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George Carty
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Blissex, I guess the problem is that while coal was an inherently democratic fuel in that it required a large workforce to mine it (and thus more of the price of coal went in aggregate to the miners' wages rather than to the coal owners) oil and gas are inherently anti-democratic. They requires very little labour to extract and are very concentrated geographically, allowing those lucky enough to own the land where they are found fantastically wealthy. We already have a power source (nuclear fission) that blows all chemical fuels out of the water where energy density is concerned, but the oil and gas rentiers have been able to stymie its progress through over-regulation, by using their concentrated wealth to both corrupt politicians directly (such as former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who instituted a phaseout of nuclear energy in Germany and was rewarded with a cushy job at Nordstream AG, set to build a Russia-Germany gas pipeline to replace the output of Germany's reactor fleet) and to finance fearmongering anti-nuclear propaganda (always via so-called "philanthropic foundations" in order to hide the true source of the money). The fact that many left-wingers opposed nuclear energy was also probably down to the fact that the Soviet state was itself one of the oil and gas rentiers.
By "mercantilist" I mean "export as much as possible, import as little as possible". Why shouldn't we adopt such a policy when we are currently drowning in foreign debt? Germany and most East Asian countries currently follow such a policy -- in contemporary times it often involves government intervention to push the currency artificially low in order to gain competitiveness. Other more direct methods are also used -- for example the South Korean tax authorities aggressively audit any citizen with the temerity to buy an imported car. I view international trade as being like an iterated prisoners' dilemma with free-trade nations as co-operators and mercantilist nations as defectors. Since the East Asian nations have demonstrated themselves to be defectors, why co-operate with them?
Toggle Commented Feb 28, 2016 on (Mildly) against Brexit at Stumbling and Mumbling
Why is it that a lot of the Outers are selling Brexit primarily as a means to cut net immigration (and note that a lot of the anti-immigrationists are motivated less by racism or xenophobia as by a belief that the UK is overpopulated), but very few of them are taking the next step and arguing that Britain should become a mercantilist nation on the East Asian model?
Toggle Commented Feb 28, 2016 on (Mildly) against Brexit at Stumbling and Mumbling
Carol, I'd suggest that urban containment policies -- which became increasingly popular towards the end of the 20th century due to environmental concerns -- were a bigger factor in the global house price bubble of the '00s. The fact that the United States bubble was confined mainly to coastal cities in what Paul Krugman called the "Zoned Zone" illustrates this. In non-coastal America (Paul Krugman's "Flatland") developers can easily buy land at near-agricultural prices, so no bubble can form in the first place. Of course the UK's building land market is even more restrictive still, due to the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 (and its successors).
Toggle Commented Feb 18, 2016 on Debt, & ideology at Stumbling and Mumbling
Isn't the cause of our ballooning national (public + private) debt the fact that way too much of our money has been drained away into the central banks of mercantilist nations, mostly in East Asia? The current "austerity" versus "stimulus" debate is merely about how that excessive debt is distributed between the domestic government, household and corporate sector: the real problem is the CURRENT ACCOUNT deficit stupid!
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2016 on Costs of austerity at Stumbling and Mumbling
How likely is it that the Cologne sex attackers were actually Da'esh terrorists who wanted European countries to close their borders to Syrian refugees and thus render them unable to escape from their own monstrous rule in Syria? (And perhaps also start mistreating their resident Muslim populations as well, thus making them more susceptible to Da'esh's anti-Western propaganda.)
Ben, why does red-state America have so much poverty and inequality in spite of some of the lowest land prices in the developed world?
Toggle Commented Dec 20, 2015 on Beyond social mobility at Stumbling and Mumbling
Maybe Keynes didn't count on the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, which allowed the parasitic rentier elite to come roaring back with a vengeance? It is notable that even now, houses built in the 1930s (after the masses became more mobile -- although more due to trains and buses than cars at this stage -- but before the T&CPA) are especially prized in Britain.
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2015 on Keynes' error at Stumbling and Mumbling
Surely it would be better for third-world immigrants to go to countries with plenty of land and resources, like the USA, Canada, Australia or Argentina, rather than countries like the UK that are already densely populated? By the way, how difficult would it be to stabilize the Maghreb countries (Morocco/Algeria/Tunisia) enough to build big retirement resorts there? That would kill two birds with one stone: reducing the cost of providing healthcare and pensions (and eliminating heating costs altogether) for those elderly Western Europeans retiring there, while also providing desperately needed jobs for young Maghrebis. Many northern Europeans already retire to southern Europe of course, but most southern European countries have demographics even more parlous than the north, while north Africa has far more young people.
Protecting the environment is certainly a good idea, but it seems to me that the big green NGOs push a lot of policies that are far more effective at enriching rentiers than they are at protecting the environment. For example , if we were really serious about fighting car dependency we'd essentially have to reconfigure our towns and cities along more-or-less Japanese lines, with most people living in flats clustered around train stations. And the only way such flats could be built affordably would be either as part of New Towns built on rural land acquired at rural prices, or by the government compulsorily purchasing appropriate sites (ie not peripheral sites with poor public transport access, which far too often were those actually used for council flats) at far below market rates in order to build tower blocks on them. Instead we get Green Belts and other measures which do not make carless living easier, but which do massively drive up the price of housing. Perhaps those greens who were not on the take were still lying about the mechanism by which they expected their policies to work? Maybe their real aim was not to reduce vehicle miles travelled but to price people out of having families (but they couldn't mention a eugenic aim of this kind in public)... And as for energy policy, landowners pocketing subsidies are actually small beer compared to the oil companies and City speculators. The corruption of environmentalism by oil money has a long history -- it started in California when the Sierra Club (up to that point an aesthetically-motivated organization similar to to today's anti-wind-turbine campaigners) was bankrolled by oil interests to fight hydroelectric dams and thus clear the way to sell natural gas as a fuel for electricity generation. Mandating that utilities take wind or solar electricity whether they want to or not (and thus forcing other generators to shut down until the weather is no longer playing ball) is probably the most effective policy that Big Oil/Gas has to kill competition from baseload generators such as coal and nuclear.
My argument is that the LEADERS of environmentalist organizations wanted to be lifestyle protesters rather than getting productive jobs, so they got the 1% to pay them for pushing policies ostensibly to "save the planet" (but really to enrich the 1% further). And if house prices hadn't inflated so much due to urban containment, the boomers would have had a lot less equity to withdraw in the first place, wouldn't they?
Incidentally, I wonder how much the post-1970 "rise of the rentiers" has been enabled by the gradual environmentalist hijacking of left-of-centre politics? Restricting the supply of building land by Green Belts and restrictive planning laws is the biggest example, as is the anti-car campaign (which increases the price of property in locations well-served by public transport) but the green craze for renewable energy also benefits three groups of rentiers at the expense of the general public: 1) Rural landowners, who are paid to erect wind turbines or solar panels on their land 2) Oil companies, which sell the gas which has to provide "back-up" (at least 70% of the time) for the unreliable wind and solar power 3) Commodity speculators in the City, who benefit from the increased volatility of energy generation. Perhaps the strength of the North-South divide is also rooted in the Town and Country Planning Act, as the actual productive industries in the North inherently needed actual space in which to operate, and were thus far more vulnerable to high land prices than the essentially parasitic financial and bureaucratic activities in which London and the South East specialized, and which have minimal land requirements.
Bob, while LVT is a good idea, it won't make an unaffordable city affordable as demonstrated by Hong Kong. In Hong Kong all land is owned by the government (functionally equivalent to a 100% LVT) but it is still one of the world's most unaffordable cities. The only real route to housing affordability (short of going the Singapore route of putting more than half the population in social housing -- the UK historically maxed out at about a third) is unrestrained sprawl, as practised by most non-coastal American cities. Incidentally, why does red-state America still have big problems with poverty and racism, despite being less afflicted by land rent than almost anywhere else in the developed world?
"what barrier to entry maintains the rent, do we think?" The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 (and its successors) of course...
That should have been "favouring finance and bureaucracy (which need very little space)"
Toggle Commented Oct 27, 2015 on Steel, & austerity denial at Stumbling and Mumbling
From Arse to Elbow seems to be blaming the current demise of steelmaking in Britain on Thatcher's war on the coal industry. But could the root cause of British industrial decline go all the way back to Attlee's Town and Country Planning Act (or perhaps more accurately to the amendments to it made by subsequent Tory governments, which allowed landowners to retain the planning gains)? This has made buildable land very expensive in Britain (hundreds of times more expensive in fact than in unconstrained American cities), favouring finance and bureaucracy (which need very space) at the expense of actual productive industry, and creating the destructive petty-rentier mentality that Blissex describes so well. The United States is a bigger industrial player because unrestricted fringe construction keeps land rents low, while Germany works by combining rent control, subsidies for new construction, and provision to confiscate land from overly-greedy speculators.
Toggle Commented Oct 27, 2015 on Steel, & austerity denial at Stumbling and Mumbling
Isn't much of America's rust belt (except for single-industry cities like Detroit or Gary, Indiana) recovering now though, due to cheap property prices there which don't really exist even in the run-down bits of the UK?
Toggle Commented Aug 13, 2015 on The London paradox at Stumbling and Mumbling
Ralph, do you think that greedy BTLers may have actually encouraged mass Third World immigration in the first place, because Third World immigrants are more willing than British-born people to live in extremely overcrowded conditions (and are thus more profitable for landlords)? That could go some way to explaining why 50% of London's population is foreign-born...
Ralph, Hitler and (to a lesser extent) Mussolini required a military response because they were rulers of powerful industrialized states bent on aggressive war. I don't see any evidence that Islamic extremists are on the verge of gaining that kind of power (especially not that they could build the kind of navy they'd need to force a crossing of the Mediterranean and invade Europe). It also seems to me that al-Qaeda and its spawn do best in desertifying areas. For example, Da'esh took over parts of Syria and Iraq devastated by drought (caused by Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project), while Boko Haram is based in a northern Nigerian region which is part of the Sahel. Perhaps the answer for Syria would be to ally with Assad against Da'esh, temporarily taking in refugees, and then solving the problem on a longer-term basis by installing some (preferably nuclear- or solar-powered) desalination plants there?
Toggle Commented Jun 12, 2015 on Tories against freedom at Stumbling and Mumbling
> You mean all that talk about Britain's farmers being squeezed virtually to death by the greedy supermarkets is just propaganda then?
Toggle Commented May 11, 2015 on "Aspiration" at Stumbling and Mumbling
North Yorkshire certainly isn't like the South East in the most obvious respect (you'd find it extremely difficult live to live there and work in London, unless you were so super-rich you could commute by helicopter!) Are you saying that the economy there (and in other rural areas outside the London commuter belt) lives not off agriculture, tourism or the normally-cited "main industries" there, but rather off MEWing fuelled by property price inflation driven by rich Southerners wanting second homes there?
Toggle Commented May 10, 2015 on "Aspiration" at Stumbling and Mumbling
Blissex, how would you explain why the Tories get so much support outside the asset-rich South East? (Especially in somewhere like Hexham or North Yorkshire, from which no-one could practically commute to London...)
Toggle Commented May 10, 2015 on "Aspiration" at Stumbling and Mumbling
Matt Moore: "I would definitely add 8) comparative advantage -free trade is beneficial for both parties even if one is absolutely more productive at everything." WRONG!! Comparative advantage theory actually says that both countries can benefit if balanced trade takes place with each country exporting whichever product has the greater relative advantage. What FREE trade actually results in though, is the more productive country exporting BOTH products though, in exchange for the importing country's IOUs. This benefits the exporting country at the expense of the importing country (which finds itself saddled with higher debt and/or higher unemployment).
Toggle Commented Apr 29, 2015 on Economics for politicians at Stumbling and Mumbling
Greece is little better than a third-world economy, whose true status was disguised by Western aid (given due to "cradle of Western civilization" nostalgia as well as due its strategic position in the Eastern Med), as well as by tourism revenue. Joining the Euro was counterproductive for Greece as it made it uncompetitive with non-Eurozone destinations, particularly neighboring Turkey.
«If that's the case, the voters, who are adults and can make their own chices about the importance of voting and how much effort they put in it, are being served right. Democracy makes voters pay the consequences of their choices.» I thought your view is that post-1979 Britain is essentially a tyranny of the (South-Eastern Boomer homeowner) majority.
Toggle Commented Feb 18, 2015 on Origins of bad policy at Stumbling and Mumbling