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Tim Worstall

Peter Preston

What delightfully garbled logic. If we try to leave the European Union then:

It was there at the heart of the so-called constitutional treaty, but almost nobody noticed. It is there again in the reviled reform treaty, but no one has mentioned that so far. Turn to clause 57 and article 35, then: "Voluntary Withdrawal from the Union". Scan, for the first time, precisely how we\’d get out of Europe. You can (paragraph 1) decide to withdraw if you like. You must (paragraph 2) negotiate with the council of ministers. You\’ll need to agree the details of that withdrawal and a framework for future relationships with the EU. The European parliament will want to approve this, too.

Thereafter, every dotted line signed, you\’re out. The treaties of membership don\’t apply – unless (paragraph 3) there\’s still haggling to do over the small print; in which case, you\’re free from those obligations after two years while the argument goes on. But note (paragraph 4) that you\’re off the council the moment you signal your intention to pull out. You have no voice in other decisions the EU may take. The ministers who remain will use qualified voting. No vetoes apply.

So therefore we can\’t leave because it would all be too complicated.

Which really rather misses the point. All of this only comes into effect if the Constitutional Reform Treaty is ratified. The current situation is that we pass an Act of Parliament and we\’re out.

All of which means that it\’s a great deal simpler for us to leave now rather than later, doesn\’t it?

Property Rights, Property Rights.

We hear a lot about what we should be doing for the poor of the world. But what is it that the poor themselves seem to be demanding?

Demonstrators will present their demands to parliament today, including a call for a national land commission to grant patta — legal title — to those who have occupied land for generations but have been ousted with little compensation.

Property rights d\’ye say? My, have they all been reading Hernando de Soto or something?


Greatest Living Geniuses

Not sure you know, not sure at all.

Brian Eno and Damian Hirst at joint 15th? Noam Chomsky at 32?

Although there\’s the joy of seeing that Rupert Murdoch is rated above both Chomsky and Harold Pinter…that\’ll annoy the right people.

A Grown Up Debate on Immigration

Yes, as David Cameron says, let\’s have a grown up debate on immigration. Most important that we do actually.

Immigration is too high and must be reduced, David Cameron is to announce.

In his first major speech on the issue, the Tory leader will challenge Gordon Brown to a "grown-up" debate.

As has been noted here before the only one of the four types of immigration that the UK really controls is family reunification. Intra EU movements cannot be stopped, asylum is ruled by UN agreements and extra EU economic migration is about to become subject to the new EU "blue cards".

So anyone who wants to seriously change the amount of immigration needs to state that we have to be outside the EU for this to happen. That would be the adult debate…we\’d like to change this situation but we don\’t actually have the power to do so. So how do we reclaim it?

I\’m, as most will know, in favour of the free movement of labour, so I\’m not actually advocating that we do change the immigration rules. Just pointing out that it\’s all very well to talk about it, but if you don\’t actually have the power to change it, then that\’s all it is, talk.

Royal Gay Scandal

This Royal gay scandal is all most annoying. Mr. Google is sadly not offering up some foreign source that tells us who it is that was being (or attempted to be) blackmailed. The best we can get is that it concerns a "minor royal" and that\’s all over the BBC and other places.

How minor is minor though? Freddie Windsor? Zara getting it on with Kate?

Come along now, what\’s the internet for if not to tell us such things?


Google Changes

Hmm. This is interesting.

Google is playing with Pagerank again. Back down to PR 5 now. Anyone else seen sites changing?

The Wisdom of Crowds

Another confirmation that distributed knowledge is indeed right on certain points.

Lloyd, however, adds a coda that will depress Britain’s publishers, especially Random House. “In my experience,” he said, “the public generally think that politicians are at best hypocrites or simply a bunch of lying bastards.”

Who could possibly argue that they\’re wrong?

Oh For Fuck\’s Sake Will!

Jesu Christe and Good God Almighty. How on earth does this man get regarded as an expert on the economy? Will Hutton:

And there is Bruce Wasserstein, the larger-than-life, extravagantly rich current CEO, who now lives in London to escape even the US\’s minimal taxes.

He\’s a US citizen. Thus he pays US taxes. The US is unique in this regard, that you do not escape their minimal taxes (which, in NYC at least, are not minimal, they\’re higher than the UK…when you add Federal to State and City income taxes they\’re over 50%) by moving abroad. You still cough up to Uncle Sam what you would if you lived in the US (barring some minor adjustments fo amounts under $100,000 or so, which certainly aren\’t going to bother someone like Wasserstein).

Not knowing that simple and basic fact really rather makes anything else Hutton has to say on the subject a little suspect, doesn\’t it?


Bravo, Bravo Mr. Cohen. Sticking it to the homeopaths.

One tiny niggle: the placebo effect is real and when there\’s no other available treatment, why not use it?

But as to the use against malaria, or AIDS, thi is absolutely correct:

This is murder. It\’s really that simple.

Cherie Booth

My apologies here, but I thought that this woman was supposed to be bright?

It certainly represents what\’s happening in Tanzania, where I have been meeting African businesswomen. The popular saying – \’the African farmer and her husband\’ – shows there is nothing new in the essential, if hidden, role of women in the economy.

OK, right, we know this.

Women own just 1 per cent of the world\’s titled land, a fact that makes it very difficult for women entrepreneurs to get bank loans, because they have no collateral.

Yup, we also know this. However, did you know this?

Under Section 4 (1) the Land Act, 1999, all land in Tanzania belongs to the state. Land can, however, be owned in three different ways 1) Government granted right of occupancy 2) Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) derivative rights 3) Sub – Leases created out of granted right of occupancy by the private sector.

Rights of occupancy and derivative rights are granted for a short term and long term period.

That is, that no one in Tanzania owns land, they only lease it from The State? A fairly important thing to note, don\’t you think, when reporting from Tanzania on the difficulties of entrepreneurs getting bank loans because they have no collateral?

So where does the reputation for intelligence come from?

Beating Climate Change

The latest suggestion:

The campaign will urge people to plan meals, write – and stick to – shopping lists, make smaller portions, and learn to prepare and cook leftovers and food which is past its prime.

Yup, we should all eat rotten food to save the planet.

Scriptwriters\’ Strike

So, err:

With those contracts due to expire at the end of this month the writers, who can earn anything from $10,000 to $200,000 per episode are arguing for a share of both income streams.


Tim Adler, editor of TV magazine Screen Finance says one of the concerns will be that with many top British writers forced into membership of the Writers Guild of America in order to sell their work to US studios, they could be forced to turn down any work that does drift across the Atlantic.

Hmm. How does one become a script writing scab? Of course, there\’s a basic assumption here that (having seen a lot of US TV I do so assume) talent and ability are not a necessary requirement.

Investigating the Supermarkets

How glorious this is and how silly of me not to have seen it coming.

So, the allegation is that the supermarkets are doing two things. Firstly, that they\’re oligopolists of a kind, carving up the shopping market between them and there\’s not enough competition. The second is that they\’re driving the smaller retailers out of business….that is, that there\’s too much competition (which is an odd thing to accuse of happening but there we are).

So those fighting either side of that argument (actually, I think the review was demanded by those representing the smaller retailers) ask for someone to go and have a look at the market.

The planning system will also be criticised and is likely to be revamped. The commission will suggest that the "needs test", whereby a new entrant has to prove that a town requires a new supermarket, is a barrier to entry and could be axed. The needs test is unpopular as it hands a big advantage to the incumbent in any town. Abolishing the test would create a level playing field between the big four by making it easier for them to open stores.

However it could prove unpopular with small, independent retailers, who have been put under unprecedented pressure by supermarkets\’ unrelenting expansion.

Aha! There\’s isn\’t enough competition and it isn\’t because of collusion amongst the supermarkets themselves, rather, it\’s the planning system itself. So, loosen that system, allow, even promote, more competition and see the consumers revel in further surplus.

Pity about those small retailers who are going to get steamrollered of course…but then they did ask for the review in the first place.

A little lesson perhaps: if you\’re a lobbying group you might not actually want someone to have an impartial look at you. Might be better just to keep screaming emotionally from the sidelines.

Glorious Bureaucracy!

Isn\’t it wonderful? The forms are being filled out, the paperwork checked. Thoughtful bureaucrats, those creatures of near divine omniscience, are making sure that everything is simply ticketty boo in this green and pleasant land. Of course, there are some very slight teething problems:

Dozens of small circuses are facing financial ruin, bogged down by new rules and paperwork which have forced them to cancel performances, send home the clowns and pension off much loved performing animals.

Very slight:

The main problem is the impact of the Licensing Act that came into force at the end of 2005 and which requires circuses to apply for a licence for every site they visit. These cost up to £1,000 each and take at least 28 days to process and frequently much longer.

This has robbed circuses of their traditional flexibility, which involves picking venues at short notice after taking into account factors such as local economics and the weather. It has also meant that if a site is unusable, because of flooding, for instance, the circus cannot move to an alternative venue, even if it is an adjoining field, because this would require a fresh licence.

Circuses can seek a £21 temporary permit, but this takes at least two weeks to process. It restricts the numbers of performances and size of audiences, and results in circuses performing in front of dozens of empty seats.

Almost all travelling circuses have had to cancel performances this year because they cannot get new licences in time. Many have endured weeks on end of sitting idle.

But no complaints from us, no siree! After all, it\’s better that the paperwork is in order rather than people actually doing what they want, isn\’t it? Better that permission is properly granted than that children go to the circus to see the clowns? Vastly better that the Man from the Council, who really does know best, take two weeks to allow a tent to move from one field to the next?

Just think what anarchy would prevail if all of this were not controlled, not under the watchful eye of our glorious neighbourhood commissars!

What do you think this is? A free country or something?

Rising STDS

Oh Dear:

Cases of sexually transmitted diseases are soaring while cuts are made to screening and treatment services, doctors have warned.

Well, the Irish experience was pointed out. Banning smoking in pubs did lead to a rise in STDs there.