Ready to cut you down


According to Jacqui Smith, public demand means people will be able to pre-register for an ID card within the next few months. She said: "I regularly have people coming up to me and saying they don't want to wait that long."

What tosh! The only people who would want to talk to her are slimy obsequious fools, one rung down from most politicians on the evolutionary scale. ID Cards are deeply unpopular. As I have written previously, they are one of the only issues that all newspapers are against.

In the same piece I suggested a bonfire of ID Cards, if and when we are in position where we are forced either explicitly or implicitly to carry one. A comment rightly suggested that the fumes would be too much, and that instead we should shred them. Good idea. Perhaps one of those industrial wood chippers would do the job?

For a number of years politicians have been assiduously stripping away our hard fought freedoms like cork from the Quercus suber. Now they are getting out the axe and preparing to strike. The yell of timber is not far away. The freeborn Englishman is increasingly the stuff of legend.

Blog Review 774


An interesting thought, that our political system is reverting to something very much like that extant in the early part of the 18th century.

Ignorance of economics is no crime, but perhaps attempting to influence public  policy when so ignorant ought to be?

A useful example of such ignorance.

Not economics, rather a more basic point about liberty. The draft, whether it's for the military or for "community" purposes is profoundly illiberal.

A satirical site seems to have understood the Home Secretary better than all of the mainstream papers.

Untangling the details of economic growth pre-Industrial Revolution.

And finally, bears and woods.

On artists, takings and theft


If you take something from someone without paying them the full market value the Americans call this a "taking". In their Constitution (actually, the Fifth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights) this is expressly forbidden, the taking of private property for public use without just compensation.

While this is, sadly, often honoured only in the breach the reasoning behind it is quite simple. To use the law, or the power of government, to take the property of a person is theft in the wider sense of that word.

The impending closure of the Colony Room, the Soho drinking den patronised by louche figures from the art world including Francis Bacon and Tracey Emin, may be averted after an intervention by English Heritage.

The advisory body is rushing through an inspection to determine whether the club, which has witnessed 60 years of booze-soaked misbehaviour by some of Britain's most creative drunks, merits listed status.

Quite why the room where artistic livers have been destroyed should be listed escapes me, but the real reason why they want to try is this:

Artists who are campaigning to keep the Colony Room open believe that listed status will help them to come to an arrangement with the landlord because it would be harder to redevelop the premises.

Making it harder to redevelop the building means that the landlord will lose some of the value of the property. That value will be transferred, by law, from the landlord to the drinkers, for the landlord will lose any development profits while the artistes will be able to drink in Soho without paying the full cost of the premises in which they do so.

That the law is used of course makes it entirely legal but in my opinion this is still theft.

Don't list it, don't create such a taking, let Tracey and her friends cough up the full cost of their tipples and the room they like to spill them in.

The iron is hot


Tax-cuts are back on the agenda. These arguments are coming not from the traditional fiscally tight Conservative Party, but the traditional 'tax and spend' Labour Party. As things stand the Conservative’s are firmly on the back foot; however, it offers the perfect opportunity for the Conservatives to strike back.

The Liberal Democrats were the first Party to raise the possibility of putting tax-cuts on the agenda as a powerful fiscal tool to help people cope in the current crisis. The popular shadow chancellor Vince Cable sounded remarkably libertarian, stating: "The fact is that millions of families are under severe financial pressure and would prefer to decide for themselves how their money is spent".

Writing in The Independent before the Labour Party’s opening salvo, Bruce Anderson understood the tone that the opposition should be taking. He suggested that in a time in which households are economizing, the Conservatives should be calling for cutting back unnecessary government waste and the cutting of taxes. Good call. Luckily for the Conservatives, government waste is one thing we have a lot of at the moment.

Perhaps David Cameron is right not to risk too much on calls for tax-cuts or the reduction of government, instead relying upon the public’s cyclical appetite for change. But such would be a sad reflection on politicians and the public at large. The Conservative Party should be arguing now for a flat tax with an increased personal allowance to take the poorest out of 'tax poverty'. If the public isn’t ready for this now, they certainly will be once recession takes hold.

Blog Review 773


Explaining what is wrong with academia.

"The 1970s are calling and they want their policies back".

It's that lies, damn lies and statistics thing all over again.

They're coming for the bloggers it would seem.

There's still an awful lot about this climate change stuff that we don't know yet. It seems they've found their own version of Goodhart's Law.

Sorry to be repeating this but it really isn't the CDS market which is a problem.

And finally, how not to run a bank.

Supply curves slope up


It's pretty much the first part of any economics course. That moment when befuddled students are faced for the first time with those two crossed lines. The demand curve goes from the top left of the graph to the bottom right, the supply one from the bottom left to the top right. The insight about supply curves that we're expected to take away from this is that when prices rise, more people are happy to supply more of whatever good it is that has risen in price, when they fall, fewer.

Sadly, it would seem that our own government didn't quite make it to even this basic stage of the education system.

Official figures show that in 1996 there were 102,600 registered childminders in England, but the number had declined almost continuously to just 63,600 at the end of August this year.

Critics blame the 38 per cent drop on increased meddling from the Government and Ofsted, the education watchdog which carries out inspections.

By increasing regulation, increasing the registration fees that are payable, by increasing the amount of unpaid time that must be spent filling in forms rather than being paid to look after children, the government has reduced the price that childminders get for their labour. There are therefore fewer people willing to offer their services to look after children.

This isn't an arguable point, it's simply a statement of the obvious. But then it does so often take a government to ignore reality, doesn't it?

What leads to the desire to beat one's head on the table is that this was pushed through just as that same government decided that single parents should go back to work, leaving their children with the childminders who are no longer there.

Weren't we promised joined up government?

Health care without borders


There are new studies indicating that the number of people traveling abroad for medical treatment have been greatly exaggerated. This includes previous blogs of mine where I reported the figure to be 750,000 in 2006. This same number has re-emerged with the accounting firm Deloitte LLP for health tourists in 2007. However more recent sources come up with much lower numbers:

Josef Woodman, author of the consumer guide Patients Beyond Borders, puts the 2007 number closer to 180,000. (And the) global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. released a study in May that said the trend is far smaller than commonly reported: It put the number of all medical travelers – not just Americans – at 60,000 to 85,000 per year.

However, these numbers do not include patients seeking treatment in neighboring countries, such as people traveling from the US over the Mexican border for dental treatment.

Woodman has calculated the threshold for going abroad at $6,000 for the total amount of out-of-pocket cost for treatment in the United States including consultation, procedure and hospital stay. Only if you spend more than that are you likely to save money if you travel to get treatment abroad. In Britain with the legitmization of top-up fees,  it could be a while before this makes economic sense for most people. Although with better quality, service, speed and fewer attendant risks in healthcare abroad, those that can afford it may be tempted to splash out.

Blog Review 772


Proof that that "proof" of a rise in social mobility since 2000 is nothing of the sort.

Here's an interesting list you can add to. Who was so harmed by the use of cannabis that they went on to become successful?

As we don't currently have a laissez faire economy, how can we say that laissez faire has failed?

Anyone remember that Kirk Douglas movie? I'm Jacqui Smith!

Why schools ought to be more like supermarkets.

The really bad lessons you can learn while earning money on Wall Street.

And finally, you'd think they would wait a little.

Milk, bread and ID cards…


It was reported yesterday that private shops and post offices might be recruited to collect biometric data for the government’s ID card scheme. This is another addition to the elaborate plan for introducing the UK's new form of identification. Starting next year, some 200,000 airport workers will get identity cards as a condition of employment. The following year, students will be encouraged to apply for a card when opening a bank account, and eventually, the Identity and Passport Service hopes to distribute a substantial number in connection with issuing British passports.

Yet the Home Office is already encountering (justified) opposition to this plan. Many are protesting the £30 charge for an ID card, when most of the population do not see it as necessary. Airlines such as British Airways, Easy Jet and Virgin Atlantic have expressed opposition because they claim the scheme is unfounded and will not increase security. Despite the good intentions of the government, it is obvious that this scheme will build up its already mounting costs. In the next ten years, the ID cards are predicted to cost £4,740 million for British and Irish citizens, and an additional £311 million for foreign nationals. In times like these, who really wants to think about further spending on plans most people contest?

As the government tries to move forward with the ID card scheme, the British people may not be the only opposing force that they face. As mentioned earlier, the Home Office is looking to "use market forces and competition" by enlisting the services of private companies, organization and retailers to enrol UK citizens in the program. Those outside of the Home Office, however, speculate whether private companies would be willing to invest millions into a program that very well could be scrapped by a new administration.

So, we must wait and see how the execution of the ID card scheme pans out in the next few years. But getting fingerprinted while shopping for groceries at the supermarket is still a rather worrying thought.