back to article We can't all live by taking in each others' washing

There's an old jokule, vaguely traced back to Mark Twain, that the people of the Isles of Scilly used to eke out a living by taking in each others' washing. Yes, another economic thigh slapper: but the really weird thing is that for all of us seven billion humans in aggregate, we do really do that. This is something that makes …

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The last one?

Boo Hiss to the people responsible for this move. Your articles have proved to be very popular especially for those of us who draw the short straw and have to work over the weekends.

Have a thumbs up from me for the fine (if sometimes provocative) content.

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Re: The last one?

"Bother" as Winnie the Pooh said. This was one of my highlights of Sundays.

You have the ability to write about complicated stuff in a way that non-specialists can have a discussion about it - and mostly stay on-topic.

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Done in by the journalism mill owner

Who is cackling while twisting the pointed ends of his moustache, rain pooling on the silk topper, as Tim leads his pregnant wife and sizeable brood into the uncertain future of the Lancashire dusk...

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Re: The last one?

Pity,

I have been enjoying these columns and its clear that I haven't been the only one. Who's the "genius" that's taken this decision? I'd like to give him some "advice", he clearly needs it.

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Re: The last one?

Not a great decision El Reg, getting rid of Tim. I'd become rather attached to him challenging my economic views.

Good article to end on, Tim. All the best.

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Re: The last one?

Damn. There was me hoping he'd tackle the topical matter of the Chairman's state visit. How it does or doesn't make sense for China to lead big investments in the UK, when we're supposed to be the world's financial capital and good at raising private capital (er, no pun intended).

That way I as commentard could've bemoaned Osborne providing financial support to a mature industry (nuclear power - which I support and would be prepared to invest in if they were raising capital from investors) yet dragging its feet so horribly over supporting the fledgling industry that is this country's best potential: namely, clean and reliable tidal power.

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Re: The last one?

Agreed. Obviously his articles were very popular, judging by the number of comments they'd usually gather. I imagine he's probably in demand to write for others who may be willing to pay more.

Perhaps his last article should have been the economics of the decision (whether his, the Reg's or mutual) that led to this being his last article!

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Re: The last one?

I, like many of my fellow commentards, really have enjoyed my weekly economics lecture and subsequent debate. I'm going to miss this. I can honestly say that this mental activity has been a real boon, regularly causing me to question my assumptions and making my world-view more nuanced and detailed.

Thanks for making me think Tim, maybe I'll catch you on your own blog (hope there are commentards with whom I can have a mass debate)

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Re: The last one?

Indeed; let my add my voice to those calling for your return.

I have not always (often?) agreed with your views but I have always enjoyed reading both your articles and the commentary afterwards.

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Re: The last one?

I hope this isn't a shift to a more lightweight site, For me, The Reg is one of the few *must read* sites that provides some substance to the weeks news, both in tech matters and in the other more general newsy items on which it touches occasionally, Worstall's column being one of the things that provided me with some interesting and thought provoking reading over Sunday Breakfast. I know I wont be alone when I say that some among the readership here will miss the depth and intelligence of such articles

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Re: The last one?

Oh Nooooo! :( Wish you were joking, it's the first I'd heard of this, I love Tim's stuff. I knew economics was what largely shaped our recent behaviour as a species, but he can really bring out the subtle nuances - do we know where he'll be writing in future? ...I would like to continue to follow his work

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Re: Done in by the journalism mill owner

The uncertain future of the Lancashire dusk is......

Flogging the time and skills of my excellent network (or perhaps network of excellent) Central European programmers. Ruby on Rails and similar a specialty. We've got our first couple of contracts and I'm not difficult to find (timworstallATgmail.com gets to me) if that's something you're looking for.

:-)

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Re: The last one?

http://www.timworstall.com/

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Re: The last one?

Hmmmm... Not very happy about this, and the other suggested team changes. This is one of the few sites on the 'net where it's possible to read informed articles AND comment.

All the best Tim.

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Re: The last one?

Other suggested team changes?

Also, all the best Tim. I've enjoyed reading your articles.

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Re: The last one?

well said.

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Re: The last one?

hear, hear

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Re: Done in by the journalism mill owner

@Tim_Worstal Your chosen future is an interesting commentary on the relative economic rewards of writing prose versus writing code (or managing those who do).

All the best in either case.

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Re: The last one?

Like many other people here, I have very much enjoyed Tim's columns. I won't pretend to have understood every last word and I haven't always agreed with what I did understand, but then that's part of the fun of a vigorous and intelligent debate. Overall, I've found the series to be both educational and challenging, so I just wanted to say thanks and that I'll miss these articles in future.

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Unhappy

TTFN

A strange descision by El Reg - but I gather that there's been a change at the top. I think that Lewis Page has got the push too.

A pity, both, and I'll value The Register less without their articles and so will "consume" less of it.

Without Tim though, there won't be anyone to explain to them how this consumer preference stuff works...

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Re: TTFN

No Worstall and no Page???

Should I even stick around?

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Re: TTFN

Lewis still appears as 'Editor' on the contact page.

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Re: TTFN

LP gone too? Who next? Orlowski? What is El Reg's thinking behind all of this? Is it just tight-arsedness or is there a change in editorial policy? Are they trying to change the site demographic?

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Re: TTFN

The way that freelancing works is rather similar to, say, courtiers (or Cabinets). One particular editor will have certain people that they prefer to use. Another will have others. And when that editor changes then who among the various entourages gets used also changes.

Nothing wrong with such a system: it's how an editor advances their vision of what a site should be.

And everyone in the game knows exactly what the game is.

Absolutely no complaints from me, I've thoroughly enjoyed my time doing these columns. And it's not everyone who is able to say they've had an entire years' worth of well paid work that they've thoroughly enjoyed doing.

And it is of course you ladies and gentlemen that have made it all so enjoyable. It's thoroughly refreshing to write for an intelligent and inquisitive crowd. This is one of the very few places I've ever written where "commentard" isn't in fact the correct word to use. Yet we use it anyway, eh?

Thank you.

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Re: TTFN

Tim your columns have been an inspiration :)

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Re: TTFN

A real shame to see you go Tim, I've really enjoyed your articles. Guess I'll have to start following your blog now, it was easier for me to have the articles distilled and produced on schedule.

I hope you advised the new elite of El Reg to get economists with contrary views to write some articles - you could get to dish out some of the commentard magic in the other direction.

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Re: TTFN

"Lewis still appears as 'Editor' on the contact page."

I was reporting info from Tim's blog last week, and suported by a comment from (someone using the same name as) another Reg colomist that "Lewis & Bob were the only staff casualties". Was then noted that they hadn't updated the editorial page yet.

'Spose time will tell...

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@Tim Worstal Re: TTFN

> Nothing wrong with such a system: it's how an editor advances their vision of what a site should be.

Indeed, the world turns and things change. It remains to be seen as to whether the new editorial vision will strike a chord with the readership though. I've got form on ditching publications that change into things that I no longer care for. Time will tell but early indications are unsettling, will maintain a monitoring position pending further manifestations of the new editorial will.

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Losing Lewis and Tim - and who knows who else

Agreed. The confirmation that Lewis is going as well makes me fear this site will be undergoing some rather large changes, and since I really like the site currently odds are high that the changes will make the site worse than better (at least for me, maybe they want to chase a larger demographic so what's worse for me isn't necessarily worse for The Register's finances)

I used to regularly read The Inquirer in the late 90s / early 00s and was only an occasional reader of The Register, until changes at The Inquirer caused me to ditch it and become a regular here.

If this place sucks after the inevitable changes the new editorial staff makes, anyone have any recommendations on where I might go to get a similar blend and technical / interesting articles with a bit of a satirical bite? Anyone know where Lewis might be going - another internet site or is he moving onto a different career path?

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Re: TTFN

That would actually make a good column of this type. Jean Tirole and dual facing markets and all that. Often that would be the genesis of one of these. A comment, some pondering (as I did while trotting the dog around the Portuguese countryside just now) and then a few notes....and then I find I'm late for the pub but the article has been filed a week early. The subs loved that.

I shall be on time for the pub today though.

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Re: TTFN

All the best Tim, I will be following your blog. Would be nice if you posted links to your articles, as they are published (assuming editors allow this) :)

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This post has been deleted by its author

Not sure about that biz that we all take in each others laundry

It seems that, while it's important to remember that things people pay for are very, very likely to have positive value, and that pretty much all our gadgets and services are from other people, we should not forget a huge value stream we tap in to: That new people are born every day.

At, say, a million bucks a pop, that means a million new people are a trillion smackers added to the balance sheet. Life, itself, is pretty valuable, moola-wise.

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Shame

A shame to lose someone as good at explaining things most people either never think about or in actuality only ever half-listened to at school, with the predictable consequences.

As regards the article, you are right, but that doesn't really mean we value insurance over food, because we simply import the food. Of course, we have to do that because due to the insurance workers earning so much they can 'consume' all the land for second homes, the farmers can't equal the cost of food from overseas as the very land is too expensive. Especially since the land has a mortgage and so the farmers are paying lots to the financial people.

The issue is that some people get massive residual incomes - being able to sell your time once and get millions for it years later kind of breaks things.

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Re: Shame

"As regards the article, you are right, but that doesn't really mean we value insurance over food, because we simply import the food. Of course, we have to do that because due to the insurance workers earning so much they can 'consume' all the land for second homes, the farmers can't equal the cost of food from overseas as the very land is too expensive. Especially since the land has a mortgage and so the farmers are paying lots to the financial people."

We spend less on food than insurance, but the elasticity of demand for food is lower. If the price halved, or doubled, we wouldn't eat twice, or half as much, we'd eat roughly the same. We might switch to cheaper types of food, but if food were more expensive we'd spend more on it, sacrificing other things. I'm not saying it's a Giffen good, we would still consume slightly less (probably), but we should consider our definition of value to be in terms of our demand elasticity, rather than the amount spent on something.

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Re: Shame

"the elasticity of demand for food is lower. If the price halved, or doubled, we wouldn't eat twice, or half as much, we'd eat roughly the same"

Unfortunately the daft pillocks with their nudge theory are trying to do just this with sugar. However I have about 100sq metres I can devote to beet cultivation.

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Re: Shame

>The issue is that some people get massive residual incomes - being able to sell your time once and get millions for it years later kind of breaks things.

The people earning millions years later are probably the outliers, the extreme beneficiaries of systems (copyright, patents, IP) that are intended to fairly reward more people more modestly. The greater rewards can also offset the risk an individual assumes by investing their own time in an endeavour. A would-be inventor might spend months in her shed, but it isn't guaranteed that her tinkering will result in a working prototype, let alone a commercially-viable product.

Of course, real life will skew the principle.

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Re: Shame

If the price of one specific type of food went up, we would buy substitutes instead. It is only if the price of all food increased that demand would be inelastic.

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Re: Shame

I'll add my annoyance that they have dispensed with tim's service . Very much enjoyed his columns - the new management better have a decent substitute lined up

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Re: Shame

"If the price of one specific type of food went up, we would buy substitutes instead. It is only if the price of all food increased that demand would be inelastic."

Of course, but all that is saying is that we don't value beef, or lamb, or kumquats, all that highly individually. Which is true. Elasticity of demand can only be considered with respect to an ever-changing basket of prices.

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Oooh look what I found http://www.timworstall.com/

As others have said its a shame that el reg can no longer afford him, must be all those ad blockers were using

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There is also this:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/

Perhaps a bit more specialised. And Computer Weekly has taken their first piece.

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>There is also this:

>http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/

Forbes is an absolute pain in the bollocks. It really doesn't get along with my privacy plugins. Something in the Adblock Edge, NoScript, Flashblock or Ghostery setups means that 90% of the time, links to Forbes simply don't open.

So I keep up with your articles the old-fashioned way. By looking at the homepage from time to time.

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Boffin

The Tim Worstall Blog

Actually none of need to go without our Worstall fix - he's got a blog site.

You'll have to find it the way I did though.

[edit] Hah - beaten to it!

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Re: The Tim Worstall Blog

Now bookmarked on the speed dial between Dilbert and XKCD (and before the Register. ;) )

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IT Angle

First time I have to totally disagree with you, Tim

Wealth has long since ceased to be the accumulation of past generations of labour. That is the whole point.

Wealth is low entropy organization. It used to be made by 'renewable' energy assisted by man's intellect, and sometimes constructed with human energy, but it hasn't been since the start of the industrial revolution.

Wealth now is artificially assisted energy storage. Either to create an artefact like a house or a computer, where stability and organisation is the main goal, or to create food where energy content is the goal.

Today, with robots displacing the lower two thirds of the labour market already, the huge mistakes being made by those who cling to Marxists interpretations of the economy, are the most real and present danger to the West. When Marx wrote his polemic, vast quantities of low skilled labour ran the productive economy and it dominated the nascent service sector.

Today Robots do what Marx's 'labour' did, and we are all capitalists now. If you own a dishwasher, vacuum cleaner or a tumble drier or washing machine, you are using capital to displace labour in your home.

And that has taken us to a point of crisis: Fundamentally the wealth we utilise and consume (depending on whether its fixed asset or consumable) can be, and is, created by a vanishingly small number of humans, and rather a lot of energy. The rest of the human beings are totally and utterly unneeded and unnecessary in that process of production.

The only humans still needed are those that design and program the robots, and handle the bureaucracy of capitalism.

BOFH is not a joke. we, the IT crowd, actually control the new world.

And do you know? I think if we exercised our power and controlled it properly, we would do a better job than politicians and economists...

And the first thing we need to do is to understand that there is, except in the case of IT professionals, no relationship between material worth to society and income.

Just because someone is utterly useless and unproductive doesn't mean they don't (or indeed do) deserve an income of any given level.

The presumed goal of advanced roboticisation of society is to eliminate work as the primary occupation of human beings, The leisured society.

This ought to be a highly desired and desirable state, but both Left and Right are raising their hands in (faux) horror at the spectre of high structural 'unemployment'.

And yet the answers are all there. To increase the personal wealth of everybody means letting capital displace labour, and generate as much wealth for as little energy input as possible, and if that means people staying at home or playing football in the park instead of rushing mindlessly round the M25 trying to sell more crap to each other than anyone needs, so be it.

Then the job of the 'new socialist' becomes working out how much of that wealth should be distributed to the idle, not very rich.

We should not denigrate 'benefits culture' - we should celebrate it. WE should extend it to everyone. A Universal pension to anyone who can prove they were born in this country (and absolutely nothing to those who were not) would ensure a guilt free life of idle pleasure for all.

Toss in loss of income to those who have more than two children, and you limit populations levels naturally.

Run the whole lot off about 50 nuclear power plants, and you have a golden age within reach, and we could then start to concentrate not on keeping peoples physical wants satisfied, but exploring the reason why even with so much stuff, people are still amazingly miserable.

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Re: First time I have to totally disagree with you, Tim

"The presumed goal of advanced roboticisation of society is to eliminate work as the primary occupation of human beings, The leisured society."

Well, I think "work" is a four letter word meaning, "What you do for others." And, so far as I can see, that's roughly how the universe defines it.

Eliminating "work" does not seem a worthy goal.

Consider this goal: To raise the value of humans compared to the things around them.

That sure looks like what the industrial revolution is doing, goal or not. And this rising value of humans has caused all sorts of problems when attitudes about the value of humans have lagged reality.

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Re: First time I have to totally disagree with you, Tim

"The presumed goal of advanced roboticisation of society is to eliminate work as the primary occupation of human beings, The leisured society."

I think the goal of automation/roboticisation is more to do with business owners reducing or eliminating human labour costs and unreliability. The idea that humans then have lots of leisure time is incorrect, as there wouldn't be any wages for them to do anything with that time, and the government benefits would never be enough as the governments would be in the pocket of the business owners wanting their taxes low so they can keep all the income locked in an 'ice cap' of stored but unused wealth that they can show off to their less wealthy (but still shockingly obscenely rich) peers.

Sorry to see you leave El Reg Tim. I'll try and keep an eye on your blog.

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Re: First time I have to totally disagree with you, Tim

"I think the goal of automation/roboticisation is more to do with business owners reducing or eliminating human labour costs and unreliability. The idea that humans then have lots of leisure time is incorrect, as there wouldn't be any wages for them to do anything with that time, and the government benefits would never be enough as the governments would be in the pocket of the business owners wanting their taxes low so they can keep all the income locked in an 'ice cap' of stored but unused wealth that they can show off to their less wealthy (but still shockingly obscenely rich) peers."

The only problem with that model is, who buys the stuff the business owners are making, if almost everyone is poor? I'm not saying they don't want to go in that direction, I'm saying that it isn't sustainable even in a mild sense, over a decade or so.

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Re: First time I have to totally disagree with you, Tim

Thank you itzman, maybe you could have a column or two? I have been thinking idly along similar lines in recent months, but drawing parallels to system theory and ecosystems*.

I strongly support your general gist and your raising of the subject, though you cover so much ground that it is inevitable that I can nitpick individual points:

When Bertrand Russell penned 'The Case for the Leisure Society', he wasn't equating leisure with idleness. Rather, he suggested that if we all only worked say twenty hours a week for food and shelter, we wouold choose more active leisure activioties (gardening, playing musical instruments, walking) and less passive (slump in front of a DVD-boxset with bottle of scotch)

>I think if we [The IT-Crowd, system administrators etc] exercised our power and controlled it properly, we would do a better job than politicians and economists...

Maybe. But in past times, scientists have thought similar things. Of course, if we all had more leisure time, IT experts might choose to read more history and philosophy, and financial experts and politicians might educate themselves about technology and systems. The electorate, with morew free time, would also take a more informed and active role in politics, too.

*All mature ecosystems dissipate more energy than immature ecosystems. There has always seemed to me to be an economic lesson there, but i can't quite articulate it.

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