* Posts by Tim Worstal

873 posts • joined 12 Feb 2008

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Building a better society from the Czechs' version of Meccano

Tim Worstal
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Re: And....

Sorry, should have added about the mines. The mountains that are today's border are the "Ore Mountains", Erzgebirge or Krusny Hory, dependent upon language. Continental Europe's major sources of tin (as Cornwall was for us) for near a millennium and then later of tungsten. This is actually where the Germanic name for tungsten, comes from, "wolfram". The ore is a mixed cassiterite/wolframite/scheelite, depends upon the mine. Different proportions around the place. And when you process such a mixed ore the tungsten takes a significant portion of the tin with it: it's the wolf that eats the tin.

And I'm here because the five historic mines in the area have some of the highest scandium levels of such ores. And the building I'm sitting in right now is where people first worked out how to extract the Sc from the wastes of the tungsten processing....

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Had the pleasure of working with Russians trained in tne 80s

I was actually working with such guys in 1990 and onwards in Moscow.....we ported "Another World" over from DOS to Windows. Everyone thought it couldn't be done but people who could make rocket systems work on those ZX knockoffs were able to handle the code.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: And....

"By the way - that towel and paper are ~ 50-es or thereabouts."

The 39 year old Czech guy I went around the exhib with (and who took the photos) clearly remembers both from his own childhood. On that mental list of "if you see these things, buy them" on the grounds that you never knew when you would be able to buy them.

And that they were also made in the 50s is rather the point. There wasn't much development of such consumer goods from the 50s through to the 80s.

BTW, the towel packet actually has "1988" written on it. But I don't know whether that is the year or not.

"Also, if memory serves me right Usti Nad Ladem was German till 1945 and were they "kicked out" or "it was taken from them by force" is something where the opinions may vary. Depends which side of the border you ask the question. It is a very nice area. Beautiful scenery (dunno about mines, have not seen any), clean air, mineral water in nearly every town."

It is all rather complex as you say. German name is "Aussig" and I've seen a road sign or two on the German side of the border with that even today. And the city was largely (possibly even majority) German before 1945. And part of the Sudetenland that Hitler took in 1938. Before that part of the first republic of Czechoslovakia.

Kicked out and force, well, definitely force was used. The various populations of this area were violently moved around in 1945 and following. Germany extend a couple of hundred miles further into Poland than it does now, Poland same into Ukraine than it does now. All shifted westward....but not just the borders. Ethnic Poles were kicked out ("forced") of Ukraine and dumped in Poland, the Ukrainian population of Poland vice versa. Germans in Poland (and the Baltics, and here) all shifted into Germany. A very bloody time and one of the largest mass movements of populations ever by some accounts.

Dresden, 30 minutes up the road, copped it badly in the closing days of the war, as we all know. Here, there wasn't really any fighting or bombing during the war. The violence was mostly in 1938 and 1945 and 6 (excepting the Holocaust of course, Terezin (Theresienstadt) is only 15 minutes away).

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Just to add one

Probably, my Czech's not very good and I was working from spoken (translated) conversations. So, steel and iron could well have got mixed up. And probably have actually. That URL is oce-something and iron is zelezno (or summat similar in all slavics).

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Tim Worstal
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Don't tell the subs

They'll all want one for Christmas

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Thanks

Showing my age here but there was a lovely Ruby Wax stand up joke where she plays the newly arrived American and asks, well, what is it with this British toilet paper? It just moves the moisture from side to side! Well (rubs her thighs together) I can do that myself!

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Tim Worstal
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And....

Video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIgngTXg4JE

Couldn't use that in the piece of course as the copyrights aren't ours.

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Tim Worstal
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Just to add one

A bloke has actually built a 1,200 kg version of Jules Verne's "Iron City" out of the stuff. At the factory museum these days:

http://www.merkurpolice.cz/ocelove-mesto-rok-2000-az-2010#lightbox

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Belgium to the rescue as UK consumers freeze after BST blunder

Tim Worstal
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Re: Oh, for goodness sake

Portugal is on GMT (or, rather, today, BST).

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A Quid A Day for NOSH? Luxury!

Tim Worstal
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Re: Oy, don't knock it 'til you've tried it!

That's a fair point. Think there was a little brain fart there by me, "pease pottage" is the thing I really had in mind.

Not that I know that that's a real thing but that's what I meant.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: True poverty still exists in the UK

"All economists have 20-20 vision with hindsight."

Would that make them like computer engineers?

No, I don't know when your computer system is going to fall over but when it does I might be able to work out why?

Hindsight?

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Fair enough

So, that's 2,500 words filed on that subject then....

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Tim Worstal
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Fair enough

For next weekend then.

The actual number is they "lose" about the same as official aid. But what is being measured there is official going in and private sector going out. Which isn't really all that useful: we want also to know what is private sector going in?

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Guardian: 'Oil reserves will soon be worth NOTHING!' (A bit like their stock tips, really)

Tim Worstal
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Re: TW - thanks for the brilliant ONE-dimensional analysis...

Well, yes, except Shells reserves currently account for some 11 years of Shells production. So we're currently up to 2026. See anything serious happening by then?

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Tim Worstal
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Re: noise and mathematics...

"Or in Worstall's articles, for that matter."

Good reason for that. I don't understand differential equations.

I get the concepts, rates of change and all that, see the use and am just damn glad that there's other people out there who know how to work through them. The moment I start to see the algebra I'm afraid that the brain switches off.

One of the reasons I'm not an economist....

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Tim Worstal
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Re: excessive

My ego's large enough to go for that, yes.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Oh look...

"Well, you're right that "markets place very little value on things beyond the near future", but when someone suggests actually *using* market forces to influence that behaviour, somehow you don't like that because they use an "inappropriate discount rate", not whether it's a good idea or not."

Well missed, the point being made that is. The G's argument is: oil companies have too high a value because they will not be able to pump up all their reserves. They should have a lower value therefore.

I am pointing out that they already have a lower value because we discount the value of those reserves. This isn't an argument about whether we should be doing something about climate change (see my support for a carbon tax). It's an argument about whether these campaigners have understood the economics of the thing they're trying to campaign upon. They don't.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Plastic 'stuff'

That's why you just change one price. The carbon price. Once that is done you can leave the market to do all that calculating for you.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Critical point missed.

Thanks for that, most interesting. Now it's explained it's obvious.....but then so much is once it's explained, isn't it?

This makes The G's argument even worse of course....

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Tim Worstal
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Re: All this long

"Channel 4 did a rather excellent documentry yesterday on how rampant short termism in the city is destroying british companies (and anyone else dumb enough to base themselves here)

Something that may happpen in 50 yrs time does not cross their minds"

This is equal to stating that market interest rates are too high, therefore we discount profits in the far future by too much.

OK....maybe that's true. But if it is then the implication is that we're valuing those future reserves at spit....which is rather what I'm saying, isn't it?

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Oh look...

""Crayon eating", Tim? Really, is that the best you can come up with?)"

Not in my opinion, no. I can do better than that. The original line was truly insulting and most rude. Toned down by the subs (probably wisely) on the grounds that it was truly insulting and most rude.

And you really have missed what I've said about climate change around the place, haven't you? That it's not actually a problem that the market unadorned can solve, there will have to be intervention in order to solve it? Hell, I even recommend exactly the same thing the Stern Review does (also, all the other economists who have studied the problem, Tol, Nordhaus, Weizman etc), a carbon tax at the social cost of carbon.

Using, of course, the appropriate discount rate.

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$30 Landfill Android mobes are proof that capitalism ROCKS

Tim Worstal
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Re: A selfish view

His listing of what can be done is a reasonable approximation of my stylebook (on the grounds that I am hugely influenced by Krugman's essay style, even if not quite so much by current economic policies). So I don't want too many people thinking about that: might be breeding my own competition.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Have you had a closer look at that 'landfill' recently?

Well, looks like I'm about to lease a Golf clone for £100 a month, they pay all maintenance and insurance, I just cough up for petrol and tires.

Admittedly, I do have a mate at the Skoda factory but still....

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Tim Worstal
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Re: A selfish view

Allow me to introduce you to an astonishingly good economics essay. So good it reduces me to incoherent foaming rage brought on by jealousy.

http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/ricardo.htm

When Indian workers are as productive, on average, as UK workers then they will be paid the same as UK workers. And it will be Indian wages which rise to UK levels.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: "Higher prices mean cheaper electricity for everyone"

The research was done by comparing economies at similar levels of development, their growth rates, and mobile phone penetration. We're as sure as we ever are here about causation, yes.

Or, alternatively, Moore's Law is just a sector specific example of what capitalism does. As more than one economist has pointed out, we do actually know the date that Elizabeth I received her first pair of stockings. Capitalism's achievement was that Victorian factory girls had them too.

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Tim Worstal
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Yes, and knowing Sir Pterry he'd probably read those original papers on the value of mobile phones to get the idea.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: "Higher prices mean cheaper electricity for everyone"

"I don't know why but I always have a suspicion that I am being taken for a ride but am not bright enough to know what ride that is."

And I'm not bright enough to pull off a trick like that consistently either.

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Tim Worstal
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It was here, by me, and it was sardine fishermen off Kerala.

""But by definition, if they are getting richer then they are producing more"

Not true. They may well be simply selling what they produce more efficiently,"

Yeah, but within economics, we'd probably call that more production. The "more usable production" point you're rightly making normally drops the "usable" as we all assume its there.

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Boffins FOAMING over a Nickel's worth of hydrogen

Tim Worstal
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Well, quite

"Someone who has staked his company's future on pure electric cars isn't going to want to see advancements that make fuel cell vehicles more attractive."

Which is why we all like fuel cells around here, right? Because they use scandium?

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Are you clever enough, and brave enough, to give a Register lecture

Tim Worstal
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Well, I would volunteer

But I'm already booked in, aren't I?

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Improved Apple Watches won't get more expensive? Hmmm

Tim Worstal
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Re: Just a thought

I think there are some attempts to calculate inflation rates for different segments of the population, yes. They might even be by ONS, I'm not sure.

The general rule is that higher income people have higher inflation rates than lower income people. The richer you are the more services you consume, the poorer the more manufactures (and food, for this purpose, is a manufacture) as a portion of your income. And generally (over years and decades at least) services become more expensive relative to manufactures.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Hmmm... smoke and mirrors?

"many are looking at working longer hours"

Not true across the population. We all have more leisure than any previous generations ever did.

Paid (or market) working hours for women are up, for men down. And unpaid (or household) working hours for both sexes are significantly down. The balance being fewer working hours and more leisure.

We're getting ever more stuff and working ever less to get it.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Total compensation

"So because health insurance is so insanely expensive, and rising and employers have to pay it - that statistically is equivalent to rising wages?"

Not quite: it's rising compensation, definitely, but not quite rising wages.

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Sir Terry remembered: Dickens' fire, Tolkien's imagination, and the wit of Wodehouse

Tim Worstal
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The thing is

When one of the books was based upon something you know well the most absurd jokes were actually the true bits.

The Truth is the best satire of the newspaper business since Scoop and probably better. And in Making Money the truly absurd thing about all of the economics is that it's absolutely completely and totally correct.

Yes, even down to the hydraulic computer for modelling the economy.

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

Although, to be fair, it's only one half of the economics profession who thinks that if you can get the model right then it will affect the real economy.

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$17,000 Apple Watch: Pointless bling, right? HA! You're WRONG

Tim Worstal
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Re: Clickbait

" I remember the good old days, when if you opposed the Euro you were some kind of little-Englander, swivel-eyed loon, to be subtly insulted and patronised by our betters at the Guardian, BBC, Times and FT."

Well, of course, that is why I am a Ukipper. I even own a blazer.

"somehow beyond the pail"

The original of this is probably not allowed these days, but it was "beyond the pale". Nowt to do with skin colour though, although I guess that's how people would think of it these days. The "Pale of Dublin" was the area of Ireland under Anglo-Norman control. Beyond that was the gaelic wilderness. There be beasties sorta thing. And amusingly the most gaelic parts of Ireland were in Ulster, the areas that were covered by the Protestant Plantation of the 1600s (covered for that very reason of course). Sorry for the pedantry, just been reading about it.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Christometer-

Yes, I was hoping that might catch. And Holy Toast is wondrous....

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The voters hate Google. Heeeeyyyy... how about a 'Google Tax'?

Tim Worstal
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Re: Going after big companies while exempting small

Yes, excellent point, and it also speaks to the VAT exemption point made above.

The EU is saying that you can have a zero rate of duty for small producers. That's not a problem (you can even justify it, how much does it cost in taxmen to collect a few hundred/thousand pounds a year each in a new and different tax from 500 farms?). But what you're not allowed to do is say "cider pays duty but we'll ignore the small fry".

Much the same as the VAT exemption: it's in law that turnover amount so that's fine. With te DPT they're not putting the exemption down on paper, just saying they'll not bother.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Too Simplistic

Amazon's situation is a little different. Those warehouses. Under the standard double taxation treaties warehouses (and logistics chains etc) are expressly excluded as giving rise to the creation of a permanent establishment and thus a corporation tax liability.

Amazon is still being cute, of course it is, but it really does have the express letter of the law on its side on this particular point.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Hmmm

"What about spurious and inflated licensing fees being charged purposely to ensure the UK entity never makes a profit?"

Wioth respect to hte tech companies that's not what actually happens. Well, it does in Ireland but that's an issue for their tax system, not ours. They're all selling into the UK from other EU countries. As above, under EU single market laws, that's just not even tax avoidances.

" Are they the same rate worldwide - and if not why not?"

Ah, if they're not then they would be in trouble, yes, transfer pricing rules would get them. And people are looking at this. Starbucks barnd royalties to that Dutch company for example. The EU found that Starbucks UK was being charged the same royalty rate as Starbucks franchises in other countries. So that's OK then.

"What about UK sales people working for a UK company and making the sale but handing off the agreement to be signed to an Irish company?"

That's a little more dodgy and and area where Google could, theoretically, come unstuck. Depends on how far down the line those UK based "sales engineers" go in "making" the sale. This is something that is being investigated/argued about right now and we'll just have to see how it turns out.

"For all intents and purposes the sales are being made in this country by a UK corporation but then completed by a third entity purely for tax avoidance."

As above, it's about how close that is to being true.

"At the moment both these are legitimate tax avoidance"

I tend to argue that tax avoidance is an attempt to reduce taxation. But once it passses therough the system there's actually no such thing as avoidance. Either you've obeyed the law as written, in which case it's tax compliance, or you haven't, so it's tax evasion.

" not sure they should be though."

And that is an entirely different matter. what "should" be is up to each of us to decide based on our ideas of fairness. That's not really something economics can help with.

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The secret of Warren Buffett's success at Berkshire Hathaway

Tim Worstal
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Re: A little knowlege is a dangerous thing.

"and just a tad obvious, to anyone who follows these things. "

Well, yes. But if I was writing for people whjo already knew all these things then I'd be writing in "Warren Buffett Analysis Weekly" rather than El Reg.........

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Money, it's a crime...

Sure, you can't use a loan as a capital reserve (with limits. Perpetual floating rate notes were issued by a few banks and were regulatory capital). But all banks do go and borrow what they lend.

They really do not just "create the money" in the basement. If a bank gives me a loan today then by 4 pm today (well, OK, it's a Sunday, pretend it's Monday) it must balance its books. Either other people have deposited enough in the bank (which, to the bank, is just borrowing money from them) or they must go out into the interbank market to borrow it from another bank.

Banks really do go and borrow the money they lend out.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Money, it's a crime...

"Yes, it did. Fractional Reserve Lending allowed banks to be leveraged 25 or 30 to 1 in their mortgage lending."

No, leverage and FRB are not the same thing at all. FRB refers to what poetion of your deposits you can lend out (ie, what is the fractional reserve). Leverage is about how many multiples of your capital can you borrow to then lend out. The two just aren't the same thing.

"With Full Reserve Banking, the banks simply couldn't have issued so many mortgages."

That's true, with full reserve a bank couldn't make a single mortgage at all. Because it would only be able to lend out money on the terms that money was lent to it. Given that no one at all makes 30 year deposits in banks then a bank would never be able to offer a 30 year mortgage.

http://goldsilverworldscom.c.presscdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/M1_money_supply_vs_gold_price_1970-2012.gif

Yes, that's M1, base money. Notes and coins plus reserves at the central bank. Which is not "the money supply". M2, which I quoted, is closer to "the money supply". And standard monetarism (what I assume you mean by Austrian) regards M3 or possibly even M4 as the important variable (ie, M1 plus M2 plus bank accounts, deposits and near cash equivalents like credit card balances and so on and on). there were vast increases in M2-M4 in the 70s....and there was, as you note, inflation.

"OK, but: the US is a net exporter of corn and wheat. Diverting some of the production of corn and wheat to spiking gasoline with ethanol doesn't justify the sharp increase in food prices in the US."

What? We have a global price for grains. The wheat price in England is linked to that in France, the US, China, Ukraine. As Ricardo pointed out they'll be about the same price minus transport costs. So, if american start putting corn into cars then the global price of corn will rise. Including the American price of it.

"Cost of transportation in the US is correlated to the price of oil, because we do not have a railway infrastructure to speak of, and everything gets hauled by truck on highways."

My apologies, but are you dialing in from some alternate reality? The US has an absolutely superb railway infrastructure for hauling goods. Vastly more of US internal trade moves on the railways in the US than does anywhere in Europe for example (US, 2,500 billion tonne km as opposed to only 300 billion tonne km for the EU as a whole). It's passenger rail in the US which is pretty shitty. Which, given the distances, isn't all that surprising.

"Long-term, and in terms of ROI, fixed income markets outperorm equities markets."

Yep, you're definitely dialing in from some alternative reality. Over long periods stock beat bonds. Because inflation.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Money, it's a crime...

"Really? No-one gets enriched by lending? What's the purpose of lending then? Is it social altruism perhaps? Do banks not charge interest - always above inflation - in order to extract a profit from lending?"

Bit of a leap there don't you think? He was talking about FRB. You are now talking about lending. You do know that full reserve banking, the opposite of FRB, would still have lending? Good, then we can't define lending as being unique to FRB then, can we?

And of course lending enriches. But we've already agreed that lending and FRB are not the same thing, haven't we? BTW, lending is not always done at rates above inflation. 70s Britian it most certainly wasn't for example.

"Fractional reserve lending contributed - in great part - to the credit derivatives bubble"

No, it didn't.

"subsequent crash of 2008"

Absolutely correct, it did. It's the great weakness of an FRB system, that a bank can be solvent but illiquid....and yet has millions of people all demanding their money back right now. It's also the source of the great value of FRB, which is that a system of FRB performs maturity transformation. It might be that your and my and 5 million other checking accounts have zero in them at the end of the month, but the average balance over the month is maybe £1,000 each and the bank is able to budle up those 5 million £1,000s and then lend them out as long term loans to industry and or mortgages.

As I say, both the point and the weakness of FRB.

"Same for MF Global and Jon Corzine - also of Goldman Sachs. There was no greed at play there."

I actually mention in the piece what happened at MF Global....

"The last time the US government imposed price controls was in the early '70's during the Nixon administration. It had no effect on inflation. Inflation still skyrocketed - mainly because of the oil shocks. Neo-classical Austrians hate that one."

Why would neo-classical Austrians (whoever they are, Austrians are not normally regarded as neo-classicals) hate that one? Both groups say that price controls don't work. Price controls didn't, as you note, work. Why would they hate what they think doesn't work not working?

"During Bush 43's administration, there was no increase in money supply,"

Eh? M2 (Money stock) went from 4,600 billion to 7,500 billion during Bush 43.

"yet there was significant inflation in basic consumer subsistence goods: food and energy."

Food and energy prices did rise, yes.

" Conveniently enough, food and energy prices are excluded from the US inflation calculations."

Not so. Food and energy, being more volatile in price than most other things, are excluded from "core inflation". The actual inflation rate, CPI or whatever, is core inflation plus food and energy.

" Neo-classical Austrians' explanation for food price increases in the US: "we can't explain it. It must have something to do with China and India eating more steak and frites and driving better cars". Seriously."

Not so much. The usual explanation is that some idiot decided to put corn into gas tanks as ethanol rather than into the food chain. Given that corn is the basic raw ingredient of a lot of food (pork as just one example) this raised food prices. Other food prices (wheat etc) also rose as people substituted away from corn.

And even if the China story was right, what's wrong with that? Higher demand for food means food prices rise. You do agree that demand affects prices, yes?

" We can all start our own Berkshire Hathaway, be miraculous investors and we'll all get rich. Right?"

At the end of the article I do sorta point out that no, we can't get rich the Warren Buffett way....

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Post-pub nosh neckfiller: Smažený sýr

Tim Worstal
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Not quite....

"I thought in Czecho, all food always came with beetroot? Red beetroot, white beetroot, yellow, orange, purple, striped, pickled, boiled, fried, roasted, mashed........but always bloody beetroot"

Dumplings. If it don't have dumplings then it ain't "proper" Czech. Well, so it seems up here in Northern Bohemia at least.

"Beetroot is actually relatively uncommon and used [properly] only in some specific meals."

Indeed.

As to making an English version of this.....strong blue cheese like a stilton, thoroughly soaked in port first. Then breadcrumb and fry......

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Mummy, what's the point of Evgeny Morozov's tedious columns?

Tim Worstal
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Re: Happily resorting to dogmatism :-)

"A Capitalist running dog"

Yeah, but that's a cliche by now and as that little book "How to Write A Column" I have secreted away says, always try to mix up cliches to make them new.

didn't work then, eh?

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Tim Worstal
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To be Tim Worstall. At least that's what I take it to be.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: Evgeny Who?

"Worstall is a marxist-socialist type"

Hoo, boy, I really am going to have to sort out my writing style, aren't I?

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Tim Worstal
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FAIL

Re: @ IT Hack

Apologies, thought people knew who he was. One of these deep thinkiers on matters tech, bit like Jaron Lanier. He always comes across to me as somone who would say "Yes, yes, OK, so we've got our Jetson's style rocket packs now but what about the number of cats not being spayed?, eh, eh!"

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C'mon! Greece isn't really bust and it can pay its debts

Tim Worstal
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Re: There was never a need for a combined currency all over Europe

Ouch. The European Council and the Council of Europe are not the same thing.

The European Council (aka the Council of the European Union) is an EU body. The Council of Europe, which manages the human rights act, is a much wider body. Includes Russia for example (about the only non-member in anything like Europe is Belarus).

True, you must be a member of the Council of Europe to be a member of the EU but it's still an entirely different body. The ECJ is an EU body, the ECHR, which administers the human rights stuff, is not.

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Tim Worstal
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Re: There was never a need for a combined currency all over Europe

I fear you've got very slightly confused over the technical terms here.

"Monetary policy" refers to things like the size of the money supply, interest rates and so on.

"Currency policy" refers to having the one currency or multiple ones.

And this is the heart of this idea of "optimal" currency areas. Currency policy means that the larger the area covered the better. Monetary policy means that the larger the area the more problems we can potentially have. The two are in tension, which is why we can have an optimal area. Where we get the maximum possible of one while only getting a little bit of the problems of the other.

We can also reduce the monetary problems by having integrated fiscal policy (ie, taxes raised in one area are shifted to pay for problems in another area). But the EU doesn't have that.

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