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* Posts by Tim Worstal

696 posts • joined 12 Feb 2008

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BIG FAT Lies: Porky Pies about obesity

Tim Worstal
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I think it's the other way around

Our Sainted Editor would shoot any of us who simply copied down the exec summary of a report like this.

Incentives do matter, after all.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Put down the pie

Your data on falling calorie consumption:

http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.pt/2014/09/calorie-consumption-revisited-part-1-of.html

http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.pt/2014/09/calorie-consumption-part-2-of-many.html

http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.pt/2014/11/calorie-consumption-revisited-no-3-sugar.html

Yes, it's a blog, but he's a researcher in the area and links to good data sources.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Good stuff.

US sugar price is usually around twice the world sugar price. Sure there's maize subsidies, but there's also that very restrictive sugar regime.

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Tim Worstal
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That's not quite the statement

"Take for example the statement that "smokers and topers" more than pay for their treatment by paying taxes on their favourite poisons.... ahem...."

That's not quite what is being said, that fags taxes pay for the treatment of fag related diseases (although every claim about the cost of treating smokers on the NHS is in fact lower than the amount of fag taxes collected).

Rather, the claim is that the NHS treats people their whole lives. The costs of treating a smoker, fattie or boozer are lower, on that lifetime basis, than someone "healthy". The reduction in the number of years of treatment costs is greater than any specific costs associated with treating those diseases.

I've linked to a "real" (ie, peer reviewed etc) paper making the point and there's many more like it out there. It's not a controversial point in fact. Someone who pops their clogs at 65 from lung cancer costs the NHS less on a lifetime basis than someone who is still getting hip replacements at 80. And we all end up getting terminal care for something because we all do die.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Good stuff.

The problem with the glucose-fructose thesis is quite simple. HCFS (high fructose corn syrup), which is what you're talking about, is largely a US thing. It's a product of the restrictive sugar import policy over there.

Europe just doesn't use as much. There's some, yes, but much, much, less. But we seem to be having much the same rates of obesity. So if we've very different rates of HFCS consumption (European soft drinks are largely sugar, as Mexican Coke is, as that Passover Coke is, American ones largely HFCS) but similar obesity problems then it can't really specifically be the HFCS that's the problem.

As to shite being put in the food I do mention that. At least some of the sugar and salt being added is to make up for the fats which they were urged to take out of stuff over the decades. Those fats which more recent research shows ain't much of a problem.

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Let's vote on breaking up Google, say MEPs with NO power to do any such thing

Tim Worstal
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Re: New Start-up idea: Euoorle / Findo

The French tried that, didn't they?

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FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study

Tim Worstal
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Re: A better measure...

I once had a long email correspondence with a professor (at, I think, Oxford) trying to work out why 2 and not 3 was the answer. Volume should indicate 3, as the article insists. But the answer came back that it was a bit more complex as not everything does quite scale that way. Trunk, perhaps, yes. Arms, legs, head, not so much. And a surprising amount of the weight of a human isn't in the trunk. That was the gist of it at least. He was willing, in he end, to move to something like that 2.5 but insisted that 3 would be wrong.

Can't remember all the details but that was the gist of it.

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'Cleantech' a dirty word for VCs? RUBBISH!

Tim Worstal
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Re: A tax that increases at a set rate over a very long time is required

That's exactly the Nordhaus point and it's one I've a great deal of time for.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: How to set the tax?

Not quite so.

The economic point is that emissions are currently outside the price system: they're external to the market. Thus market processes don't deal with them.

So, add the tax, the emissions are now embedded in market prices and markets will deal with them.

Just about all economists then say, well, climate change doesn't mean we need larger government. So, reduce other taxes (usually, national insurance charges) to account for the revenue from the carbon tax. Which is just what Gordon Brown did with the Landfill Tax: reduced company NI payments to balance.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: How to set the tax?

It doesn't matter particularly where you set it. You're trying to change consumer behaviour. So, as long as its in the prices that the consumer pays then you're fine.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: How to set the tax?

That's not quite the calculation that's been done but not that far off it.

Nordhaus says $10 a tonne now rising to $250 a tonne CO2-e or so by 2040 (this is to work with the capital replacement cycle). Stern says $80 a tonne now. Tol says $15 to $20 a tonne now (I think Stern is pessimistic, Tol optimistic, but those are roughly their numbers) and Hansen says "up to $1,000" but he's made a mistake there (the mistake being that "up to" is fair enough but it seems to morph into "should be $1,000" which ain't right).

The basic calculation that all are doing is: what are the likely future costs of warming? What does that equate to in damage per tonne CO2-e? Right, put that tax per tonne of CO2-e. We're done.

Worth noting that with Stern's numbers and the UK's 500 million tonnes a year or so of emissions the correct level of tax is $40 billion a year, or maybe £28 billion or so. And we 're already paying emissions taxes of that much. So, according to the Stern Review the UK has already solved climate change.

Hurrah, eh?

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GT sapphire glaziers: You signed WHAT deal with Apple?

Tim Worstal
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Because

They signed an unbelievably bad contract.

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg

Tim Worstal
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Re: Armadillo Eggs

Re the sausage the important point is that American (and chorizo, bratwurst etc) sausages are 100% meat plus spices. British sausages are usually 10% or so breadcrumb in them.

No, this isn't just to make them cheaper. It's so that the bread soaks up the fat as they are fried, keeping the flavour in.

They're made to be fried, the British sausages, not grilled etc like the other types.

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My HOUSE used to be a PUB: How to save the UK high street

Tim Worstal
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Re: Bah!

Eh?

"mistakes and all, the American Model for the Privatization of British Rail"

US rail has always been private. It's only the money losing passenger services (Amtrack) that were nationalised. And they still are.

"the Post Office and The Seven Trent Water Authority." And USPO and most US water is still government run. And they ain't any better, far from it.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Too much tax.

Well, this isn't wholly and exactly true:

"The principal problem with building new stuff is that it reduces the price of nearby existing stock"

Land in Mayfair that you can build a house upon is worth a lot more than land in the middle of Sedgemoor that you can build a house upon. Largely because the former has 10 million other people living around it and the latter has, well, no one.

And the point of an LVT is to tax that increase in value that all those other people (plus the sewers, the roads, the Tube etc that have been built) add to that piece of land.

That said, sure, if you extend the city one more row of houses out into the green belt then you reduce the value of those houses that used to be the last row before the green belt.

It's not entirely one way or the other.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Not all councils are hopeless

Those business rates numbers are about right.

And:

" And somehow it manages to support about 20 charity shops"

The charity shops aren't paying full business rates.

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If only 0.006% care about BLOOD-SOAKED METAL ... why are we spending all this cash?

Tim Worstal
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Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

OK, so, greed then. The defining feature of capitalism and or free markets.

OK.

So, you going to make more money by sticking that kid up the chimney or by using the modern brushes on the extension pole?

You going to make more money by sticking blokes down the mine or using the machinery?

And the slavery, picking cotton example: more money by using mechanised picking or humans doing it?

Which makes the higher profit?

Well, given that the higher profit is made by using the machinery, given first world wages, then the machinery would be used because of greed, wouldn't it?

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Tim Worstal
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Re: "The Dodd-Frank Act...

Just to be clear: doesn't affect my bottom line in the slightest. I don't deal in any of these metals/ores.

Further, my hatred of Dodd Frank isn't because I want to see slavery in Congolese mines. It's that Dodd Frank is such an ineffective and bloody expensive way of trying to ensure there's no slavery in Congolese mines.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: A difference of OPINION

$4 billion is the estimate of the SEC. That's the bureaucracy that has to actually administer this rule of the cost to companies to conform to this rule. How many suppliers does each company have, what do they have to ask of each supplier and how long will it take to do that? When you think that each large company has 50k to 100 k suppliers, it'll cost $50 to $100 to contact and receive a reply from each one and there's 8,000 such listed companies those costs mount up pretty quickly.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Would you care enough to pay more for ...

Very slightly odd. If it were legal, today, to stick kids up chimneys, or to have slaves on a sugar plantation, to mine coal by candlelight, do you think that any of those things would actually happen?

If not (and I don't) then it's not the unfettered capitalism that cause those things nor the law against their happening that stops them happening.

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#VultureTRENDING: It's Pimpr, the latest sharing economy super app

Tim Worstal
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The strange thing is

It probably would work.....

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Luxembourg: Engine-room of the tax-break economy

Tim Worstal
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Re: Legality?

All of it is entirely legal.

Whether it should be legal is another matter of course.

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Trickle-down economics WORKS: SpaceShipTwo is a PRIME EXAMPLE

Tim Worstal
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Weirdly

Something a little odd about heat shields. I was once contacted by Nasa and asked if I could supply them with some scandium (which many around here will know is my day job). They wanted to make some scandium aluminide to test as a heat shield. Thinking (v. long term of course) about the eventual Shuttle replacement.

I've forgotten the exact words they used to describe ScAl3 but it was along the lines of "in theory the best material possible" to make such tiles/heat shield from. Very light, doesn't even deform until 1,400 oC and so on. We were supposed to get the purchase order from them on the Monday. Over the weekend that Shuttle came down in pieces and that was the last we heard about that project.

ScAl3 would be mind garglingly expensive and I've no engineering knowledge at all, so don't know whether it would work. But maybe someone will try it some day.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: it's so unlike Tim Worstall to get the wrong end of the issue, isn't it?

It's not quite marginal propensity to consume (or its mirror and inverse, marginal prop to save) but about raising the income tax threshold. What looks like the second of my ideas to make it onto the statute books is that very thing: raising the personal allowance to something like the full year full time minimum wage.

It's in the likely manifestos of three of the four major parties. It's in the Ukip one because I helped draft the last version and I put it there. It's in the Lib Dem one (a raise to 12.5k, which is what the min wage was when they started to think about it) because of some analysis I did about the Living Wage over at the Adam Smith Inst. I know which LibDem activist that convinced and which policy committees they took it through to get it into party policy. And Cameron of course is just copying Clegg and Danny Alexander.

My point was, quite simply, that the Living Wage is a reasonable enough definition of poverty. It certainly constructs that measure the way Adam Smith would have approved of. But it's a pre-tax number. And the maths is that if the current minimum wage were entirely tax free (both income and NI) then the post-tax income from that minimum wage would be within pennies per hour of that Living Wage under the current tax system (this year it's 35p, in one calculation, or the min wage is actually higher if we include employers' NI).

As I say, I can track that idea all the way from my scribblings to where it seems reasonably obvious that it'll make it into the statute books. Hurrah! and well done me, eh?

That would be the second time I've managed this. The one already in law is shared parental leave. Again I can track it through the process and my initial point was that we don't have a gender pay gap in the UK, we have a motherhood pay gap. And one of the reasons that motherhood causes the pay gap is that women leave the workforce more often and for longer than fathers do. Shared leave wouldn't have been my solution but that is where it did come from.

You're entirely right that I do tend to bash lefty economics whenever I get a chance. But this is not because I disagree with the aims of lefties, for the poor to become richer etc. Quite the opposite, I share that aim with a fervent adherence that would put even a Marxist to shame. It's just that that Great Experiment of the 20th century has convinced me that lefty *methods* don't get us there while broadly capitalist and free market ones, with a tad of judicious intervention, do.

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Piketty-Poketty-Poo: Some people are JUST ITCHING to up tax to capital ...

Tim Worstal
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Mainly on efficiency grounds.

I take it as obvious that there's going to be a welfare state and also that there ought to be one. So, what's the least damaging one we can have?

There's two set of damage done by its existence. One is obviously in the deadweight costs of the taxation needed to pay for it. But we've already agreed that that's got to happen as we've agreed that there should be a welfare state. After that it's just a technical matter of raising the tax money in the least damaging manner.

The second set of damages is in the incentives to those who get caught in the system. There's several places in the UK tax/benefit system were marginal tax rates are over 80% and a couple where they're over 100%. And, yes, we really do believe that there's a Laffer Curve. But in this reading of it the people who really suffer are those low paid people whose benefits get withdrawn, who get charged two taxes upon their incomes, as those incomes rise. I've forgotten the actual numbers but someone on HB, getting tax credits for a kid or two and earning £6k to £15 k a year, those sorts of numbers, faces the highest, by a long way, marginal tax (plus benefit withdrawal) rate of anyone in the country.

Which is absurd of course: no one who does recognise the Laffer Curve's existence thinks it only applies to rich people.

So, my support for a universal basic income is to make this side of it all more efficient. A basic (around the current old age pension pledge of £140 a week) income for each and every adult in the kingdom would cost something not dissimilar to the current welfare state. We can then dispose of all of the rest of it, including such things as the minimum wage etc.

Still need to have a bit more for those entirely incapable of dealing with things for themselves, but essentially the apparatus gets replaced with mailing the checks out.

All of which hugely improves the incentives for the lowly paid to try to gain more income. Eventually, to the benefit of us all.

But do note it's all entirely an argument about the efficiency of the system.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Bias?

This is very interesting indeed:

"Not to mention the fact that Economics isn't really a science. It predicts nothing "

Because what we've got here is economics (or economists) making a prediction.

We need money to fund government and we do want to have government. Thus we must levy taxes. We can do this in two ways:

1) We can tax land, consumption or incomes.

2) We can tax capital and or corporations.

The standard statement is that if we tax in manner 1) then the future will be richer than if we tax in manner 2).

I really am quite sure that that is a prediction.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: ISAs?

There's no particular problem with having incentives for long term savings. And transitional arrangements are a little detailed to put into a 1,500 word piece...

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Tim Worstal
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Re: If r>g then...?

Land is a bit different from other forms of capital. As they're not making any more of it taxing it isn't going to be distortionary.

Roughly, the least distortionary to most are: land, consumption, income, capital and corporate then transactions taxes (FTT etc). Distortion can also be described as deadweight cost, or how much economic activity do you destroy just by having that tax?

So an efficient tax system (although perhaps not an equitable one) would want to be towards the beginning of that list, not the end of it.

And concerning land Piketty's entirely wrong (as Saez and Zucman show in another paper) that only war destroys that value. The great land value destruction in the UK was 1870s to 1890s, as the Great Plains and the Steppes were opened up to cultivation by the steamship and the train. That's what bankrupted the old aristocracy (or much of it).

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Tim Worstal
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That's all much more about how you spend the money that you've raised, rather than how you've raised the money. Just for the record, yes, callous neoliberal that I am, I support there being both a welfare state and a safety net.

Perhaps a slightly different one to the one we've got (I'd like a citizen's basic income rather than means tested support) but that social insurance system, in some form or another, not only will stay but should.

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Tim Worstal
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No, not quite

It's not charged on what you buy as and when you buy it. It's charged on the income that you used to buy it.

It really is just like having all your savings, all the earnings from your savings, all your additions to your savings, in one giant tax free ISA. And you pay normal income tax rates only when you take the cash out of your ISA.

Very like pensions used to work until a few weeks ago. You pay no income tax on hte money you put into a pension pot. Your earnings in he pension pot pay no tax. But when you draw down your pension you pay normal income tax rates.

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IT JOB OUTSOURCING: Will it ever END?

Tim Worstal
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Depends

what you mean by outsourcing. Strictly speaking I'd define having an IT department as outsourcing: after all, the IT's no longer being done by the production staff, is it?

And I'm pretty sure this cloud stuff is the outsourcing of running servers.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: After last week...

Well, quite. Us rational liberals aren't particularly in favour of capitalists nor even of capitalism. We're hugely, massively, in favour of markets: largely because they're the best ways of limiting the capitalists bastard's attempt to gouge us.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Relative

At $8,000 a kg for the metal it would have to be a pretty small statue. And Sc oxidises quickly (ie, minutes and hours) on exposure to atmosphere. Turns a very pretty shade of pink in fact. So it would not only be a very small statue, it would be one extant for a brief period of time, too.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Relative

I'd have made more working for Sugar as an apprentice....

The global marketplace, turnover in total, was around $2 million a year back then. Sure, there was a trading margin but not a huge one.

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This Changes Everything? OH Naomi Klein, NO

Tim Worstal
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Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

"That's one reason henry Ford always paid generously: to make sure he had customers for his products."

I actually ran through the numbers on this for Forbes once. Took the number of workers he had, the cost of that pay rise to $5 a day and the price of a Model T at the time.

If every single one of his workers had bought a new Model T each and every year then Ford would still have lost (in revenue mind, not profits or margin, but revenue) some $2.5 million a year.

So why Ford did raise pay could be for a number of reasons* but getting his workers to buy his cars just wasn't one of them.

*The actual reason was that he had a permanent establishment of 13,000 but he was hiring 50,000 a year to keep that many. That's expensive. So he raised pay to reduce turnover and that saved him more than the higher pay cost him.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

"So, on a zero-sum basis,"

Yeah, but the economy isn't zero sum.

Back in 1980 global GDP (ie, the total added value and thus, by definition, equal to what everyone collectively gets to consume) was, in constant dollars, smaller than it is today. This is true in aggregate and also true per capita. We've all got richer, both collectively and individually.

There's a couple of places that have cocked up, true, but it would be difficult to put Zimbabwe down to globalisation.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: tl;dr

"Supreme Ruler and Absolute Censor of The Register,"

Aka "The editor". Or perhaps "The Editor".

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Food for thought

"Money" is one of those econmoic subjects I've always shied away from. See the comment folloiwng your's for one reason why.

It's just, well, it's just, Aaaaak. At heart it's simply a medium of account, then it becomes a medium of exchange, then we get to gold, a store of value, then central banks and, just, well Aaaaaak.

Ask me something difficult, like why state socialism doesn't work, not something simple like what the hell is money?

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Tim Worstal
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Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

"Perhaps you can explain this to all of us, here: how transfering a US-based job paying USD $25/hour with decent benefits to a country paying slave-labor 5 cents/hour will raise the standards of living in the US, or will help lift the poor out of poverty."

Well, it ain't gonna help that $25 an hour worker, entirely true. It will help every consumer of their former product, they're now paying 5 cents, not $25 an hour, for the labour embedded in their products.

But here's what also happens. Chinese manufacturing wages were around $1,000 a year in AD 2,000. In 2014 they're around $6,500. I tend to think that's a fair old "help lift the poor out of poverty."

The system seems to be working for me. The poor are getting richer. That the poor who are getting richer are slighlty yellower of skin than you and I pinkish people are doesn't bother me, nor does the greater incidence of epicanthic folds. The poor are getting richer, Hurrah! right?

If not, why not?

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Carbon Tax

It's a standard axiom that if you tax something you get less of it. Tax incomes and (some) people will (sometimes) work less. Tax capital returns and (some) people will (sometimes) invest less. Tax carbon emissions and (some) people will (sometimes) emit less.

Petrol pays higher taxes in Europe than in the US. Europeans drive shorter distances in more efficient cars than Americans. Could be a link there somewhere.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

Eh?

"Free Trade Globalization and the resulting Plutocratic System of Government make all your feel-good additions - such as Land value taxation, regulation of monopolies and income re-distribution - "

Hmm, so, if we open up trade to all the companies and organisations of the world are we going to have more monopolies or fewer? I would guess, myself, fewer, as competition is a pretty good antidote to a monopoly.

And as to income redistribution I don't think I mentioned that: rather that the poor becoming richer is a good idea. Given that the last 30 years of globalisation have caused the largest reduction in absolute poverty in the history of our species I think that's a pretty good result for my side.

Agreed, this is also what has made the plutocrats quite so plutocratic: which is why I can't see any reason why they'd want to stop this poverty reduction through globalisation.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

I'd add a few more myself:

Land value taxation: good.

Welfare state: good.

Regulation of monopolies: good.

Poor getting richer: good.

I'm sure others will come to mind in time.

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It's Big, it's Blue... it's simply FABLESS! IBM's chip-free future

Tim Worstal
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Re: Globalisation

If I knew all of that I'd be writing up for a journal and then preparing to meet the King of Sweden a few years later :-)

But there's certainly some general answers and that's a good idea for a couple of weeks' time. I've got a couple of subjects lined up already.....

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Globalisation

"Nice article but could have done with being a bit more precise about what form of globalisation you were talking about."

The piece coming up at the weekend goes into that subject using a different example.

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Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...

Tim Worstal
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Re: What a confused mess!

"where one can buy a lovely house (architecturally speaking) for $500. Why are people not flocking in droves to move to Detroit?"

I don't know if this is true but I offer it as an exp,anation that I've heard. That the City of Detroit charges you property taxes on what they think the house is worth, not the market transaction. So you might but a house for $500. But you'll be charged property taxes as if you paid $100,000, because that's what they *ought* to be worth. And at, so I'm told, 2-3 % pa of assessed value, that's quite a lot.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Too much choice definitely makes me less happy

That's very much the point that the economists are making about opportunity costs. And yet, while I suffer from it myself, I've also lived in a society with fewer choices. Which, given that the choices available were along the lines of "food today" or "no food today" wasn't notably better.

It's a toughie, maybe there just isn't an answer.

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White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?

Tim Worstal
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Re: It's a PHYSICS award

Ever so slightly unkind. You say:

"Back to the Physics - working GaN LEDs was a tremendous achievement, and not at all trivial scientifically. Thus prize well deserved in my book.

Economists can fuck off back to their own brand of astrological hocus pocus on their own time..."

My opening paragraph once again:

"This year's Nobel Prize in Physics went to the three Japanese guys who worked on, and got right, the blue LED. It's an excellent piece of work, enabling a whole new ensemble of energy efficient lamps and colour LED screens, and fully deserving of the prize. And yes, it might well change society in wondrous and wonderful ways."

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Tim Worstal
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Apologies, typo here

"For what we don't actually know is the electrical price of lumens?"

Should read "elasticity of demand for lumens with respect to price."

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SHATTERED: Apple's jilted glass supplier to shut down sapphire ops

Tim Worstal
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The real it about this

Is that GT was previously a manufacturer of the machines to make the sapphire boules and then to cut them. Good machines too.

Then they said we've got this next generation of machines that are much better. So, let's go into business producing sapphire, not just the machines to make sapphire. So they do and they sign up with Apple.

And it turns out that the new machines aren't quite as good as they thought they were. Oh Dear.

Have I told you that my office is in the building of a sapphire producer?

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Yes. Economists DO love MAGICAL, lovely HUMAN SELFISHNESS...

Tim Worstal
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"Not that I didn't enjoy reading it"

Ah, good, that's OK then.

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