Saturday, 21 October 2017

Blue Labour Peer proposes Fascist style House of Lords

Mussolini believed in a corporate state where a large part of the democratic structures were elected through functional groups (workers, business sectors and so forth) - a bit like this from Maurice Glasman:
The Lords, in contrast, should represent vocational democracy. There should be people elected from each sector, whether that be electrical or academic, medical or administrative. Doctors should vote for a peer, as should nurses and cleaners. It would give an incentive to the organisation of carers, builders and gardeners, who would each select a representative from within their organisation.
Aside from being pretty impractical it acts to create blocs within parliament solely vested in sectoral interest - with the result being that, as Italians discovered, you have to have a licence to open a sweet shop or set up as a gardener. Or as Benito put it:
Fascism recognises the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade-unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which divergent interests are coordinated and harmonised in the unity of the State.


Densification is not the answer - suburbia is the answer

This can't be said too often, as loudly as we can. Here's urban geographer Wendell Cox reviewing some research, Paying for Dirt, by Issi Romen at housebuilding specialist, Buildzoom:
"Stemming sprawl" while maintaining housing affordability through higher densities is a time-worn theory. The record seems to indicate that it is more likely Santa will come down the chimney than density will solve the problem. There are no virtually examples of housing markets (metropolitan areas) where increasing densities has restored affordability. This is not to suggest there is no value to increased density, but rather that it is an all too convenient diversion from solutions that have a chance of working.
The key to all this is, as Cox points out: restore the competitive market for land, so that houses on comparatively small lots, such as one-quarter or one-fifth of an acre can be built at the historic land costs (including necessary infrastructure).
And as Romen concludes this isn't just about the economics of housing but about social justice:
"The disparity between the appearance of homes and their price tags is more than a home buyer’s gripe: it is a telltale indication of restricted housing supply. Such restrictions – rules governing land use, installed by incumbent residents or their predecessors – are exclusionary by nature and amount to the gating of access to opportunity. Hopefully, this study has helped identify where gates must be opened."


Friday, 20 October 2017

Self-employed remote workers should check out Italian negative rents

Italy has a load of problems - banking crises, unsustainable immigration, corrupt government - but one of its biggest is depopulation:
FOR ALL THE ANCIENT Italian hill towns and villages that delight the traveler — the San Gimignanos, Montepulcianos and Fiesoles — there are scores of others (many equally or more beautiful) where few venture and in which very few reside today. According to a 2016 Italian environmental association report, there are nearly 2,500 rural Italian villages that are perilously depopulated, some semi-abandoned and others virtual ghost towns.
One of these towns is Candela in Puglia - and the result is what amounts to negative rents with the town paying you to live there:
The mayor of Candela wants to reverse the declining fortunes of his town, once known as "Little Naples" for its crowded streets, which has seen its population plummet from more than 8,000 to just 2,700 today.

The town is offering €800 [£716] for singles, €1,200 [£1,075] for couples, €1,500 [£1,344] to €1,800 [£1,613] for three-member families, and over €2,000 for families of four to five people who are willing to up sticks and embrace la dolce vita, CNN Travel reports.
There are a few caveats (such as having at least €7,500 in annual income and a job) but it's clear that if you've a portable skill or can work remotely this is a great little offer. And it's Italy's south - so wine, weather and history in spades.


Thursday, 19 October 2017

Piketty's rickety evidence...

Thomas Piketty became the go to anti-capitalist economist. Every trendy progressive pundit leapt onto his arguments about the inevitability of ever rising inequality. Whole economic strategies were designed by assorted far left numpties based on Tom's vast tome (which I guess most of them haven't read - I had a quick flick through, turgid doesn't fully capture its dullness).

Thing is though, Piketty's evidence - the thing that made his thesis so powerful - turns out to be a bit dodgy:
Very little of value can be salvaged from Piketty’s treatment of data from the nineteenth century. The user is provided with no reliable information on the antebellum trends in the wealth share and is even left uncertain about the trend for the top 10 percent during the Gilded Age (1870–1916). This is noteworthy because Piketty spends the bulk of his attention devoted to America discussing the nineteenth-century trends (Piketty 2014: 347–50).

The heavily manipulated twentieth-century data for the top 1 percent share, the lack of empirical support for the top 10 percent share, the lack of clarity about the procedures used to harmonize and average the data, the insufficient documentation, and the spreadsheet errors are more than annoying. Together they create a misleading picture of the dynamics of wealth inequality. They obliterate the intradecade movements essential to an understanding of the impact of political and financial-market shocks on inequality. Piketty’s estimates offer no help to those who wish to understand the impact of inequality on “the way economic, social, and political actors view what is just and what is not” (Piketty 2014: 20).
All this comes (via Marginal Revolution) from Professor Richard Sutch, a very highly regarded economic historian and economist. Seems that emperor might need a new tailor.


Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Judgmental, immoral fussbuckets - an everyday tale of NHS management

This is, quite simply, wrong. Not wrong as in 'incorrect' but wrong as in 'immoral and indefensible':
Patients who smoke will be breathalysed to check they have given up before being referred, while those who are obese must lose 10 per cent of their weight.

Doctors claimed it was the latest example of rationing which is becoming 'more commonplace' across the NHS. The two trusts, East and North Hertfordshire and Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Groups, are trying to save £68 million this year.

Any patient who is obese – with a body mass index above 30 – will have to shed at least 10 per cent of their body weight before being referred for non-urgent surgery.
I know there are pressures on the NHS but singling out lifestyle choices for exclusion is not how we should respond to a lack of cash. Imagine for a moment that it's your Dad who's been told he has to quit smoking in order to have a hip operation or you Mum they're telling to lose a stone before they do her cateract operation. The people proposing these things - just to save a bit of cash - are ghastly, self-centred and uncaring, yet we're told every day how wonderful the NHS is and how it's employees are living saints. This proposal proves - once again - that the service is filled with judgemental fussbuckets.

It is time the Government put an end to NHS Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups implementing these policies.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Why nationalising the water industry is a stupid idea

Firstly here's Sky News' business editor:
The nadir came when, during the drought of 1976, millions of people in Yorkshire, Wales, the Midlands, East Anglia, Devon and Cornwall had their household water supply cut off due to shortages and were forced instead to queue in the street for water from standpipes.

Privatisation enabled investment. More than £130bn has been ploughed into the industry since 1989 - a sum unimaginable under state ownership - and standards have shot up.

There have been plenty of long, hot summers since but, thanks to investment in new reservoirs and pipes, households have not had to endure their supply being cut off as they did in 1976.
That's the deal folks. Some people made some profits and in exchange we got £130bn invested in our water supplies, sewerage, clean beaches, unpolluted rivers and a pile of other services. That's £130bn that the government didn't have to borrow and you didn't have to pay taxes for.

Next, let's look at what happens when government runs the water supply:
According to a class-action lawsuit, the state Department of Environmental Quality was not treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent, in violation of federal law. The river water was found to be 19 times more corrosive than water from Detroit, which was from Lake Huron, according to a study by Virginia Tech.
Since the water wasn't properly treated, lead from aging service lines to homes began leaching into the Flint water supply after the city tapped into the Flint River as its main water source.

Health effects of lead exposure in children include impaired cognition, behavioral disorders, hearing problems and delayed puberty. In pregnant women, lead is associated with reduced fetal growth. In everyone, lead consumption can affect the heart, kidneys and nerves. Although there are medications that may reduce the amount of lead in the blood, treatments for the adverse health effects of lead have yet to be developed.
Nationalising Britain's water services is a really stupid idea.


Is our future suburban?

Interesting little article by Tyler Cowan:
As American travel infrastructure decays, and traffic congestion worsens, what we used to call cities and suburbs won’t be able to rely on each other so much, as trips become too exhausting and time-consuming. That too will encourage cities and suburbs each have their own mix of jobs, retail and cultural opportunities.
I suspect he makes the point more strongly that will be realised - elite culture (and other elite institutions) will remain in the cities as will the wealthy elite that populate them. But the everyday sort of leisure and pleasure, what most of us do mostly, will be more evenly spread especially in centre urban rents continue to climb.