Monday, November 30, 2009

The Sex Industry Industry Just Got Bigger



The Major was so enraged he nearly did himself a serious mischief. "WTF should I pay for some bearded sociologist to spend a year visiting lap dancing clubs?!" he foamed. "When I go along with my chum Gomulka, we damned well have to pay for ourselves!"

As you will have seen by now, Leeds University is advertising for a sociologist to spend a year researching "the rise and regulation of lap dancing and the place of sexual labour and consumption in the night time economy." For which he will be paid £31 grand.

He?

Well, actually, it won't be a He, will it? Definitely not. This job is part of a major new tax-funded industry which seeks to prove men are sex beasts who like nothing more than to commodify women and grind them into the dirt:

"The purpose of this research is to explore the rise, tolerance and integration of sexual consumption and sexual labour displayed through the erotic dance industry which symbolises the commodification of the female body in late capitalism. Examining how female sexuality has been commercialised and now merges easily with traditional forms of leisure in the city, provides a window into further understanding larger social issues such as the feminisation of poverty; the consequences of student debt and the impact of changes in Higher Education; the diversification of feminised employment patterns that rely on ‘body work’..."
Just get that language - "commodification of the female body", "late capitalism" (it's only a matter of time, sisters), "feminisation of poverty" (men don't get poor any more?), and student loans as a instrument of sexual oppression.

What's the point of it?

And more specifically, why should we have to pay for it?

Ah, well, think Commissar Harperson, think Fiona McTaggart, and think that huge police crackdown on sex-traffickers - Operation Pentameter 2.

Yes, you remember that one. Hundreds - maybe thousands - of police took part in coordinated raids on massage parlours and brothels throughout Britain. And the strange thing was, loitering on the pavements outside many of those establishments they found TV crews, handily placed to record the police leading the trafficked women to safety and the ugly male traffickers off to jail.

It was judged a great media success, thoroughly exploited by then Home Secretary Jacqui on that evening's TV bulletins (obviously this was before her own unfortunate entanglement with a commodifier came to light).

But needless to say, the reality has turned out to be somewhat different. In fact, of the 528 supposed sex traffickers picked up that day, not one - NOT A SINGLE ONE - was subsequently convicted of trafficking (OK, five were later convicted, but that was nothing to do with Pentameter).

So why did the raids take place?

It seems Jacqs and the others had convinced themselves there were 25,000 trafficked prostitutes working here (the figure quoted by notorious humbug Mr Bugs Bunny in 2007) - a massive problem that needed urgent action.

It subsequently turned out that figure had been made up by the Daily Mirror, but it might equally have come from a tax-funded organisation by the name of the Poppy Project. They have had around £6m of public money, and in 2008, they produced an alarming report on brothels in London saying they were employing thousands of women, many very young, from all round the world. The report was seized on by Harperson to justify further crackdowns - until it was pointed out that the report was so shot through with flaws and inaccuracies as to be useless.

Look, we all agree people traffickers have to be caught and locked away. Of course. And we probably all agree that prostitution would have no place in a perfect world. Sure.

But given where we are - ie stuck here in the real world - we shouldn't conflate prostitution and people trafficking. We could and should stop the traffickers. But there's no way we'll stop the sex industry, which we've previously estimated at $500bn pa worldwide (see here). And we don't want our militant feminist politicos getting us to make an attempt on the back of horror stories about traffickers.

There's one other thing we really really don't want. And that's yet another tax-funded industry devoted to convincing us we should spend yet another pile of money on something which is almost certainly impossible (cf the climate change industry).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Inspectors On The Non-Job


Labour's huge and incompetent government inspectorates are worse than a waste of money - they are downright dangerous. Take today's scandal:
"Poor standards of care at an accident and emergency unit in one of the country's flagship hospitals may have contributed to the unnecessary deaths of over 400 patients, an official NHS investigation has concluded. Dirty equipment and an absence of leadership contributed to a death rate almost 40 per cent above the national average among emergency admissions to the 770-bed Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, inspectors said.
The unit had blood stains on the floor, dirty curtains, stinking mattresses and soiled equipment; nurses who failed to monitor, feed and give drugs to patients correctly; and a rate of pressure sores almost twice the national average. Instead of the national four-hour maximum waiting time for A&E, the trust was operating a 10-hour waiting time."
That's scandalous enough of course (especially as the description sounds all too reminiscent of various other NHS hospitals we could mention).

But the real scandal of Basildon and Thurrock Hospital is that it's literally just been rated by government inspectors as "Good", with a 13/14 mark for "Safety and cleanliness" (see here). And those inspectors - the Care Quality Commission - are the very same inspectors who've now discovered the hospital is in fact unsafe and filthy.

So WTF is going on?

On BBC R4 Today this morning, Evan Davis attempted to find out from the Commission's head, serial quangocrat Baroness Young (Environment Agency, BBC, etc etc). She made virtually no sense.

First, she said the scores on the Commission's website were out of date, even though the scores relate to 2008-09, ie the recent past. She reckoned they'd only published them because the Secretary of State had a duty to so. Then she said the Commission's inspection methods had changed and that they now involve... er... inspections. Then she said the Commission is brand new and can't be held responsible for the rubbish produced by the previous inspectorate - even though it's been published by the Commission on the Commission's website.

Obvious questions arise. If the scores on the website are useless, why should we punters believe them? What's the point of them? What should we believe? How do we know any hospitals are safe?

But when Davis tried to ask those follow-ups, the Baroness slipped into a kind of gibberish that Tyler cannot report because he simply couldn't follow it (like virtually all members of the modern commissariat, Young is immensely articulate without actually making any sense).

So there we have it - another large government inspectorate churning out screeds of rubbish that is much worse than useless.

And what does the Quality Care Commission cost us?

The Commission is another of Labour's superquangos, established in March 2009 as the amalgamation of three existing quangos - the Healthcare Commission, the Mental Health Act Commission, and the Commission for Social Care Inspection. Summing the 2007-08 spend of those three gives us a total annual spend for the new Commission of £214m (see latest TaxPayers' Alliance quango book). Let's call it £230m for this year.

The combined staff is 2700, which you might consider more than enough. But the Commission clearly wants more, and is currently advertising the following attractive new posts:
  • Head of Learning - £75k pa
  • Head of Culture and Performance - £75k pa
  • Head of Change Management - £75k pa
Amazingly, they are not advertising for a Head of Tying Up Your Own Shoe Laces, but we get the general idea.

We've blogged these hopeless government inspectors many times (eg see here). They have a long and shameful history of rating killer organisations as perfectly safe and fit for purpose - Oftsed rated Haringey Social Services as good at the very moment Baby P was dying under their watch (see here).

Things are so bad, even the chief inspectors no longer have confidence in the ratings. Baroness Young clearly thinks her organisation's ratings are useless, and earlier in the week the head of Ofsted said the same thing about their school ratings.

In Ofsted's case, it turns out that when they rate a school as "satisfactory", what they really mean is that it is failing to provide its pupils with a proper education. Which right now means that a shocking one-in-three state schools is failing.

Ofsted's Annual Report also illustrates another key weakness with these inspectors - they keep changing their minds. So nearly one-in-five schools judged to be good at their previous inspection are now rated as no longer good - ie merely "satisfactory" or inadequate. Who can place any faith in ratings that slide around like that?

So what to do?

First, abolish these massive inspectorates - they have expanded way beyond their original remit of making sure taxpayers' money was not being squandered, and they now do more harm than good (especially to the organisations they terrorise).

Second - yes it's that same old song - put power into the hands of the customers, and let the market decide who's doing a good job and who isn't. School vouchers and competing social health insurers are the only way we can seriously expect to achieve improvement.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Keep Right On To The - To The - To The




A very scratched record

Regular readers may recall the paper we wrote last year for the TaxPayers' Alliance calling for the abolition of the Barnett Formula (see here and here). We argued that Scotland should be granted full fiscal autonomy, with responsibility for raising its own tax revenues.

Since then we've had a weighty report from the Calman Commission that fell some way short of what we proposed. And yesterday we got the government's response, which fell even shorter.

The guts of the government's new proposal is that the Scots would be given wider authority to vary their local income tax rate (they already have authority to add up to 3p to the standard UK rate). In Scotland, the UK rate of income tax at both basic and higher rates would be reduced by 10p, and replaced with a Scottish income tax, decided by the Scottish Parliament. Scotland would lose an equivalent chunk of its block grant funding from London, but therefater  it would have the authority to vary its local income tax rate up or down.

So a step along the high road of fiscal autonomy?

Well, yes, but a very very small one.

To start with, the amount of revenue involved is only about 15% of the current block grant. Overall financing arrangements will remain hugely dominated by the Barnett Formula, which will remain in place, as is.

Second, the Scots will not be permitted to change the progressive structure of income tax: their Scottish local income tax will have to be at the same rate for all taxpayers right up the income scale. Which means for example, they will not be able to counteract the economic nonsense of the new 50p top rate (which as we know, will damage the economy and may actually reduce revenue - see this blog). Real fiscal autonomy would allow the Scots to make their own decisions on tax incidence and would allow them to compete with England.

Third, the Scots will have no incentive to build their tax base. The Barnett Formula grant will be reduced by Whitehall's calculation of what a 10p rate would raise in Scotland. Which means that if the Scots manage to grow their economy and their tax base, they will lose grant funding, one-for-one. This is the classic problem with such grants - they incentivise inefficiency rather than local enterprise and effort.

The real decisions on Scotland's fiscal autonomy still lie ahead.

But don't hold your breath. No London-based government has ever shown enthusiasm for surrendering meaningful tax power to Edinburgh. And since the collapse of their overblown banking system, the Scots have also taken a mighty step backwards.

It's going to be a very long road. And an increasingly stoney one for the English taxpayers who continue to fund much higher public spending in Scotland than they receive themselves:


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Many People Work For The Government?



How many people work for the government? According to the Major, the answer is none.

Personally, I think that's a tad harsh. But prompted by a comment on a recent BOM post, we've taken another look at how many are employed by the government.

We start with the official count published by the Office for National Statistics. It says that as of Q2 2009, public sector employment totalled 6.039 million, up from the 5.182 million Labour inherited in 1997 - an increase of 17%* (and see here for some interesting longer-term material).

However, big though it is, that total excludes a number of groups who are not counted as being employed in the public sector, but who depend on the public sector for the vast bulk of their earnings:
  • Higher and further education - for arcane historical reasons, H&FE colleges are defined as being in the private sector, even though most of their funding comes from the taxpayer. When last sighted, they were employing some 530,000 staff.
  • GPs - they are counted as part of the NHS by the Department of Health, but most are excluded from the ONS count because they're technically private contractors. There are currently some 40,000 of them in the UK.
  • Network Rail - as we've blogged before, Network Rail is nationalised in all but name, but under an extraordinarily convoluted definitional fudge it's counted as part of the private sector. It currently employs 33,000.
Adding these groups back in takes the public sector employment total up to 6.7 million.

And then of course, there are all the people whose jobs have been privatised over the years, but who still work pretty well exclusively for the public sector - ie hospital cleaners, dustmen, IT staff, etc etc. How many? We have no idea, but our guess is at least another quarter million, taking our public sector employment total up to around 7 million.

So, of the 28.9 million people currently in employment (see here), around one-quarter of them are employed by the government (aka the taxpayer).

And of course, there's another huge group of people who while not employed by the government, are still dependent on taxpayers for their incomes.

To start with, there are now 5.8 million people of working age who are entirely dependent on welfare (see here), including 1.4m on Job Seeker's Allowance, 2.6m on incapacity benefits, and 0.7m on lone parent benefits. Actually those figures relate to May, and with increased unemployment, the overall total is now probably 6 million.

Adding them in as well, gives us an overall total of 13 million people dependent on taxpayers for their incomes.

And remember, these are people of working age. If we add in the 12.5 million older people now drawing state pensions, we get to a grand total of 25.5 million - 25.5 million people who are dependent on the taxpayer for most or all of their incomes.

Which is somewhat alarming.

Because on our calculation, we've only got 22 million people who are generating income from sources other than the taxpayer (ie 28.9m in employment less the 7m employed by the public sector). So each one of them has to earn the income to support him/herself plus 1.2 other adults... kind of idea.

Does that sound like it's sustainable?

Or is it time to dust off those dog-eared copies of Bacon and Eltis? (Britain’s economic problem: too few producers by Bacon and Eltis (1976) is not online, but for quick flavour, see here - section 3.1).


*Footnote - although the ONS public sector employment numbers exclude college lecturers and GPs etc, they do now include the 235,000 staff employed by our nationalised banks - ie RBS, Lloyds, Northern Rock, and Bradford & Bingley.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climategate



Warmism is not our specialist subject, but we really can't let the scandal of Climategate pass without comment.

As you will know, emails and other material "liberated" from the publicly funded Climatic Research Institute at the University of East Anglia, show quite clearly that warmist "scientists" have been manipulating data on climate change in order to con the public into believing their religion. Their very expensive religion.

The emails talk explicity of data manipulation "tricks", "hiding the decline" observed in actual temperature records, and suppressing dissident views (you can access the complete set here, but be warned - there are shedloads). It's all straight out of the Manual of Stalinist Tractor Statistics. The emails also contain requests to other warmist "scientists" to destroy embarrassing records that might be subject to public disclosure under freedom of information laws (an inconvenience such people didn't suffer in the USSR).

The significance of this hasn't yet been properly reflected in the mainstream media here in the UK (although Monbiot does admit it's "a major blow"). Certainly the coverage on yesterday's Newsnight tried to sweep it aside as some kind of handbags spat between a bunch of science beardies. Which was hardly surprising given that the BBC's stated editorial policy is to downplay the views of disbelievers in warmism (see this blog).

But although the UK msm is fully warmist, and its eco correspondents little more than propagandists for the cause, these days we all have other sources for our news. And the full story is emerging on the web. The ever excellent Watt's Up With That, has a good collection of posts and links on the scandal, including these two vids:

1) The punchy 5 min version from Fox News:



2) The longer 10 min version from Dr Tim Ball:



So to summarise, the so-called "settled science" of climate change is controlled by around 40 groupthink academics who "peer review" each other's papers, and exclude papers produced by dissidents. They have cobbled together a bunch of highly questionable data to support their claims, and refuse to release it to independent third parties in case their cobbling is exposed.

And who funds these charlatans?

Yes, that's right - you and I. It's you and I, and other British taxpayers, who fund the operations supplying the world climate change lobby with the bulk of their "scientific" input. As that pompous twerp Miliband Jnr keeps boasting, the UK is a world leader in fabricated warmist propaganda the established science of climate change.

Cost? As we've blogged before, exact figures are hard to come by because they are suppressed. But when last sighted, the Climatic Research Institute at the University of East Anglia had £3m of research grant funding, virtually all of it from taxpayers.

We don't have specific figures for the Met Office's notorious Hadley Centre (East Anglia's close working partner and cobbler-in-chief to the ludicrous Stern Report). But we do know that the Met Office costs us over £180m pa, of which £21m is for "climate research".

In any case, these research grants are the least of the costs. The real costs are measured in terms of the massive ecclesiastical bureaucracies spawned by warmism, and the even bigger tithes inflicted via green taxes and regulatory commandments.

But at least we all know the truth now: the "inescapable facts" of warmism are nothing more than a bunch of dodgy data manufactured by the high priests. The same high priests who have a direct financial interest in convincing us that they're right.

PS Farming News - according to Tyler's farming correspondent, the global threat posed by farting livestock could be dealt with very easily - by fixing a naked flame in the close vicinity of each animal's gaseous orifice. According to him, the methane would then turn into nothing more noxious than H2O. Tyler advised him to apply for a research grant asap.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yes We Can



Do we really need to go through all that again?


Tyler has lost count of the times he's heard supposedly well informed people say something like "no government has ever succeeded in cutting public expenditure" (eg see here). Of course, it's completely untrue - even UK governments have sometimes managed it. But the myth persists.

Unfortunately, it's a myth that could prove highly damaging to us over the next few years. Because by suggesting we can't expect to correct our huge fiscal deficit through spending cuts, it nudges our politicos even further towards the perceived easier option of tax rises. Which is precisely what M Portillo suggested over the weekend (although see this excellent riposte from Andrew Lilico).

Now PolicyExchange has published an extremely timely paper looking in detail at twelve historic examples where governments have tackled big fiscal deficits. Written by Andrew Lilico, Ed Holmes, and Hiba Sameen, it stresses that each case has its own particular features. But the succesful programmes do share some important common themes.

It's well worth reading the paper for yourself, but the points that jumped out at Tyler are:
  • Fiscal consolidations can promote growth and recovery – particularly by enabling a looser monetary policy than would otherwise have been the case. Provided that spending cuts dominate over tax rises, tightening appears to be more likely to promote recovery than impede it (partly through lower bond yields - eg Sweden and Finland in the 1990s)
  • Fiscal correction should be biased towards spending cuts. Successful consolidations have typically placed around 80% of the burden on spending cuts; 20% on tax rises (cf Labour's fiscal tightening following the 1967 devaluation which loaded too much on tax rises and proved unsustainable)
  • Persistance: initial failure does not mean it can't be done (eg Canada had three failed attempts before succeeding)
It is an extraordinarily thorough paper, and just for future reference, here is the summary table listing the twelve cases examined, and showing how much spending was cut in each one (click on image to enlarge):
 



As we can see, all 12 involved real spending reductions, disproving the assertion we began with. The 1920s Geddes Axe (see this blog) was by far the most severe, but the 1976 IMF 4% cut was also pretty chunky.

The bottom line is that substantial spending cuts are always possible. Never easy, but always possible. And in terms of going for growth they are infinitely preferable to tax rises.

But what is needed more than anything else is will - the will to do it. And that's where right now we still seem to be some way off the pace.

The historic experience surveyed in this paper reminds us that the politicians rarely lead the public in this respect. There needs to be a palpable sense of crisis, of the the kind we oldies can recall from the 1970s. It was the emergency summons to the IMF that forced the policy action, but the sense of crisis had been brewing for much longer.

And for those who don't remember, the PolicyExchange paper helpfully provides a series of splendid quotes from the time:
  • ‘Good-bye Great Britain. It was nice knowing you.’  Headline of Wall Street Journal article advising readers to withdraw from sterling investments, 29th April 1975.
  • ‘England ist kein entwickeltes Land mehr.’ [‘England is no longer a developed country’] West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
  • ‘RIGSBY:This country gets more like the boiler room of the Titanic every day: confused orders from the bridge, water swirling around our ankles. The only difference is they had a band.’  Eric Chappell, Rising Damp, popular TV sitcom, 1977 (pic).

Those who forget the lessons of history are of course condemned to repeat them. But do we really have to sit through the entire back catalogue of 1970s sitcoms before we act?

PS This paper has a lot of nice charts - well worth a persusal. One of my favourites is this one which neatly summarises something we've blogged many times on BOM - the inverse relationship between longterm GDP growth and the share of public spending in GDP:


Now, what could be clearer than that?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Going For Growth



Time to get serious

When it comes to the economic growth, the fundamental difference between socialists and free marketeers is that socialists believe you can buy growth with taxpayers' money.

So today we heard Gordo's Chief Secretary to the Treasury - the person whose very job is to rein in public spending - once again telling us that cutting public spending to tackle the fiscal deficit would undermine the prospects for growth.

Why's that wrong?

At the risk of boring you, let's just remind ourselves.

It's wrong because public spending droppeth not as the gentle rain from heaven: by an unfortunate freak of nature, it all has to be paid for. And the payment can only come from one place - whether it's taxes today or taxes tomorrow, taxpayers end up paying.

And what taxpayers have to pay in tax, they cannot spend on other things. And when workers have to pay more tax on the fruits of their labours, they labour rather less, producing fewer of those other things in the first place. And when investors have to pay more tax on their profits, they invest rather less. And when taxpayers have to pay too much tax, they up sticks and leave altogether.

Now, this might not matter too much if our current fiscal deficit was simply the result of a short-term cyclical downturn. But it isn't. It's primarily the result of this clothead government spending far too much money through the good times (the OECD says that of their forecast 14% UK government deficit next year, around three-quarters is structural, not cyclical).

Government borrowing?

Well, yes, in the short-term, sure. Why not.

But in the longer term (ie the other side of the next election), our creditors have made clear they expect to see some serious belt-tightening. They are simply not prepared to go on financing one pound in every four HMG spends, as is. Unless HMG mends its ways pronto, we will find ourselves facing penal interest rates, a international investors' strike, and a collapse of the currency. None of which would be awfully good GDPwise.

Which leaves just two options.

The first is inflation: the classic cop-out for a bankrupt government, and almost certainly Labour's unspoken gameplan - just like it was back in the 70s.

Unfortunately, inflation is most unlikely to stimulate GDP growth. It impoverishes savers, cranks up uncertainty, almost always gets out of hand, and has all kinds of other nasty effects beloved of economic theorists but far too tedious to set out here.

So if inflation is out, we're left with just one coherent long-term plan - cut public spending, as recommended so many many times before.

Which is why Cam's interview with Marr this am was moderately encouraging.

He told us there'd be a Tory budget within 50 days of an election victory - good - and unlike the plain Age of Austerity message he and George delivered at last month's Tory Conference, this morning he emphasised that his budget would "go for growth".

As many people noted at the time, growth was the vital ingredient missing last month. And cutting spending against the background of a growing economy is going to be a whole heap easier than cutting in the teeth of an ongoing recession.

So how do we actually go for growth?

All together now - CUT TAXES. Especially those on enterprise and employment.

And no, it won't be easy: with a fiscal deficit around 14% of GDP, there is no money for anything. But cutting taxes really is the only known way in which government's can stimulate sustainable long-term growth (see many previous blogs).

PS Just so we know, cutting Corporation Tax by one percentage point would cost £1bn next year.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Earning Your Pharmacist An Honest Crust



May I tick your boxes?

As we may have mentioned before, Tyler is a major league drug user. And not all of them are for recreational purposes: he routinely ingests an amusing cocktail of prescription drugs to keep a lid on his wayward immune system.

So the other day he's visiting his local chemist to pick up the latest crateful, when he's accosted by the pharmacist (see here for previous pharmaceutical encounters). Would Tyler care to enter her consultation room for a quick word?

Consultation room?

"Yes, yes, it's a bit more private in there."

Private? Why private? Is she going to break bad news? Has there been some horrible mix-up? Has Tyler inadvertantly been taking those drugs they use to chemically castrate elephants? No wonder he's been feeling a little lacklustre of late.

"Mr Tyler, we've noticed that you've never had a medicines use review." The keen young pharmacist brandishes the form she's holding. "If I just run though this with you, we can make sure you're getting the right medication."

"But I already have an annual review with my GP, and I'm also under a consultant."

"Ah yes, but they look at your body - we look at your medicines. We can advise you on them."

"Hmm... well, OK."

"Fantastic! Now, these first pills, how do you take them?"

"I... er... swallow them."

"Fantastic!" She ticks a box. "And how often do you take them?"

"Well, once a day, like it says on the instructions."

"Fantastic!" She ticks another box. "And do you have any side effects?"

"No... otherwise I'd have gone back to my consultant."

"Fantastic!" Another box ticked.

I could go on, but you get the idea. By the end of my 3 minutes, she must have ticked a dozen boxes. And what advice did she have for me?

"Well, you seem to be taking all your medicines correctly, and there's nothing I can suggest in terms of lifestyle to help your condition."

So no advice.

Fantastic.

But what was really going on?

The pharmacist was earning herself - or at least her company - £28 from the NHS. Which for 5 minutes work isn't bad (£336 per hour). That's what she gets paid for conducting a Medicines Use Review (MUR) under a scheme set up by the NHS to make sure patients comply - yes, that is the word they use - with the instructions they've been given.

You can sort of understand how the commissars dreamed up the scheme. After all, they spend well over £8bn pa on prescription drugs in England alone, and that bill has doubled in ten years. The last thing they want is for we punters not to be taking them properly.

But is 5 minutes with Sharon ticking boxes in her consultation cupboard really going to help?

Seems unlikely. In fact from what Tyler saw, it looked more like money for old rope.

And what does the whole exercise cost us?

According to the official stats, the number of MURs is soaring. Between 2006-07 and 2007-08 MURs roughly doubled to over a million. Which at 28 quid a pop comes in at around £30m - a considerable sum in these straightened times. Especially when you remember that pharmacies in England and Wales already earn getting on for £1bn pa from the NHS just for dispensing fees (ie not including the cost of the drugs):



Which is presumably why the commissars have imposed a limit on how many MURs an individual pharmacy can conduct - 400 pa.

But how does that work exactly? Who decides which punters are going to get MURRED? Sharon told Tyler she could tell immediately he didn't really need a MUR because he wasn't a batty old lady. But she went ahead and did it anyway.

And come to that, isn't the whole shebang open to massive fraud? How can the commissars possibly tell that the MUR has actually taken place? Tyler signed nothing, and Sharon retained the tickbox form.

Oh, guess what - the whole shebang is open to massive fraud. And it turns out there is a massive fraud investigation underway. The NHS's own Counter Fraud Service (oh yes, the NHS needs one of its very own) is on the case, and has already discovered that the payment system was set up by a particularly unworldly four year old:

"Pharmacists declare to NHS Prescription Services how many MURs they have performed during the month when they send their monthly FP10s for processing, and they are paid £28 for each one. They do not submit MUR forms or disclose patient names in support of their declarations, although they do send GPs lists of patients whom they declare have received MURs."

There is no procedure for checking that the claims marry up with what the GPs have been told. Still less is there a procedure for checking whether the MURs have actually taken place. Fraud is almost certainly rife.

Needless to say, the pharmacists are squawking. It seems they don't want to be investigated, and they reckon the case cannot proceed because of "patient confidentiality concerns". So the entire investigation is now on hold while m'learned friend is consulted - no doubt at further considerable taxpayer expense.

Now, just imagine you're a pharmacist. You'd probably be knocking off as many of these £28 "consultations" as you could possibly manage, before the opportunity disappears. You'd also be ticking patient boxes like fury to get some kosher records on file ahead of Inspector Knacker's forthcoming visit.

Let's hope they still have time to make sure Tyler doesn't get any more of those elephant pills.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Project Overruns Getting Worse




The TaxPayers' Alliance has just updated its analysis of cost overruns on large government projects.

The headline conclusion is that they're getting worse, with an average 38% overrun compared to the 34% identified in 2007. In cash terms the overruns now amount to £19bn, or £750 for every single British household.

The TPA's John O'Connell has waded through the details of 240 projects (well done John), but the top five culprits will be very familiar to BOM readers:
  • NPfIT - the NHS supercomputer is currently overrunning by £10.4bn (450% of its original budget)
  • 2012 Olympics - £6.9bn overrun (290%)
  • Astute Class Submarine - £1.3bn (48%)
  • Type 45 Destroyer - £1.0bn (18%)
  • Nimrod MRA4 - £0.8bn (28%)
And we might just note that these bald totals - shocking though they are - almost certainly understate the real overruns because of the various tricks routinely deployed by the commissars to limit their blushes.

For example, the 28% programme overrun on Nimrod needs to be adjusted for the fact that we were originally meant to get 21 planes for £2bn - £95m each. But we're now paying £3.6bn for 9 aircraft- £400m each. That's a unit price increase of 321% (see various BOM posts eg here).

[NB - the first version of this post was incorrect, for which many apologies. As commenter Think Defence pointed out, we are no longer getting the 12 aircraft we originally quoted: we are now only getting 9. Which means the unit cost is actually £400m. Thank you Think Defence - we now feel even more depressed].

And as we blogged just last week, the commissars have only been able to restrict their admitted overrun for the 2012 Olympics to £6.9bn, by hiding a further £2.7bn elsewhere. Adding that back in means the overrun is already standing at £8.6bn, or 360%.

It's not all bad news. Many of the projects listed in the TPA report are actually on budget - or at least, they are to the extent we can take the official numbers at face value. But a quick eye-balling of the list suggests they tend to be the small ones (we'll investigate further).

As we've blogged before, experience around the world is that 90% of public projects blow their intial budget.

Why?

It's that old toxic mix of incompetence and salami slicing (ie officials/politicos deliberately understating the initial costs in order to get the go-ahead). Everyone knows it's endemic in public projects, and HM Treasury has even developed a detailed methodology meant to deal with it.

HMT calls it optimism bias. But as this TPA paper underlines, you'd need to be a particularly starry-eyed optimist to believe there's any cure.

Other than dismantling Big Government, that is.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Latest Shopper Triumph



Great data... shocking shopping


"An NHS trust has hired dozens and possibly hundreds of illegal immigrants through one of its biggest private cleaning contractors.

The company involved is ISS which employs over 40,000 people around the UK through contracts it holds with the NHS and blue chip companies.

The UK Border Agency has uncovered hundreds of fake documents submitted to Kingston Hospital, including security passes, national insurance numbers and passports.

A senior manager of ISS has been arrested on suspicion of skimming money from the illegal immigrants for cleaning and catering staff."
So who's to blame?

Well, according to C4, ISS is in the firing line:

"ISS is being questioned about the status, role and pay of hundreds of its cleaners and catering staff, facing allegations over the issuing of fake passports and national Insurance numbers and facing the possibility of a multi million pound fine."
If those allegations turn out to be true, then ISS must be fired from all its government contracts, and never ever hired again.

But beyond that, this has all the hallmarks of a problem only too familiar to BOM readers - the Simple Shopper.

Our guess is that the Shopper hired ISS to clean Kingston's Hospitals because they looked cheap. And our guess is that once hired, ISS got very little by way of practical day-to-day supervision from the Shopper. In all likelihood, the Trust didn't even want to consider the possibility that its non-English speaking cleaners might be illegal immigrants.

(A quick Google reveals that Kingston Trust has got previous. In 2008 they were suspected of massaging their MRSA data by cutting down on the number of blood tests conducted - don't ask, don't tell.)

The fact is - as we've blogged before - contracting out vital services like hospital cleaning is fraught with difficulty.

Unless the contractors are subject to close supervision - which generally they are not - all kinds of nasties develop. Illegal immigrants are the least of them (see this classic post by the Doc - Joseph Lister and the plastic dog turd).

As we've blogged many times before, when Tyler's Mum was a nurse in a pre-NHS flagship hospital, the ward sister was responsible for keeping the ward clean. Yes, there were cleaners who did the work, but Sister was responsible for the results, and had authority over them.

Which is why hospitals were infused with Dettol rather than MRSA.

And why they weren't cleaned by anonymous illegal immigrants.

PS As for the rest of C4 News this pm, I gathered that Europe's High Representative boonies have now been divvied up amongst a bunch of grey commissars nobody has ever heard of (cf the Soviet Union), our Deputy Prime Minister has been charged with serious motoring offences (including the offence of Gross Hypocrisy in respect of using a mobile whilst driving), and a bunch of sharks are moored in Lyme Bay (as cribbed from this morning's Mail). My friends, we are rapidly heading into the darkness.

Meanwhile, Back In The Real World...




Sharks can smell blood from miles out

Following yesterday's shameless expoitation of HM the Queen by the ghastly Gordo, we got the latest fix on government finances back in the real world.

As you will know, yesterday Gord promised to halve the government's deficit while simultaneously pledging to increase spending on such things as care for the elderly. We have no idea how would achieve that, and more to the point, neither has he.

Today we learn that government borrowing in the real world has continued to spiral. It now stands at £87bn in the financial year to date, over 150% higher than the comparable figure last year.

This reflects both the collapse in tax revenues - down around £30bn compared to last year - and a surge in spending - up around £20bn. Indeed, as we pointed out last month, things are now so bad, the cumulative current deficit literally disappeared off the ONS official chart sometime during the summer- it could be anywhere by now:


Despite previous official spin, Tyler's trusty back of envelope says HMG is now on track for 2009-10 borrowing well in excess of £200bn (as against the £175bn forecast in the April budget). The envelope says that by end-October last year the government had borrowed just 40% of its 2008-09 total. Applying that same percentage to the £87bn they've borrowed so far this year gives a total for the year of around £217bn.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the real world, retail sales are booming. Sales are up 3.4% compared to last year, and 5.8% over two years - ie this is not simply a recovery from extreme weakness last year.

What should we read into that?

Well, zero interest rates are stoking up a further unsustainable spending binge (cf the bubbles we've seen in the housing and equity markets). It is the economics of short-term gain and long-term pain.

Unsurprisingly, consumer price inflation is picking up again. And despite the spin that it's all to do with fuel prices "stabilising" after a period last year when they fell, the truth is that the prices of 60% of the items comprising the CPI basket are are already rising at or above the government's 2% target. The CPI is only being held down by sharp falls in clothing and footwear (where sales are also down sharply), and smaller falls in gas and electricity prices.

Despite the consensus view that inflation is dead, plenty of pretty sharp operators are betting UK prices will push on up. This morning the Mail reports:

"Sharks off the British coast: Oil tankers refuse to unload until prices rise... keeping YOUR fuel costs soaring
Laden with fuel, three oil tankers sit idly within sight of the British coastline (pic above), playing a waiting game that is driving up petrol prices for hard-pressed motorists.
They are part of a flotilla of ten vessels refusing to unload their cargo until market speculation has driven up its price to the level they want."
The Mail seems to be suggesting the Navy boards and orders them ashore. But we don't blame the sharks at all. Sharks are an essential part of the economic ecosphere. They're in the risk biz, and they will suffer if they turn out to be wrong about the outlook for petrol prices.

But sharks ain't dumb - everyone knows they can smell blood from miles away.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

With Great Love And Respect


We'll pass an Act - problem solved

Queen's fairytale day again. And the centrepiece this year is reportedly a Fiscal Responsibility Act, which will impose a legal requirement on government to cut the budget deficit.

So what happens if they don't? Personal fines for backsliding spending ministers? Jail for the Chancellor?

Yes, you guessed it - there are no legal sanctions at all. This shocking bunch of busted shysters reckons we'll believe yet another promise to go straight simply because they've framed it as a law (cf their laws to outlaw child poverty, reverse global warming, ensure universal happiness, etc etc).

What a joke. As BOM's old friend the Prof says:
“Fiscal responsibility acts are instruments of the fiscally irresponsible to con the public.”

The Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies says:
“It is not obvious why anybody should be more persuaded by this than they ended up being impressed by the Code for Fiscal Stability which was enshrined in statute with much fanfare in 1998.”

When Evan Davis tackled Mandy about this on BBC Today, the old queen was so empty handed he was even driven to a "with great love and respect". All he could offer was a ludicrous claim that, although the intellectual elite might not be impressed - because, you see, they've got their own anti-Labour agenda - the Act was necessary to reassure the public. Apparently we peasants are so dumb we will still believe a Labour promise if it's dressed up as an Act of Parliament.

Look, we strongly favour explicit fiscal rules. The evidence from around the world suggests that governments are much more likely to maintain fiscal discipline if they announce upfront the quantified rules under which they will manage expenditure, taxation, and borrowing (the IMF is about to publish a new research paper on worldwide experience, which we will read and blog).

But to be credible the rules have to be in the hands of a government that demonstrates it will stick to them. And this government long ago demonstrated precisely the opposite.

Labour now has zero credibility. It is morally and intellectually bankrupt, and no amount of new Fiscal Responsibility Acts will change that.

We desperately need a fresh start under a new government with a clean new set of explicit fiscal rules. Yes, they will have to earn their credibility, particularly after Brown's abysmal performance. But credibility cannot be earned simply by passing another Act.

PS The Major wants to know if he's still in the real world, or whether he slipped away peacefully during the night. According to him, the BBC has just appointed Gordon the Gopher as its head of compliance on £110k a year. So the man that used to make a living by pushing his hand up Gordon's bottom is now in charge of taste, decency and balance at our state broadcaster. Come to that, Tyler is beginning to doubt his own presence among us. How do you tell if you exist, again?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big And Inefficient


We all know our public sector wastes squillions, but just how inefficient is it? How does it look against public sectors elsewhere in the world?

There are a number of studies that have attempted to answer such questions. One of the best known was published by the European Central Bank in 2003 - Public Sector Efficiency: An International Comparison, by Afonso, Schuknecht, and Tanzi.

The ECB study seeks to compare the outputs of government with their costs. The costs comprise the share of government expenditure in GDP, which is straightforward. The outputs are more difficult to measure, but include a wide range of indicators, from economic growth and stability, to health and educational outcomes (see paper for more detail).

These calculations are done for 23 industrialised OECD economies, and comparisons made.

Overall, the study finds that the most efficient government sectors are those in the US, Japan, and Switzerland.

The UK is by no means the worst, but lags way behind the leaders. Indeed, if our government could achieve the same level of efficiency as the three leaders, we could save roughly £140bn pa relative to the current level of UK government spending. Which would go a long way towards digging us out of Brown's hole.

And the study gives a very interesting insight into the relationship between efficiency and size. And guess what - it turns out the most efficient governments are also the smallest.

Here's a chart we've put together comparing each government's efficiency score with its cost as a share of GDP (note: the efficiency scores relate to 2000, and the GDP shares are averages for the previous decade):



As we can see, efficiency tends to decline quite markedly as government gets bigger. On average, for every 10 percentage point increase in government's share of GDP, efficiency declines by 15-20% (the estimated parameter says 16.6%, but let's not get too precise, especially since this is a simple linear regression).

The bottom line is that if you want to have big government, you have to accept a high degree of inefficiency (aka waste). In our chart, the very biggest government belonged to Sweden, and its efficiency levels were correspondingly abysmal (interestingly, over recent years Sweden has been slimming down its bloated public sector, partly through those school reforms we hear so much about).

To put this another way, the only countries that can afford Big Government are rich countries that can bear the costs of its inefficiency. The UK can certainly no longer afford that luxury.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ignoring The People



Magnifique!

The EU is one of those issues where the ruling elite systematically ignores the wishes of the British people. As the Major is forever reminding me, our rulers have led us into the clutches of an anti-democratic superstate on the false pretence that it was going to make us richer.

The truth - as we've blogged many times - is that right now, today, we'd be just as well off economically if we withdrew. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that we'd be better off, because we'd escape all the membership costs.

Now the TPA has produced a brilliant cinema ad (above) highlighting the largest of those costs. They include:
  • £10.3 bn pa on the Common Agricultural Policy (higher prices, state aid, and additional bureaucracy)
  • £2.8 bn pa on the Common Fisheries Policy
  • £80bn pa from EU-wide VAT fraud
  • £1.8m pa for each MEP
  • £500bn pa from the extra admin burden placed on EU companies
Overall, the annual costs to the UK are put at £2000 pa for each and every one of us.

You don't believe it?

The figures are all documented in a new book by the very excellent Dr Lee Rotherham - Ten Years On: Britain without the EU (normally it will cost you £5.99, but if you're very quick you can get one free - yes, FREE - from those nice people at the TPA. And a jaw-dropping read it is too.

Now, the economic costs are bad enough, but there is also the cost in terms of our freedom. The EU has never been driven by democracy and never will be. It is rule by an unelected commissariat.

It is supremely ironic that the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down has been marked by huge celebrations on the BBC, St Bonio himself presiding over festivities in Berlin. Yet as Pravda points out, rule by EU is chillingly similar to Soviet rule:

"As recently as 2006, a most eloquent and insightful warning was given by former Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. Traumatized by the experience of living in the Soviet Union, Bukovsky noted the deeply disturbing similarities between the old Soviet Union and the blueprints for the EU super state. The European Commission, he noted, was the exact equivalent of the old Soviet Politbureau, in terms of the secretive way power was exercised, the recruitment and personalities of its members and the scope and reach of its decisions. The “European Parliament” today (and under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty) is a mere rubber stamp institution, just like the “Supreme Soviet” of the old USSR.
As a matter of fact, there are so many similarities between the old Soviet Union and the EU that mere coincidence is unlikely. Bukovsky argues the EU was designed to be like the old USSR. The architects of the EU? Mostly social democrats, whom Stalin quite aptly called “Social Fascists.”

And on Not Born Yesterday, John Ward makes a similar point:

"The people of East Germany (and those of other former Soviet satellites who have joined the EU) are, I do not doubt, happier than they were under the USSR. But looked at objectively, their change of sides will, I fear, be seen in time as exchanging one rigid oligarchy for another."

Is it surprising that so many of us want to stop this right now? Even after nearly four decades in the EU, two-thirds of us favour either a looser relationship based on trade, or complete withdrawal.

But how do we get our ruling elite to listen?

How do we force them to act?

A referendum is the obvious step. But with Mr Cam now having ruled it out, how do we get one?

There are alas, no easy answers. It will be a long hard slog to persude our politicos it would be in their own best interests to listen to the people.

But in the short term we should at least all contact our MPs and make sure they are under no illusions as to where we stand.

And on that front, a new campaign has just started - The Albion Alliance - that is campaigning for a referendum. We suggest you pop over and join, as we've just done.

There are no easy answers, but every little bit will help.

PS Talking of issues where the ruling elite completely ignore our views, over the weekend there was an interesting poll in the Times. Despite all the expensive propaganda from the BBC and the government, 60% of us still do not believe man is primarily responsible for climate change. And yet the Copenhagen circus continues on its pointless way, and all the chief climate commissar could say was: “The overwhelming body of scientific information is stacked up against the deniers and shows us that climate change is man-made and is happening now. We know that we still have a way to go in informing people about climate change and that is why we make no apologies about pushing forward with our new Act on CO2 campaign.” So it doesn't matter that their published "evidence" is wafer thin, mainly comprising the output of various dodgy forecasting models. Somehow we're just meant to take the word of big government politicos and their terminally conflicted climate change bureaucrats.WTF would we do that?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fag-End Fascists Take One Last Swing At Guildford



A city targeted for significant change

Throughout the long dark night of socialist hegemony, the plucky folk of Guildford have stood tall. Their worldly goods may have been pillaged to fund the fatherland, their schools and hospitals may have been run down and closed, they may have been threatened with the installation of giant toxic waste incinerators, and their council may have been subjugated to direct Gauleiter rule. Yet despite all these grievous trials, they have never buckled.

But now, just when it seemed deliverance was at hand, they find themselves face to face with the ultimate Vengeance Weapon: the destruction of vast swathes of green belt land to accommodate the forced construction of thousands of new homes, and the designation of Guildford as a zone of "significant change".

"If the Government's regional plan has its way, the town of Guildford will extend another mile out into the Green Belt countryside. What is currently farm and woodland, laced with grazing cows, public footpaths, old oak and ash trees, will be transformed into a two -to-four thousand-home suburb with new access roads from the A3.

The small country station of Clandon will become a transport interchange. The 18th-century National Trust property of Clandon Park, noted for its white marble hall and its attractive gardens with parterre and grotto, will look out over the new sprawl of Greater Guildford. Guildford itself will be that little bit closer to joining up with Woking, and thus with a near-continuous line of development all the way up to London."

Now, let's be absolutely clear - the locals do not want this (well, they don't if we exclude the developers who've bought farmland in the expectation of cleaning up). The local council has launched a legal challenge to stop it, the local MP is opposing it, and local residents groups are up in arms.

The only reason the plan is even on the agenda at all is because Labour's entirely unelected regional planning quango says it has to happen.

Why does it have to happen?

Well, because there aren't enough houses.

And why aren't there enough houses?

Well, because some idiot allowed 3 million immigrants into the country in the last 12 years, and 75% of them have settled in London and the South East.

It's NIMBY to object?

Well, yes, it is... and your point? It's called my back yard because it is my back yard. It doesn't belong to some commissar to do with as he wishes. New housing development and planning generally should be under the control of locally elected councillors not quangocrats. Just like it always used to be.

True, the plan for Greater Guildford isn't actually going to happen. The Scots fascists will be out soon enough, and Guildford will live to breathe another day.

But we need to see Mr Cam actually delivering on those promises of localism pdq. We need to see him dismantling the instruments of state control, and handing real power back to local councils. Local communities should not be forced to accept huge irreversible changes to their lives just because of some fascistic masterplan dictated by Whitehall.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Relax - They're Only Murderers

So let's get this straight. For some reason the Major and I haven't quite been able to fathom, Mr Barrowclough decided to let out convicted murderer Patricia Gillette to go shopping in Bromley. Amazingly, she legged it, and is now on the loose among us.

Well, maybe it's not so bad. Maybe she's one of those unlucky moment-of-madness type murderers, rather than a full-on hardcore headcase.

No. Det Supt Gary Gornell has issued the following urgent warning to the public:


"This individual is dangerous and we need to apprehend her as soon as possible. If anyone sees her, please don't approach her, but call police immediately."
Still, hopefully you won't be the one who'll encounter Ms Gillette up that dark alley. So everything will be fine.

Although come to think of it, you may encounter convicted murderer Brian Clayton. Despite the fact that he'd already absconded once before, Mr Barrowclough decided to let him out to go shopping in Solihull last month. Amazingly, Clayton legged it, and is now on the loose among us.



Police say he is also dangerous and anyone seeing him should dial 999 immediately.

Of course, convicted murderers don't have to escape in order to come back among us. Loads of them just get let out on parole.

Yesterday we heard how convicted murderer Mark Shirley was released last year, and within months was attempting to re-enact the horrific murder for which he had been jailed.

"Giving evidence, the victim fought back tears as she relived the "disgusting" attack. She said Shirley repeatedly alluded to his murder victim, but she had no idea what he was talking about.

She said: "He said he once knew a lady, a sweet lady and her name was Mary. He kept saying I was a trustable and sweet lady like her." She told the court that he said he was going to “cut me to make me smell as sweet as Mary.”

The woman said Shirley raped and sexually assaulted her on her own kitchen table. The attack stopped only when the woman’s son returned home, and Shirley fled."
It is absolutely outrageous. The only reason this poor woman had to go through this is because the hand wringing liberals who preside over our criminal "justice" system quite deliberately released a convicted murderer into our midst. A murderer. Not a pick-pocket or a TV licence dodger, but a convicted MURDERER.

And what do these arrogant humbugs have to say for themselves?

"Mr Shirley's case has been referred to the Parole Board review committee. The review committee will consider and identify what lessons can be learnt from this case in order to help prevent further such incidents."
We can save them the time.

There is only one lesson, and it is this: convicted murderers should never ever be allowed out.

Either on parole or on shopping trips.

Is that so hard to understand?

Cost Of Aid Admin


Big overheads

We've blogged the waste and misdirection in the government's £7bn pa international aid programme many times (see all previous posts gathered here).

Now, Ben Farrugia of the TaxPayers' Alliance has taken a closer look at how much of the Department for International Development's (DfID) budget gets Lost Along the Way, before it ever reaches the people we're supposed to be helping.

His key finding is that around 14% is lost to administrative and other non-front line costs at DfID and the various external agencies through which it funnels the bulk of its aid - ie multilateral organisations such as the UN and the EU, and Non-Governmental Organisations such as Oxfam and the Red Cross.

That's a shocking overhead, which by next year will be costing us over £1bn pa.

 But even more shocking to Tyler is the the fact that it's the NGOs which are the worst offenders.

After all, we expect the UN and the EU to be bloated, inefficient, and self-serving - that's what tax-funded big government is all about. But most of these NGOs still purport to be charities. And charities are surely meant to be run on a shoestring by passionate enthusiasts working for a pittance. The TPA's summary table tells a rather different story:


So when the government channels our tax pounds through Oxfam, the Red Cross, and Christian Aid, it seems less than two-thirds reaches the frontline. The rest is overhead.

As it happens, Tyler has a particular and personal reason to be upset about Oxfam. Because many moons ago, it was while engaged on a fund raising project for Oxfam that he first set his eyes on sweet Mrs T.

At the time, Oxfam told us that virtually all the dosh was going to help real people starving in Africa and India. And wide-eyed young innocents that we were, we believed them.

Of course, back then Oxfam was probably more reliant on private donations rather than tax-funding . So maybe it was more careful with its costs. But these days, like many other "charities", Oxfam gets a fair chunk of its money from the taxpayer - just under one-third of its net income. And that can be a very corrosive arrangement, changing the entire ethos of a charity, and turning it into little more than another branch of government (see previous blogs, eg here and here).

Unfortunately, this problem looks set to get a whole lot worse. If Mr Cam is serious about replacing Big Government with The Big Society,we're going to making a lot more use of charities and "social entrepreneurs" in the field of welfare here at home. Which will mean yet more bodies pushing to get their snouts in the public trough.

All we can say is that Cam at least recognises the problem. A little commented-on paragraph from his poverty speech reads:
"If we are to break the culture of charities and social bodies being dependent on the state for hand-outs we need to look at how government can use loans alongside grants to help make them more sustainable and effective."

We're not at all clear how that would work in practice, but he should certainly implement a similar critical approach to the money we hand over to the aid NGOs.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Perspective From History



No time for a proper blog today, but Tyler is a sucker for long-term charts. So we must just pass on a chart from the IMF's latest World Economic Outlook. It shows the growth of world GDP since 1870, plotted against the ten major financial crises that cropped up over the period.

Some obvious points jump out:
  • Despite serious setbacks that seemed terminal at the time, we have always pulled through in the end: against the long-term upward trend - largely driven by technological advance - even the biggest crises now look like mere ripples.
  • The Great Depression was very painful, but the world economy actually recovered long before WW2 and all that enforced government spending
  • The three decades following WW2 really were a golden age
  • The crises seem to be getting more frequent, yet their impact on world GDP seems to be less
So what should we conclude?

First, we will come through our current difficulties. Inventiveness and enterprise will ultimately drive us forward once again.

Second, financial crises are part and parcel of the way we progress. They don't mean the market system is bust, and they don't mean the end of capitalism.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Time For Not Having Much Of A Choice



Ah, but we were so much older then

This evening Tyler inbibed a beer or two with a very sound, and very well informed, think-tank cove from across the silver sea.

This particular cove knows our sceptr'd isle very well; indeed, Tyler realised he's a bit of an anglophile on the QT. For example, he reckons our relatively small contribution to the the war in Afghanistan is absolutely essential to the entire effort - and from a military, not a political standpoint. Viewed from Washington, it seems our guys really are The Best (well ex-US, obviously).

Naturally, we fell to discussing next year's UK election.

Is Cam going to win?

Sure.

But is he going to do the biz?

Hmm... maybe not. He looks more like SuperMac Mk II - he's even got the guy's photo hanging in his office, for Gawd's sake.

Yeah... hmm... depressing... how would SuperMac have coped with the need to cut public spending by 10-15%?

Right... but what about the US? HTF is St Obama going to cope with the US problems?

Hmm... yes... hmmm...

Hmm.....

Isn't there someone out there, who maybe we don't yet know, who's going to get a grip? Who's going to provide some leadership?

Well, there's Bobby Jindal.

Say what?

Bobby Jindal - he's the Indian Governor of Louisiana... brilliant... except... he can't do big speeches.

Hmmm....

What we really need is someone like Reagan.

Yeah! Right!

A time for choosing... 1964... have you seen that?

No... no, I haven't.

Well, you should.

So I have. And you should too (vid above). It really is a slice of that Old Time Religion.

If only we had such a choice now.

Even if it did take Reagan another 16 years before he made the White House.