It's the other 1% that makes them worth having.
It's no wonder you were sent to a prison planet for sexual deviancy...
4333 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009
It's the other 1% that makes them worth having.
It's no wonder you were sent to a prison planet for sexual deviancy...
As I've said here before I'm not even an economist, I just play one on the web.
Oooh, do you have a costume? I'll be really disappointed in you if you don't...
Faster than runaway inflation, more powerful than a blast of QE, able to leap to conclusions in a single bound. It's Supereconomist!
Quick! To the VAT-cave! There's a crisis in Gotham City. GATT-Woman is threating global trade. If her dastardly plot succeeds Mayor Ricardo will be powerless to save the economy. Commissioner Gordon
Brown said he'd saved the world, but he needs your help.
...Hmmm. I'd better stop now. I wonder if I should have had those mushrooms for lunch...
No one uses the internet for sex! There is no sexual material on the internet at all. It's a realm of purity, scholorship, communication and enlightenment.
As I said to my wife the other day, when she noticed that I'd been spending so much time on www.rubenesques.com. Some people just have dirty minds...
We can ignore a 'post-scarcity' economy in economics. Because we currently have no way to achieve it. So economics (and politics) is still all about how best to divide and ration scarce resources.
It may be true that there aren't many uses for the washing machine, but itself it's a development of many different technologies. And it's still being innovated upon. It's taken other inventions, pumps, electric motors, chemicals, computers (to achieve power and water efficiencies), ball-bearings. And is still changing. They now use under half the water they did 10 years ago, thus fewer chemicals, and less energy. You can now get them with variable speed motors, cutting down on noise, vibration and power use - as well as prolonging the life of the unit. This is possible because the pump industry (and others) have pushed down the cost of inverter-driven motors.
Or you could take a similar dead-end invention with no further uses, the dishwasher. And yet some American chap has published a book, called dishwasher cookery. Now you see the benefits of capitalism! Communism would never have given us that... Oh dear, have I just destroyed capitalism with a single argument? Ooops.
Pepper sir? Would sir like some grated mouse on his pasta?
Do you have any evidence for that claim about Gordon Brown?
My recollection of events was that Barclays were after buying out Lehman Brothers globally, but wanted some quite large treasury guarantees. Which UK government refused. Perfectly understandably, as no-one had a clue what the risk was. So in the end Barclays bought Lehman's US arm afterwards instead - taking much less of the risk.
The US had already decided to let Lehman go bust, as a salutary lesson. A large mistake as it turned out. I'd imagine that the UK government position was why should we bail out a US bank if they're not going to?
I remember reading subsequently about this, and noting that the US guys they interviewed were rather bitter about the Barclays deal not going through. And so blamed the Treasury. But I'm not sure if that isn't revisionism - because as I understand it the Barclays deal only came about because the US had already decided not to bail Lehman out.
Also the crisis would still have been very serious anyway. See the Eurozone for why. The banks were totally fucked, in various ways. They'd been out of control for too long. They'd taken on too much risk, they'd been committing various frauds, the UK interest-rate swaps and PPI misselling bill is going to come to something like £20-£25 billion! Even without Lehmans, the interbank market had frozen up, because all the banks knew all the others were loaded with toxic debt. Because none of them would admit the amounts, none of them could trust each other. The Eurozone was a house of cards, waiting for a recession to destroy it, the Eurozone banking system was also fucked, although for different reasons. They'd taken on some of our and the US's crap assets, but mostly what's destroyed their banking system is cross-border lending into property markets they didn't understand, political interference with local banks (Landesbanks and Cajas in particular) and all the toxic government debt.
Banking recessions are always going to be awful, because so many companies get finance from banks, so when they're shrinking their balance sheets it's almost impossible to kick-start recovery. Lehmans was the trigger which brought the crisis on, but in the end the banking sectors in the US, UK and Europe were teetering on the edge of collapse, and couldn't be saved without huge infusions of government cash. That meant they'd have to de-leverage, and that meant a massive recession. The rest was just timing.
That's probably unfairly harsh. Sure there's politics and belief involved in people's economic theories. But they are mostly attempts to explain a very complex interplay of events, with no means for experimentation, and absolutely shockingly bad data.
Germany had a recession last year. Did you know about this? Nope? That's OK, neither did Germany. They had something like -0.1% GDP growth in Oct-Dec 2012 and -0.3% growth in Jan-Mar 2013. But they only worked those figures out in last week's GDP figures. That's over 18 months late to effect government policy.
The UK have been trying to puzzle out what bit of our huge government deficit is structural and what part is cyclical. So what do we need to cut in order to balance the books at the middle of the economic cycle (say around 2018)? Once the temporary effects of the recession have stopped lowering tax receipts and causing us to spend on extra out-of-work / low pay benefits. To know this, we need to know how deep the recession was (which was adjusted to be -0.5% of GDP worse only 4 months ago). We also need to know if the recession has had an adverse effect on productivity, so the Bank of England can try to predict inflation and wage growth, so they can set interest rates. Productivity has dropped, but is that because companies chose not to sack so many people this time, or because the recession has fundamentally changed the economy, neither r both?
That's policy, which needs accurate figures. But to form theories, you can look at older data. Except each country measure everything slightly differently. And has a different type of economy, legal system, government, culture. So absolutely nothing is properly comparable. This makes economics hard.
However, if economics didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. Politicians need a guide on how to run the economy. They've got a limited set of tools at their disposal, crap data that's always months out of date, and some very shaky theories to work with. One rule of thumb is to be very careful about the fundamentalists. People who have faith in one theory tend to ignore the good bits of the other theories. But I think we're a bit better at explaining what things correlate with other things, even if we're a hell of a lot shakier on what the actual causation is.
Because the ECB gave those LTRO loans on a two year basis. They've mostly been repaid, and are all due to be called in around February. Also, the ECB were demanding collateral. This meant that there was a shortage of assets for banks to borrow against or use. Which is why the interbank lending and repo markets are still so crap. That and the breakdown of trust between the banks.
The ECB efforts are already mostly reversed, which is one reason why Eurozone money supply has been collapsing for the last two years. The problem with the Eurozone response to the crisis, is that not only can they not agree on solutions, but when they eventually do agree a policy, it's always short term and badly compromised. Which is why the Euro was such a rubbish idea. There is no way to achieve consensus, because there is no single dominant political institution. Nor is there an electorate back that up, and force a resolution. Nor is there a single economy, for policy to work on.
Although funnily enough, interest rates always seem to be about right for Germany, even when that caused serious inflation in Spain and Ireland 10 years ago. And then partly caused depression in Spain and Ireland five years ago.
Apple's alternative is of course called the iPatch...
Thanks for that. It's a lot bigger than I was expecting then.
One thing I liked the idea of using it for was for reading signs. Hopefully the camera can magnify live images (I assume it acts as a viewfinder). Otherwise take snap of train departure board, then magnify and read. Although you can often go online and get stuff so that you don't have to read signs now - most train apps tell you the platform. That probably doesn't work in airports though, where a monocular comes in handy, and Google Glass could be rather useful. These places do like to put vital information on signs 20 foot up in the air. Which guarantees you can never get close enough to read them.
Did you have a problem where all the info was going to one eye, so all that one-eyed reading gave you a headache? Or were you not using it much at any one time? It was what I first thougth of when you mentioned using it to watch video.
On that photo you took when driving, with sat-nav displayed, is that the real apparent size of the text in your visual field? Or have Google made that little insert bigger in the photos than it looks in real life? I think Glass could be a brilliant tool, mainly for travelling. I'm not interested in checking my emails while walking down the street, but to be able to use sat-nav and look up info on public transport while wandering London would be very useful. As well as seeing texts from whoever I'm meeting. But my eyesight is rubbish, so I'm interested in how big the text is. I can just about read subtitles on a 50" telly at 6-8 feet (no chance on a 26"). But then subtitles may be a smaller font size than the equivalent Google use on Glass. I hope.
Surely they're arms? After all, you fold your arms, not even yoga masters can fold their legs flat...
I'm sure I read that Google do a left eye version. After all, pirates might want to be usin' Glass. Sat-nav be so much easier for findin' yer buried dubloons. You needs it when yer parrot has pecked out yer starboard eye, aye.
Don't forget them. They're in a race. Which will go bust first? Groupon or Zynga? Place bets now!
Don't think I've seen one of these in a while. Would be perfect for your weekend edition.
I was reminded seeing Lester's name in lights on your latest rocketry madness. Perhaps he should do something TexMex in honour of the upcoming trip to the US? I find the breakfast burrito to be an excellent snack. Bacon, salsa, scrambled egg and a bit of grated cheese wrapped in a soft tortilla. Sausages are an alternative to the bacon. There are always tortillas left over when you use them, which gives me the perfect excuse - and I like to make up big batches of salsa.
Perhaps El Reg should organise some sort of deathmatch event sometime? Could even raise funds for heart disease charities. Although that is sort of like holding a drinkathon for AA...
Why are there no STARS in space?
Because they're picky and difficult to please. And parties in space just have no atmosphere darling...
Isn't this the second and third satellited they've lost, out of the first 6 launched? I believe one of the earlier ones didn't work, although it's possible these two can be salvaged. But it's a bit sad to have lost half of the reserve of 6, in the first year of the program. On the other hand, out of 15 launches you'd expect to lose at least one, no-one's got a perfect record. It's almost as if rocket science was hard...
Nuking carrier groups has been a part of military planning since at least the 1960s. Tactical nukes were designed for relatively small, high-value targets. Whether they be Warsaw Pact bridgeheads over German rivers, NATO carrier groups, airbases or rail junctions.
Admittedly nuking a significant target and destroying $100bn worth of enemy shiny-shiny, along with killing say 10,000 of their personnel, is not likely to end well. Particularly if that nation is equipped with strategic nuclear weapons, not to mention tactical ones of its own.
Then again, by the 70s, most NATO planning for the Central European front pretty much admitted that it was either lose, or resort to nuking the Soviet spearheads within just a few days of the war starting. So part of the plan was that you act as if you'd go nuclear in your normal battle-planning, thus the other side knew that even starting a purely conventional war was a big step in nuclear escalation.
This may be China's tactic with the US? We might admit that our navy and airforce can't defeat yours, but we think this conflict is so important that we'll simply ensure we win it by going tactical nuclear, and inflict unacceptable casualties on you. Then your choice will be nuclear escalation or humiliating surrender. As neither of those are appealing, you'd better either develop a counter to getting your carrier groups nuked, or keep your nose out.
As with Russia, it's hard to know what the Chinese think their own national interest is. They're involved in as many border disputes as Russia, but the Russian ones are mostly about nationalism and ex-Soviet Russian populations abroad. Whereas the Chinese ones seem to mostly be about off-shore oil and gas. I don't think they're interested in their various land-border disputes, like they were last century. Obviously the exception here is Taiwan. On the other hand, both countries' economies are massively reliant on global markets and international trade, so even creating international tension costs them money and the economic stablity that they require to keep their populations happy and avoid potentially getting chucked out of power.
They will be shredded in this thing's wake.
The next area for research is how to fit sufficient pancakes and hoisin sauce in the submarine, in order to deal with the shredded whale problem...
That would work, except Meg Whitman was on the board at the time of the deal. You can't make $10bn purchases without board approval. The board are financially and legally responsible for oversight of the business and its executives, on behalf of the shareholders. If it wasn't a good deal, she still signed it.
I thought the Virgin box was slow and annoying too. But then I stayed at my Mum's house for a week, and she's got Talk Talk [cue sinister music]. I don't know what they've done to their Youview boxes, but it's probably criminal...
They're not slow, snails are slow. What are ice ages? They must have known this, because they've even added something to the programming, so that after you've waited for five minutes, a little message pops up to tell you 'just finishing'. About 10 minutes later, something usually happens. I wonder if they found a job lot of old 286s? Maybe Z80s?
I like good coffee as much as the next man. But I found that having to blow up my house every few months, in order to get rid of my coffee pot's makers, was just too much hassle. So I've gone back to using a french press...
In shock news the US and UK governments have surrendered to ISIS, after it threatened to replace the entire internet with non-stop, non-interuptable songs from Justin Bieber and 1Direction.
In a statement today David Cameron said, "I shall grow my beard forthwith. I am sorry for having destroyed Western civilsation with one careless action. I did not realise the power of sonic warfare until this moment. The British government have been ordered by our ISIS overlords to declare holy war on Radio 1. The death penalty has been introduced today for all boy-bands, girl-bands, and solo pop artists. N Dubz will be executed live on News at Ten tonight. We hope to capture Girls Aloud before they can do any more harm.
The headlines today. An SAS mission to delivered 1Direction and Justin Bieber to ISIS has succeeded.
When do children become people?
I'm not exactly sure. I'd say at about age 25? Once they've learned to wash regularly, mostly got a decent haircut and turned their music down.
And got off my lawn, obviously.
The hoover doesn't cut the mustard. There's an escalating scale, according to a friend of mine who's terrified of them. Really small ones, she can bear to approach, and gets with the insect spray. Or if she doesn't like the look of it, she's been known to throw the can at them. Bigger ones get the hoover. But the hoover then has to be placed outside, for some friendly person to come and decontaminate. Only in the case of really huge ones does she now run screaming from the room.
To repurpose an old joke:
"The artifact's in Australia. I hate snakes!"
"Nah worries Indy mate. The spiders killed all the snakes."
Insects? Pah! It's obvious the city slickers are gorging themselves on McDonalds and kebabs. Once they've worked themselves up a bit more, they'll move on to cats and small dogs. Then it'll be children, and finally people.
It's quite clear that the only way we can stop this is to evacuate Australia, before the animals learn how to consume us puny humans, and then take over the world. Or maybe it's even too late for that, and we'll just have to nuke the place. But that's got to be a last-ditch solution, as the risk of giant, radioactive mega-spiders is just too high. Plus, imagine how huge the drop bears would get...
The Samsung pen software isn't as good as the Microsoft stuff. Disclaimer, I'm out of date. My last major use of an MS tablet was with Vista and a rotating hinge HP laptop. Mostly it was a dodgy compromise, though at £600 I was very happy with it. But the handwriting recognition and palm rejection was excellent. And I'm sure it's improved or stayed the same since.
Neither recognition, nor palm rejection were as good on the Note II. And Samsung's software was a touch more confusing as well. Not to mention the fact that the Note came with 2 different pieces of Sammie software to do the same job, which they then changed to 3 with an update, but disabled access to the best one from the photo app. I am however a huge fan of the Note II, and Samsung for seemingly being the only people who recognised that a stylus is crap and annoying for navigating round the software, now we've got decent capacatitive screens. But that a stylus is second-to-none for text input on a mobile device. Shame they charge double for their Note tablets, over the normal ones though.
If I could have an iPad with a proper stylus for writing and drawing, I'd be a happy camper. My next tablet may not be Apple because of their irrational hatred of the stylus.
No, no no! You've got this wrong. Only an idiot would program their autopilot to avoid trees. If you tell the aircraft that their are trees, it will find them! This is a cast-iron law of aviation. You simply whistle quietly to yourself, muttering, "Trees? Trees? No, none of those round here." Then hope it doesn't notice.
I have to dispute your statement here. Many dinosaurs survived the Late Maastrichtian period.
Obviously the Majorsaurus died out quite quickly, along with the Portillodon. But the Redwoodopteris, BillCashasaurus, Whittingdaledactyl are still very much with us. Not to mentin the IainDuncanSmithasaurus Rex...
I'd probably best get my coat.
The European Arrest Warrant was not designed for "serious criminals and terrorists". It's part of the EU delusion of statehood. As well as being quite a sensible response to having a single immigration and working area covering a large chunk of a continent, so that police can operate across borders (as criminals do). I don't approve of the loss of sovereignty myself, and think extradition is the appropriate tool, but if the EU really does break down the barriers to the free movement of people (so it's as easy to move house and job within the EU as the US), then there's a perfectly fine argument for it.
I'm no expert on Swedish law, but I'd imagine an arrest warrant is exactly what it is. Arrest before charging is normal. In the UK system, you usually arrest someone before an interview if you think that there is a serious chance of charging them. If someone has buggered-off (in Assange's case out of the country) after being called to that interview, you might issue an arrest warrant, to ask other police to go out and get him for you.
There's no media exaggeration. Most stories I've seen have used the term sexual offences, rather than rape. Although rape is an accurate reflection of the charge according to the UK's Supreme Court. What there actually is, is a campaign of trivialisation of serious allegations by Assange, his legal team and his supporters.
He gets the benefit of the doubt, innocent until proven guily is important. But by fleeing justice, and lying about how serious the allegations are, as well as lying about leaving Sweden with permission, when his lawyer had already been told he was wanted for questioning again, I am a lot less inclined to assume his innocence than I'd otherwise be.
Just to clear this up yet again, he's accused of rape. I haven't seen the sex by surprise crap defence trotted out by his supporters in a while now...
Go and look up the Supreme Court judgement: at this link here.
The court sat on the legality of the European Arrest Warrant system. I think this was the test case for it. And accepted it. That was the only legitimate matter under discussion, since the system as set up does not allow for political or judicial interference in the process. So long as a police force / prosecutor can get the right paperwork in their own country, the other country's police and courts are simply supposed to shut up and hand their citizen over. This is the reason I personally oppose the EAW system, and prefer extradition, even though it's more expensive and time-consuming.
However, the court then went on to consider Julian Assange's other legal arguments. Despite the fact that they were totally irrelevant to the UK courts, and were therefore made for PR purposes only. As I (and the court) said, the EAW doesn't give discretion to this country, we've simply handed some of our sovereignty over to the Swedish prosecutor's office.
The court decided that there was prima facie evidence for 2 counts of rape. It might have been 3, I can't remember if ripping the condom is even still on the charge sheet, or be bothered to check. The first is that he's alleged to have held the first victim down, with his weight rather than by violence, and tried to force himselve on her. She'd said no sex without condom. That is rape in anyone's book (if true). He's then supposed to have stopped that, put his condom on like a good boy, and is alleged to have deliberately damaged it while she wasn't looking.
The other accusation was that he waited until woman number two was asleep, she'd also said no sex without condom, and then had sex with her without one anyway. The Supreme Court ruled that this was also rape under UK law, as it's sex without consent. He'd have had consent with a condom, but none without and someone who's asleep, unconscious or drunk can't give consent.
As Ken Clark got in trouble for saying, some rapes are more serious than others. Assange didn't force himself on some random stranger at knife-point. But what's accused of is a hell of a lot more serious than some 'bedroom hijinks'. And his supporters, and he, do their case a lot of damage by trying to pretend that these charges aren't very serious.
Given it's their word against his, I'd have thought he's quite likely to get found not guilty whatever the truth is.
Finally I don't think you can apply for an EAW unless the alleged crime carries a possible custodial sentence.
Speaking as a member of the unwashed masses (an ironic comment given that Assange seems to be a bit of a soap-dodger, by the accounts of journalists he's worked with), I feel I have every right to make unfavourable comment about Julian Assange. Which I would be perfectly happy to say to his face, were the occasion to arise.
You see he's come to my country and abused its freedoms. At quite considerably cost to us poor, put-upon, unwashed tax-payers. And incdientally a few of the more credulous celebrities who chose to support him and/or his cause. He's bitched and moaned about the rather excellent due process which we allowed him. Then abused the fact that he was granted bail to fuck off to a foreign embassy to hide for a couple of years, avoiding the consequences of the mess he got himself into in another country.
I don't believe in pre-judging the outcome of trials. However he's not exactly acting like someone who's innocent. Now admittedly his suddenly developed fear of US extradition could be his well-documented paranoid tendencies showing through. But it's funny how he was willing to ask for residence in Sweden before the accusation was brought against him, and when he fled Sweden it was to the UK. Both of us have extradition treaties with the US - and that only seemed to start bothering him after he was wanted for questioning on 2 rape cases.
As you say though, he's not very good at handling PR. Or people in general, I rather suspect. And he does seem to be a rather mixed-up guy. But I find a lot to disapprove of in both his personal and professional actions. And the fact that he's so obsessive about protecting his personal details, while happy to leak others' - along with his cavalier attitude to what Wikileaks published and what its money got spent on (i.e. himself) - I'd be grateful if he'd stop ponficiting on how unfair life is on poor old Julian.
he is being used as a distraction from some serious issues that certain people need accounting for
Careful, your tinfoil hat is slipping here... Used? Used by who? If he's a distraction from the causes he supports, then that's because he continues to act like an egotistical arsehole. Getting himself mixed-up in not one, but two, rape allegations doesn't exactly help. I do feel sorry for him, as I suspect it isn't much fun to be Julian Assange. But he has a choice about what actions he takes. And he does seem to leave a trail of betrayed friends and colleagues. Which doesn't speak well for his character.
Hmmm. Placebo police.
The placebo police dismisseth us.
Howsabout: Policebo? Plodcebo? Pneumati-pig / pneumati-plod? Blowbobby?
This idea has potential. Inflatable police cars in turnings near accident black-spots. Everyone slows down. We could have inflatable anti-terrorist policemen at Glasgow airport, after all they've got the hardest baggage handlers in the land (John Smeaton), so we can save the expense...
He's not the Messiah you know, just a very naughty boy
Oh dear. Does that mean he's going to take all his clothes off, and address the adoring masses through the embassy window?
In which case, can I vote for the BBC not to send any cameras...
To be fair, the definition of a press conference is a meeting to gain media attention.
Obviously in this particular case he is an attention-whore. It's interesting that Ecuador's foreign minister was just whining in the Guardian about how the UK had apparently violated his human rights by not letting him flee from justice, but forcing him to face his accusors in court like anybody else.
He even had the cheek to say to the Guardian that only his legal team and the government of Ecuador were behaving reasonably. I don't know how the UK could have been any more reasonable. He brought his troubles here of his own accord, was given bail, a transparent legal process and the right of appeal.
Admittedly I don't approve of the European Arrest Warrants, because they're open to abuse from legal systems that are worse than our own. But I wouldn't say that about the Swedish system. And Assange can't really claim that either, given that he applied for residency in Sweden not much before running away from the place - which makes his arguments about US extradition look rather rubbish.
Nope. They just chuck everything into the big blue bin provided.
I appear to be suffering from a severe case of grocers' apostrophitis at the moment. I come back to El Reg to see if anyone's replied to my posts, only to find that I've used who's and it's, instead of whose and its. It's terrible.
Seems to be a typing tic, rather than my brain forgetting all the grammar that I wasn't taught in english lessons. Fortunately my latin teacher, who failed to force much latin into my head, did manage to teach me how to solve the Telegraph crossword alond with some grammar. I can't type London, without first typing Lodno and then correcting. Similarly confustion is an almost inevitable typo, but I quite like it as a word.
Far better for daylight is to have a genuinely reflective display such as e-ink rather than a transmissive (light emitting) display such as the usual OLED / LED displays. However reflective displays are not so useful in the dark and colour accuracy depends entirely on the light source you are lighting it with.
Wearable tech is the future, right? Or so I keep reading. And if the industry analysts say so, then they must be right!
So all you do is have a reflective display, and a head torch, which outputs the correct colour temperature. It would have a light sensor on it, and a built in Bluetooth earpiece. Perhaps a pluse sensor and a thingy that detects how long your hair has grown, and automatically books your next appointment at the barbers. This way the phone can be smaller, as it doesn't need a battery for it's backlight, and it won't at all look odd wearing a giant torch on your head.
Remember you heard it here first. Who'll fund my Kickstarter campaign?
Question to the Aussies: What's this "sun" thing you keep talking about?
Utilities are not cheaper on the continent, although railways are. I still pay 50% less for my electricity now than I did when I lived in a similar sized flat in Brussels 15 years ago. French rates are similar, and in Germany domestic rates are much higher, as they've been using green levies on domestic power to cross subsidise industrial energy costs. For which effective subsidy the European Commission is currently considering enforcement action.
By the way, it's perfectly possible to have a social conscience and believe that the more right-wing economists are correct. It says nothing about one's societal values, that you happen to believe that one economic theory works better than another. So the Scandinavians can run very free markets, but with high taxes, and very strong social safety nets.
It's all very well claiming to be more-caring-than-thou. But it's not much good to people, if in the process you fuck up their economy.
We elect the politicians. But we also pay for the newspapers. That's democracy. We can't complain that politicians both bend to loudly expressed public opinion and that they don't listen to us. People need to grow the fuck up and start taking responsibility. You can't whine about taxes, and whine about lack of government spending. It's got to be both or neither.
Many politicians go into politics because they believe in something. And would like to see some of it implemented. That means they have to deals with enough other politicians to form a governing group, and get at least some of what they wanted. That's life in the grown-up world. You can't always get what you want.
Much of this politician bashing is cheap, lazy and often ill-informed. How many people before the last election said they wanted no-one to win, and a coalition. And have complained ever since about having got a coalition? Because neither party stuck to their manifesto. Well of course they didn't! They didn't win. The voters told them to compromise. They did. They did it in a reasonably amicable and sensible manner, with the minimum of stabbing. And then the voters accused them of having no principals. The voters should take a long hard look at themselves.
Obviously no sensible politician should say that. And we should stilll keep an eye on them, so they don't get out of order.
Markets aren't perfect. Very few people claim that they are. Markets don't solve all problems. What markets can allow you to do is to allocate resources in the way people want them allocated. In some ways it's democracy in action. Except you only get as many votes as you have pound notes, so it's not all that fair.
Take education as an example. Everyone knows there are good schools, OK schools and a few truly crap schools. Talk to the parents in an area, and they all know which is which, and which they really don't want. At the moment you broadly get into the good schools by living near them. So house prices are higher in the catchment area. Obviously it's more complicated than that.
But in a lot of cases, you get what you're given. There's been an attempt by government to have inspections, and try to force change on some of the worst schools. Which has had mixed success. It's a big old unweildy system, and there's a lot of competing interests pulling in slightly different directions.
Another approach might be to give all parents a voucher, and let them spend it where they will. With safeguards. It could be chaos at first, and this might make it unworkable. However, there's a chance that it might lead to a more responsive system. And fewer kids might get a chance at a decent education that otherwise wouldn't have been open to them.
One advantage of this, is that we could re-open the village schools. If parents wanted it, they'd pool their vouchers. It probably wouldn't be enough to pay for it alone, but with use of say a free church hall, some volunteer help and top-up from parents or the parish council, it could be possible to have a village primary again. Which would be a decent example of local democracy in action, something this country could do with.
To be honest I'm not sure about education vouchers, and whether they're workable. But there's a perfectly valid argument for them. Monolithic state services tend to get into a habit of saying "you'll get what you're given."
What I think would benefit from change is the NHS. Take Belgium as an example. You get a better service over there, and it costs them less money. As a country they're far to the left of us, and yet their health service is semi-private. The state and universities run the teaching hospitals, there are private ones, state ones, charity ones, union ones and company ones. Your GP will point you in the direction of where to go. Ten years ago they were doing heart bypass surgery for 1/3rd the cost of the NHS, with better survival and post-op infection rates. And virutally no waiting lists. My friend ran a company bringing UK private and government patients over for treatment. They took 1/3rd and spent it on hotels, travel, translation, hand-holding, form-filling and profit for them, the UK patients or taxpayer saved 1/3rd. Admittedly I wouldn't go for the complex mutuelle and top-up insurance system that pays for it, I'd go with taxation and vouchers. But no-one complained that GPs were never nationalised in this country, and have always been private contractors to the NHS. I think a mixed system would be much better, and could be achieved piecemeal as well.
You're massively unfair on the 1945 Attlee government. They were one of the greatest governments this country has ever had. And I say that as a Conservative with certain Thatcherite economic tendencies, even if I am a social liberal.
There were good reasons for the decision to build new steam locos after the war. They weren't in a position to transition to diesel, but they needed new rolling stock. I'm not sure if Beeching didn't cut too far. But predicting the future is hard.
Remember that they were a government who'd been through two World Wars and one Depression. They had different experiences and wanted to try and work the economy a different way. They also had to deal with horrendous war debts, damage at home, and a horrifically complicated international situation. So while creating the health service, they were actually increasing defence spending over what it had been pre-war as a percentage of GDP. Secretly building a nuclear bomb, preparing for the Cold War, dealing with the Berlin airlift. Also having to maintain rationing in Britain inorder to be able to afford to feed the Germans in the British Zone, who's economy had collapsed.
If they made some mistakes along the way, they did a fuck of a lot, in a short time. They got the NHS and social security model about right. It was later generations of politicians who failed to adapt them to changing times and society.
I broadly agree that central planning doesn't work. I'd say that politically it had to be tried in 1945, because of what had happened in the 20s and 30s. Politics often trumps economics. In the short term at least.
I don't deny the need for census data, and nor does government. They just don't think they can get it. Understand that they're not dumping the paper census for all lovely computerisation. The problem isn't the paper. The problem is the people. The people who don't fill the forms out. Sadly a large proportion of these are the exact people who move around a lot, and so the ones they most want to know about.
I'd imagine what they'll do is some sort of weighted survey. Rather like the unemployment figures. They have a number gathered from people going to job centres, but the one they mostly look at is a giant survey which picks up more data. Then you have to extrapolate to the national level. The assumptions I've seen from people are that this data will be worse, but it's all we're likely to get, and being cheaper we can at least run it more often.
I certainly didn't say there was no point in even trying. For example, I support HS2, even though the economic case supposedly doesn't stack up. Because we need more north/south links, and I suspect a new motorway would be even less politically acceptable. Only government can do stuff like that.
Government is best placed to run some services. Others it could usefully outsource. Here I don't mean give it to some other monolithic incompetents like Crapita. I mean give the service users the money to spend with whoever they want. That would spread the government coffers to less avaricious local companies, and force the big boys to actually deliver the service they promise or lose all the cash. Something government seems to be terrible at doing. For an example of this I suggest the Belgian/German/Dutch healthcare systems.
Anyway ignoring that, semi-privatising parts of the NHS to make it more like the more socialist Northern European model might be better than our current system, but would be electoral suicide. There's plenty to argue about what government can and can't do, but running a full planned economy is just impossible. It's just too complex. We'd need to have a department to work out sandwich production, another for tablets, another for fizzy drinks. Plus cars, racehorses, football teams. Just look at the quality of cars that planned economies have produced.
Or take the crappy solar industry the last government bequeated us. So fat with subsidy that it was possible for the greedy fuckers in the solar PV companies to give their panels away free - in exchange for the user signing away the flow of taxpayers cash. Meanwhile the far more useful heat-pumps and solar thermal systems didn't get the subsidy, even though they actually work in this climate on domestic properties. They also subsidised them on houses, which don't often use leccy during the day (as people are out). Whereas if they'd put them on the far larger rooves of schools and offices, they'd have actually made a difference to the climate.
Government also backed wind. Which has turned out to be about half as useful as we expected. This is because governments are crap at picking winners. Actually, so is the market. Some company would have set up to deliver solar PV. And would have gone bust to the guys doing heat pumps or solar-thermal. Not that I say no government. Because none would get off the ground without government persuasion. But something like the Merton Rule or Code for Sustainable Homes would have been a better route. With smaller subsidies to retrofit on suitable buildings.
The government is crap at getting the right number of schools and hospitals in the right place. For years, successive governments have been trying to get the NHS to cut a few of the well-known inner-London hospitals, and build hospitals in outer London, where the people actually live. But no bugger will do it, and no Health Secretary wants to cop the horrendous publicity for doing it.
The last Labour government lost track of immigration from Eastern Europe between 2 censuses (censae?). Thus places like Slough and Hillingdon kept running out of money because they'd had vast increases in population which no-one was tracking. A perfectly easy problem to deal with, if only we had the information to know what to do. But we couldn't get that, because a lot of these immigrants turned out not to answer the door to the census people, or fill out the forms. There's a strong feeling that 2011 will be the last census - because the data quality is getting so much worse.
We had an un-planned net immigration spike of something like 2 million people in under 5 years. Many have since gone back - but that's an example of central planning being really hard.
How would the central planners know how many sandwiches to produce each lunchtime, for the whold nation?
It's just too damned difficult.
Remember that we can't predict GDP even a quarter in advance, to any decent degree of accuracy. Most countries can't even get their GDP calcs right in the month after the quarter has ended. It's not uncommon for major, sophisticated economies to adjust their quarterly GDP data by as much as 0.3%age points - on figures that are usually less than 1% to start with.
It takes a few seconds from a Central Bank changing the base rate of interest for it to start affecting the market. Stock and bond markets first, then business and consumers' perceptions of how the economy is going. But the main effects of a change don't start to really change the real economy for around 3-6 months. And those changes can be slowly cascading through the economy for 2-3 years. All at a time when our figures on what the economy is doing are months out of date.
This is simply too complex to control. It's impossible to know what's going on in the economy now, let along what effect changes will make. And yet people think we can run a command economy?
Britain made a decent fist of it during World War II. It's the most effective example of a command economy I can think of. Most major combatants were doing the same, to various levels of success. But that was deliberately short-termist, aimed at an objective. And major nationalisations were inevitable in 1945, because so much of the capital infrastructure was worn out through over-use and under-investment. Then again, that seems to happen to most command economies, even when they're not fighting to win the biggest war ever.
Even if a command economy were desirable (which I don't believe it is), it's simply not possible. We don't have the data. Or the theory to know how to use it. Price is still the best way we've come up with to ration demand and signal what the market wants/needs.
I'm sure it would taste considerably nicer than the pies you get at many football grounds...
Now who's for a Wahabi Wagon Wheel to follow their Bin Laden Bovril and Jihadi Jumbo Sausage? My round, I'll just get them from the Allahu snakbar...
[it's probably best that I get my coat at this point]
Of course that was far too simple but, more importantly, doesn't provide a gravy train to ride.
How exactly does one ride a gravy train, without drowning in brown liquid?