So they’ve worked out how to do the propaganda then

This is not quite what people seem to think it is. The report seems to show that people are happy with restrictions and taxes if they are for the common good. Thus we should go and tax meat. But that’s really not quite what is actually being said:

Taxing meat to simultaneously tackle climate change and improve global health would be far less unpalatable than governments think, according to new research.

Meat production produces 15% of all greenhouse gases – more than all cars, trains, planes and ships combined – and halting global warming appears near impossible unless the world’s fast growing appetite for meat is addressed.

The new analysis says this could be done through taxes, increasing vegetarian food in schools, hospitals and the armed forces and cutting subsidies to livestock farmers, all supported by public information campaigns.

The research, from the international affairs thinktank Chatham House and Glasgow University, involved surveys and focus groups in 12 countries and found that even measures restricting peoples’ behaviour could be accepted if seen as in the public interest, as was seen with smoking bans.

“Governments are ignoring what should be a hugely appealing, win-win policy,” said lead author Laura Wellesley, at Chatham House.

“The idea that interventions like this are too politically sensitive and too difficult to implement is unjustified. Our focus groups show people expect governments to lead action on issues that are for the global good. Our research indicates any backlash to unpopular policies would likely be short-lived as long as the rationale for action was strong.”

What they have actually found is that if they dress up the policy that they already desire as being something that is for the common good then people will complain less. Something which is obviously true, every orator and politician has known for ever that the more you appeal to peoples’ extant prejudices the more ridiculous the policy you can get them to swallow.

What Chatham House has just done is discover how to produce the propaganda for meat taxes, nothing else. And well done them of course, although quite when Chatham House got into the propaganda business we’re not quite sure.

So, that DECC’s renewables plans entirely up in smoke then

One of the little fables, falsities really, of the DECC’s approach to climate change rests upon just the one number. And that’s what is the price of natural gas per therm going to be off into the future. We could assume that the price will be roughly the same as today. Or it might fall as a result of fracking, or it might rise as a result of supplies running out. But we obviously do need to make a forecast because that’s the only way we can work out whether those damn windmills and so on are ever going to be economic.

So what DECC did was assume that gas prices would roughly double from their current level. In that manner they could then say that those windmills would in fact be cheaper. Not because the windmills are cheaper now, nor because they’re going to become cheaper in the future, but because the gas price is going to double.

They were very insistent about supporting this too. We recall one of their pronouncements being that fracking wouldn’t reduce the price at all. Because it would all be exported we think was the mantra. Then they said, well, maybe, a few percent reduction: look, here’s a report about Cuadrilla’s find which says 3 or 4% reduction in price!

Yes, well, that report was actually about the price impact of just he extra gas find that Cuadrilla had announced as the result of just the one borehole: and that price reduction applied to the entirety of the connected European gas market. Obviously the entirety of the Bowland Shale was going to have a larger impact than that.

But everything, the whole shooting match, the entire strategy of solar, windmills, nuclear and everything, has been based upon that one single number: the price of natural gas is going to double.

DECC’s latest projections assume average gas prices for this year of 47 pence per therm, down from the 62p it projected last year.
It estimates the price will barely rise over the next four years, remaining at just 49p/therm in 2019, and only ticking up slightly to 52p/therm in 2020.
A year ago it had expected prices of 60.3p/therm in 2020, while two years ago it was forecasting they could hit 73.8p/therm.

Ooops! And of course the decline in price is being driven by that fracking that would never affect the UK price. Tight oil fracking in the US has driven down the oil price, to which many gas contracts are linked, and gas fracking has increased the amount of LNG sloshing around the world markets. These price decreases being before anyone’s even considered whatever may be fracked right here at home.

The entire strategy thus needs to be re-examined. Starting with those numbers for what the future price of gas might be.

And of course, this is also why planning centrally of anything doesn’t work. Here it’s obvious that, to put it at its most kindly, people became wedded to a particular analysis and simply did not want to hear of changes to it (less kindly they manufactured that analysis to order). But even when that does not happen, we still end up with a plan which depends upon the assumptions which go into it. Rather than leaving things to market forces, which means that we get a multiplicity of plans, with a multiplicity of such assumptions.

Yes, it’s true, climate change isn’t a problem that entirely pure markets are likely to solve, involving as it does externalities. But that’s why the correct answer is to intervene in the market price, add in that externality, and then still have the markets with their mulitple answers and assumptions. Rather than the monolithic central plan reminiscent of Stalinism. Which has just failed as did that Stalinism, reality having to intrude.

Wisdom on housing and land from across The Pond

It’s a sad commentary on contemporary British politics that it would be almost impossible to even imagine an even vaguely lefty economic adviser making the following statement:

In today’s remarks, I will focus on how excessive or unnecessary land use or zoning regulations
have consequences that go beyond the housing market to impede mobility and thus contribute to
rising inequality and declining productivity growth.

While land use regulations sometimes serve reasonable and legitimate purposes, they can also
give extranormal returns to entrenched interests at the expense of everyone else. As such, land
use regulations are an example of a broader range of situations that may give rise to economic
rents. By this I do not mean the check you write to your landlord every month, but a situation in
which any factor of production—in this case, land—is paid more than is needed to put it in


I want to be clear from the outset, some land use regulations can be beneficial to communities
and the overall economy. There can be compelling environmental reasons in some localities to
limit high-density or multi-use development. Similarly, health and safety concerns—such as an
area’s air traffic patterns, viability of its water supply, or its geologic stability—may merit height
and lot size restrictions. But in other cases, zoning regulations and other local barriers to housing
development allow a small number of individuals to capture the economic benefits of living in a
community, thus limiting diversity and mobility. The artificial upward pressure that zoning
places on house prices—primarily by functioning as a supply constraint—also may undermine
the market forces that would otherwise determine how much housing to build, where to build,
and what type to build, leading to a mismatch between the types of housing that households
want, what they can afford, and what is available to buy or rent.

The tradeoffs inherent in land use regulations are well known and have been of concern to
policymakers and academics for decades, since at least 1961, when Jane Jacobs wrote The Death
and Life of Great American Cities. In it, she argued that limits on density and mixed-use
development, as well as an imbalance between preservation and new construction, can reduce
housing affordability, socioeconomic diversity, and economic activity.

That’s all from Jason Furman, currently chair of the Council of Economic Advisers to that well known right winger, President Obama. If only any single one of Jeremy Corbyn’s advisers, heck, if just one of two of those somewhat to the left of us were this clear on the cause of our basic housing problems then we’d be able to solve them by next Tuesday afternoon.

We simply place too many restrictions on who may build what, where. To solve the problem we thus have to remove some to all of those restrictions. And that really is it.

American police now steal more from the citizenry than the robbers do

There’s a good reason why we don’t arbitrarily allow the State or any of its agents to take the property of the citizenry. That reason being that however logical those first steps onto hte slippery slope seem it always, but always, descends into an orgy of said State and its agents plundering the population they are supposed to be protecting.

A case in point:

Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged +19.4% annually. In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989. Then by 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year. According to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.

The point of the police, of the criminal justice system in general, is to protect us from the thieves, not for them to become the thieves.

We in the UK have only just started down this road: we should change path immediately and go back to the old system. Once you’ve been convicted by a jury of your peers you can be fined, jailed, forced to pay compensation, all sorts of things. But absolutely nothing is due to the State until that jury has ruled.

We must regulate Bitcoin because…..?

We can fill in that “….” with whatever we want of course. For Bitcoin enables (despite whatever other fragilities we might think it has) people to transfer money around, do business, trade, without the intervening hand of the State. And that will never do: how can the functionaries of the State make sure they get paid if we just do things without paying them their tithe in tax?

And thus:

European Union countries plan a crackdown on virtual currencies and anonymous payments made online and via pre-paid cards in a bid to tackle terrorism financing after the Paris attacks, a draft document seen by Reuters said.

In more detail:

They will urge the European Commission, the EU executive arm, to propose measures to “strengthen controls of non-banking payment methods such as electronic/anonymous payments and virtual currencies and transfers of gold, precious metals, by pre-paid cards,” draft conclusions of the meeting said.

The bodies are not even buried yet, we know absolutely nothing at all about how this attack was financed. And yet everyone knows that cyber-currencies must be more regulated. Because……

Well, just because, because we cannot be allowed to do things beyond the purview of the State and any old excuse is a good enough because to make sure that that is not allowed to happen. The terrorists could have been using their own bank accounts and we’d still be having this clampdown. Because.