Tim Worstall

They’re really, really, missing the point

A unified pricing mechanism. Integrated trading. Shared information, and standardised rules. The European Union this week pushed forward with plans for what it calls a “capital market union”. It is attempting to build a common rule book and a single market in money that will, in theory anyway, make it cheaper for companies to raise capital, and strengthen the continent’s key financial centres.

A threat to the City? That would be the knee-jerk reaction. In fact, it should be a gift to London. Why? Because, in the real world, the more Brussels harmonises its rule books the worse its performance gets. And because the common rules will undoubtedly be far more cumbersome than the national ones they replace. If London plays it right, it should emerge from this process in a much stronger position.

There is no questioning the ambitions of the commissioners in Brussels to create a single market in finance to serve the whole bloc.

On Thursday, it unveiled the latest round of proposals to bring national capital markets under a single umbrella. There will be a single tape for pricing, as in the US, shared rules on transparency and settlement, and common standards on disclosure.

The reason London – and New York – wins is because it is flexible.

You can have an idea during the Morning George, be selling it by lunchtime and counting the money by tea. The rules are that any such idea conform to certain general rules about fraud, ripping off and so on, something that we’ll sort out later after we’ve seen how it all does.

The EU version of regulation demands that everything be approved before it can be done. In a static world that might not be all that bad an idea. But our whole point here is that the financial centre which can innovate will win. It’s not even which rules the EU will install. It’s the very fact that there will be one set of detailed rules to govern all which will kill the project over time.

Such a desperate surprise

But nearly a decade after London hosted the 2012 Games, Stratford’s regeneration still faces scepticism from local residents and politicians. With ballooning costs, delayed buildings and limited footfall, it seems to have failed to realise the social and economic Olympic legacy intended for host cities.

You mean blowing tens of billions on a drug fest – instead of spending the money on actual redevelopment – isn’t the way to do it?

We’ve thought about this before

Democrats desperately scrambling to find a potential successor to Joe Biden in 2024 are whispering about a potential nuclear option that could see Kamal Harris, the current Vice President, nominated to the Supreme Court.

While the scenario is highly improbable, and perhaps a reflection of a Washington rumour mill in overdrive, the fact it has come up at all shows the depths of the predicament the Biden administration currently finds itself in, amid rising inflation, a stalled domestic agenda, and foreign policy disasters.

And come to the conclusion that there’s nothing in it for Ms. Harris. She’s a more than reasonable chance of inheriting that Presidency, so why move? Further, there’s a certain doubt as to whether the current Senate would approve a successor as VP. Why would Repubs vote in someone less disastrous for the Dems?

And, of course, there might even be some Dems who think the Supreme Court to be a real and important thing and not a place to boot the incompetent on the Peter Principle.

BTW, an interesting commentary on politics as a way of running things. That KH is that heartbeat away from doing so, isn’t it?

Are MPs in office?

The first New Zealand MP to give birth while in office was in 1970, and another trail-blazed for breastfeeding at parliament house in 1983.

One of those linguistic things I’m not sure of. Ministers are in office, sure. MPs? Elected to a term, to the House, but office?

So, a science question

We’re all aware that smallpox went one way in the Colombian exchange, syphilis the other (no, don’t tell me it didn’t). Populations entirely unused or exposed to either died in their droves.

We also know that populations free of measles (say, Faroes) die in their drifts when it finally arrives.

So, colds and ‘flus. Making the distinction between the two. Clearly these have been around a long time. But then so also have human populations been very split for a very long time. So, did the European cold kill lots of Americans? The European ‘flu? The American versions lots of Europeans?

A case wouldn’t have survived the length of the early voyages and getting variolation to do so for smallpox required significant planning. But at some point the American pop would have been exposed to these common European diseases and vice versa. What then happened?

My assumption is that two different effects happened. One, that old diseases are, as these things go, less virulent. But also, old diseases in one population can hit a population that’s never been exposed to a close variant and so has much less immunity. What actually happens then depends upon the size of the two effects. Is a cold so lightweight that not much, or is it so different from the separately evolved one over 13,000 years that a lot happens?

Anyone know?


Arena TV is understood to have borrowed about £300 million from asset-based lenders

Fine place to get money from if you’ve got an asset heavy business to run.

an auditor, acting for one of Arena TV’s lenders, attempted to verify serial numbers for company-owned equipment used as security for loans. When the auditor called the equipment suppliers, they were told the serial numbers did not exist.

Ah, not so asset heavy then.

I assume the auditor wasn’t reading the numbers off the back of the kit because if that were true then it would mean it had more assets than thought. Must be the numbers on the paperwork that don’t exist…..

Interesting number

South Africa despite whites making up 8 per cent of the population

The UK BAME population is getting on for twice the size of the South African white one.

It is socially acceptable to call for Africa for Africans and not to do the same for the UK. Or, perhaps, the inverse. Funny that.

Note what I’m not saying, that calling for Britain for Britons is a good idea. It’s just the difference in the social acceptability of the two which I find interesting.

Well, yes, and sorta

Remember the “Phillips curve”, the idea that the tighter the labour market becomes, the more it pushes up wages, and therefore inflation?

It used to be the lodestar of interest rate-setters everywhere; the lower the rate of unemployment, the higher the likely rate of inflation, and vice versa.

For much of the post-war period, the Phillips curve was as good a guide as any on the likely path of inflation, and was therefore at the heart of much central bank thinking on the appropriate monetary policy stance.

It was, as said, an observation which held true. The exact mechanism tho’, that’s a bit trickier. Yes, we can and do talk of wage led inflation. And I’m most unsure.

True, I tend to think most macroeconomics is bollocksy. Simply because we’ve not got enough observations of enough different places and times to be able to sort through all the different variations of what might be the causes. We’re still at the stage, with macro, of noting correlations but really not having a great deal of clue as to causes. That is a very personal observation tho’. And undoubtedly at least partly caused by my just not like macro anyway – saying it doesn’t work is a great way of not having to study it.

Still, Phillips Curve. I tend to think that it’s not actually of unemployment and inflation. That unemployment isn’t the true variable. Rather, it’s spare capacity – effective capacity, a new coinage, a neologism, to be akin to effective demand – in the economy that is the true variable, unemployment merely being a proxy for it.

This aids in explaining why you can shift the curve as well as move along it. Change the structure of the labour market and the unemployment rate becomes a different measure of spare capacity in the economy.

But it’s spare capacity that matters, not purely spare labour. The link is between inflation and an economy producing as much as it can – or not – given the current structure of it. Unemployment being a symptom, signal perhaps, of that capacity.

But then as I say I don’t like macro therefore don’t know much about it.

Now isn’t this fun

Bitcoin exchanges have been dragged into the Treasury’s tech tax after HMRC said they would not qualify for an exemption granted to financial services companies.

The tax office has informed online cryptocurrency exchanges that they are subject to the levy, which is designed to ensure tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Amazon pay more to the Exchequer.

HMRC said crypto assets “are not financial instruments” and do not qualify as commodities or money, meaning online exchanges that sell cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and ethereum are not able to claim an exemption for financial marketplaces.

Crypto’s not money nor a commodity. Doesn’t that rather drive a coach and horses through the demands for know your customer rules and all that?

Or have we reached the sort of dystopia where the bureaucrats are allowed to use different definitions when they feel like it?

This seems reasonable

We recently cashed in our pensions, despite everybody telling you how tax efficient they are. I don’t like it if the Government can move the goalposts and alter my wealth without my input. I prefer investments I can see.

Especially given the Lord High Tax Denouncer’s ambitions for pension funds.

To replace that Wikipedia entry

But one proponent of deleting the page has stated on Wikipedia’s discussion page that “the view that the ideology of communism is somehow inherently violent is … anti-communist [point of view] pushing”.

Another supporter of deletion claims the entry on the deaths under Communism, estimated by some historians to be in the region of 100 million people, should not resort to “simplistic presuppositions that events are driven by any specific ideology”.

It has also been argued by one of the host of users who update and maintain Wikipedia that the page on mass killings under Communist regimes “is enabling a narrative and supports some fringe ideas about history”.

Replace the whole thing with a link to Robert Conquest, the link text being “I fucking told you so, you fucking fools”.

Correlation and Causation

“Partial correlation analyses show that media multi-tasking specifically was mostly correlated with negative mental health, while playing video games was associated with faster responding and better mental health.”

Looking at Tik Tok and also listening to the radio is worse than playing a game.

But this is entirely and wholly correlation – these people aren’t even trying, are they?

You can smell it from this distance

At the age of seven she was traumatised when her 62-year-old father left her 42-year-old mother and ran off with an 18-year-old blonde accordion player.

The obit writer’s joy. Sure, OK, showman runs off with showgirl, write me something new. Oh, an accordion? No, no, that’s got to, gotta, go in.

A useful addition to the agreed history

Alongside the financial reparations and apology, the settlement includes an agreed account of the Moriori history, a necessary step in correcting the myths and narratives the Crown disseminated over many generations.

Moriori had a pacifist philosophy which chief Nunuku-Whenua introduced to his people around the 16th century. The covenant of peace banned rank, violence and warfare. The imi lived undisturbed for many centuries until their first contact with European settlers in 1791, who arrived on the HMS Chatham, bringing with them diseases and the start of a new colonial era.

“In late 1835, about 900 people of two mainland Māori tribes sailed on a British ship to Rēkohu … the newcomers were welcomed and fed by Moriori in accordance with tikane Moriori (Moriori custom). Some Moriori wanted to resist the invaders, but the elders…urged the people to obey Nunuku’s law of peace … Upon returning to their villages they were attacked, and many were killed. Māori accounts put the number of Moriori killed in 1835–36 at about 300, or about one-sixth of the population. Those Moriori who survived the invasion were enslaved and forced to do manual labour,” the official account of Moriori history states.

Not that this should be all that much of a surprise. Barring that once and once only expansion into Terra Nullius history has been a series of one group invading and slaughtering another (true, often enough, just the men getting the chop, the women becoming the mothers of the new mixture).

The importance of this being that no one group – or at least, very rarely, as here – is the sole and original inhabitant who should be compensated for having been subject to that process. Because they’re just the latest example of second dog in that place, where once they – or their ancestors – were first dog and doin’ it to the then second.

True of Britain with neolithics and Celts and Angles and Saxons and Romans and Normans and on. True of all those varied First Nations and Native Americans, Incas, Aztecs, Olmecs and Mayans, true of Bantu and Maori and on and on.

“You bastards, you nicked our land!” might be an effective tactic these days but it’s hardly unusual as an occurence.

M. Hulot’s ‘Oliday

A popular French environmentalist and former government minister faces new allegations of rape and sexual abuse after several woman came forward in a TV documentary to testify that he had assaulted them.

The claims come four years after Nicolas Hulot, 66, was first accused of rape by the granddaughter of the late Socialist president François Mitterrand.

‘E mi’ be ‘avin’ une soon.

Oh Dear God, the stupidity

He is not alone. The Argentine peso, an old target of the currency markets, is down by 16pc this year, and yet President Alberto Fernández remains in power. The Chilean peso is down by 12pc, yet there are few signs that the plunge has any real political cost, although that may change in elections next month.

Investors may be nervous about Poland’s rows with the EU, making it the fifth worst-performing emerging markets currency in the world, but there is no sign that anyone in Warsaw cares in the least, nor will anyone in Moscow be worrying much about how the markets might react to its aggressiveness along its border with Ukraine. What the markets do doesn’t matter.

That is a huge change. A generation ago, even major developed countries such as the UK lived in fear of the markets turning against them.

In Harold Wilson’s governments of the 1960s, plagued by currency crises, “the gnomes of Zurich”, slang for the currency traders, were denounced but ultimately obeyed, while through the 1990s legendary speculators such as George Soros could bring whole currency systems crashing down overnight by shifting their funds from one place to another.

The verdict of the global capital markets was always final. Lose their support and you were toast.

Look, comparing the effects of FX changes is a fixed rate currency system with that in a floating rate system is nonce boy twattishness.

And yet these are the people who write the newspapers for us.

A business which rather self-cures

As with house clearances, so with charity shops:

Move over fast fashion – second-hand clothing is cool again. And entrepreneurs from Generation Z are making a mint, reselling designer items bought on the cheap at huge mark-ups on new online marketplaces, today’s digital car boot sales.

Many of these young sellers are buying old clothes by the kilo and trawling through charity shops in well-heeled areas with an eagle eye to what will sell. They have clocked that it’s young buyers being drawn to environmentally friendly credentials and a “vintage” aesthetic that has catapulted it into the mainstream.

That the waste stream of society contains things that can be reused should not be all that much of a surprise. That a detailed sorting of that stream can uncover those things and a profit be made, well, that’s obvious from the first point.

The thing is, once the pickers at one end of the process have worked it out then pickers closer to the source get switched on to that knowledge.

Charity shops already sort clothes for what can be resold, what should be sent to Africa. Imperfectly perhaps, but given this money making they’ll get better at it.

As with house clearances. As with an old acquaintance (for Bathonians, Robbie at bottom of Walcot St) who did house clearances. Over the years he got a good eye for what was value, what was junk. A fine collection of first editions was a part of his pensions savings.

The capturing of that value started with people scouring the second hand bookshops he’d deliver to in bulk. Once he cottoned on then that picking moved a stage up the process.

The same’ll happen to clothing here.

Tech advice again

So, this one is easy

Keyboards. Bored and tired of the cheapy stuff. Also, got some new work starting which will require lots of typy typy.

Those old IBM clicketty click keyboards. Apparently some folks make them like that today. Cherry maybe?

So, the task is, find the brand and model which are like that. On Amazon. So that I can then order from Amazon.es…..