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 …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    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.

    1. Stork Bronze badge

      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.

      1. Frenchie Lad

        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.

        1. Da Weezil

          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

    2. Mongo

      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...

      1. Tim Worstal

        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.

        :-)

        1. MyffyW Silver badge

          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.

    3. MyffyW Silver badge

      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.

      1. JohnnyGStrings

        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

      2. sed gawk

        Re: The last one?

        well said.

    4. Nick Kew Silver badge

      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.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        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!

    5. Fraggle850

      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)

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        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.

    6. JohnnyGStrings

      Re: The last one?

      http://www.timworstall.com/

    7. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      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.

      1. Fibbles

        Re: The last one?

        Other suggested team changes?

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

      2. xeroks

        Re: The last one?

        hear, hear

    8. chelonautical

      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.

  2. Ilmarinen
    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...

    1. Joe Cooper

      Re: TTFN

      No Worstall and no Page???

      Should I even stick around?

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: TTFN

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

        1. Ilmarinen

          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...

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Fraggle850

      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?

    3. Tim Worstal

      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.

      1. JohnnyGStrings

        Re: TTFN

        Tim your columns have been an inspiration :)

      2. Will 28

        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.

      3. Fraggle850

        @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.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          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?

    4. Tim Worstal

      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.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        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) :)

  3. FelixReg

    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.

  4. YetAnotherLocksmith

    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.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      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.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        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.

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          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.

          1. IHateWearingATie

            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

          2. DavCrav Silver badge

            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.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      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.

  5. Martin 47

    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

    1. Tim Worstal

      There is also this:

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

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

      1. dogged

        >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.

  6. John Hawkins
    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!

    1. Zimmer
      Happy

      Re: The Tim Worstall Blog

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

  7. itzman
    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.

    1. FelixReg

      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.

    2. Novex

      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.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

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

          "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."

          Unless they realize this, close the gates, and just trade amongst themselves. IOW, they change their models to sustain only their peers and leave the destitute savages to their own devices. A closed economy only comprising those who don't have to ask the price if they want to buy something.

          1. G Fan

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

            "The only problem with that model is, who buys the stuff the business owners are making, if almost everyone is poor?..."

            "Unless they realize this, close the gates, and just trade amongst themselves."

            This danger has already come and gone for various economies, with a tried and tested solution: pay people to buy your shit.

            This might, depending on whether you're a country, corporation or individual, be dressed up as equalization payments between regions, foreign investment into countries with lots of customers, or that 0% deal on your sofa - it's just pumping money back up the hill so that it can keep flowing.

          2. LucreLout Silver badge

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

            @AC

            Unless they realize this, close the gates, and just trade amongst themselves. IOW, they change their models to sustain only their peers and leave the destitute savages to their own devices.

            I don't see how that could ever work. We'd still need to feed ourselves (we, the savages) etc so we'd still end up with role based specialisatiosn requiring a means of exchange and a means to store product of labour beyond its sell by date. Money, in essence.

            So sure, they'd own all the dollars, but we'd have no choice but use a new currency, which would rather invalidate the game. What the tipping point is, I can't say, but I have faith that capitalism will self correct before we ever get there.

        2. ocratato

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

          "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."

          While it is not sustainable in the macro sense, there is no point for any individual business where employing a person is a better decision than employing a machine that can do the same work for less cost. This logic continues to apply even as the size of the market shrinks.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge

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

        @Novex

        I think the goal of automation/roboticisation is more to do with business owners reducing or eliminating human labour costs and unreliability.

        Agreed mostly, but I'd go further than that. It is also to eliminate polticial risk.

        If I start a small business and need additional effort to expand, I could hire someone. I agree with them that I will pay them £x per hour and they agree they will work for that. Then the government comes along and decides I must pay them £x + y, and that they must not work for anyone for less than that.

        Later the government comes back and decides I must also set up a pension for my newly more expensive than envisaged staffer. And then decides I'll have to give them pay rises at an accelerated rate until we hit the governments desired target per hour for people to earn. As a business owner you know this is salami slicing, but what you don't knwo is how big the salami is or how thick the next slice will need be.

        Now, I'm not suggesting that minimum wage is a bad thing or that it destroys opportunities for the low skilled, though I do accept it *might* be the case. What I do suggest it does, however, is lead to reduced new opportunities because business owners will seek to hold off hiring an employee until they simly cannot do all the work themselves. And that is where increased automation and robotisation come in to play, as it holds off the first employee and keeps down the number you need, there by giving rise to more predictable costs.

        In theory robotisation should also be more reliable, as you never know when people will get ill/die/quit, whereas the robot should have a relatively predictable service life, and the automation software will have an upgrade path visible out for 5-10 years.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      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.

    4. phil dude

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

      @itzman: An interesting point of view that gets at the crux, and problem, with anyone writing about economics.

      The interactions of the human world have become so complicated, so amount of guessing is going to achieve anything. It requires a solid foundation of mathematical modelling to describe and predict the outcomes of human behaviour - and it is not easy.

      But what it does give us, is some clarity to the changes of the last 50 years, and a method to disentangle the politics fuelled media rhetoric, and the actually system causes.

      For example, the concept of inflation (where $1 today is worth less tomorrow) is predicated on the pre-industrial notion of scarcity of resource. E.g. gold is rare, so perhaps we can use it for coins. Trees are plentiful they are cheap (say).

      Therefore, everytime a new object is manufactured it is a summation of all the market conditions that measure "scarcity". The governments print money to make sure that banks can lend, and this action adds "friction" to the generation or products. This "friction" term is present anytime it costs some money, do carry out something in the virtual world, that does not have a corresponding physical effect.

      So here we are in 2015, with the *astonishing* distribution of computer technology and we have economics based upon the trading of cattle at a medieval market.

      Back to inzman's point . The modern economic activity has a prevailing deflationary trend when one considers the "work" done by computers. Any (and all) industries that can exploit the exponential increase in computing (with exponential price decrease), will separate from all those that do NOT -UNLESS coupled by the "friction" term I brought in earlier.

      Therefore, software is in the category, and we introduce the concept of the "profit threshold" (How many widgets do you have to sell to break even). And this is where the problem is. There are significant proportions of the economy that are *weakly* correlated with others, leading to the huge inequities around the globe.

      I encourage everyone to try and look around their local economy for signs of "tech" vs "no-tech" and recognise the human interactions that have become modulated. MacDonalds, Starbucks and Walmart are successful precisely because they have mechanisms, standard tools and acquired capital capacity, to start a small venture of unprofitably and grow to profit.

      If you are a lone trader it might take you years. The corporation allows the aggregation of process knowledge and capital accrual, that individuals cannot. The rules are literally written to forbid this, since a corporation can have a dedicated purpose to deduct expenses against - your "living" costs are just that.

      I will agree with Tim on one thing about the "hierarchy of needs", it is the personal tolerance of how one decides to spend ones $$$. And that is highly dependent on your local environment, and I suspect the cause of much of the worlds problems...

      All the best Tim, I hope you get to use MathML for some precision, in your other work...:-)

      P.

    5. TWB

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

      Thanks itman for that - I hate to say it - I am sure I'll be in a minority - but I found your comment was much easier to read and follow than anything Tim has written here. I'm not sure I fully agree but I'm getting so philosophical these days I cannot make my mind up.

      Having said that I have enjoyed reading TIm's articles here over the year and challenging my preconceptions and wish him well.

    6. Knuten

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

      Even the ones with digital watches?

    7. Graham Cobb

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

      Those who enjoyed Tim's article, and itzman's reply might enjoy Adrian Hon's "A History of the Future in 100 Objects". It is, of course, optimistic fiction. But it is an enjoyable read (particularly for anyone familiar with the British Museum/BBC "A History of the World in 100 Objects"). It certainly caused me to seriously look into the research on universal basic income for the first time.

  8. Nick Kew Silver badge

    It's not fair!

    I give my friend blackberries I've picked, and take his apples. So we both have some of each delicious fruit. So far, so good (and true in real life).

    But gathering the blackberries is hard work, and leaves my hands pretty-well shredded. Blackberries are relatively small, so picking them takes time, and of course those brambles, and the nettles that usually accompany them, fight back. Whereas apples have no thorns nor stings, and are so big that you have a decent bagful for a couple of minutes work.

    My friend, being richer than I am, has an apple tree in his garden, and so gets to do the plum job (sorry about that - neither of us has enough plums to trade). That's capital.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: It's not fair!

      If it's any consolation, Nick, I have both an apple and a plum tree in my garden, both of which produce buckets of fruit, and yet I still gather blackberries and rip my hands to shreds.

      My friends get to enjoy jams and jellies, and I even buy the jars myself and rarely get them returned.

      I'm not sure whether I'm a pluted bloatocrat or a peasant...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's not fair!

        "I'm not sure whether I'm a pluted bloatocrat or a peasant"

        With land prices in the UK what they are, and the concentration on cities, we have reached the stage that only the well off can afford to behave like pre-industrial agricultural labourers at weekends. Just as only the well off can play at operating narrow boats on canals and driving horse carts and steam locomotives.

        These are all low-productivity occupations that give a sense of achievement, which have to be offset by some high-productivity activigty somewhere else.

        1. Fraggle850

          Re: It's not fair!

          Ain't necessarily so, I know people outside of mainstream society who live on boats and attendees at the annual horse drawn festival are also, I gather (never attended myself but a couple of friends go regularly), not exactly rinking stinking rich, just alternative way of life types. I guess if you are willing to adopt an alternative lifestyle then there are possibilities that don't come with the mainstream.

      2. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: It's not fair!

        Neil, of course I was speaking only of a micro-economy, which seemed somehow relevant. In the real world we have specialisation of labour, and so long as I'm not destitute I can buy all these fruits for no more effort than having to traipse round the shops and carry them home. All the hard work is done by people with specialist skills and equipment.

        Actually that's a kind-of measurable effect. There are still blackberries around, but it's been a few weeks since I picked any: they're a pale shadow of peak season. Yet when I was genuinely destitute in 2003 I was still gathering them - the last dregs of the season - into late November.

        p.s. I don't cook (or eat) jams and jellies, but I've made a delicious chutney from some of those blackberries. Where's the El Reg icon for nomnomnom?

  9. Novex

    Real vs Raw

    Surely real value is anything (product or service) that a country (or individual) can make money from. Raw value would be the things like food, minerals, aggregates, fuels, etc, that a country can make money from?

    I personally think that in our modern society a better term to have used would be 'can we all live by making each other coffee?' The answer I think is not without some kind of acceptance of a benefits system by right, regardless of work done. But in that direction lies communism, which we know isn't a workable solution. Maybe benefits could be given based on the output of people improving themselves, by training and then academic study, or creative output? Could we be a society of authors and painters selling and/or giving each other our created works?

  10. x 7 Silver badge

    "This is the last of the regular Worstall columns"

    One word: Good

    Never in the history of web journalism has so much empty crap been served dressed up as fake intellectual mumbo jumbo

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sadly

      I am unable to assist with your intellectual problems, but counselling may help with your generally very negative view of the world.

    2. Stuart Moore
      Go

      Frequently I disagreed with him - but working out why was part of the fun. If you aren't prepared to be challenged then the Sun is that way ->

      1. Graham Dawson

        Sun's too highbrow, surely? He should try the daily mail.

    3. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Never in the history of web journalism has so much empty crap been served dressed up as fake intellectual mumbo jumbo

      Even if that's true, what is the harm? Nobody here would jump off a cliff just because "Mr Worstall told me to!" and his points are often debated and disputed here. If we believe him to be wrong, or has overlooked something, then we can make a counter argument.

      Sometimes people who believe themselves to be fighting an ideology will appear to be ideologues themselves... this is always danger, so a bit of grown up discussion is generally a Good Idea.

      For the record, I don't agree with much of Worstall says, but I think it is healthy to re-examine the things he attacks to test their sturdiness or otherwise.

      1. x 7 Silver badge

        "Even if that's true, what is the harm?"

        The harm is that if vacuous bullshit is allowed to be published, then a number of uncritical airheads will assume it is correct and uncritically follow it. You have the risk of the unthinking fool who automatically believes whatever hair-brained theory is planted in his mind by the latest brain-washing collective (aka "Think Tank"). And when those unthinking fools are members of our political or financial elites, then disaster looms.

        Personally I blame much of modern societies ills, and the failure of much of the western economy on the specious extremist bollox promulgated by so called "Think Tanks" of both sides. My view is members of such brain-washing syndicates should be metaphorically lined against a wall and shot. I don't care if they are right or left wing: by daring to put themselves into such self-elevated positions of unelected authority they no longer deserve to be part of society, and should be removed from it.

        1. Tim Worstal

          "The harm is that if vacuous bullshit is allowed to be published,"

          It could just be that censorship is an over reaction to the quality of either my logic or journalism.....

          1. x 7 Silver badge

            "It could just be that censorship is an over reaction to the quality of either my logic or journalism....."

            Not when that "logic or journalism" is actually a fake veneer for specious vacuous emanations from a brainwashing collective whose only desire is self-promulgation and self-enhancement. "Thinktanks" should be eliminated from society as what they propose is divisive, destructive, distortional and often non-democratic.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              'Not when that "logic or journalism" is actually a fake veneer for specious vacuous emanations from a brainwashing collective whose only desire is self-promulgation and self-enhancement.'

              Citation needed.

            2. Fraggle850

              @ x 7 re: vacuous emanations from a brainwashing collective...

              ..whose only desire is self-promulgation and self-enhancement

              I think the greater danger of this sort of thing is the cult of celebrity that infests our culture. Anything that makes you think is good, anything that diverts you from thinking is bad. If you don't have the capacity for critical thinking and aren't comfortable with having your views challenged then you are part of the problem.

              1. DougS Silver badge

                Hopefully "x 7" isn't the new editor!

                If so, we can look to some rather drastic changes that will undoubtedly drive all of us who like to be challenged away from this site rather quickly.

                One thing I really liked about The Register is the wide variation of slant to the articles. Every news source has some sort of slant to it, those who think their preferred news source is unbiased have merely self selected one whose slant matches their own. You would have articles reporting the latest global warming studies and measurements that warn of a warming Earth and dire consequences if things don't change, alongside Lewis' article reporting something that appears to show the opposite, or casting doubt on such studies. Lewis received a lot of criticism, but some of us learned something from both sides of the debate, and were at least entertained by the closed minded people like x 7 who believe they know the truth and anyone who disagrees is being misled.

                Obviously he disagrees quite strongly with Tim's libertarian philosophy, and while I share that to some extent I certainly didn't agree with everything he said, nor his interpretation of certain things in the field of Economics (having a father with a PhD in Economics meant I learned a lot about it whether I liked it or not) I read Andrew Orlowski's rants against the 'freetard' economy that supported the RIAA and MPAA's every position even though I disagreed with much of it, and learned from that. Even though I am an iPhone owner, I didn't bristle at the constant sneering at Apple, after all they sneered at Microsoft, Google and other IT leaders - that's on their masthead after all. Even when the "peak Apple" thing got a bit old I played along, and had a good laugh when Apple proved it had nowhere near peaked yet and they were forced to abandon that (or shelve it until the time next they think Apple has peaked)

                I worry that The Register's new editorial staff is going to water down the site in order to expand the audience. Less sarcasm, less "biting the hand that feeds IT", fewer controversial articles and instead taking a more 'neutral' approach that avoids turning off people like x 7 who don't like to be challenged in their world view. While that would certainly expand their potential audience, it would make this site like any other, and they'd lose the dedicated band of commentards who make this place what it is. Because that's the real reason I spend so much time here. I can read an article about something random and in the comments find an explanation of something the article was confused about from someone knowledgeable in the field. Actual astronomers or rocket scientists in some cases. Try and find that in the comment section on 99.9% of other internet sites.

                While I'm not ready to give up yet until I see what changes they make, I'm thinking my days here may be numbered. If this site is no longer unique, why should I visit it over anywhere else? If the signal to noise ratio of the comments declines to what's typical on the internet, or the comment sections become virtual wastelands with almost no one commenting, what will be the point of coming here for regurgitated press releases I can get anywhere? Hope my fears are unfounded.

            3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Idiot

              x7: I think you may feel more at home at The Guardian, where you can "discuss" various topics with like minded individuals ( ie: those that think the path to making the world a nicer place is murdering everybody who doesn't completely agree with you ).

          2. sad_loser
            Trollface

            Don't feed the troll

            Your columns are excellent and are pitched just right for an audience that is interested in this and has a bit of experience.

            Also appreciated by my daughter who is doing economics A level and applying to university to do economics.

            My guess is that the push is to be more IT focussed rather than expand the magazine aspects of the weekend topics.

            This is a mistake as the Register was building a powerful brand 'more than just IT' and as we know from Top Gear, this sort of branding that reaches across many demographics is very valuable, very difficult to build and very easy to destroy.

            1. Tim Worstal

              Re: Don't feed the troll

              Economics at university these days. Lots and lots of mathematics to feed the macro models. Got to be done but that's the very boring part of the subject. There will be lots of mandatory courses in all that stuff. For enjoyment, tell her she might want to sample, as her electives, bits of political economy, micro theory, public choice, anyone who is teaching Mancur Olson and so on. Even a light introduction to Marx can be fun (but don't go the whole hog and actually believe it).

              And there will be lots of statistics. But make sure that you understand the underlying concepts, not just the manipulations. Because much fun (for an odd value of "fun") can be had by reading the various pressure group reports and seeing how they've ignored those basic concepts in constructing their numbers for public consumption.

          3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            @Tim Worstal

            In this context, being hilarious is infinitely more important than being technically correct in every little detail. You've been wonderful.

            Besides, the Universe is hilariously random. Someone might be half-joking and yet ultimately prove to be correct. That's the way things work out.

            Cheers.

        2. Fibbles

          they no longer deserve to be part of society, and should be removed from it.

          Ah, the final solution.

          You single out a specific group for giving themselves 'elevated authority' and then command that they face a harsh punishment. Please tell me you can see the irony in this.

        3. Fraggle850

          @ x 7

          > vacuous bullshit

          Unfair allegation in this case, Tim's articles always lead to a healthy debate and that's a good thing.

          > You have the risk of the unthinking fool who automatically believes whatever hair-brained theory is planted in his mind

          Yes, but we can all be guilty of that on occasions if something we read chimes with our own particular prejudices. Challenging and stimulating articles serve to counter that.

          Are you basically saying that people are stupid sheep and that anyone voicing an opinion should shut the fuck up for fear of influencing them?

          As a society we debate things, different opinions are heard, views are broadened (hopefully) and we progress. If we didn't have this process we'd never have progressed from the horror that is strictly religious belief. You are confusing positive, informed debate (which we tend to get here) with closed systems that only serve to preach. The key is to try to maintain an open and inquisitive mind, to question what you are told.

          1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
            Pint

            "...people are stupid sheep..."

            Bah!

            (^- wonderfully and intentionally unclear)

        4. Steve Knox Silver badge
          Holmes

          The harm is that if vacuous bullshit is allowed to be published, then a number of uncritical airheads will assume it is correct and uncritically follow it.

          And yet, here you are, posting these comments. And El Reg is allowing them to be published.

          My view is members of such brain-washing syndicates should be metaphorically lined against a wall and shot.

          And once you've disenfranchised those people for no other crimes than speaking their minds collectively, and believing something other than you do, where then will you target your unbridled aggression?

          I'm not going to argue with you about the value of Worstall's pieces here -- not because I agree with you, but because you've shown yourself to be unreceptive to differences of opinion.

          But differences of opinion aside, "vacuous bullshit" has always been allowed to be published*, and a small fraction of the populace has always believed what they read uncritically. This has yet to destroy the world.

          * cf the original product of Gutenberg, et al.

        5. John Savard Silver badge

          The trouble is that a government with the power to suppress superstition and fanaticism might not choose to stop there. If there were a way for it to be ensured that the power of censorship would always be employed wisely and constructively, then we could employ it. As it is, though, we know of no such technique, and thus fear a positive feedback loop that will lead to tyranny.

          Another answer to fools being misled is more and better education.

        6. Ilmarinen
          WTF?

          All hail Comrade Stalin

          @ x7 "vacuous bullshit is allowed to be published"

          *allowed* - by whom? You?

          Who do you think you are (other than a troll).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Ilmarinen Re: All hail Comrade Stalin

            Totally agree, I'd got x7 down as a Stalinist too (x7: also possibly a fan of old school suzuki 2 strokes?).

            1. x 7 Silver badge

              Re: @Ilmarinen All hail Comrade Stalin

              "x7: also possibly a fan of old school suzuki 2 strokes?"

              no, but I always fancied a GT750, what finally put me off the the inability to get them round corners, and the shiny disk brakes. Ever tried riding one? Interesting in the Chinese sense. 0-60 in 3 seconds, 60-0 in three minutes

              fastest 2-stroke I ever had was a tuned bored out MZ TS250/5 with high compression head, thin head gasket, reed valve and flat-topped piston. Could usually outrun most Jap 2-stokes (even the triples) up to around 350cc. After it seized at 90 while I was overtaking a petrol tanker I switched to 4-strokes

              1. Fraggle850

                @x7 re: stinkwheels

                Got out of 2 strokes as soon as I passed my test, although I did have an MTX125 as a winter hack one year. Mucho kudos to you for the tuned MZ, respect is due. Sounds like a larf and a half.

                > seized at 90 while I was overtaking a petrol tanker

                One of my long standing (suffering?) mates had a YZ425 back in the day, basically a competition 2 stroke machine with enough stuff to make it (barely) legal. It couldn't get more than 20 miles out of town without seizing up, also suffered from shit brakes and got through kick start levers quicker than it got through petrol.

                I just missed out on the glory days of the crazy Japanese 2 strokes. They were already attaining classic status when I was getting into bikes. Being a kawasaki man at the time I'd have gone for the h3 750 triple if I could have afforded one but then, given that they were known as the widowmaker, I'd probably not have been around to write this. Too much power in a flexi-frame coupled with youthful exuberance would have been a hazardous combination.

                Anyhow, bit off topic but way more fun than economics.

                1. x 7 Silver badge

                  Re: @x7 re: stinkwheels

                  "Too much power in a flexi-frame

                  Not to mention shiny brake disks, cardboard brake pads, plastic Bridgestone tyres, forks which flexed laterally, and crap steering geometry. OK for drag racing. Not for turning corners. Good engine for sidecar racing though

                  1. Fraggle850

                    Re: @x7 re: stinkwheels

                    Yes, and I suspect brake fade was probably an issue too back in the '70s.

                    Perhaps the Japanese didn't stop trying to kill us in 1945, they just took to more subtle and profitable methods...

        7. LucreLout Silver badge

          x7

          The harm is that if vacuous bullshit is allowed to be published, then a number of uncritical airheads will assume it is correct and uncritically follow it.

          In that case Sir, I give you The Guardian - where any comment deviating from their frankly barmy faux consensus is deleted before the ink is dry. The result is that there is no debate, just a self reinforcing reality distortion field which all but defines the term confirmation bias.

          El Reg has always allowed extensive debate around many issues, which has been one of its strengths. While I don't universally agree with Tim's arguments, they are usually well constructed and considered - there's a bunch of facts & permises, a claim,a nd attempts to persuade. That you disagree with the conclusions does not signify a lack of critical thinking on Tim's part.

          There are very few other sites on the internet with El Regs level of detail and range of articles that allow such open debate. Tim attracted a wide following and is leaving some massive boots to fill. Good luck for the future Tim, and thanks for some great explanations.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the subject of the swelling of the Insurance sector, Apart from the ever spiraling cost of premiums generally - it should be remembered that successive Governments have increased the insurance burden, both for Business (going back to Public liability changes in the 80's, and on the individual, such as Income Protection Insurance - again a "product" greatly increased by 80's Conservative Govt: legislation - which removed help with some components of mortgage payments from some benefit claims. It is no surprise to me that finance has grown, and not only in terms of banking and monitory supply terms.

    It is sad that we import so much that we consume in the UK, the problem isn't helped by ludicrous housing costs that inflate the level earnings needed by citizens to a point where some goods are seen as overpriced. London faces a crisis in years to come as those considered to be "lower orders" by many with *money* are pushed out of further and further - Who then will sweep the streets and empty the bins.... or serve the morning latte so loved by the over paid city professionals? To finance ever spiraling UK housing costs, the level of remuneration required by employees factors in to make UK manufacturing simply too expensive - a ludicrous situation, not helped by an out of touch political class who simply have no concept of the financial pressures on those whom they were allegedly elected to serve (all too often it seems thew other way around) and who earn far less than those in power would consider it viable for themselves to survive on.

    Even here in my fairly rural location, housing costs are far above what many earn in an area that is a mix of Petro Chem and Power Generation industry and tourism, it simply isn't sustainable. Rural call centres and city based financial institutions do not make for a well balanced economy, and at some point this will cause some major social issues, Foodbanks are just a symptom of a badly unbalanced economy that is breeding resentment and anger amongst the citizenry, presided over by a political class that is both deceitful and morally bankrupt.

    We are all in *it* together? I think they lost two letters from the start of "it"

    1. John Crisp

      Actually I believe the biggest change in law/insurance happened in the 90s when after a lot of campaigning by the Law Society on behalf of solicitors, solicitors were allowed to work on a "no cure, no fee basis".

      At the time I worked in marine insurance recovery. We were not solicitors so could work "no cure no fee". Our costs and fees were low, we were good at what we did and succesful, and the solicitors hated that.

      Even worse was we frequently had to deal with solicitors and took the useless overpaid idiots to the cleaners regularly. We just made them look stupid.

      As a work colleague said to me at the time "it'll be like the US in a few years with every solicitor chasing ambulances and no one taking any personal responsibilty anymore. Everyone will sue for everything and that will drive premiums through the roof"

      Prophetic words indeed.

  12. Mage Silver badge

    Everything is the product of labour

    I'm not convinced of this statement. Initially there may be labour. But after that an autonomous process. Can apply to a Robot Factory, automated oil well or burning forest and then scattering seed of something that doesn't need replanted every year. Or totally automated agriculture.

    Surely many things will be the product of less and less labour, tending toward zero?

    Sorry to see you go, Tim.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Everything is the product of labour

      "I'm not convinced of this statement. Initially there may be labour. But after that an autonomous process. Can apply to a Robot Factory, automated oil well or burning forest and then scattering seed of something that doesn't need replanted every year. Or totally automated agriculture.

      Surely many things will be the product of less and less labour, tending toward zero?"

      That's not the point. It's not that everything is the product of labour, it's that the resulting money can only go to people. I have a robot vacuum cleaner that does work for me, but I don't pay it, so the money in that transaction went to the iRobot company. If a landscaper comes with a turf cutting machine, the machine doesn't get paid, the landscaper does.

      The automation just alters the distribution of which people get paid, not the fact that, in the end, only people are paid. (To deal with things like Apple's cash pile, we can either pretend that companies are people, or state that the company is owned by its shareholders, who own that wealth.) Now, if we start allowing robots to own things and buy things, then we get a different scenario, but all we've really done there is expend our definition of 'people'.

    2. Kinetic

      Re: Everything is the product of labour

      Who built the Robot factory? If robots, who built them (and so on) what you end up with is a very shrewd investment of time and effort on the part of the guy who built the robots who built the factory that built everything. One assumes he owns it all, and therefore is getting a huge amount of money for it. He still put the effort in initially. He's just much smarter than the guy who goes and does everything himself - a better tool was designed and used, that's all.

  13. Fazal Majid

    Not all exchanges are voluntary

    If you accept Worstall's logic, burglary is just as valuable as manufacturing or finance.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Not all exchanges are voluntary

      Some crime does appear in GDP figures.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Not all exchanges are voluntary

      >If you accept Worstall's logic, burglary is just as valuable as manufacturing or finance.

      Well, burglary creates work for locksmiths, glaziers, burglar-alarm installers and police officers. There isn't any moral determinism in these systems; arms manufacturers, tobacco growers and slavers are all a part of the economic system.

      The burglar enriches themselves by inconveniencing others. A salesman who sells a low quality product enriches themselves by inconveniencing their customer. A company sells a frustrating and buggy OS to enrich themselves by inconveniencing their users.

      So, we put locks on our doors. We educate ourselves and learn that a pricier but more durable product is actually better value*. We learn to use a different OS, or just accept that life isn't perfect.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Not all exchanges are voluntary

        *“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

        Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

        But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

        This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

        ― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms: The Play

    3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Not all exchanges are voluntary

      Would burglary contribute to the velocity of money ( ie: transferring it from the burglee to the burglar ) ?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Damn shame the great editor in the sky has give you the boot Tim, I've really enjoyed being educated on a Sunday morning. I still think macro-economics is 9 parts guesswork and 1 part science but at least I now see some of the reasons why the BoE and friends make some of the decisions they do.

    1. Tim Worstal

      So you've more faith in macroeconomics than I do then :-)

      Microeconomics is the bit I think we've got good parts of correct.....

  15. Nixinkome

    Economic Value

    It's down to wants and needs. Wanters are supplied by those who have the time and energy and resources to produce answers to their desires. Thus are created needers. They must be supplied...and so on.

    Consumers have differing time scales and we are all individually mortal [as well] and so value is created. It's no surprise that "Money is Time".

    Automation may provide all to survive at increasing levels of Maslow's Heirarchy but consumers' needs for complexity shall add new levels to be satisfied [even changing normal as has been known but this has happened through fashion alone throughout time]. Golden Ages belong to those who are dormant or immortal.

    Personally, I look forward to 3d machines that can make anything through improving

    and freely available software - a true information age. However, I couldn't begin to predict the wants and needs of future consumers.

    If you restrict the definition of consumers to only include humans you have to build in things like propensity to argue, minorities, laws etcetera.

    Bon voyage Tim - I only discovered that you are a prolific blogger today.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Economic Value

      "Personally, I look forward to 3d machines that can make anything through improving and freely available software - a true information age. However, I couldn't begin to predict the wants and needs of future consumers."

      The catch is that 3D Printers are useless without source materials with which to produce the goods. Whoever can corner that market will be in considerable control. Then there's the matter of food, which at least at this juncture can't be "printed" by a machine and especially again without source materials.

  16. John Crisp

    A great loss

    Like many I didn't always agree with either Tims politics or economics but it was always an education and made you think on a wider plane and will be sorely missed.

    Good luck for the future Tim.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How does the GDP calculation measure Barter?

    You know, do this for me and I'll do that for you?

    I do this quite a bit (hence the A/C). I've just finished rebuilding a motorcycle engine for a friend. He supplied all the parts, I, the labour to do the job. He's going to re-decorate my upstairs rooms in return.

    I will supply all the paint etc. No cash will change hands so what can the Taxman do?

    I hope it is nowt.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: How does the GDP calculation measure Barter?

      Barter isn't taxable, no. Unless you start using money to keep score of it, when it is. And barter also doesn't occur in GDP, only measures monetised activity. One of the known problems with it.

      1. x 7 Silver badge

        Re: How does the GDP calculation measure Barter?

        "Barter isn't taxable, no"

        yes it is: VAT applies, see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vat-part-exchanges-barters-and-set-offs

        And if the bartered items are part of your normal trade then you also have to declare them as income on your tax return

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: How does the GDP calculation measure Barter?

          See the example of the two female police officers, both with young children. Very sensibly, they put their heads together, and arranged their shifts so that one could care for the other's children whilst the other was at work.

          The taxman got involved.

          On a wider note about barter, you could probably do worse than listen to this ten part ( 15 minutes per episode) series "Promises, Promises: A History of Debt" http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b054zdp6/episodes/player

          You should note that if I want one of your pears, but I only have a live chicken, sorting out change might be tricky (or at least messy and noisy!). Think of a few more examples, and you'll appreciate that debt arose hand-in-hand with bartering.

  18. The Boojum
    Thumb Up

    Best of luck

    Interesting and sometimes provocative articles that made me think, if not necessarily agree.

    Very sad to see you go. The weekends have lost a little something special.

  19. John Presland

    Seamus Milne's left a gap at the Guardian, whose readers would benefit enormously from reading, and arguing, with your articles. The paper hosts columnists who are far from toeing a guardianista line. Perhaps you should ask whether it might offer a enw home for your column.

    1. Tim Worstal

      I used to write for them occasionally. Matt Seaton used to like prodding the commenters occasionally with a neoliberal style pointy stick. He moved on from CiF and he same changing of the guard of the freelances happened. His successor was less keen on that prodding with the pointy stick....

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Did you not get bored of CIF, with the same "points" being made over and over?

        I have a theory that everybody on CIF is really a right-wing troll, using the caricature of the mythical CIF reader.

        1. dogged

          The problem with CiF is that so many of the columnists are running out of things to have a feminist perspective about.

  20. Esme

    Good luck for the future, Tim!

    I'm really sorry to hear that you're leaving us, Tim. I've learnt more about the economic system we have from reading your articles and the comments thereto than from just about anything else. And like others here, I enjoyed having my views challenged and being made to think, and occasionally realising I was wrong. Al the best!

    Esme (off to find and bookmark Tim's website)

  21. Infernoz Bronze badge
    Facepalm

    Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is flawed and incomplete

    Some reasons are shown at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs, including observation that the hierarchy and cultural references are not valid.

    Other reasons are due to more recent Psychological research which shows that a lot of 'common sense' and intuitive ideas about Psychology are unreliable or plain wrong because the brain is not some linear machine, so can do seemingly weird things

    e.g. Pavlovian ideas of reward and punishment are not reliable for even lower animals, and even more unreliable for humans; this reveals some business motivation ideas, including trendy variants, as useless and even destructive.

    e.g. Better positive and negative emotional perception can cause significant, tipping-point gains, but "positive thinking" is destructive.

    e.g. If people are too busy, it mentally damages them, so wrecks productivity, because of what the human brain actually does when /not/ seemingly busy; that includes education and social media busyness too!

    There are also newer business biases and models growing in use which will be even harder for tired old economics ideas (including neo-classical) to model and I don't mean cloud.

  22. Atlas

    You will be missed

    I have very much enjoyed your columns. I even watched your economic presentation The Register sponsored.

    Your words are insightful and provoke thought. I will be less for not reading your words.

    You helped me understand that "rare earth" matter, wasn't, along with clearer explanations of economic theory than some of my prior Economics professors could muster up.

    I do hope you continue on in a similar capacity, ideally here.

    Thank you, Mr. Worstall.

  23. John Savard Silver badge

    First, let's figure out the point of Mark Twain's joke. The problem the people of Sicily would have had was that they would only have very clean clothes, and none of their other needs would be met.

    A parallel might be a country with a thriving domestic economy, but no exports whatever. And it's not in the tropics, so its citizens have a problem meeting their vitamin C requirements - presumably they satisfy them from lettuce, cabbage, or some other vegetable that has some - because they have no foreign exchange with which to import oranges.

    Now let's look at how badly Marx got things wrong. At bottom, exchanges of goods and services between humans certainly do involve human labor at every step. But does all the value come solely from human labor?

    Capital in some of its forms is simply labor at a remove in time. But land suitable for growing crops - and the rain and sunlight those crops need - were not produced by human labor. (Well, the land may have been cleared of trees to allow crops to be planted there.) Natural resources exist, and are, as the name indicates, products of nature.

    Nature, though, has no need of our money - though expenditures of effort and resources to take care of the natural world may be helpful at times. So the economic implications of this are complicated, although it has been used as a justification for everything from socialism to tithing.

  24. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Agriculture vs finance

    That efficiency thing that Tim's kept mentioning has a lot to do with the fact that we spend relatively little on food. Selective breeding has given is more productive varieties of plant and animal. Artificial fertilisers have artificially increased the fertility of the ground. Mechanisation has reduced the need for labour. Chemicals have improved the health of both plant and animal crops.

    On the other hand financial services seem to be costing us more. Why? There have been technical inputs which should increase efficiency there, just as in farming.

    I suspect the reason is similar to why bank robbers rob banks - it's where the money is. Ultimately it's the money men who largely decide prices (including screwing the farmers) because they can. It's not surprising if they receive an increasing share of it. When we discuss adding value I think we often confuse it with adding cost. The actual value of the added cost can be extremely dubious.

  25. BobRocket

    So long and thanks...

    It's been educational.

    An encore (just the one) on the 8th would be nice, perhaps the new editorial team could see fit.

  26. Jim McDonald
    Unhappy

    Missing you already!

    http://www.timworstall.com/ bookmarked!

  27. BobRocket

    @ X7

    You obviously haven't been paying attention, as you attempt to brainwash someone to your viewpoint (the goal) you must review your techniques (the means).

    Because you question the ways, it encourages questions of the hows.

    Reviewing the hows leads to questioning of the whys.

    Brainwashing works both ways.

    What most people see as Capitalism is in fact Corporatism

    What most people see as Socialism is in fact Statism

    Both isms abhor any kind of free market of ideas because it is only through the free promotion and destruction of those ideas can any truthfulness emerge.

    Why do you want to supress the truth, do you have something to hide ?

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Tim Worstal

      Umm, sorry about this but couldn't resist.

      If you've two of them does that mean you need both hands to find them?

      1. BobRocket

        Now then Tim

        You should not lower yourself to the commentard level, entering this abyss, madness and bad faith lays

        Good that you go out at the top, like I said above one encore would be nice (two would over egg).

        It has been interesting to see your point of view mature over time (you probably don't see this yet) but it has been more interesting reading some of the well put points of the comentariat in response.

        You will be sadly missed by the hardcore but we got over the loss of the moderatorix (which frankly was a much bigger loss)

        A bigger brighter future awaits you, go forth and..do stuff.

        Best Regards

  29. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Real Value is created when assets appreciate

    I'm not joking.

    When Tokyo real estate went up, they were doing very well and traveled the world, e.g. PEI to visit Anne of Green Gables. Real money that could be spent. When Tokyo real estate went down, they stopped.

    I'll bet that the same thing happened with the crazy Dutch tulips circa 1600s.

    It's a dangerous myth that this sort of asset appreciation isn't real genuine spendable money.

    1. Tom Womack

      Re: Real Value is created when assets appreciate

      There are two ways to convert an appreciating asset into money: you can sell it, or you can borrow against it. If you sell it the over-valuation problem passes on to the person who bought it; if you borrow against it the over-valuation problem passes on to the banking system. Since often the person who bought the over-valued asset did so with borrowed money, the problem ends up in the banking system.

      So the end cost of feeling wealthy because you have over-valued assets is that you feel squeezed by the taxation process required to recapitalise the banking system - unless, of course, your Government decides that it should recapitalise the banks by cutting government services that people actually have difficulty living without, rather than by sticking up taxes.

      It is remarkably politically unpopular to forbid buying over-valued assets with borrowed money, even by trivial changes like requiring the valuation of a property for a mortgage to be no more than the minimum amount that a comparable property has sold for over a period going back in time by the term of the mortgage.

    2. Tim Worstal

      Re: Real Value is created when assets appreciate

      Called the "wealth effect". We think we're wealthier, we spend more. We think we're poorer, we spend less.

      Is why there was going to be a recession in the US whatever happened to hte banks: $8 trillion in housing wealth was lost.

  30. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Hierarchy ultimately sums to taxes, or chocolate bars...

    If you follow the money, as it splits and weaves through generations of transactions, it eventually all passes through taxes. So you can claim it's ultimately 100% taxes within about ten generations (roughly) of transactions.

    Flawed logic.

    It's about 200% taxes after 20 generations (roughly) of transactions.

    It's 100% chocolate bars after about 750 generations (very roughly) of transactions.

    Once you allow N generations of transactions, you can make any claim you want.

    I had this figured out when I was 16. Geesh.

  31. C. P. Cosgrove

    I too will miss your usually amusing and normally thought provoking articles. In fact the only times they didn't provoke thoughts was on those occasions where I agreed with you !

    Chris Cosgrove

  32. sandman

    Damn!

    Well, that should get past the mods, what I really wanted to write wouldn't. Haven't always totally agreed with Tim (I am a Socialist after all) but have always enjoyed his thought-provoking articles.

  33. Flyingalien

    A very sad loss

    I've never posted here before but Tim's articles have been a great read every Monday morning. Internet news sites seem to always tend towards the superficial with light content. I hope the replacement work isn't less thought provoking.

  34. Philip Santilhano

    What a crying shame

    The "revered" editors should really have a re-think. I have gained much from reading your musings over time, and will be the poorer for not having access to them in the future. I wish you well.

  35. Hollerith 1

    Following Tim around

    Thanks to my fellow commentards for supplying link to Tim's blog. Also to Tim for Forbes etc links. I read people, not sites, so I follow the people.

  36. The Dude
    Thumb Down

    What????

    No more Worstall? Why?

  37. The Dude

    Wide readership

    Just this weekend, I posted a link to Tim's Register article into a discussion among members of a Canadian political party who were arguing about "what is money?". Tim and El Reg to the rescue, essentially. I will miss the informative and thoughtful articles about the "dismal science." So long, and thanks for all the fish.

  38. Maty

    erm ...no?

    'in the modern world the insurance sector ... is larger than the agriculture sector by some way. We therefore appear to value insurance more than food at this level of wealth. '

    The size of a business sector does not relate to the value of its products. Let's rewrite this sentence with one minor change.

    'in the modern world the potato sector ... is larger than the caviar sector by some way. We therefore appear to value potatoes more than caviar at this level of wealth. '

    would like to add to the chorus of lamentation at the Worstall departure. It's one of the columns that makes the Reg worth visiting

  39. Headwesty

    So how about the Financial Advisor I am required to have by law who takes a slice of my pension every year for doing nothing? Seems to me that the 'economic rent' embodied in UK Financial Legislation is why Financial Services are bigger than Agriculture...

  40. Philip Lewis

    Just got the memo

    Sorry to hear that TW has been "consigned to the dustbin of (El Reg) history" which I think is an appropriate misquote from some famed economist or philospher.

    In any case, I have enjoyed Tim's take on all things, and shall miss his articles.

  41. Novatone

    Your articles will be missed, they are some of the most consistently important and useful articles on the site.

  42. Pat Att

    Goodbye

    I like your articles, even if I often disagree with them. You will be missed.

    Lewis Page, on the other hand......

  43. John 62

    Financial sector > Agriculture

    Well, duh, everyone wants financial products for everything, including agriculture.

    Say 2% of the population works in agriculture. Well, there are a lot more car owners than farmers and car insurance is mandated by law. And that's just car insurance.

    People getting phones on contract depend on the financial instruments the phone companies use behind the scenes. Farmers selling their wares on the futures market (which as Tim pointed out previously is not inherently evil) depend on the financial industry. Farmers getting loans for capital or livestock and seed depend on the financial industry.

  44. Madeye

    Goddamn it! You are killing the only column in The Register that actually arouses passion (although Andrew Orowski sometimes succeeds). I still can't decide whether I love Tim Worstall or loathe him. I can't even decide whether I agree with him or not but you can be damned sure if I read 2 articles in a week on this soon-to-become-tawdry news organ, they are his.

  45. Schlimnitz

    Yup, I realised that the only things that kept me coming back to El Reg were Worstall and Dabbs (and BOFH).

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