adwords, those little things up at the top left.

Seriously, in financial value, it\’s their near control of the online advertising industry that creates the value. If you launched a search engine that was 10 times better than Google, you\’d still not topple them from that position.

I (cynic that I am) get the feeling that the politicians doing the funding have been a tad starry eyed. If you want to get some of those hundreds of billions of $ of value that Google currently demands, you\’ve got to build a better advertising platform. The search engine is near irrelevant.

But then €99m of tax money to fund an advertising platform doesn\’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

MPs\’ Expenses

A quick shufti at what MPs can claim as expenses on second (or constituency) homes from this list.


Nothing there looks entirely outrageous in price…except, except, the very first item. Who on earth buys air conditioning in the UK climate?

It\’s hardly either a necessary or common expenditure now, is it? It\’s actually an unusual one down here in the Algarve, let alone the UK.


There Ain\’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Fathers and mothers will both be able to take more than six months paid leave together after having a baby, under radical Conservative plans to make the party appear more family friendly.

Whether this is a good thing or not is really rather for others to decide: I\’m not going to be taking paternity (or maternity) leave anytime soon nor do I employ anyone who might. But I would note that one effect is likely to be on the gender pay gap. As regular readers will know, I\’m convinced that the majority of it (if not all) is in fact a childcare pay gap, or a motherhood one.

Equalizing paternity and maternity leave is likely to close that gap then, as it\’s both the expense to employers and the degradation of human capital caused by the career breaks which causes the pay gap.

However, this free lunch thing. The pay gap will simply reappear as one between those with children and those without.

As, in fact, it already makes itself apparent amongst women. Never married childless women in their 40s do not suffer a gender pay gap at all.

I have to admit to a sneaking feeling that this is actually something of a good thing as well: those who have children, whether male or femlae, should be those who bear the economic costs of having children. Yes, the leave costs businesses money, but wages, as we see currently, adjust to that cost.

To allow the mother to recover from childbirth and form a strong bond with the child, the first 14 weeks of the entitlement would apply only to her.

That\’s very weird though. Why enforce leave upon someone?


Politicians take people\’s money with a promise to fulfill desires that supposedly can\’t be attained any other way. Prostitutes do the same, though by reputation, they are more reliable in delivering. It\’s not surprising for people in the same line of work to gravitate toward one another, as Eliot Spitzer and a woman named Kristen reportedly did in a Washington hotel room.


So, congratulations Gordon: a line of cocaine (on Dec07 street prices) is now cheaper than half a pint cider.

The Hansard Fraser points to says cocaine is £40 a gramme. A half pint of cider, well….

Sainsbury\’s has come under fire for slashing the price of cider to 26p a pint, fuelling concern over the role of supermarkets in the nation\’s binge-drinking culture.

So, umm, 13 p.

So, we can now calculate how much cocaine Fraser thinks is in a line, can we not?

One three hundred and eighth of a gramme.

1/308 g.

Journalists really are lightweights, aren\’t they?


Barroso on Biofuels

Aaargh, aaargh, make it stop, please!

Mr Barroso called for international agreement on the types of biofuels that should be allowed but insisted that the EU targets would increase their sustainability. “The only alternative we have for biofuels today is oil. And there is no question, the impact on the environment of oil is much greater than for biofuels.”

No, you pint sized Portugee moron!

We know that biofuels lead to greater emissions than the use of fossil fuels.

You\’re insisting that we all go off to make the problem worse.

Look, please, can you not simply admit that you\’ve all made a mistake, that biofuels are only the answer to the question "how do we cook the planet faster while making everyone poorer?"

I\’ll even draft the speech for you. You know, Keynes and all that. "New scientific evidence has come to light showing that the earlier decision was based on incomplete information. As the late great Lord Keynes once said, "When the facts change I change my mind. Pray, what do you do Sir?".

Or is that too difficult?

Can we leave yet?

Erm, Guys, Macro, Macro

Drinkers and drivers were hit in the pocket yesterday as Alistair Darling used them and a borrowing surge to try to steer Britain away from recession and through global financial storms.

I bloody well hope that\’s not what Darling is trying to do. The borrowing makes sense in Keynsian terms. If there\’s a recession coming along then deficit spending is a reasonable thing to do (although there\’s a lot to be said fo the idea that we\’ve already got enouh natural such spending  built into the system).

But raising taxes is, under the same rubric, entirely the wrong thing to do. Because, er, the aim of deficit spending is to boost spending, see, not just move it from the drinker\’s pocket to the public sector\’s.


This was always going to happen, wasn\’t it?

Hackers have managed to circumvent the BBC\’s anti-piracy systems to gain unrestricted access to the programmes on the corporation\’s iPlayer internet TV service……..

However, the backdoor in the iPlayer allows users to completely bypass those protections and download unprotected versions of any show on the website.

One of the hackers responsible said it took him only 12 minutes to find the loophole and make it work – but that such a simple hack potentially opened up every programme on iPlayer for unlimited downloading.

"The BBC accidentally opened the floodgates and gave the world DRM-free downloads," said one hacker with knowledge of the breach. "If only it were down to something other than poor design, decisions and ineptitude."

As you will know, I\’m resolutely non-technical, but the impression I\’ve had from reading the rest of you is that the original decision, to develop this technology in house rather than to pick up an already developed piece of code was where it all went wrong.