Monday 28 January 2008

There hasn'ae been a murrdurr...

Earlier today I paid a visit to Calumet, a very good photographic outlet.

The Glasgow branch is located in Maryhill, home of Glasgow's best-known cop.

As I was getting my purchase wrapped I noticed the shop assistant's nametag.

Yes, it was Taggart!

And, yes, he's heard all the obvious comments many, many times before. When his best friend phones him up, the friend always starts - of course- by saying: "There's been a murder." if led by an invisible paw

We libertarians don't have much faith in central planning. Hayek brilliantly explained how the natural workings of a free society - a spontaneous order - far outperform any top-down plan.

And now, unsurprisingly, Hayek's insights are confirmed in the animal world:

THEY say good breeding counts for a lot in this dog-eat-dog world. But when it comes to intellect, it seems that a cross-breed can outsmart a pedigree dog most of the time.

Researchers have found that cross-bred dogs have better spatial awareness and problem-solving skills than their pure-bred counterparts.

Planning can work in a few limited cases, but you just can't beat that spontaneous order:
"Pure breeds are bred to be good at a particular job and are not so good if you try to get them to do something else," she said.

Sunday 27 January 2008

Here we go again

Bill Jamieson discusses the cultural differences in the world's major central banks:
The reaction of the US Federal Reserve was swift and dramatic. That of the Bank of England was more cautious and measured. And the European Central Bank responded to pressure to follow the US with a determined 'Non', or, more accurately, 'Nein'.
You might think that libertarians like myself would favour the US position. It's the land of free markets, is it not?

No, actually.

Here's Jamieson again:

US central bank policy, certainly since the mid-1980s under Alan Greenspan, has always seemed especially sensitive to adverse stock market reaction, the memory of 1929-30 being hard-wired into the American financial mind.
But the Fed doesn't seem to have learned the real lesson of the Great Depression:
Since it first appeared in 1963, it has been the definitive treatment of the causes of the depression. The book remains canonical today because the debate is still very alive.

Rothbard opens with a theoretical treatment of business cycle theory, showing how an expansive monetary policy generates imbalances between investment and consumption. He proceeds to examine the Fed's policies of the 1920s, demonstrating that it was quite inflationary even if the effects did not show up in the price of goods and services. He showed that the stock market correction was merely one symptom of the investment boom that led inevitably to a bust.

Plus ca change... Here we go again. Printing and printing, with the same inevitable result as in the 1920's.

Sunday 20 January 2008

The Monstrous Regiment of Statists

Oh dear. John McTernan has really put his (left?) foot in it. And to think that he seemed quite normal when I sat beside him at a dinner a couple of years ago...

You can read about it all here and here:

DES BROWNE, the Scottish and defence secretary, was under pressure this weekend to sack one of his top aides for describing Scotland as a “narrow, Presbyterian and racist”

Jamie Hepburn covers the story well:

I am not quite sure why Presbyterianism should bear the brunt of such hostility from Mr McTernan, any more than any other branch of Christianity and I imagine there will be many members of the Church of Scotland pretty insulted by the suggestion that it falls neatly alongside racism and a narrow viewpoint. Indeed, wouldn't it be interesting to know what Prime Minister Gordon Brown - who makes great play of the fact that his moral compass is derived from his Presbyterian upbringing - thinks of John McTernan's outburst?
Here's an interesting thought experiment: would Scotland's education system have sunk so low over the past few decades had it been under the control of the Kirk instead of the Labour party?

(For those new to this blog, I advocate competition in education and don't favour any kind of monopoly.)

Friday 18 January 2008

Edinburgh photos

Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Some recent Edinburgh photos are on Flickr and also on the other blog.

Please show your workings

For quite a few years now I have prepared my mother's tax return.

Some of her income has tax deducted at source and some doesn't. Instalments are paid as requested by the Revenue each January and July against the expected balance of tax due. These twice-yearly amounts have been identical for several years and my mother's income has remained fairly constant other than some increase in line with inflation.

A few days ago I got a reminder from the Revenue that it was almost the end of January and that the next instalment would be payable by then - but I had never received a statement telling me how much to pay. I phoned the taxman and was told that the January instalment would be over six times the regular amount. I asked for written details of their workings and they arrived last night. After an hour or so this morning I worked out what the Revenue had done (or rather, NOT done) and phoned them up again. Result! The instalment due is now back down to the normal amount and written confirmation is in the post.

What worries me is this. How many other folk get tax demands that are out by a factor of six? How many of them don't have access to someone who can calculate the correct sums due? How many elderly folk become sick with worry on receiving outrageously wrong tax demands?

Alistair Darling - closet libertarian?

Originally uploaded by David Farrer

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Joining the Euro

Thanks to England Expects for this link:
There is absolutely no solid evidence to suggest it but this publication predicts that by the end of the month of January Britain will have announced that it intends to join the euro.
I think they may be right. The Euro deposit account I opened in October is now up over 7% in sterling terms. This is what's happened to the pound:

Benign neglect down to parity, perhaps?

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the government has already decided to go for the Euro. What I'd love to know is this: in which currency is Tony Blair's "five million dollar" salary actually being paid? Could it be in Euros? He knows what's planned.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Save Reg!

Like most people I'd always assumed that The Bill was for real. You know, some sort of documentary. Let's face it - over the years the programme has never failed to portray exactly the correct current gender and ethnic balance that one associates with the Metropolitan Police.

But today I've read some shocking news:

Actor Jeff Stewart, who plays PC Reg Hollis in ITV drama The Bill, has been treated in hospital after being told he was sacked.

Press reports suggested the 52-year-old cut his wrists after being informed.

Goodness me, it seems that The Bill isn't a documentary after all. Apparently they're all actors!

But back to "Reg":

His character also "lives life by a very strong moral code and hates dishonesty or injustice", it says.
So that's why Reg had to go. Not for him the fashionable PC (!) concerns about diversity and all that rubbish. No, Reg just wants to catch criminals. How quaintly old-fashioned.

I've an idea. Let Reg return to Sun Hill for a few weeks and then make him Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. You know it makes sense.

Wednesday 2 January 2008

A bean counter writes

Way back in the 1970's I became a convert to libertarianism and to the Austrian School of Economics.

The then Labour government started to print money like it was going out of fashion and naturally I reacted by building up a small stash of baked beans to hide under the bed. When the "crash" came I was going to survive just that little bit longer than anyone else in Earls Court bedsitterdom! After a few months the crash hadn't occurred and I had to open the cans and eat the damned beans. But was I wrong or just too early?

In October 2007 I decided to open a Euro deposit account. I got the distinct impression that the folks at my local bank saw this as a rather odd request. It took a few days to set things up and the account showed a loss after a week or so. But earlier today my Euro account went up by £15 in the time it took to drink my first cup of coffee. I'm now almost 5% up in three months.

Here's today's chart:

It's not just the pound against the Euro. Gold has gone up today by 3.32% in sterling terms. I've been thinking of getting a new lens for my camera for a while. Perhaps I should order now. It looks like the pound is going down faster than the productivity of Chinese factories goes up.

In the meantime politicians want to make it easier for people to go bankrupt.

Must get some more beans...