* Posts by Tim Worstal

738 posts • joined 12 Feb 2008

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Apple's DIRTY SECRET isn't that secret, or that dirty

Tim Worstal
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Re: desperately poor people

There's absolutely people in the middle here. Smelters might buy a tonne minimum lot. No hand miner is going to collect a tonne: that's $16,000 at current rates. So there will be a chain. Small dealers you can sell a kg at a time to. Others who buy up that in 50kg or 100 kg lots and so on. And every level will get its slice. (Please note, I don't know the actual numbers, just the system)

But not quite like fences, in that the middlemen get near all of the value. There's enough competition in those chains that margins aren't all that wide. there's also a number of smelters, both legal and illegal. So no one has a squeeze on the prices.

One estimate I've seen (from Friends of the Earth actually) is that a miner can make £12 a day. Hard work for shit money, undoubtedly, but that's about $18 more than the water buffalo option provides. For that they might be collecting 4, 5 kg of cassiterite a day.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Responsibility

"So from that point of view, the Indonesian state seems the most logical point of attack, because as you say its monopolistic position means it aggregates the sum total of responsibility for illicit tin mining in Indonesia. From a purely ethical standpoint, it is the largest holder of responsibility.

But from a strategic change management position, Indonesia is a very poor target, because it is a sovereign nation, giving it the explicit right to control both the definition and the enforcement of laws within its borders. If it decides to define laws such that these people are mining illegally, but not to enforce those laws, then it has that right. Certainly there are international treaties and human rights laws which can trump these national laws, but enforcing those is difficult and has unpredictable levels of success.

Apple, on the other hand, is an excellent target, for reasons which appear to be deliberately engineered by Apple. Apple has positioned itself in the high-end aspirational range of the electronics goods market, partly by setting very clear social responsibility goals for itself and its suppliers, and by enforcing them.

So if you actually want to effect such change in an arena where Apple is a serious player, you highlight Apple's responsibility, because Apple's position is sensitive to such criticism."

So the aim of all this is to impose on some near starving tin miner in Indonesia the moral precepts of an iPad user in Islington?

OK, I mean we used to do that, sure, but didn't we rather go off this colonialism thing? And at least when we did it we went out there directly and did it, allowing them to kill us if they objected too vehemently.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Amen brother!

Slightly long answer here. But there's two types of economic growth.

1) When we use more resources. And the definition of "resource" here is pretty wide. More education leads to a resource of higher educated labour for example. Moving people from paddy fields into factories creates the resource of industrial labour etc.

2) Working out how to combine these resources in more efficient manner. This is also known as technological advance.

So, imagine that we've got no more pockets of peasant destitution around the world. We're all getting our food from the 2% of people (US and UK numbers for farmers) who get to ride tractors etc. Everyone else is in services or manufacturing. We can't just go add "more low paid labour" to the economy to boost output. For there is no more low paid labour to add.

So, the economy is limited to growing at the pace of technological advance.

*Shrug*. Doesn't sound like all that bad a time of it really.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Amen brother!

Not really, no. The uncomfortable bit is that we've currently got people starving in paddy fields when they could mechanise agriculture and start making things. Making both us and they richer.

When all that labour is as productive as our own labour is then everyone's going to get paid the same as we do (it levels up, very definitely, not down).

And when there's no more people standing around starving in paddy fields....anyone want to try and say that's going to be a worse one than this one?

Sure, maybe growth won't be quite so fast when there's no more cheap labour to exploit. But on balance that's a deal I think I'd settle for.

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Tim Worstal
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Amen brother!

As I've also pointed out in these pages before, China's GDP per capita (a guide to living standards, but only a guide) was in 1978, the same as England in 1600. Today it's more like England in 1948. They're getting there. Indonesia appears to be England circa 1870 or so today.....

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Apple v BBC: Fruity firm hits back over Panorama drama

Tim Worstal
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Re: God bless us, every one!

Slightly strange. Chinese manufacturing wages have gone from $1,000 a year in 2000 AD to $6,500 a year in 2014 AD.

6.5x the wages in under 15 years is a pretty good result from globalisation isn't it?

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Google Tax part 94: EU's H-dot wavers over copyright levy

Tim Worstal
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Inerestingly, Yahoo News does charge people for traffic sent their way....,..

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Beware of merging, telcos. CHEAPER SPECTRUM follows

Tim Worstal
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Re: Questionable logic

Well, sorta. Except that "average profit margin". Most of the telcos aren't fact covering their cost of capital. Meaning that they're earning a lower than average profit margin.

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Deprivation Britain: 1930s all over again? Codswallop!

Tim Worstal
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Re: "Let them eat cake"

I think you might be rather overestimating the influence that I have.

But the most obvious thing to do is applaud and support those devoting their energies to providing food to the hungry. Which is what food banks do and I do donate to my local one.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Poverty Porn?

Hmm, might have to reconsider that actually seeing the story this morning. Good riddance to him.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Thank You

"14 percent of American households (17.5 million households) are food insecure. If you don't know the definition of what that means, look it up. The income gap may be wider and growing faster here than in Britain."

The income gap in the US probably is larger than in the UK. And food insecure means that, at some point in the previous month/12 months (depends upon the measurement method) the household was not sure where the next few meals were going to come from. It really is a measure of the security of food supply, not of gaps in that food supply. Very useful at measuring what it says it measures.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: @The Axe - The reality

I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Trussell Trust is "marketing" food banks. But there has very definitely been an increase in the number of them in recent years. It's right there on their own pages, in the "about us" section. Their involvement started back in 2000, when they were involved in Romanian charity efforts. One of their bods was castigated for not caring about charity closer to home. It was from a woman whose benefits had been (can't recall whether stopped or just screwed up) who had no food for her children that night.

By 2004 they were involved with two food banks, by 2010 there were 100 in the network etc. I'm perfectly willing to believe that there is an increase in need for food banks as a result of the current government's actions. But I would also insist, as the Trussell Trust itself does, that there was an extant need as well. And that part of the expanson of the food bank network is as a result of people working out (essentially, importing the American idea of a food bank) how to deal with that extant unmet need.

Fine to argue about the portion of increased supply/demand in it, but necessary to acknowledge that part of it is increase in supply.

I even recall incidents in the wider network of friends and acquaintances in the 80s and 90s of benefits being stopped/screwed up leaving people with no income at all for weeks. Food banks are in part (and as above, perfectly willing to believe that there's an increase in demand as well) an institutionalisation of what was done back then: a whip round to buy some groceries.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Slight edit error

Fair to say that it's not very good. But also that it's the best we've got. The Maddison figures should be thought of as being accurate in the first digit and the number of digits but probably not much more than that.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Poverty Porn?

"Shooting peasants", at least I damn well hope it was, is a reference to a rather good and rather old joke.

In the frontispiece to "1066 And All That" (originally articles in Punch in the 1930s I think) it says that there's been a printing error and so for all references to "peasants" read "pheasants" and vice versa, for all to "hostages" read "sausages" and vice versa. I may not have that quote exactly correct but that is the gist of it.

Thus we have kings "taking sausages", "roasting hostages", "hunting peasants" and I think at one point "freeing pheasants" from feudalism.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: hay man

"Do you deny that "[t]he Office for Budget Responsibility just reported that the level of public spending will be at second world war levels once this government has finished with its cuts."?"

Yes, I do deny that. For that's not actually what the OBR said. They said that government consumption would be at pre-war levels, not public spending.

The difference is that consumption is what the government spends on stuff, public spending is what it spends on stuff plus all the redistribution that is done through the welfare state.

We're about to go back to 35% of GDP as total public spending. 20s and 30s (before rearmament) were more like 25-30%. Last time were were near 35% was in, well, it was in 1999, 2000, when Brown was Chancellor actually. Wasn't actually 35% but it was darn close.

Oh, and yes, sure, that was just one line I picked up on from that piece. Because I was just looking for a specific example of this specific argument that I wanted to argue against.

I'm not here to argue that Osborne's doing the right thing, or that he's not. The editor's hope is that I will be able to illuminate economic questions, arguments and or statistics here. So the line was just a springboard for be to be able to make the longer argument.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Spot on

Just about. Top 1% is really around UK median wage (say, £24k a year). UK minimum wage or, including all benefits like housing benefit etc the general level of benefits still gets you, just, into world top 10%.

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Tim Worstal
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quite true

"There are currently 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK. That’s almost a third of all children. 1.6 million of these children live in severe poverty ."

That is though, relative poverty. By the definitions Barnardos is using "poverty" is less than 60% of median equivalised household income after housing costs (the equivalised is to take care of different sized families).

Severe poverty, in the same sense that they use it, sorry, can never remember whether it's less than 50% of median ehiahc or less than 40%.

But it is absolutely a measure of relative poverty, not of living standards over time.

"Families living in poverty can have as little as £12 per day per person to buy everything they need such as food, heating, toys, clothes, electricity and transport."

Indeed. And if you do the maths on that 1930s public assistance level you'll see that back then they had £1.50 per day per person. And that's after the inflation adjustment. That's £1.50 a day of today's money at today's prices per person per day.

All of which rather makes the point of the piece. Poverty just ain't like it were when Gramps were a lad.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Spot on

The different sets of numbers come from different sources but I stuck with what the one source used. So when looking at GDP figures stick with $ so that they are internally consistent, Same with UK earnings numbers, start in £ and stick with £. So we're in the same currency with each separate set of numbers but not over all of them.

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Tim Worstal
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Slight edit error

"(ie, taking inflation into account although it's actually $1,992)."

Should read "(ie, taking inflation into account although it's actually 1992 $)."

As in, inflation adjusted to the dollars of 1992, not to 1,992 dollars.

My bad.

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Which country has 2nd largest social welfare system in the world?

Tim Worstal
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Re: Some gaps

A number of problems with the "median income has flatlined" for 30 years story.

It's usually presented as median household wages have flatlined. But the size of the household has declined, meaning wages per capita have increased.

Second, it's measuring wages, not compensation. It leaves out pensions contributions and, importantly, health care insurance. That second has very definitely increased over that time.

Thirdly, and this is argued about, there's something a bit hinky about the way that inflation is measured in that calculation.

Adjusting real per capita incomes, the median, is guesstimated at having rised 25% or so. Not a great performance by any means but better than flatlining.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: so, let me get this right...

Not quite. All "social welfare" is in that 30%. Health care is about half of that (18% of GDP in total, from memory).

So, no, it's not all about the health care system.

And tricky dicky? Nixon? Not all that much to do with it as far as I recall. The idea of health care insurance being provided by the employer started in WWII, under FDR. Wage constraints (hey, there was a war on!) meant that employers competed by offering better health care insurance. It's also true that health care insurance is tax free: it's an expense to the company, so part of costs, not taxed. But it's tax free to the recipient. If you were paid the money and bought insurance with it you'd pay income tax on that money. But if the company buys you insurance then the employee doesn't pay tax.

Changing that alone would make the system rather better.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Sorta

Fair enough, I stand corrected.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: But the elephant in the room...

From the Harvard study:

"We designated bankruptcies as “medical” based on debtors’ stated

reasons for filing, income loss due to illness, and the magnitude of their medical debts.

RESULTS: Using a conservative definition, 62.1% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were medical;"

60% odd of bankruptcies are "medical" not necessarily due to "medical bills".

"Illness or medical bills contributed to 62.1% of all bankruptcies

in 2007"

"When asked about problems that contributed

very much or somewhat to their bankruptcy, 41.8% of

interviewees specifically identified a health problem, 54.9%

cited medical or drug costs, and 37.8% blamed income loss

due to illness. Overall, 68.8% cited at least one of these

medical causes."

It really ain't true that they're saying that medical bills caused 60% odd of all bankruptcies. They're including the loss of income from being ill for a start.

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Tim Worstal
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Sorta

That NHS number you've got there is a little out of date. That's from before the Blair/Brown splurge of cash on it. More like 10-11% these days.

But yes, the US medical system is insane. It's so bad that even Stalinist central planning like the NHS would be better.

Better than either would be a more market oriented system like Singapore of course, but that's another matter.

BTW, it's not really the billing etc that costs so much in the US. It's that we actually see that cost. It's there in the accounts of the insurance companies. When a health care system is paid for from taxation the costs of the billing are the reduction in economic activity as a result of the taxation (the "deadweight costs") which of course we never do see.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: But the elephant in the room...

That medical bankruptcies stat is a little off. It's more like "x million went bankrupt owing some medical bills" rather than "x million went bankrupt because of medical bills".

But sure, not going to find me defending the insane US medical system.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: yay, statistics

Quite true. The answer being that Norway is a substantially richer country than the US. Per capita GDP is about twice that of the US. The difference narrows a lot when you consider the cost of living.

The explanation is all that oil. Sure, smaller amount than the US pumps up but a vastly greater portion of the economy.

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The fantastical Francesinha

Tim Worstal
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Re: Looks like it's still missing something

Caramelised *red* onions sounds like a remarkably good idea.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: It is indeed excellent

Grr....I'm working in Bohemia at present where it really isn't quite that warm. No doubt it will cool down around Messines nicely for my next trip home in a couple of weeks.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: It is indeed excellent

Bifanas are good.....but they're not exactly stodge, are they?

Hills behind Vilamoura.....Loule way? Bit further over for us, Messines.

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Tim Worstal
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It is indeed excellent

Although my major complaint about Worstall Towers being in the Algarve is that this is very much a Northern Portugal dish. Rare to see it in the south.

On the other hand, the original home of Nando's style peri peri (Nando's is Mozambiquan Portuguese as filtered through South Africa) is "estilho da Guia" and is frango piri piri here. And Guia is 10 clicks from said W Towers.

And there's also the "bitoque". Standard "snack" meal all over the country. Minute steak, fried egg, chips, rice and salad. € 5, maybe 6 in a place that insists that it really is beef. The Portuguese do tend to insist that calories are a very important part of a meal.

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Shhhhh! It's a Swiss Sunday shutdown. Kill the lawnmower, punish the kids with CHEESE

Tim Worstal
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The old joke

Switzerland's such a nice place because it's the only country that anyone has ever bothered to finish building.

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Oi, UK.gov. WHERE'S THE DETAIL on your Google Tax?

Tim Worstal
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Apparently

the detailed proposals will be released as a draft law on Wednesday. If published at 1 pm, expect the first articles explaining why it won't work by 2 pm.

As far as I can work out (and yes, I am such a sad sack that I do understand these issues) there's two possible end states here.

1) It's entirely ineffective but they've "done something" in the run up to the election.

2) They entirely change the basis of all international taxation of business.

And if it's 2) I do rather expect them to have to go talk to a few other countries, negotiate a bit etc.

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Sick of the 'criminal' lies about pie? Lobby the government HERE

Tim Worstal
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Re: Hilarious maybe

"There's nothing wrong with not serving the best meat in pies"

Pies are a strategy for dealing with not having the best meat to serve. As are stews.

It would be a bit odd to be putting filet mignon into the steak and kidney pie instead of skirt or flank.

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Under the Iron Sea: YES, tech and science could SAVE the planet

Tim Worstal
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Re: Iron is not enough

Thank you. Glad I didn't have to try to deal with that one.....chalk is CaCO3......

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Iron is not enough

I understand your point but disagree with it I'm afraid. We really do see such algal blooms when Saharan sand gets blown out into the Atlantic. And the boffins who have actually gone and done the experiments tells is that that 1Gtonne is about right for iron only, per annum.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: "British Columbia, Alaska,"

It ain't, of course, but one part of the coast is Alaska, another part BC.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Iron is not enough

Iron not enough......weeeel.....not quite.

There's areas where iron only is enough. There's other areas where iron and silicic acid are required. And then other areas where all sorts of other stuff is as well.

This 1 Gtonne is iron and iron only.

This isn't, btw, from the Alaska/BC bloke (although I've talked to him). It's from those German researchers (who I have also talked to).

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Masala omelette

Tim Worstal
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Re: No Bacon?

Among the wide variety of things I've done over the years was owning a delicatessen in the US. Back bacon is a problem. But see if you can get some "Boar's Head" brand of the streaky. No, it's not back bacon but it is pretty good all the same.

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Apple’s $700 BEEELLION market cap makes it more valuable than Switzerland

Tim Worstal
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Re: Eeeek!

Just worked it out. Apple's value add is around $50 billion, give or take. So, equal to Rhode Island, Maine, maybe. Or Fort Worth perhaps. Summat like that.

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Tim Worstal
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Eeeek!

Comparing a corporate valuation to a country's GDP? Eeeek!

GDP is value added in one year. Closely akin to income.

Corporate valuation is total value. Closely akin to wealth.

Wealth is a stock, income a flow. The stock is worth the net present value of the future flow.

Thus Switzerland earns in a year the current net present value of all of Apple's future earnings.

The actual comparison between a corporate number and GDP is the value added of the corporation in one year. Usually taken to be (this isn't exact but it's good enough) profits plus wages paid within the company.

Eeeek!

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As-a-service upstarts will KILL OFF THE CORPORATES?

Tim Worstal
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Sorta

Coase was more interested in "why not have a network of lots of organisations rather than one large centralised one" than the specific legal form. His musings till work whether we wonder about a network of one man Ltds or non-limited sole traders.

It's the network v the centralisation that he's really musing about.

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Tim Worstal
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Snigger

"BTW - were you hinting that you wanted a Nobel with this piece? Keep up the good work and I'm sure it'll come :)"

Good God no. I've one peer reviewed paper to my name, in a low impact journal, which has (so far as I know) been cited once in some geezer's M.Sc. paper. I'm about as likely to get a Nobel as Jeffrey Archer is to get the Literature one.

Less actually.

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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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