Tuesday, January 31, 2006

If I had £114 million

Despite the hoards tempted by the promise of being "as rich as Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne" last week's Euromillions lottery game produced no winner but swelled the jackpot to a record £125 million for this Friday's draw.

Now if I was a multi-millionaire with a sense of humour, I would buy 76 million tickets, total cost of £114 million, each with a different combination of numbers thus ensuring I won and netting myself £11 million in the process.

Of course these plans could be scuppered if someone else's numbers came up too, but that's where the sense of humour comes in.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Various reactions to WEF

Larry Elliot's recent post from the World Economic Forum provides an entertaining discussion First up is Omen

"there are too many unthinking sheep who still believe Arab terrorists blew up the WTC towers on 9/11 and the London Underground in July last year. Sadly it won't just be the sheep affected; if that were the case I'd be almost glad!"

No Omen, there are too many thinking sheep who prefer not to waste effort giving credence to these theories, still less to divert attention from what are actually pretty serious trade issues with real effects on the people of the world, not some half baked idea cooked up at Royal Oak with your mate Tony who believes the Bush administration is a lizard race come to Earth to steal our water (I have actually heard this one, from a renowned Edinburgh nut).

Gercha's contribution proved no less relevant but a load more entertaining with its tale of Simon Hughes' encounter with "large wet fart that smelt of cum coming from the next stall that was followed by his mouth being jetted with thick spurts of hot juice."

There were also Hippies on show:
"I buy organic food, from local farmers whenever possible. I do so because I don't want to eat pesticides and I don't want to encourage farmers to poison the soil or environment with them. I try to buy local to reduce the energy it takes to ship and refrigerate produce from distant locations.... in developing countries they often have no rules or only loose rules about organics and there is so much corruption that you have NO IDEA what's been sprayed on your food if you import it."

Good point Nelson, subsidies should stay. After all, the marginal increase in cancer propensity caused by pesticides is much more important than giving those fuckers a living wage. I'm also glad that you're using the energy saved from all that imported veg to....GO ON THE INTERNET, or is your computer wind powered?

To get things back on track, the lovely Sonia provided a cogent situationist rant, most saliently highlighting the devastation caused by viewing society and the economy as separate entities. It was a view your very own FE was delighted to temper with his ideas of a Polanyian utopia, as close as he has come to an outright manifesto:

"I am not for total abolition of the market - it is an interface of decentralised exchange and I don't see how government controlled exchange is any more free. However, the market system forces society to ape its structure causing social dislocation and upheaval. Our strategy, therefore, should be better regulation of market practices as well as isolating objects of human need (water, health, education) from market forces, ie precisely the opposite of what is happening in Britain."

Later Fluff-fans,

Friday, January 27, 2006

Google tears

So, after much heart searching to protect their groovy image, Google have gone into China. Past Present Future is more than a little outraged at this move, which entails cooperation with the Chinese government's censorship programs.

The outrage can only stem from disappointment - the view that Google was different from evil Microsoft had obviously become entrenched. It seems people forgot that this was just clever branding. Clever branding that is that could not resist 100 million (and counting) new users.

Now see what a funny Welshman has to say about it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Productivity and a Basic Income Guarantee

To prove that the Fluffy Economist is a listening blog, I've decided to write the following in response to (justified) criticisms that this blog 'does not contain any economics at all'. The Accidental Economist has published a thorough analysis of the UK's productivity problem which I have hamfistedly diverted to a discussion of a Basic Income Guarantee, or Citizen's Basic Income, of which Devel's Kitchen is rather fond.

I was wondering if the government's 'welfare to work' policy - of forcing jobseekers to retrain or have their benefits withdrawn, then shoving them into unwanted jobs - could also be pulling down productivity. Disgruntled workers seem unlikely to perform at their best. Perhaps a more flexible approach such as the US's earned income tax credit or (more radically) a basic income guarantee might assuage this.

Studies of the Negative Income Tax experiments (sort of similar to BIG) suggest that while labour supply decreased, this was mainly due to people taking more time between jobs to find the right one, rather than an outright withdrawal (Widerquist 2004), therefore helping match up problems. Moreover, by vastly reducing poverty, better fed and sheltered workers in low paid jobs would be better able to perform them.

Of course, by guaranteeing people a basic income people lose their reliance on their wages to survive, and so may work less hard to keep their jobs. Mitigating this somewhat, however, is evidence from Pressman (2005) that efforts to reduce poverty bear no correlation to declines in productivity for low skilled workers (in fact the correlation may be even be positive) although this evidence can be only tentatively used in support of BIG as none of the countries surveyed has implemented anything quite as radical. Furthermore, the linking of correlation to causality is always tricky, the most we can say is that conditional income guarantee programs do not seem to have hindered productivity in the past (thereby questioning Okun's famous 'equity-efficiency' trade off).

There is also a good argument that a BIG would increase human capital in the economy and so increase productivity. The NIT experiments showed higher attendance rates in higher education and better test scores in schools. Much of the decrease in labour supply in these experiments (which was substantial) was accounted for by women, both single parents and spouses, presumably to better care for their children - but I'm not sure whether feminists would find this a good or a bad thing. Unfortunately this side of the experiments remains underexamined. The reasoning behind human capital arguments seem sound, but because many of these effects are felt in the long run, and are not directly measurable, empirical evidence is hard to come by.

In sum, productivity performance of the lowest earners in society may have a lot to do with the structure of the benefits system. It seems a BIG could help.

An uncomfortable anniversary

Next Tuesday marks the 4th anniversary of the joining of three nations as "the axis of evil", under the auspices of Rt Rev George W. Bush. Ominously, on the fourth anniversary it is customary in the modern tradition to give the happy triple a gift of appliances .

This year, the Rt Rev is intent on making sure the gift never reaches the second of these nations, not by declaring open hostilities with Iran, but by reminding the world of his dioces' obligation to protect Israel. So begins the merry-go-round of half-baked excuses which we saw with Iraq, in an attempt to see which one will stick. "WMD's not enough this time? Fine we'll go with with Israel. Well Dick, they didn't seem to go for that one, let's try an embargo on beards."

For Iraq, the transition from rhetoric to action took one year, one month and two weeks. Given the need to withdraw forces across the border (scheduled to start the end of this year), assemble another coalition of willing and the need to avoid a winter campaign, I'm taking bets that the invasion of Iran will take place in April 2008.

Any punters?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Take Action on Extraordinary Rendition

Hey Fluff-fans,
For those following reports of extraordinary rendition of terror suspects, here is the widely reported leaked memo which details the Foreign Office's advice to "not be drawn on specifics" ie the biggest load of horse shit since Hercules did a favour for King Augeas .

If you would like to take action to ensure British airports are prohibited from being used as to ferry trrrsts around the globe, please take note of the message below circulated by Liberty.

If you are unsure who your MP is or how to contact them go here and search 'Ask Aristotle' positioned on the left hand sidebar.

Sorry this is a little delayed, I've been spending too much looking at the labour supply effects of a basic income guarantee (aka citizen's basic income). More on that soon.

Consider Phlebas has some interesting things to say on the current topic:
What is more worrying is the normalisation of this as a discourse, as a political situation. Citizens are disempowered, deprived of information and oversight, unable to take the hard choices that are necessary for their security. Liberties are restricted, so as to give the powers to the state and its organs necessary to combat the existential threat, a threat which never seems to diminish, is endlessly fertile. Seem oddly familiar? I thought so.
Spot on.

Campaigns Alert- No Torture- No Compromise

Campaigns Alert

No Torture- No Compromise

Government Torture Advice Memo Leaked

A Government memo leaked today reveals that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised the Prime Minister to evade questions about extraordinary rendition. Instead of urging the PM to uphold the Government’s responsibility to ensure that alleged CIA flights carrying suspects to face torture are not using UK territory, the memo states that the debate should instead be ‘moved on’.

In response to this development Liberty has written to the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, MP asking the Government to actively cooperate with police inquiries into extraordinary rendition and to uphold its obligations on the prohibition on torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Liberty is also pressing the Government to support legislation which will safeguard against the practice in UK airspace or airports. Baroness D’Souza has already put forward an amendment to Government legislation which would achieve this. It is vital that this, or a similar amendment, must be passed. Please write to your MP today and ask them:

  • To urge the Government to pass legislation ensuring extraordinary rendition can not take place through British airspace.
  • To join the cross-party Extraordinary Rendition Group of MPs.

More information on extraordinary rendition and Liberty’s No Torture- No Compromise campaign, is available on the Liberty website. The website also contains ideas on actions you can take to ensure the Government properly investigates these claims and upholds its obligations on the complete prohibition on torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The memo is available at www.newstatesman.com/rendition

What Can You Do?

  • Write to your MP and ask them to ensure the Government supports a change in the law to make sure extraordinary rendition flights do not use British airports or airspace.

If you would like to be kept informed about the No Torture- No Compromise campaign please contact Doug Jewell, the Campaigns Coordinator, at dougj@liberty-human-rights.org.uk

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Glorification rules, what?

Once more a large hooray for the Lords and a big kipper in the face of the Rt Hon Tone. The old sods have asserted that legislating against the glorification of terrorism is a pointless and damaging task. One must feel sorry for Baroness Scotland, however, whose defence suggests even she has lost faith:
"We do not believe it is acceptable that people should be allowed to make statements which glorify terrorism and thereby make it more likely that others will commit such acts,"
As feeble as it is depressing.

This begs the question, given their succes in holding up democracy and civil liberties why push to have an elected Lords at all?

Firstly, the current appointments system is a joke, the government appointments risk weighting ther Lords with too many people whose jobs are dependent on the PM and whose incentives are to vote in line with his thinking (a trend Gordon Brown will no doubt continue).

Secondly, the reason the Lords can vote against the government is their independence from it, not because they aren't responsible to the electorate. A partially or fully elected Lords, would also not be dependent on the Honours list or appointments committee for their votes and could, hopefully, vote more freely.

One obvious advantage of the Lords is their depth of experience which could potentialy be eroded if they were elected. To guard against this one could have some sort of criterion of time served in business, politics or law, although this would e difficult to formalise. The idea of longer voting cycles seems reasonable, especially if acompanied by rolling elections such as those in the US senate, where one third of the house are elected every two years. In this way, the whole house isn't rushing to grab votes at the same time.

Whatever form a future HoL takes, let's hope it continues this excellent form. Hurrah!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Now this is a little strange. A report by academics at LSE claimed the ID bill would cost £19bn, three times more than the government estimate. The Government replied that it's figures were OK as they were endorsed by KPMG.

The outstanding lesson from Blair's administration (Americanism intended) is that whenever he has ignored due process and the advice of established government institutions, he has come unstuck. Here again, Blair prefers a private company to the National Audit Office.

Departments of state, for all their supposed inefficiency, are receptacles of vast accumulated learning, their culture and routines refined to provide correctly balanced information as needed. KPMG, for all its prominence and expertise, does not have the experience in government program auditting.

Most worryingly, however, the records of KPMG are not subject to the same scrutiny as the NAO, which is responsible to the Freedom of Information Act.

Once again, we're not being told something and once again, it'll all end in a crying biometric shitheap.

Now read these fellas.
Related Posts with Thumbnails