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"Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice" - Adam Smith

A role model for energy independence

Written by Dr Fred Hansen | Monday 31 December 2007

nuclear.jpgSome pundits guess America, long known for her unique exceptionalism, is roughly 50 years behind the French in realizing that Western security is jeopardized by the reliance on imported energy. Abandoned by her last ally in resistance to Kyoto carbon emission cuts - with Australia signing probably the most overrated and greatly dysfunctional treaty in human history - the US is expected to revive its nuclear industry after 30 years of stagnation.

Now, given that most of the Anglosphere looks set to be dominated by the secular left in years to come there is no guarantee that the nuclear renaissance will succeed. So let’s look at France, which as a country with no own energy resources to speak of, can serve as a role model for achieving energy independence.

It is the only country where the political left has not opposed civil nuclear energy. Over the last fifty years, that has enabled France to excel as a beacon of nuclear electricity generation worldwide – producing 80 percent of its electricity supply that way. Secondly, France has an exceptionally strong cultural appreciation of scientific progress - expressed in popular high-speed trains and the supersonic Concorde. Thirdly, the trust in French public service officials, who tend to be trained engineers - rather than lawyers as typical in the US – helped to maintain public confidence in the nuclear program. And finally, the excellent security record of the French nuclear industry - usually attributed to synergies from central management, reactor standardization, a better learning curve and better homogenous training facilities for personnel.

These are the lessons to learn for the US, which will need 35 new reactors to meet surging energy demand by 2050. It’s time to forget about Freedom Fries and just say ‘oui’.

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Power and Plenty III

Written by Tim Worstall | Monday 31 December 2007

Another snippet from this fascinating upcoming book, Power and Plenty:

Buringh and van Zabden show that European book production rose at roughly 1% per annum between the sixth and eighteenth centuries, from an annual production of roughly 120 manuscripts over the course of the sixth century to the 20 million books printed in 1790. 

The thing that leaps out at me is the incredible power of compounding: we often hear that we should give up this or that little bit of economic growth on this or that grounds, but in the long term that slowing of growth is extremely expensive, look what just 1% leads to.

Another illuminating little exercise is to look at, say, the effects of the Greenland ice cap melting. According to the IPCC this is booked in for sometime after 2500 AD if we don't change our ways. If we assume current trend growth rate (2.75% say...and always asuming that I've used this calculator correctly, no certain thing) then people in 493 years time will be 643,342 (and a bit) times richer than we are. If it is true that the rich should pay for global warming then shouldn't it be those in the future, those more than half a million times richer than we are?


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Blog Review 462

Written by Netsmith | Sunday 30 December 2007

 A nice little reminder of a basic classically liberal thought. Yes, we are against business gorging on the taxpayers' money, just as much as we are anyone else. Corporate welfare is no more admirable (and as compared to those who really need aid, less so) than any other kind.

An extraordinarily awful and depressing story of the vileness of which man is capable.

It would appear that the scientific credentials of those at the IPCC who have created the scientific consensus about climate change are less robust than is often thought. 

With stories like this it's difficult to believe that we have the very best patent system possible. 

Perhaps not the very bestest honours list ever? 

Just to dispel any rumours of Netsmith's philistinism, a sketch of 20 th century music trends and a wonderful art exhibition

And finally, the EU and comic characters. Please make up your own jokes about the EU as comic characters.

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On the sixth day of Christmas...

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Sunday 30 December 2007

My true love sent to me: six geese a-laying. In the song, this seems to refer to the six days of creation.

But talk of geese or turkeys makes me think rather of destruction - the destruction of birds due to bird flu, and indeed cattle due to BSE and foot & mouth. I don't know how much of these disasters should be put down to the diseases themselves and how much should be put down to government incompetence. When you have officialdom closing down agriculture for months on end and slaughtering tens of thousands of animals; viruses escaping from government research centres; Edwina Currie putting the nation off its eggs; Sir Liam Donaldson scaring us with the prospect of 50,000 human deaths from bird flu, then maybe government is the bigger threat.

That, of course, and the interest groups. These scarces are all very useful material for those who want us to give up eating meat entirely, those who want to protect UK agriculture from foreign imports, and those who are just against the modern international economy and want us to stop flying, stay at home, and live quietly in cabins on our smallholdings. In the scheme of things, AIDS, malaria, filthy water and road accidents are all bigger killers. Why don't we focus a bit more attention on them?

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Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Sunday 30 December 2007

Q. What did the cannibal get when he was late for dinner?
A. The cold shoulder.

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Power and Plenty II

Written by Tim Worstall | Sunday 30 December 2007

From Power and Plenty:

Another important economic link between Venice and the Ottoman Empire was the sale of high-quality Venetian woolen cloth to the latter. In the course of the 17th c., however, the Dutch and English, yet again, displaced Venice and the other Italian producers in the Levantine markets for these key manufactured goods. Charles Wilson pithily accounts for this by observing that "the Turks wanted cheap, light cloths. The Venetians offered dear, heavy ones." Constricted by guild regulations, Venice insisted on maintaining high quality and high prices. Meanwhile, northerners lowered quality and price... 

That old saw about those who ignore history being condemned to repeat it comes to mind really. Most obviously in the current success of clothing chains like Matalan and Primark: it appears that what the Brits want is cheap and light and so if you lower quality and lower price...

And so many  business disasters can be explained by that "constricted by guild regulation" line. No, it doesn't mean just unions, management has been just as purblind at times: the Austin Allegro was proof that there are things too light, too cheap and too low quality even for the British.

The basic lesson though is obvious, isn't it? The producers who actually provide what the consumers want prosper, those who attempt to supply what suits themselves do not. The next question I suppose is which side of that line Microsoft Vista belongs?

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Free market in hops 101

Written by Steve Bettison | Sunday 30 December 2007

hops.jpgThere may be trouble brewing for some microbreweries! A worldwide shortage of hops is starting to make its mark on the price of beer. The cost of some hops, the ingredient that gives beer its distinctive flavour, has quadrupled in price over recent years.

A whole host of factors are behind the current price rise: poor crops, bad weather, and most of all lower prices. All of which has led to a decrease in supply. This is a perfect example of supply and demand economics in action. The price fluctuations that the consumer sees are a reflection of a market that is free.

The price of hops had fallen in recent years due to over production and low demand from breweries. This meant that many producers left the market to grow other more profitable crops, such as cherries and apples. But then as hop production fell, beer had a resurgence in popularity. While the big companies have insulated themselves from this through futures contracts the microbreweries have been left to fight it out over the remainder. It’s all very apparent from the global hop acreage figures, which have fallen from 236,000 acres in 1992 to 123,000 in 2006.

Hops then wouldn't be a bad investment for the farmers of South East England. Unfortunately it takes three years for a hop field to produce, so in the meantime beer drinkers are going to face slightly different tasting and higher priced beers. And unfortunately for some microbreweries, they may go out of business, especially if the taste of their beers is not able to match up to the price.

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Blog Review 461

Written by Netsmith | Saturday 29 December 2007

Is it better to read a dead tree magazine? Or the online version? Chris Anderson thinks it's the paper version. Martin Stabe begs to disagree (sometimes).

More on the Danes and their tax rates and emigration. It's the English language that is doing some of the damage.

Even more: there's only one country that has tax laws which make such escapes impossible

A tawdry tale of what happens to the money extorted from us. 

As is increasingly happening, the arguments of Paul Krugman the columnist are refuted by those of Paul Krugman the economist. 

For those still unsure exactly what a CDO is (or why they've become a problem) here's the explanation. In short, too much of a good thing. 

And finally , a new political lexicon (the less polite description is the explanation of how politicians are lying to us: whether they are or not is of course not at issue). 

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On the fifth day of Christmas...

Written by Dr Eamonn Butler | Saturday 29 December 2007

My true love sent to me: five gold rings. It probably means the first five books of the Old Testament, but to me five rings means the Olympics, which are coming to London in 2012.

Well, they say that. But it's a typical government-led project, so who knows? The London bid for the games put the cost at £3,375m, but in March this year Tessa Jowell revealed that the cost had risen to £9,300m - a tripling of the costs in just a few months. Something of a black hole, which the hole-vaulting Culture Secretary explained as due to VAT, inflation, and a whopping £2,700m 'just in case things go wrong' fund (a figure larger than that the original estimate for building the entire Olympic Park. As the bulldozers move in, it cannot give much confidence to their operators that the costs of all this, including their wages, are still being calculated.

The Scottish Parliament building started with an estimate of £40m and ended up costing £400m. Still, we taxpayers can afford it, can't we?

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Joke of the day

Written by Jokesmith | Saturday 29 December 2007

One day, Uncle Joe got fired from his construction job. His nephew asked him what happened.
"You know what a foreman is?" he asked. "The one who stands around and watches the other men work?"
"What's that got to do with it?" he asked.
"Well, he just got jealous of me," Uncle Joe explained. "Everyone thought I was the foreman."

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