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back to article Royal Weddings, PCs and Cameron's brass balls

Wedding to wedding, Osborne to Osborne: not a lot seems to have changed over the past 30 years, does it? Di and Charlie did the aisle tango back in 1981 and now their son is about to follow suit. We all get a day off and well, ho hum, not much seems to change in Britain, does it? But it is also the 30th anniversary of both the …

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Go

Completely off topic

But what caused the bump in incomes around 1400 (shown in figure 3)?

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Boffin

Rats

... in other words The Black Death - Figure 3 is income per capita - and there were fewer people following the ravages of the plague which arrived in England around 1350. Although the primary export industry (wool) will have declined, there will still have been considerable weath generation and sheep farming is not labour intensive.

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The Black Death

My understanding is that when 1/3 of Europe died in the Black Death, the surviving population "inherited" much of the capital infrastructure, farmland, etc. Suddenly the "pie" was split fewer ways, if you will. There is a sharp, upward trend in per-capita income that begins around 1350, so, conveniently, the provided data doesn't disagree with my proposed explanation.

Also, I believe this is approximately the time that the middle class began to emerge (Flemish merchants spreading the meme to other countries, et al).

Then again, I am an American, so perhaps someone more intrinsically familiar with your history can debunk my postulate.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe ...

... it was the dramatic reduction in workforce between 1348 and 1350.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death

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Pint

Correlation Is Not...

Causation, but in the years before 1400, the plague wiped out a lot of people, and England started making cannons, thus increasing the productivity of conquest/empire.

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FAIL

Yes it's all the Tory's fault

Nothing to do with Gordon Brown blowing billions on creating an enormous public sector that requires ever larger amounts of tax money to keep it going...

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Tea Party much?

I'll hang up and wait for my answer...

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Anonymous Coward

Nice language, nice person

"blowing billions" All that money to the weak and distressed was a complete waste wasn't it. Fuck 'em! It's not my fault that they're stupid and/or unlucky.

Personally, I want happiness. Happiness is provable higher when there is a smaller gap between high and low incomes. Ever larger amounts of tax to fund the public sector is, I'm afraid, a good way of achieving this.

At some point in the Maggie years, we stopped asking "What can I do for my country?" and started asking "What can my country do for me?". I don't think things have got better for it...

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Anonymous Coward

Planned free market.

This conundrum is why I've been toying with the notion of "facilitation". I don't want a big government. I don't want a small one. I want one that knows what it's there for, and perhaps knows even better what it's not there for, and does what it should do, efficiently and well.

This is pretty hard, actually. It means a sort of caring uncaringness that precludes the all too easy attitudes usually seen in government, where nitwit bureaucrats decide what's fair and good for the populace and what isn't. They're almost by definition so out of touch it's painful to everyone else. But just bringing in a bunch of go-getters, corporate or military or whatever else types, doesn't work so well either.

Politicians do much the same meddling but they do it for the votes, so it's all good. Well, no, but it's the only system that sort-of works because it has checks and balances and such built in. Supposedly. Then it turns out the government is actually being "pwned" wholesale by lobbyist organisations. That could come to pass because it's long since lost track of what it was there to do in the first place.

The Belgians ran a department for a while, comprising just a few people actually, that looked through many a rule and regulation and paperwork requirement and cleaned it up enough to save several hundred millions in expenses and speed up a lot of handling. The best service the government can render its people most of the time is to get the fsck out of the way. This goes against the grain of bureaucracies so they need periodic culling. Why more governments don't have a dedicated unit to do that maintenance is an interesting question.

Anyway, what I'd think a government should do is that which only a government can do well. Such as planning, structuring markets, and such. But to do that it needs to understand what it is doing, and this is also lacking. Take railroad privatisation, for example. That's a repeatedly painfully expensive fad, and resulted in very poor service indeed, even numerous deaths due to maintenance negligence.

The free extra irony is that railroads started out as private companies, then got nationalised. The article's argumens should tell you why: It's become infrastructure, like roads, railroads are not something that's going to need lots of invention or innovation, but does need to be cared for. It still doesn't have to be run as a government, but it is folly to think that "market forces" are the silver bullet to make railroads run smoothly again as the paying customer doesn't get to vote with his monies. As an individual commuter you can't opt to go to Glasgow instead of London because the fare's cheaper.

I really haven't found the words to put this concept in a single paragraph yet, but the main thing is probably that you have to look very careful at the structure of the thing and go with the flow, sometimes bending it a bit, perhaps stirring things up a bit there. Don't believe you can just "fix things up", but do learn how to leverage that national government power to be maximally effective for facilitating smooth running of society. Because in the end, it's society that has to make things work. The government are there not for themselves, or their foreign government friends, or for corporations, but for the greater good of the people, who come together in society and most of the time really prefer to be left alone. Society isn't something you can just decide or engineer. You can only lead the horse to water.

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Joke

AC@15:32

A sort of department for the random killing of bureaucrats perhaps?

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Anonymous Coward

Need moar Royal weddings!

What sort of event would it take in a republic to take the long view and reflect well over the four year horizon?

Over in the Netherlands there's a bunch of republicans that keep on stirring up anti-Royalty sentiment, for a republic would surely be cheaper. I don't think so, for heads of state always are expensive, and I think having a (largely symbolic but there you go) head of state who hangs around for a while and can look out for the long term best interests of the people as a whole, and not just the current top dog's party for as long as he'll last, does bring added value well worth the expense.

Would I take the job if offered? Probably. Am I jealous this won't happen? Nah. A competent head of state in it for the long run knows to listen to the people. An outstanding one knows how to give them what they didn't know they need. This is not a sinecure.

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Inflation

I am of the view that most of the perceived growth is actually due to the rising inflation. Once you strip out the population growth and a real measure of inflation (RPI), you find that growth doesn't really exist overall. It's all smoke and mirrors. The reason the illusion wasn't sprung on the people before is because most of the economy was based on gold, and in terms of buying ability, the value of gold hasn't changed all that much in the last 2,000 years.

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An elegantly constructed argument

Can't say I agree with the politics of it, but it is thoughtful and thought provoking. Thank you.

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I shall treasure that

"Elegant" or even "elegantly" is not something normally associated with either me or my arguments. So thanks for that little buff to the ego.

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keep writing this kind of stuff, Tim

and El Reg keep printing it.

Most excellent and most educational for the likes of me.

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cuts? what cuts?

Has Ms Bee been watching the wedding instead of moderating today?

Government spending in the UK is still going up! George is just slowing down the rate of growth a bit.

The logical conclusion of those opposed to any reduction in government spending while that spending exceeds income, is that they deem money to be an unnecessary frivolity and the state can command you to do as it wills. i.e., if we keep borrowing, at some point we must default and maybe even say 'na na na na we won't pay you back!'

The saddest indictment of the NHS is that people go private to be seen more quickly. But at least we always had that option. I couldn't believe that in some Canadian provinces there was no private provision at all (e.g. Quebec, but I believe private practice has recently been allowed). US seniors may have gone north for their pills, but the Canadians with a bit of money went south for their treatment. Though it could be argued that going private is the public spirited thing to do, because your taxes pay for the NHS and if you don't use it, someone who needs it can use it.

Finally, it could also be argued that Thatcher's economic miracle was primarily because North Sea oil began to be exploited when she came to power, injecting massive amounts of money into the system and enabling lots of cheap energy. Then again, South Korea (no oil) and Nigeria (lots of oil) were in similar shape after World War II. There's a big difference between them now.

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public private health

One thing noticed here in Ireland about having both public and private healthcare is that the private health suppliers are quite happy to pick up profitable cheap minor care provisions while leaving the more expensive ones to the public system. This have the effect of numerically making the private care suppliers seem superfically more effeicient. Great ammo for those for claim that public healthcare is costly and wasteful. The tough thing about healthcare is that the cost will for the most part increase and the technology gets more advanced. True technology over time becomes cheaper and better, however this gives everyone more access to better healthcare leading them to live longer. Thus more older people who require more exspensive speicalised care. This gets dumped on the state while the private suppliers pick up the cheap low cost high margin bits. All fair and well as long as people are okay with it and its laid out when those with agendas to rip apart the healthcare system decide to spout statistics

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'Twas Ever Thus.

My Brothers-in-Law, both doctors, have been making this point for bloody years. It's all very well going private for elective surgery, but if you've got something seriously wrong with you, all they'll do is pay to use the NHS's resources to fix you anyway.

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@Gilber Wham

"My Brothers-in-Law, both doctors, have been making this point for bloody years. It's all very well going private for elective surgery, but if you've got something seriously wrong with you, all they'll do is pay to use the NHS's resources to fix you anyway."

And in the case of BUPA if they f**k up your operation they'll dump you back at the nearest NHS hospital and won't pay a penny to any work they have to do.

At least that was their position some time ago. I'd *love* to know if they still play that game.

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Half a dozen of one, 6 of the other....

The problem is government is supposed to save during rich times (when money is freely circulating on its own) and spend in depression (to get money circulating) and neither chancellors seem to understand that. 'Frugle' Brown overspent when there was lots of money in the coffers, and sold the gold at the worst moment. Now Osborne is going too far the other way.

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...but where to stash it?

Building up a surplus is a good idea (provided you make it safe from being raided to plug funding gaps), but in the bad times most of the options for investing the cash tend to become depressed in value or just can't be trusted (hello bankers/brokers). I suppose there is gold, but there is only so ever much of that you can buy.

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Anonymous Coward

Or

we could just let suckers in other countries 'innovate' in healthcare and insist on copying what works. As things stand our healthcare system is excellent value for money. There are plenty of real (unambiguously) private sector things for private companies to do. Maybe if we had fewer companies eyeing up the public purse as an easy source of sustenance, we would have a healthier economy?

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Coat

No real change

Oh do come on. Is this a technology website with a fine line in satirical political/scientific news, or is it a place to audition/advertise yourself as capable and ready to be Cameron's next comms-master?

The principal reason for the sharp wealth increase was innovation, yes, but mainly it was innovation in energy supplies. Free markets would have left the UK as bald as Iceland is now, but our Stateful and planned Navy (a nice model of meritocracy back in those days...) needed the wood so the decision to get everyone burning black rocks rather than wood was taken, and look were that ended up.

There are fundamental problems with planning anything (and at the bottom there is still the limitation that Godel observed) so there is a need to have a better form of feedback than begging the Minister for Education/Health to see reason. Markets are not the answer.

If we want health care on a par with France then we need to spend money on it like we were France, instead we make sure that we get the most from every penny spent (and do so better than any country in the world). Sure having any number of different suppliers helps foster innovation of service, but it doesn't then follow that costs drop, at least not since we spent the past twenty years noticing that the real driver behind the global wealth is the current price of crude and the availability of cheap and abused labour.

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Well.....

"or is it a place to audition/advertise yourself as capable and ready to be Cameron's next comms-master?"

I used to be one of the two who were Farage's comms-masters, so I rather think I'm ruled out of ever working for Cameron.....

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re: "needed the wood so the decision to get everyone burning black rocks"

True, see "Connections" by James Burke. It used to be available on Hulu ('mongst others).

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FAIL

PC for more than $3700?

Trivially easy. Just visit the Apple store and configure a 17in MBP with 8GB RAM and a 500SSD.

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Inflation

It is interesting that in an article like this you factor in technological inflation, but not monetary inflation.

Specially if you have productivity/worker charts in dollars.

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Umm

The charts are inflation adjusted.

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Unhappy

Errrm

Can you put that ramble past me again? ... in simple English please.

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Big Brother

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

"...a Tory Chancellor insistent on cutting everything that is good and just from the government budget..."

A subjective view written as if it were an inalienable fact?

Everything "good & just" is NOT being cut. At times of personal financial difficulty I have had to reduce expenditure on leisure, treats, charitable contributions and a host of other things which I enjoy. This has been to:-

a) prevent a dire situation rapidly deteriorating

b) attempt to regain control of the situation

c) build a reduced but solid base from which I can once again grow.

It is NOT government expenditure which is decreasing - merely its rate of growth.

Reducing rate of acceleration in a vehicle neither means you're not increasing your speed nor does it mean you're beginning to slow down.

Socialists are always profligate with other people's money!

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WTF?

A little confusion here?

"... This break up of State provision of education and healthcare was something that even St Maggie never tried. Far too frightening a course of action even for her. Yet here we have David Cameron quite happily opening up both areas to any willing provider, the State picking up the bill...

Cameron with bigger, brassier, balls than Thatcher: who would ever have thought it?..."

This is NOT informed political commentary.

If you are comparing Cameron and Thatcher, the first point that springs to mind is that Thatcher knew what she was doing. It is irrelevant whether you supported her approach or not - you cannot disagree that she had a coherent agenda and followed it.

Cameron, on the other hand, is a figurehead (I will not say leader) of a government that has no coherent agenda, and has been u-turning like a dodgem car ever since it was cobbled together. If you wait a few months you will see the complete spectrum of policies from the far left to right proposed, floated, and then hastily trashed as one group or another complains.

We are no longer being led by politicians. We are being led by activists, each of whom are vying to put their own agendas into the legislative mill....

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WTF?

That's what scares me: no coherent agenda..

Dodgy Geezer, I agree.

Where there is a coherent plan, one can agree or disagree - but there is likely to be rational thought behind the proposed plans.

If you look at the two major public sector restructuring plans being implemented - NHS and Education - there appears to be no rationale - apart from individuals with private agendas and, in the case of education, shameless use of very dodgy statistics (did you hear More or Less - Radio 4 - discussing Michael Grove's misuse of statistics he knew to be false?)

Equally, in the NHS, there has been no suggestion that there is any evidence base for the mass reorganisation (top-down - despite manifesto pledges!) although it has been repeatedly requested.

Does anyone else find it slightly odd that David Cameron is planning to send his children to a brand new "Academy" - and seems confident that they will be accepted?

Of course, he has publicly stated his relaxed feelings about nepotism...

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Just stopped by to say...

In the middle of my reading of the article I had to stop to comment because of a notably faulty assumption:

"This isn't just a function of greater population either, as that second chart shows. Real production (and therefore real incomes) per capita have been rising as well."

In point of fact (in the US, at least) productivity has risen steadlily since at least 1974. In that same period, incomes (unless your happen to be a corporate officer or one of the top 10% in wealth) have remained stagnant. While this means that advances in technology has given us better toys, and thus in some ways a higher standard of living (if you can call it that — are we really happier watching our flat screens than we were sitting on the steps taliking to our neighbors [who?]?) Medicine has gotten better (for those who can afford it, here) but we didn't have AIDS, legionnaires disease, SARS nor ebola.

Using money to measure such things is a tricky business at best. Consider: we used to make a lot of things from asbestos (thank-you Johns-Manville) and much GDP was generated. Then, we discovered it was distinctly unhealthy. Workers and ordinary folk needed medical treatment, and much GDP was generated. Those who were harmed brought the lawyers in, and much GDP was generated.Then, the asbestos had to be removed, and much GDP was generated.

I worry when a discussion, however cogently argued, is based faulty assumptions. I'm not throwing out the whole thing, but remember that old computer dictum?

GIGO

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Umm, no, they haven't

"In that same period, incomes (unless your happen to be a corporate officer or one of the top 10% in wealth) have remained stagnant. "

That's an artefact of the way that US income statistics are determined by household, not individual.

As a matter of fact, I point this out elsewhere just recently.

http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/welfare/the-rich-get-richer%3a-and-so-the-poor/

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