Timmy Elsewhere

Sadly, I can’t actually respond to this one

I have a feeling that [email protected] might not be a wholly accurate return address. But here’s the message in full:

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Fuck u Tim. Ur comment at Forbes on justifying Bangladeshi workers getting low wages is completely vague. Bd is a devoloping country u ass, and the fastest growing economy in south Asia. get u facts right u dickhead. U moron don’t split ur selfmade stat anywhere u want. Asshole.

Boy, has he got the wrong end of the stick there.

Over at Quora

What is a K-shaped economic recovery?

Tim Worstall

A political invention.

No, quite seriously, that’s all it is. There are those who want to get their priorities to the top of the societal list of things that are going to be solved. Hey, that’s just what politics is, the argument over which thing gets done next.
So, when stuff happens you invent (yes, just make up) some description of events which means that your wishes are important and must move up that list.*

Of course, sometimes there are real new problems and we’ve got to have some method of distinguishing between the new and these inventions. The correct method here is to look at the proposed solutions and who is proposing them.

If the solutions are the same things the proposers have been saying for years, if what we need to do about it is just the same old thing, then this is a made up, invented, reason just to do the same old things. Not, actually, a new problem at all.

So, the solutions proposed to the K-shaped economic recovery are the usual list of stronger unions, higher taxes, more redistribution and so on. These solutions coming from the people who have been proposing stronger unions, higher taxes, more redistribution, for decades now. That is, the K-shaped recovery isn’t an actual thing, it’s just a made up, invented, justification for stronger unions, higher taxes and more redistribution.

As such we can ignore it.

*The archetype here is Cato.

“***Ceterum autem censeo Carthaginem esse delendam*** (“Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed”), often abbreviated to ***Carthago delenda est*** (“Carthage  must be destroyed”) or ***Ceterum censeo***, is a Latin oratorical phrase  pronounced by Cato the Censor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cato_the_Elder), a politician of the Roman Republic . The phrase originates from debates held in the Roman Senate prior to the Third Punic War between Rome and Carthage , where Cato is said to have used it as the conclusion to all his speeches in order to push for the war.”

His speeches really did run along the lines of “And so we should dig the drainage ditch and therefore I conclude that Carthage must be destroyed” “The price of olive oil is too high and thus Carthage must be destroyed” and so on. Eventually the Romans got so bored of this they went and destroyed Carthage.

Want stronger unions, higher taxes and more redistribution? This week it’s the K-shaped recovery, last month it was the recession, 3 months back Black Lives Matter, 6 months ago rising inequality and so on and on. If the policy never changes, only the justification, then the justification is the invention.


This is, though writ small, the basic politico-economic problem that afflicts all detailed plans for the management of the economy and society. It kills all such plans, from the new paternalistic Right of Oren Cass through to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Marxist Left. Those in the political center, the government, the political class, and even the bureaucracy just never have the information necessary to be able to make such plans. Here, we think there are 30 million people unemployed and at least 5 million, but probably closer to 10 million of them, are on the lam. That’s just not a valid base of evidence upon which to make plans about stimulating the economy to reduce unemployment.

Therefore, the best we can do is set basic and simple rules — rules of law, of property, and so on. For we never do have enough valid information to be able to do anything else. They even gave Friedrich Hayek the Nobel Prize for pointing this out. It’s just science, and we all always follow the science, right?


It’s also such a strange thing for an environmentalist to get caught up in. The entire point of ecology is to note that everything in nature is interdependent. Take away the apex predator, the wolf, and Scotland’s red deer starve as they outbreed the food supply. Knock out the moa from New Zealand’s fauna and that condemns the specialist predator, Haast’s eagle, to extinction.

That one part of the system depends upon the others is the very lesson of ecology itself. How did California and Oregon ever get to the position that a fire-dependent ecology shouldn’t ever have fires? That’s the single issue fanatic all over. Grasping onto the one point, burnt birds are bad, to the exclusion of that rounded and mature view that it’s the total environment that matters, not any one constituent part of it.

Feeding street children in Bangladesh

As most of you will know I write a column in a Bangladeshi newspaper. The fee for which gets spent upon this:

‘Ek Takay Ahar’, which refers to ‘food for a single penny’. Under this program hundreds of street dwelling children get their fundamental need of regular meals in exchange of one taka.

Of course, my column is paid at Bangladeshi rates so it’s not the sole support, nor even main or significant, of the program. I also have nothing at all to do with it other than scribbling the words for the newspaper.

I didn’t even direct the fee to it. When I got the column I knew one working bloke in the country – well, only the one who didn’t actually work for the newspaper. Not much point with me fighting the FX bureaucracy to try to get £80 a month out of the country. So, give it to this bloke, why not?

And this is what he spends it upon. He and his mates are the organisers, it’s grown from their providing a few Ramadan lunches for children each year.

Burke was right about those little platoons you know.

Elsewhere in the gender pay gap

We must take our silver linings where we find them, and here is one to gladden feminist hearts everywhere: The gender pay gap has fallen during the lockdown-induced recession. Look at median weekly earnings, and the gender pay gap has narrowed from some 81% to 84%. In the first quarter, men averaged $1,054 a week, in the second $1,092. Women moved from $852 to $914. We normally measure the gender pay gap as the average female wage as a percentage of average male wages, so that gap has closed substantially in just three months.

So, time to do the Happy Dance, right?

Those patriotic millionaires

Standard economics tells us that higher taxes now are a bad idea. Standard economics also tells us that wealth taxation is a really bad idea, as is taxing the income from investments. Perhaps that’s an argument for the wonks requiring specialized knowledge of the subject, so how about a simple argument?

When those millionaires and billionaires voluntarily pay higher taxes, they can bring us their thank you letters — yes you do get one, I checked — and then we’ll talk. Until then, they’re all talk and no action, or as the English say, “Fur coat and no knickers.”

Not sure the subeditor quite translated that right but still….

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.