Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Bloke Minds The Shop

While Mr and Mrs T are soaking up the rays out East, the Bloke has been minding the shop back home. For once, he’s made himself useful by helping write the Great British Taxpayer Rip-Off, now posted on the TPA site.

The paper shows that although in ten years Labour increased our taxes by an eye-watering 76% (50% in real terms), it also slyly racked up charges for a whole raft of public services that used to be “free”. In fact, the increase in charges alone is the equivalent of around 3 pence on the standard rate of income tax.

To cap it all, services have been cut – bin collections have been axed, public conveniences sold off for wine bars, hospitals, schools, police stations, and post offices closed wholesale, and full-time qualified teachers, doctors, and coppers all replaced by cheaper substitutes.

Much of the material will be familiar to BOM readers (in fact we reckon he ripped it off from BOM), but it’s a useful summary of the complete picture. We’ll pick out some of the highlights when we return.

Meanwhile, poolside, Tyler has been ploughing through some of his mountain of unread must-read books:

Squandered by David Craig

Ex-management consultant Craig was the author of the excellent Plundered, which documented how consultancy firms have torn the arse out of our Simple Shopper. Squandered does the same thing with how Labour has wasted our money more generally.

Naturally we applaud the book, as we applaud anything that shines a light on this dark and dismal subject. But we do find it a tad surprising he doesn’t once mention the TaxPayers’ Alliance, even though they were first in the field with their definitive Bumper Book of Government Waste (produced long before Tyler got involved with them). Especially since he has several pages of references to everyone else you can think of. Makes us wonder quite where he’s coming from – I mean, is he saying he’s put all this together without taking anything from the TPA?

(And yes we’re quite aware of the Life of Brian, and how the People's Front of Judea are spot on but the Judean People's Front are a bunch of complete wankers… or is it the other way around?)
Still, an interesting read, even if you do need to enjoy statistics. A lot.

Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Taleb is an ex-Wall Street trader who believes the feted heroes of trading mostly succeed through one thing, and one thing alone – pure unadulterated luck. He has constantly encountered traders who believed their success was down to personal genius, only to blow up when their lucky streak ended.

From that, he develops his theme: that our lives are governed by randomness, but we are constantly fooling ourselves into discerning patterns and order that don’t exist.

It’s something we recognise and have blogged about many times: the politicos and commissars who think they can impose their order on our chaotic world, without grasping that the world only moves forward because it lacks such order.

Taleb fingers the bad guys who constantly promote the idea of order where none exists – financial journalists, mathematical economists, and fund managers come in for a particular lashing. His heroes include philosophers who grasped the significance of chance, including Solon (it’s been good to know ya), Hume, and Popper. He also likes the gurus of behavioural finance for highlighting what cretins we are when it comes to rational decision-making.

Worth reading? Fortune calls it “one of the smartest books of all time”. That’s a tad over-egged, but it will certainly make you think.

Tyler’s Dirty Little Secret

Following the recent Question Time savaging of Polly T by Richard Littlejohn, Tyler came across the latter’s book – Littlejohn’s Britain.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. A savaging of Blair’s Britain that had both Mr and Mrs T crying with laughter and screaming in anger, often at the same time. He rips into the venality and incompetence of these arrogant clowns far more effectively than we could ever hope to manage.

Blair, Brown, Prezza, Mandy… the whole grisly crew of loathsome self-servers are served up for us to laugh at. And the story of how they’ve screwed Britain is told with a directness and colour that had us reaching for our pitchforks.

Outstanding poolside read.


As always, there are some extraordinary sights poolside. A gargantuan man bearing more than a passing resemblance to the late (?) Demis Roussos wears nothing but a micro posing pouch. Its taught strings cut into his sweaty tanned flesh like butcher’s strings cutting into a joint of roasted pork. Most unsettling.

Still, today we were treated to a Russian TV crew filming a glamorous Wish You Were Hereski babe, doing her pitch beside the pool. It’s big business and those hordes of Russkie travel agents just keep on coming.

One thing though – the hotel is about to open an additional restaurant called Barbarossa. Now call me unimaginative, but for a German owned hotel wanting to attract Russian punters, naming its restaurant after the Fuhrer’s unfortunate plan to wipe Russia off the map seems… well, how should we put it… somewhat bullish.

Or maybe the New Europe really has forgotten, and it’s only we curmudgeonly Brits who insist on raking over the past.

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