Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Truth About the BNP

Just in case anyone thought the BNP's new, more respectable image was anything other than a facade to hide their more sinister views.

Hat tip: Sadie

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An "Idiotarian" Viewpoint

Tim Worstall reckons us "idiotarian" lefties should be celebrating the rise in equality resulting from falling asset values.

The number of millionaires in the UK has more than halved since 2007 as house prices, share values and bonus payments have tumbled.

About 242,000 people now have assets of more than £1 million, down from 489,000 in 2007, according to estimates from the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Millionaires have seen nearly a quarter of their wealth wiped out over the past two years.
Personally, if it wasn't for the accompanying unemployment I'd be over the moon at this kind of rise in equality.

To me, it's all about the idea of utility, the actual usefulness we derive from our posessions. Let's discount bonuses for a moment and look at the other two main causes of this decline in wealth; property and shares. The utility I derive from a house would be from it's many rooms, the garden, the fittings and the like. It's not as if rooms start disappearing as the market value drops. As for shares, I'd say the main utility here is the regular dividend payment, the yield may have dropped for the moment, but it's unlikely that these payments will remain permanently depressed.

So, although there are 247,000 people who are no longer millionaires, many will have lost little in terms of their quality of life. Further to this, for those of us who aren't millionaires it would appear that many of the trappings of the millionaire lifestyle are a little more affordable to the rest of us.

Equality Rocks!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Financial Innovation

Apologies for the lack of blogging of late, elections and the like have been weighing me down and slowly sapping my will to live. That and the fact that I've been reading many blogs that have been saying things that I'd like to say more effectively and insightfully.

On that note, here's James Kwak at Baseline Scenario (with support from Mike at RortyBomb) on the subject of financial innovation and why it isn't all that useful.

Can I get a flake with that mortgage?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Standard & Poors

I am quite at the actions of ratings agency Standard and Poor's. Yesterday they have put out a release saying that they are downgrading their UK outlook from nicked from the FT):

The rating could be lowered if we conclude that, following the election, the
next government’s fiscal consolidation plans are unlikely to put the U.K. debt
burden on a secure downward trajectory over the medium term… Conversely, the
outlook could be revised back to stable if comprehensive measures are
implemented to place the public finances on a sustainable footing, or if fiscal
outturns are more benign than we currently anticipate.
Which is essentially them saying that the government should cut public spending, and that's what really winds me up. The announcement does in my view blur the lines between the political in the professional. In this case I can't see how S&P can say with any accuracy that reducing the deficit at their faster rate will somehow leave the economy in better shape to pay off the national debt.

What worries me about all this is just how much the of the government's political priorities could end up being dictated by the needs of financial interests. It's not really a problem yet, but if Moodys and Fitch follow suit (which they appear not to have done) then it could force the government to reconsider it's spending plans and I have doubts as to whether this is in the best interests of the economy.

A Brief Defense of Anthony Steen

It has to be said of course, that his comments were incredibly arrogant and indicated that he is not just out of touch, but living on a completely different planet to the rest of the electorate. It should probably also be said that it is a PR disaster for David Cameron (although I don't mind that bit so much).

What I will say though is that it's more than a little unfair that some newspapers have chosen to show pictures of the Balmoral with captions along the lines of "this is a house that looks a bit like his" rather than display pictures of the actual house, which isn't quite as grandiose.

On a slightly related note, Hopi's LOL expenses post is ace.

Edit: Corrected title Anthony Steen, not actually being a Sir and everything

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A quickie: Iain Dale

Way back in the mists of time, during the whole Damian McBride affair, Iain Dale wrote anDaily Mail article (now no longer there) that implicated Tom Watson in the scandal, suggesting he was CC'ed in on the emails. This was not true, and so, Tom sued, and was successful.

Iain has now apologised in full on his blog, but is a little annoyed that a few left leaning bloggers are creating a fuss over what is a minor incident (see here). Personally, I'd say that given that us lefties had to endure 2 weeks worth of relentless attack from the mainstream media and the rightwing blogosphere that culminated in a Gordon Brown having to issue a public apology, all over the existence of a few smear stories that were NEVER GOING TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY. I think a few harsh words from a bunch of leftie bloggers is getting off rather lightly.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

Having just got back from work, turns out I had a political leaflet through the door today, a shiny BNP one. Strangely though, as I opened it up to see it in all it's stock photo glory, I found inside it a couple of other leaflets from the Greens and UKIP.

Perhaps they should be having words with their distributors.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Protectionist is not a Facist

I'm no fan of the BNP, however, due to an unfortunate coincidence of political opinions one of the main policiy positions I take (on protectionism) ends up being lumped in with the BNP. As demonstrated very well by the Tories Nothing British site.

The BNP has a hard line socialist economic policy, more in common with a Communist or National Socialist party than that of one qualified to deal with the current economic crisis. It is well documented that wages rise in a free market, protectionism reduces income and increases unemployment yet the BNP say:

“[T]he BNP calls for the selective exclusion of foreign-made goods from British markets and the reduction of foreign imports. We will ensure that our manufactured goods are, wherever possible, produced in British factories, employing British workers.

“When this is done, unemployment in this country will be brought to an end, and secure, well-paid employment will flourish”

I find it very distasteful because it attempts to tar what are essentially a fairly neutral set of policies relating to the prices of imports and the development of industry with the evils of facism. The Nazi's crime was not the introduction of tarriffs on certain foreign manufactured goods, that should be obvious. What is also problematic are some of the statements the Tories make here, for example:

It is well documented that wages rise in a free market, protectionism reduces income and increases unemployment

It is not well documented at all, for example, from 1875-1913 where Britain maintaned a 0% tarriff rate, per capita economic growth was a mere 1%, way behind the USA, growing at 1.9% and imposing an average tarriff of around 40% on manufactured goods during the same time period. The Tories statement here has no basis in fact, there are numerous examples of protectionism being used to further the economic well being of a nation's citizens.

A Sensible Debate on Protectionsm
Protectionism as a policy has been largely excluded from recent debate, a lot of myths have been built up about it and it has been tarnished by it's attachment to unsavoury political elements, even my comrades in the Labour party will stare at me in disbelief when I start enthusing over protectionism. This is unfair because it fails to take into account the sheer scope of policies that could be considered "protectionism", there is often talk of what's called beggar thy neighbour protectionism, but not all protectionism is like this. While a 50% tarriff might destroy demand for a particular good a 5% tarriff might not, while subsidising the production of a good might undermine foreign competitors, subsidising the development of an improved product is likely to be less distorting. There is also the issue of how we treat international movement of capital.

I feel the need for this kind of debate is vital because of a dilemma that developed nations face, as countries develop they traditionally move up the value chain producing goods with a higher value added (moving from say, textiles to motor cars for example). As other nations hit the top of the value chain we have had more competition in this area of the economy, the UK has adapted to this by moving to a more service oriented economy, but I believe that there are serious questions to be asked about the sustainability of this move, particulary since we have been running a negative trade deficit since 1984 and I don't think this can be ignored.

Another problem with the shift in the economy is that it has left large sections of the population unable to find well paid work. Although unemployment has been low for the past decade, many of the jobs in the service industry are not as well paid as old manufacturing jobs, in addition there is still the worrying figure of 2.7 million (?) people claiming incapacity benefits. The question really has to be asked as to whether continuing to support unrestricted trade is the best route to a secure future for the country.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Corruption. To Scale

DISCLAIMER: Yes, I am annonyed about the whole expenses thing as everyone else, I just thought I'd put it in perspective for those who hastily draw comparsions with Banana Republics.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

I was wondering...

Is it a complete coincidence that a news story of such awfulness that even someone like me, who often goes to great lengths to justify the actions of the government can not defend it seems to break just as an election looms?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Fiscal Positioning

Don Paskini wrote this post, over on Liberal Conspiracy suggesting that the Tories economic record for all their endless boasting, actually the Conservatives economic record was pretty appalling. Naturally, I suspect this is a sentiment that many of my comrades would agree with. In the midst of the comments, one of the standard Tory arguments popped up suggesting that Labour always leave the nations finances in a terrible state.

I'd have to admit, I wasn't entirely sure whether this was true or not, so I did a bit of digging and found some stats on the national debt (courtesy of UK Public Spending) and made a graph.

Labour years in red and Conservative years in blue and the thing that immediately strikes me is that the Tory argument about Labour leaving the nation in debt is quite simply not true. For example, far from being profligate spenders running up debts, we see that the Atlee and Wilson governments did a very good job of reducing the national debt, even the Callahagn government of the 70's left the national debt slightly lower.

We can also see that the accusations that the current Labour government was irresponsible with the finances don't cut much ice, about the worst you can say is that the government ran very slight deficits.

Finally, we can see that for all the Tory scaremongering on debt, we have a long way to go before we even come close to the debt levels we've seen in the past.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

In my Authoritarian paradise...

Anyone who attempts to pass off a long list of allegations (to the point that it is near impossible to address each one) as an argument shall be shot.