Methinks Worstall's point is rather that a government running businesses under its own jurisdiction is a huge and damaging conflict of interest. A foreign government is merely a shareholder, subject to the same rules and regulations as the rest of us.
504 posts • joined 16 Jan 2007
Re: Article idea
Don't forget the studies that show pay strongly correlated to height (so an average woman is paid more than an average man of her height). Not a particularly exciting result, but might just put a crack in the pedestal we tend to put under other equally-meaningless results.
Oh, and the I always put to those who count bums-on-seats (or pay gaps) and infer discrimination. What would you propose to do about the biggest inequality of all - namely the prison population? Shouldn't those who have a problem with inequality be making strenuous efforts to imprison more women?
Re: Worstall? Lefty?
You've (perhaps inadvertently) given us a bit of a social experiment here. How many commentards read beyond the title and first paragraph or two before posting?
Well, OK, not a social experiment or result. Even if you'd designed it that way, posting it here on a Sunday and under your name means many (though evidently not all) of us have preconceptions. Just an illustrative example.
Anyway, now that Osborne proposes to outlaw running a deficit through a boom, maybe we'll finally see some real cuts in reckless government profligacy. Hmmm, dream on ....
There are datacentres whose waste heat is indeed harnessed to provide heating and hot water. And watercooled server kit that lends itself to having waste heat harnessed. Alas, no standardisation that would help make it the norm for plumbers/etc to incorporate it into everyone's infrastructure.
Re: Wrong question
How do Freddie and Fannie differ from today's government mortgage support schemes in the UK?
'twas another nail in the coffin of money as a store of value.
Though to be fair, that's nothing new. Debasement of the coin was an important factor in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, to take just one example.
On liquidation, the "value" was based on lots of assets that should have been written down to (or near) zero but for QE. Same applies to other bank balance sheets.
Tim, an idea for another article. Debunk the orthodoxy about Lehmans being the cause of the big crash. It was of course not the cause of anything (except perhaps Barclays picking up some assets on the cheap): rather it was an effect of the credit bubble.
And more widely, how bailouts starting with Northern Rock led to precisely the outcome they were supposed to prevent.
Re: Longer Term Impact
Money printing has driven inflation. Lots of it.
But not - directly at least - QE. QE was in fact driving inflation that had already happened (but was masked in silly, irrelevant price indexes by the rise of cheap Chinese goods). The real inflation was seen in house prices in the big bubble of about 2000-2005, which did the real damage, robbing the future to enrich the already-rich (house owners). The banks lending money that will never be repaid created a gaping hole, which QE then plugged.
The late, great, Terry Pratchett explained the whole system beautifully, though only in passing. He called it the Pork Futures Warehouse. And that was long before the crash!
Some of us who saw the bust coming actually took the trouble to find out about saver protection. I even forewent Icesave's market-beating interest in 2005/6 in favour of something on lower interest but protected, for which of course I was duly penalised.
As for bailouts, THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED. Depositor protection (including emergency measures to feed cash machines) would've cost a whole lot less. More than half a decade on, we should've seen the rise of new alternatives to traditional banks, yet they're limited to small niches by bloated zombies standing in the way of innovation. Bailouts are a negation of all that's good about capitalism! And of course they have knock-on effects:
- a long-term massive deficit placing a deadweight on the future
- interest rates detached from reality
- the rise of a zombie economy
- underwriting leverage on and income from land and housing, financially privileging rentierism over productive investment. Even (by some reports) prostituting Prime London to the global super-rich as an asset class like gold that never leaves the bank vault.
- trashing of pensions for anyone not already retired but within maybe 25 years (from the bailouts) of it. And its corollory: the zombification of of many companies with the misfortune to have been running final-salary schemes.
Race to the bottom
To be sure, the EU has a lot wrong with it. Historically it's a huge shame that the UK (under both parties) has consistently blocked serious attempts to fix its shortcomings, notably in fields like democratic accountability. But then, if we fixed it, we'd be short of one big scapegoat.
The EU also has a lot that's good about it. I value my freedom not merely to travel, but to live and work in so many different countries, without excessive hassle and red tape. Twice in my life, that's saved me from destitution in Blighty. But someone already said that in an earlier comment.
But one more point that hasn't been made above. We're an overcrowded island, heavily reliant on trade to sustain our population. That's not just about housing and infrastructure, it's the food to feed us (including not least the petrochemicals that support current levels of production here and in much of the world). Take away the EU, and nothing will stand between our politicians and a more ruthless race straight to the bottom. Our politicians understand the importance of trade and kind-of worry about social cohesion, but what about the environment that sustains us? You can (foolishly) bail out failing industries when they go bust, but you can't just quantitatively ease more food when that bust happens!
Sorry, can't resist a shot at each of them:
* A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93 per cent)
In isolation, yes. Falls down in a system where housing benefit dominates much of the market. Falls down even worse when building land is the limiting factor and taxpayer subsidies feed through to higher land prices.
* Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93 per cent)
In isolation, yes. But may have perverse effects on movements of people.
* Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90 per cent)
Yes, with various flaws including race-to-the-bottom and debasement. Haven't you put the case here for freer competition (c.f. Bitcoin)?
* Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90 per cent)
Dangerous. As exercised in the West, it's gone from sugar-rush to heroin-rush. The politician's dream: short-term gain, for long-term pain. Keynes must be spinning in his grave!
* The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90 per cent)
You source work to people, not countries. Where those people are physically located matters in some jobs but not others.
* The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85 per cent)
As should other countries. And agriculture should be weaned off unsustainable practices such as heavy use of petrochemical fertilisers. In other words, post-1945 policy (whence came the subsidies) should have been an emergency measure to tide us over a period of unsustainable overpopulation.
* Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85 per cent)
Bugger. Can't bring myself to quibble with that at all. Put a levy on overfed "sports" (like professional football) to fund sporting facilities for kids.
* If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85 per cent)
Horribly dangerous. That's what Brown was saying around 2004/5 when the big Ballsian stimulus was supposed to get us through a percieved downturn to the sunny uplands of never-never-land. Turns a regular recession into a generational crash and a zombie economy. And it's happening again now as another chancellor runs a huge deficit right through the illusory Good Times.
* The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85 per cent)
Interesting use of the future tense. Politicians like to compare to post-war reconstruction, but it's kind-of a 90/10 rule: you can rebuild the 90% very easily from a bombed-out 1945, but you won't get that kind of growth when you're already at 90% and up.
* Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84 per cent)
What recipients? Not those who spend it on fags-and-booze, nor their children. And that's precisely where the worst social problems lie.
Re: Philosophy Majors - start your engines!
Methinks that's essentially what Google do. And what makes Google so much better than its lesser rivals.
They collect user behaviour data, which tells them which pages amongst the results the real-life users like, and which ones they find useless. That enables the algorithms to adjust results in favour of the former and against the latter. And helps combat SEO abuse - which is what really upsets the spammers.
Could this be objectively tested?
An independent statistical analysis could test objectively whether the Goog was doing anything wrong. First, test cases would have to be devised, ideally by independent teams, to test the hypothesis "Google search favour its own services over others that would be equally useful or better for its users". Once those cases exist, they can be tested by anyone with an understanding of A-level statistics.
Devising the test cases is the hard part, because it needs someone to decide what results "should" be shown. You can be sure the spammers who have done battle with Google for years will be very keen to sponsor the exercise and ensure the test cases amount to something like "Google favours its own services over our pages". Indeed, I'd say it's almost certainly some such tests that have convinced the commissioner.
This requires another set of tests closer to the real world, presenting real users with "unfairly suppressed" results alongside the "favoured" ones and watching which ones the users themselves prefer. That's a "big data" exercise, and one which Google is ideally placed to do. If Google had user-behaviour data that demonstrates users persistently shunning $spammer then I'd say Google (or rather its algorithms) are entirely justified in not presenting $spammer's URLs. Or perhaps I should say $wannabe rather than $spammer (anyone remember google results pages full of annoying, useless kelkoo junk)?
My own $0.02: if Google did cook their results as accused, they'd lose their value to the non-paying users, and thus rapidly lose their dominance of the search market and all that goes with it. Like Yahoo (who never claimed google's level of objectivity or sophistication, nor came under such concerted attack) before them.
Re: Martha Lane-Fox
She became part of the Zeitgeist for Blair Feelgood. The ethos of dotcom, the swaying bridge, the vanity dome, etc. And - unlike the politicians - she's never called on to take unpopular decisions, or to explain herself. A bit like royalty. She'd probably have to be caught on camera eating babies before she could ever be dislodged from secular sainthood.
"The OpenBSD Foundation is a Canadian not-for-profit corporation ..."
Get everyone digitalling? Whatever that may mean????
Actually we're pretty good at that, aren't we? From the BBC micro to the raspberry pi, get them hacking. From Prestel to virgin and sky, get them online.
Oh, er, right, you mean all the most interesting non-commercial efforts - the open source foundations, the campaigners for rights and freedoms - are based elsewhere? Well, fortunately, they're pretty inclusive and welcome Brits as genuine equals with anyone else.
Applies here too ...
The Laffer curve tells us (qualitatively) that too much tax destroys economic activity (Britain went bust in the '70s when it taxed both capital and labour at eyewateringly punitive levels). It's not an all-or-nothing, but tax and red tape certainly shift the balance: I'm more likely to invest where I take more and the state less of my profits if the enterprise is successful in generating them. And where the state isn't going to make it impossible to generate profits in the first place.
I think Worstall omits some vital points. But that's no doubt deliberate: the article is long enough already without addressing difficult externalities.
I think I had that ...
Fits the description of what I had in Budapest last year, as the only non-meat option on the menu when out with a bunch of folks at ApacheCon. My first reaction on seeing fried cheese on the menu was hold-my-nose-and-..., but it was surprisingly delicious.
Must've been me ...
I returned on Tuesday evening after a weekend's enforced absence from the 'net. Virgin cable worked fine for me - from southwest England - but I had lots and lots to catch up on.
Re: True poverty still exists in the UK
Sure, there's child poverty (and adult poverty).
But that's a dangerous observation, because it so easily leads to a bogus conclusion that it would go away if benefits levels for their families were higher.
People may be poor here for two reasons:
(1) Where theory and practice differ. People may be poor in absolute terms if they are denied the money the law says they are entitled to, and have to live on much less. Benefits levels are of little relevance to those who don't get them.
(2) Where they cannot cope. A child whose parents have an ample income but spend it all on fags and booze is indeed poor, and through no fault of their own. This is a particularly troublesome case, because the "give them more money in benefits" solution may be more likely to make things worse than better.
A non-financial safety net - like hostels and soup kitchens, and indeed free school meals - have the huge advantage that they can't be diverted into booze/etc.
FWIW (1) has happened to me, most recently in 2003 when I did the basic arithmetic and saw that the cost of travel to London to march against invading Iraq would've been six months food budget. And that's at the special "unwaged" rate the organisers were advertising for the buses they'd laid on!
Cause, meet Effect
Move along. Nothing to see.
Universities with strong research activities in relevant areas can justify and afford supercomputers - what a surprise.
In other startling news, our own Met office has more computing power than the corner shop.
I have to say, I'm surprised and gratified by the number of good replies to my post - thanks folks! Despite having much enjoyed working on them (as an application developer) back in the '90s I'm mostly ignorant.
Imagination joins Intel in crying MeToo. Not so much a three-horse race as one impressive beastie and two clapped out old nags in the smartphone and tablet space, but that's not to rule them out of new and different markets.
Alas, this article is short on interesting detail. Intel won the desktop market through the "IBM-compatible" Wintel ecosystem, and stormed the server market when it attained "good enough" to compete with the various incumbents. ARM conquered the mobile through low power consumption and an ecosystem as powerful as 1990-ish Wintel.
Tell us what distinguishes MIPS and where is its ecosystem coming from?
The BBC were telling this story long before you.
Re: I've nothing to say
Is the length correlated to the beer intake?
Re: water regulations
Put that one on early, so folks know the water regulations before they have to pass it.
Sounds like a solution to a problem we shouldn't have in the first place. I want my Nokia E71 back, and the bigger blackberries from the same era had some great keyboards too!
Mark 65: I get work, including my current main job and its predecessor, by building a reputation. In my case, my Apache work is what mostly matters, though one or two other things (like having served as Invited Expert with the W3C and built some good tools) doesn't hurt.
I expect you could take your pick of major opensource organisations with whom to build a track record. Expect it to take a while!
I first escaped abroad as a young graduate because I was priced out of living in London when I got a job there.
I expect quite a few of today's young grads can identify with that.
Came back to Blighty a few years later, and found myself too old to be employed in a techie role. That is to say, companies looked down on a techie who approaches 30 without having 'progressed' to a Suit role like management or marketing. So I b*****ed off abroad again.
I expect quite a few of today's senior developers, like you, can identify with that.
Back in Blighty, but only 'cos I can telework intercontinentally now. Haven't worked for a UK employer (except myself) since sometime last century.
Tech business engages in speculative R&D in the hope that some lines of exploration will bear fruit. The richer they are, the bluer the skies they can explore. It's seen in other sectors too: think big pharma or oil exploration, for instance.
At least those of us who invest in VC benefit from some juicy tax breaks. I'd far rather lose my money in innovation than see it misused by our government.
Why does the NSA's boss care so much about backdoors when he can just steal all our encryption keys?
Re: Why is this guy allowed into a cyberSECURITY conference at all??
Surely for the same reason as one might take an interest in a blackhat like Mitnick. Know your enemy!
Call quality is great
I've given up the landline altogether since moving house just under two years ago. Signed up with a SIP provider. That enabled me to bring my old number (known to friends&family, hidden from spammers) with me, and to have a "home" number I can get on the mobile. Oh, and save a lot of money: I used to resent BT landline charges not so much for the absolute amount, but because they're so disproportionate when both data and "special services" (like caller display or call diversion) cost extra.
I did wonder about call quality, especially on the move. But my experience is that VOIP quality only starts to deteriorate in the same kind of circumstances as regular GSM suffers likewise. Like a train in a tunnel.
Re: Nick Kew Yes, but
Matt Bryant: whoosh! Why not read what I said before shooting down something I didn't say?
I was posing the question not to answer it, but to try and hint to Worstall (and others with the brains to understand) that the question might be asked. Or insidiously implied, in a manner that obscures what the underlying question actually is and admits of whatever answer the questioner wants.
Re: what is going on with the register these days?
It's been climate denial for years. No point in arguing with pseudo-religious nuts, even when they write for El Reg.
Worstall on the other hand writes a lot of sense, though he does have a bad habit of couching it in exaggeration and intemperate language on occasion.
As for the Wail, surely its only purpose is to rouse its rabble to anger. And UKIP, in common with LibLabCon, the Greens, the SNP, Respect, and others, has some sensible things to say if you can ignore the nasty noise and evil and/or illiterate policies. I'd say Worstall has more to offer, even if some of his stories are ... um ... better than others.
Re: Serious question
Nice suggestion, but I suspect the answer is no. They could simplify as suggested by Tim, but that would be politically ... um ... courageous. Just imagine the headlines about tax cuts for (billionaire?) bigcos. Not to mention the demands they pass on those "savings" to the consumer.
To address your question more directly, the more complex the rules, the more scope there is for playing creatively with them. The expenses issue showed many of our elected politicians to be adept at harnessing such complexity for their own gain. I'd expect the non-grasping politician to be in favour of simplification.
Yes it's the law that's the problem. Your suggestion would make a sensible workaround. Except, it's too simple and easy, and simplicity is the enemy of corruption - whoops!
However, I think you do your argument no favours by progressing it from the entirely sensible (Vodafone not paying Uk corp tax on German earnings) to the contrived. Yes of course Starbucks is doing the right thing given its structure, but the issue there is: was there ever a legitimate reason to create that structure in the first place?
That is, if you don't accept tax avoidance as a legitimate reason. Your argument would be all the stronger if you'd stopped at Vodafone and not taken it into territory that requires that question to be answered. You've given anyone who doesn't accept the legitimacy of tax planning a weapon with which to rubbish you there!
Re: Might be worse
I'm not so sure.
I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.
Folklore is full of dark stories of people who had to be killed because they knew too much, or were too good at something that couldn't be shared.
Is a strawman green?
Methinks I see a strawman in your characterisation of greens here.
Sure, there's some association (or at least a perception of one) between a certain kind of greenies and an irrational hatred of big companies and globalisation. But that's successors to hippie rebels and champagne socialists jumping on today's bandwagons, and doesn't mean any incompatibility between green and pro-market views on the whole.
I happen to have both strongly green and strongly pro-market views (and put my money where my mouth is), and deplore the fact that our government is neither, and that our media present the issues in such a muddled manner.
Re: How long can this go on for?
Ah, but from tiny Atoms do great Molecules grow...errr....or something.
ARM's progenitor was of course Acorn. And in Acorn's pre-ARM history, the Atom was succeeded by the BBC Micro and the Electron.
I was mildly amused by full-of-sound-and-fury Otellini's Intel using a succession of names (Atom, Oak Trail, ...) with echoes of ARM history in its attempts to eat ARM's dinner. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but one has to wonder who at Intel had the sense of humour and who was merely clueless.
Re: What about inflation?
The soaring rent levels were triggered by the last Blue Party administration who abolished rent registration and rent controls
That is just so totally and utterly wrong it really needs answering. So let me recollect my first professional job in London as a young graduate in 1983.
A minor but memorable row from 1983 was the Champagne Socialists denouncing Mrs T for reducing the levels of LHA (it wasn't called LHA then but it was basically the same for benefits claimants). It was reduced to £130/week for a single person in London. That was just over my gross salary (£128), even before PAYE tax took another £44. And that was an above-average graduate salary at the time: many jobs including traditional professions paid £100 or less.
Housing was not at all cheap before Thatcher. But worse, the 1977 rent acts drove honest landlords right out of the market. Tenancies simply didn't exist in the open market. Unless you had a grapevine - like students or nurses - all you could get was a "License" to live somewhere. Nothing exclusive, and no protection against a landlord filling "your" room with 20 other people, Rachmann-style. That's what really badly needed reforming.
I had expected London accommodation to be expensive. But I hadn't expected that I'd end up paying more than 60% of my income, and five times what my student room in Cambridge had cost the previous year, to live in a run-down HMO in Peckham. Nor had I expected to have to take such a big cut in living standards: the student room wasn't exactly luxury, but at least I had basics like hot water available most days.
When you've been through that, you have a lasting distaste for paying tax to help people far richer than you price you out of even a student room. It happened to me a generation ago, and I suspect a lot of young people today will identify with that.
A universal income and no means testing - as advocated here - would fix all that. The more you earn, the better you live. And regardless of what you earn, you have an incentive to look for a lower rent, in that you get the benefit of whatever isn't paid in rent. Landlords would have to accept competitive rents or face voids and no rent.
Re: What about inflation?
What proportions of house price increases do you attribute respectively to,
You're right to say housing benefit is far from the only factor. Cheap and excessive credit and direct government subsidies also push prices up, as indeed did money-printing which prevented a healthy market correction after the 2008 bust.
Wage increases, up to a point, but what matters more is that other things - both necessities and many luxuries - are now so much cheaper than they've ever been, so fewer demands on our pay.
But housing scarcity? The evidence is against that: we have more house per head of population than ever in our history. Scarcity comes through rising aspirations: second homes at the top end, somewhere nice with all mod-cons in the mid-market, and even students expect their own room and reasonable facilities. Sure, the perception of scarcity feeds sentiment, and there is scarcity in the most popular locations and types of property, but not such as to drive prices up across the market.
Re: What about inflation?
I thought wages and scarcity drive rents and housing benefit was capped below 'market rates'.
When were you last in the rental market?
I've actually had this conversation on the doorstep. Going to view a place, waiting for the agent. Turns out the agent is showing prospective tenants round en masse, so I get talking to the other two people there. One of them is a (very) young non-working single mother, who explains exactly how she'll outbid me (she already knows the place because she knew the outgoing tenant). She has an exact benefits budget, so her incentive is to get the best possible place for that money, and she can outbid me. She has no incentive to consider a cheaper place, or even to haggle over the rent. Quite the opposite to my (market-driven) incentive to find a suitable compromise between price and quality and then drive the best bargain I can on it.
It's a vicious circle. Housing benefit puts a floor under rents and drives them up. So yields for landlords are supported, and they're prepared to pay high prices, and house prices in turn are driven up. So government sees homes are "unaffordable" and pours yet more money in, pushing up prices and rents all over again.
It's not a new problem, either. Nor is it so bad now as when the rent acts drove all but the borderline-gangsters out of the market altogether. But it's still a disgrace that hardworking people should have to pay taxes to price themselves out of housing.
Re: What about inflation?
Food is bound by competition, and will always be unless and until we fall into famine. Water is regulated, so a little unpredictable but also very sensitive. And rents are massively inflated by means-tested housing benefit which removes all incentive to seek lower rents, and would therefore stand to fall substantially if we moved to a flat-rate basic income where everyone is incentivised to seek value.
The US case
You say that in the US case, it didn't increase overall economic activity.
Can I dig a little deeper into that assertion? What was the alternative system you were comparing to? If it was that vs a "grapes of wrath" scenario without a means-tested rule-bound safety net then that result is exactly what you'd expect. Did the US system in question ever replace something that had actively penalised marginal work and low incomes?
Working through the numbers
Worstall hints at having worked through the numbers. Someone's done it for real here. It makes a lot of sense, but only if it rids us of all means-testing crap.
BTW, high effective taxation on the poor (through byzantine rules and means-testing) is a bigger scandal than on the rich. Once upon a time I was proprietor of a business that was failing to make money. When my savings ran out I found myself in real poverty but also disqualified from benefits. In the worst year (2003) I lost out on benefits worth nearly three times what I earned, compared to sitting at home doing absolutely nothing of value but just claiming jobseekers and housing benefit. In other words, an effective tax rate between 270 and 280 percent. And I've met (and heard of) others in similar circumstances since my own situation radically improved!
Re: It might be useful
So automated telesales calls listen to canned adverts.
Get the 'bots talking to each other, and run a sweepstake for the day they get smart and start plotting against us.
I realise replacing all the lawyers isn't actually what the article is about, but ...
Since replacing washerwomen with robots we've started to indulge ourselves in clean shirts and underwear every day. The robots can do more, and we ordinary people can afford them (and the would-be-washerwomen themselves are freed up to do less-gruelling work).
Now, if lawyers could go the way of washerwomen, we could of course rejoice at the demise of the parasites. But maybe also be careful what we wish for, if the robotic law-machines turn us in to a society that does all our own ambulance-chasing!
Blair's Chief Henchman
It seems The Great Liar's chief henchman - also called Blair - has been elevated to Their Lordships and is now pursuing the Blair-Blair Police State agenda from there.
That they appear to have Cameron and May on board is all the more worrying. Let's hope an alliance of old-fashioned (individual freedoms and responsibilities) Conservatives and Libdems can hold out for what remains of our Enlightenment values.
Friends, not Strangers
What you're describing takes place *within* a social group, and is social interaction. I don't see anything in it that would indicate altruism towards the wider world.
Which is no doubt why many of the biggest and nastiest crooks can also be pillars of their communities.
And it puts me in mind of the Paradox of Selfishness. Whereas the act of procreating in an overcrowded world is the ultimate act of selfishness, the subsequent behaviour of (normal) parents towards their children is the ultimate altruism. Though it may involve extreme selfishness towards ones own community: the "in group" where altruism exists collapses right down.
Have they sorted out their billing yet?
I was with Demon for a while. I think I must've signed up when I returned to Blighty in 1998 and they were kind-of known as the geeks ISP.
I remember I paid a year in advance, so I had no reason to expect them to feature in my bank statements. No doubt there'll be a few weeks notice and then another debit on the anniversary of my signing?
Nope, next thing I know it's a letter from debt collectors. WTF?