Timmy Elsewhere

I write blogs to influence debate. It’s always worth noting when they do*.

The SNP led by Nicola Sturgeon have reignited the debate around Scottish independence which culminated in a defeat for the Yes campaign in 2014. But after the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016 – despite most in Scotland opting for Remain – Ms Sturgeon believes she has a mandate to take Scotland into the EU via independence. But this has led to debate surrounding the ease with which Scotland could join the bloc, and the economic repercussions of independence. Tim Worstall – a senior fellow at the Adam Smith Institute – argued in his article for Forbes in 2016 that the issue could hurt the SNP.

He claimed “there is no easy way for Scotland to get in. It cannot slide through by saying it was already in thus should have an easy time of it or anything”.

He added: “What this means is that Scotland will need to have that second referendum.

“And I think I speak for many if not most English when I say that if they want to leave well, goodbye and good luck.

“Also that they’re going to need that good luck. For the next stage would obviously be to join the European Union, as they say they want to.”

Mr Worstall said from a legal perspective, Scotland could integrate easily, but it wouldn’t be so seamless from an economic perspective.

He continued: “In order to join the EU you’ve got to have a budget deficit of three percent of GDP or less or be obviously (which allows for some fudging) moving in that direction.

“And Scotland, now that oil has plummeted, simply is not there. It’s difficult, given the intertwining of British and Scottish accounts to get it exactly right but reasonable estimates have the Scottish alone budget deficit at 8 to 10 percent of GDP.

“At which point the EU won’t let Scotland in. Not unless they do some fiscal contraction amounting to a good five percent or so of GDP.

“And that’s why the SNP don’t actually want what they’re claiming to want, independence and then EU entry.

“Because imposing that sort of austerity on their own nation, when they are obviously in charge and responsible, would kill them as a political party.”

* That headline might be a quote from someone else.


As anyone who has ever dealt with the welfare or tax systems knows, there is a potential joy in asking them to do something simple rather than administer the current unwieldy structure. Surely even they would be able to hand out free money? Sadly, though, we are left with the truth that the most important part of the phrase “universal basic income” is “basic”. We can afford it if it is set at a near-trivial level, not if it’s any more than that.


What is it that such independence gives those schools? It’s the independence from the management structure that currently exists. We’ll be killing centralized management, the politics, the union shops, and the stranglehold that all have on creating what we should be desiring, an education system that does some educating.

Defunding a police system in order to make room for a wholesale replacement has been proven to work. Doing it again to the inner city (at least, there is no reason why this should not be universal), school systems would do so again. That this means getting rid of the teachers unions is of course a joy, but it’s not just that. It’s rather the point of the exercise.

Want black lives to matter? Kill the current education system. Kill it stone dead. Then rebuild it anew and without any of the people who currently misrun it.

Can’t say everything in 600 words but

Solving the Floyd problem:

The agreements that have built up over the years, such things as qualified immunity for the police and other inequalities before the law, are specifically there in order to release the police from those same responsibilities in the exercise of those powers. That’s what unions are for, of course, to privilege union members — which is why we must not have them in the police force.

Getting rid of these special arrangements means getting rid of the unions that negotiate them. That might only be a start, but it’s a necessary precondition. Abolishing police unions would be the first step in moving police forces away from their position as legally privileged occupying powers back to what they ought to be — just the citizenry in uniform serving the society they are a part of.

Yes, this is only an annoyance but still….

There are grandchildren out there. Who, as a result of the latest announcements, don’t have to be in any particular place until the autumn.

There is also a large flat in Portugal which can accommodate grandchildren.

A once in a lifetime chance – leaving aside Gap Yeahs perhaps – to have 3 months at the beach. Or in the sunshine at least.

This coinciding with not being able to get here* and also there being bugger all – other than the beach – to do once here.


* I’ve even pondered whether they might be able to use Eurostar to get over the Sleeve and I’d rent a car – rather cheap at present – and pick them up but land borders are still closed.


The national attempts to source PPE have not been so successful, with the reliance upon central bureaucracy probably being the reason. As Friedrich Hayek pointed out, all knowledge is local. Things are best done by people who know what they’re doing.

When considering medical equipment we can even identify who those people are. We have a number of purchasing managers employed, and a number of sales managers. They are the experts in what is needed and what it is possible to supply. If they talk to each other then knowledge meets knowledge, and that’s the best chance of producing a solution. As opposed to the idea of everything being filtered through a bureaucracy that lacks
the essential information.

Given official intransigence, it is Edmund Burke’s little platoons who save the day. The website PPE Exchange has been cobbled together by the publicly minded, as distinct from the publicly employed, and does just what it says on the tin: it is an exchange for these necessaries, and one that claims to have two billion pieces of equipment available at time of writing.

The correct governmental solution to many problems is less of it, not more. Who knows, trusting the people might even catch on as an idea.

Death certificates and lifespans

Something that rather negates a lot of research into the inequality of lifespans out therethere:

Let’s take Marmot’s contention that life expectancy in the poorest ward of Kensington and Chelsea is 22 years lower than in the richest. As with the Marmot Review into inequality, this fundamentally misunderstands the way life expectancy is measured.

Imagine a world in which Boris Johnson had succumbed to coronavirus – would that have registered as a change in life expectancy in London or New York? It would be recorded as one in London, the place of residence at time of death, not the place of birth. For the numbers used to calculate lifespans across geography are years lived allied with place of death – not the place of birth.

At the national level this is fair enough, even if not totally accurate. Some 15% of the current countrywide population is foreign born, so measuring lifespan by age and place of death is only ever going to be some 85% accurate. When the attempt is made to narrow this down to council ward level it’s not going to be accurate in the slightest. The assumption being made is that some useful portion die in that same little geographic area containing 5,000 or so people that we were born into. This is simply not supportable.

We don;t know the lifespan of the people born into an area. We only know the lifespan of someone who dies in an area.

The implication of this should be obvious. We have no information at all on the effects of childhood upon lifespan when allied with geography…..


My thanks to the Meissen Bison for alerting me to the existence of the French dog walking form:

Among the measures introduced in France to deal with the coronavirus is a requirement to fill in a form before going out for a walk.

No, really, this is not a joke. As part of the lockdown it is necessary, before leaving the house, to complete and sign a download from the Ministry of the Interior. Name, address, what you think you’re doing and so on.

This is not filed with anyone, nor registered. It must simply be carried during the errand. Absence, if caught, will lead to a €135 fine. A new form is required for every exit from the house. And yes, there’s a box to tick for “aux besoins des animaux de compagnie” which my memories of exchange visits have as “for the needs of our furry friends”.

The solution to a global pandemic is a form for walking the dog. Of course, it is easy to mock the French but there is an important point here, for this is an example of a pernicious worldview. That we, the people, are only able to cope if we are told what to do, what we may do. All must be decided and enforced by the clever people in power and nothing left to ordinary folks to get on with.

Our own tradition is vehemently different. I have surprised people in a number of countries by pointing out that a British policeman isn’t actually allowed to ask — or at least not to insist upon knowing — what it is that you are doing. If accosted, a cheery “Going about my lawful business, constable” is all that is required. Such liberties might not apply in moments of crisis but they are indicative of a different manner of thinking.

That’s a difference we must continue with, even as parliament considers extending the powers of the police during this emergency. The undirected but considered interactions of 65 million of us are what we call the economy, society itself. These will also be the solutions to our current crisis.

We now face we know not what. Perhaps a loss of 1 per cent of GDP for a few weeks, possibly 10 per cent for many months. The very creation of that GDP in the first place is those voluntary interactions of the 65 million of us. So, too, will be the maintenance of it and the recovery. It is markets, not central direction, that will work — and certainly not dog-walking forms.

Be adult, be responsible, and the best of British to you.


The only argument in favor is that large numbers of recent graduates will vote, entirely selfishly, for someone who promises to alleviate their debt. Or, as we could also put the same idea, Sanders wants to buy their votes with $1.6 trillion of our money. Again, this is a private benefit to Sanders at the public cost to the rest of us.

At least that does show us that Sanders is not some new and different sort of politician. After all, politics is the art of buying sufficient votes with other people’s money, isn’t it? It appears that he’s pretty good at that.


The original contention, that regulation can make markets better, is entirely true. It’s just that we’ve got to be careful about how and why. Only when we’ve gained our justification for regulation will we get those two right.

Essentially, regulation from outside the market is only needed when we are dealing with things that have one of the two features: Effects that spill over to those not part of the transaction, and things that we don’t do very often. Things that are just the direct voluntary interaction of buyer and seller, and in commonplace transactions, we can leave to self-regulation.

A market that regulates itself, or one that is regulated by the participants in it, is not an unregulated market; it’s just one not regulated by those outside it.


If people wish to do something then why shouldn’t they do so? This is the hurdle that any proposal to outlaw an activity must clear. What is the justification for snatching away an opportunity for people to make their own lives better, by their own lights?

That some such restrictions leap the barrier is obvious. The existence of murder shows that some do indeed wish to do it. We ban it as best we can, punish it if we’re able and generally try to discourage it. We don’t succeed, as some hundreds in the UK find out every year, but we do try.

That some don’t leap the barrier is equally obvious. History is replete with sumptuary laws in which what one may wear or eat is determined by government – on the grounds that the peons should not be allowed what is properly, righteously, something that only the elite may be able to do. The differentiation between those emitting carbon by flying for a holiday and those doing so to attend a climate demonstration (copyright Emma Thompson) is perhaps a modern incarnation.

Economic predictions

So, I said that Rolls Royce might be a beneficiary of Brexit.

This is what makes Rolls Royce so attractive as a hedge or speculation upon Brexit. If the worst – or for people like me politically, the best – happens and Britain leaves with no deal and settles for WTO terms. Rolls Royce carries none of the costs, as other exporters will have to. But has all of the gains of the falling currency. And do note that aviation is priced in US dollars, the entire market is. So this doesn’t just apply to sales of engines, but also to the decades long service and maintenance contracts the company has with all those foreign airlines.

A fall in sterling from a messy Brexit would be great for Rolls Royce.

Of course, sterling has risen just recently……sigh.

Al Beeb

On Friday, on the World Service, you might be able to hear a discussion between me and the CEO of the New Economic Foundation on what next for Britain after Brexit.

Depends how they edit it but it could be fun.


If HS2 doesn’t work then it is not correct to ask what else the money should be spent on, instead it’s to ask why the hell government has the cash in the first place. The same is true of absolutely everything that government does. Not what else should it be doing, or doing instead, but why is the state getting involved in the first place?

Yeeeehah! It’s this month it happens!

Back in 2006 I asked in The Times:

POLITICIANS would do well to heed the wisdom offered to trainee lawyers: never ask a question if you’re not sure what the answer will be. José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, made this mistake on Monday when delivering the Hugo Young Memorial Lecture.

He asked whether we British would prefer to be, with respect to the EU, driving from the centre or “sulking from the periphery”, as though those were the only two alternatives. A third possible response, involving a quick goodbye and a return to independence, would probably rather shock him, although he did very kindly state that the choice is ours.

Well, here’s what I asked:

Which leaves us with the only important question out there. Can we leave yet?

The answer, now, being yes, we can.


Odd to agree with Sir Vince

But there we are, oddities happen at times in an infinite universe:

Sir Vince Cable’s defence of Royal Mail privatisation could be minuted, perhaps uncharitably, as “It’s a dog, that’s why we sold it”.

He’s right, of course, however politically unsuitable it is to tell the truth to people. As he notes, the share price is now half what the government sold at, which is pretty solid vindication. Remember, too, that he and the coalition government were pilloried for selling it off too cheaply after an initial spike in the share price. A few years on, theirs looks like an eminently sensible decision.

After all, those who manage the nation’s assets should at least try to take the profits and dump the losses.

Trump and tariffs

Tariffs are simply a bad idea both in theory and practice. They make us poorer, which isn’t the point of this economic game at all.

But then, well, we’re in an election period, aren’t we? So, economic interventions aren’t going to be made on the basis of good economics but mere political calculation.

Which brings us to the most worrying thing of all: of the people running to be president, Trump is the least interventionist. Everyone else insists there should be more politics in economic decisions. Lord, help us all.

Don’t like the sound of this

So, I do stuff at Seeking Alpha. That website not working at present. The message, when asked why, being:

Hi Tim,

You’ll be hearing from the Contributors team within a few days.



That’s not good, is it?

It’s one thing to have a change in what can be written, where, for how much. It’s another to lose a couple of month’s already earned income….