Thursday, 24 November 2011

War on our world

Quite a long documentary a nearly 2:40, but I'm sure you'll find the opinion thought-provoking even if you disagree with it, and the fact and information equally compelling.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Thrive movie

This film in 9 parts on Youtube starts of as what seems a rather schmaltzy pastoral as if it were going to be a "what an amazing world we live in" type document. It then ventures into a theory about the torus (ring doughnut shape) and its significance along with other shapes compunded from it, at all scales throughout the universe and time. Hidden code stuff. I wasn't sure about the significance or validity of it, but I'm no expert. The film culminates in standard theory about how the rich banking families are in ultimate control of society, via money, and suggests ways of breaking out of the control of this so-called new world order.

There's an interesting section about so-called free energy, which as far as I understand is inducing energy rom the earth's magnetic field.

In his what the world could be like conjecture at the end, the author posits monetary/financial reform - so less radical than TVP/TZM in that respect. Also he is influenced positively by Ludwig von Mises, which came as bit of a surprise as I was expecting the author to be more aligned with TZM/TVP in his position on that Austrian Economist, but my knowledge of von Mises is very scant, so I won't comment much further. The author accepts that we're all connected, but also agrees with von Mises that individual freedom is the way to a better society, and acting at a societal level has not worked / will not work.

The author says that the movie's statements are well-sourced, presumably on the website but I haven't followed this up.

More 9-11: Loose change (2nd edition)

I don't really see how after watching even just this film anyone can continue to believe the official story of what happened on 9-11 in the USA. The vast bulk of the film is evidence against the official story - no alternative explanation is pressed throughout most of the film, though at the end, not unexpectedly, the filmmaker claims that the 9-11 events were an inside job. Given that the the official account is so obviously untrue in very many significant detailks the 'inside job' theory at least deserves closer examination as does any plausible theory; it can't be dismissed just for not being the official story.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Behavioural economics: Not just making up the numbers

This refers to an article in London's Metro free newspaper, by Rory Sutherland -
"Those wedded to a neo-classical economic view of the world are liable to assume that the world's population consists entirely of independent actors making decisions on the basis of rational, calculating self-interest. ... "Homo economicus" - a beast created to conceive elegant mathematical models of behaviour but with no regard for how people behave in reality. ... Opponents of this view, ... such as George Soros and Charlie Munger have long been enthusiasts for behavioural economics. ... A recession, combined growing concerns over the environment , are increasingly leading people to believe that the way to solve the many human problems is not with 'more stuff' but by using less stuf in a more humman centred way.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Relative wealth

Well, 'The Week' 5/11/11 is proving (ahem) a rich source of material for this topic! This blog entry is a response to "Viewpoint: Relative wealth".

1) "I know we're all meant to hate fat cats". I know this is hyperbole, but it's use at the head of this article could be a subtle way of parodying a righteous anger at inequality as being 'hatred'.

2) "I don't see why people who put up with footballers earning zillions resent chief executives for doing the same." Yes - but by this logic we should equally 'resent' both as the neither that it seems to imply.

3) "If you earn, say, £30,000 a year, you are among the richest 0.5% of the world's population. ... Would someone on £30,000 give up some of their relatively vast salary? I think not." Ah yes, divert attention away from fat cat salaries like £1m a month by focussing on something like the average UK salary. I think this is the slippery slope argument/fallacy. Once we've claimed that someone's £60m bonus or 50% pay rise is excessive, it is inevitable that we will finish up cutting in to more modest (in first world terms) incomes. Therefore (the inference is) we should leave the fat cats alone.

4) "All wealth is relative". By this I assume they mean something like the poorest person in a developed country is richer than most people in an undeveloped one. Whilst this is true (or true enough) what does it add? 'Proposition: It isn't right that x earns 500 times what y earns.' 'Response: Ah, but all wealth is relative.' It just doesn't make any contribution, even if it's a fact. It's just a rhetorical device - throw in a seemingly related factoid and see what happens - a kind of logical smoke bomb.

In an RBE, of course, we would create a world where human needs were met, and where jealously guarding one's current status relative to those further down the heap than you (the 99.5% on less than £30K in this example) would not make any sense.

Fat cats: do they deserve their pay?

In 'The Week' 5/11/11, the article "Fat cats: do they deserve their pay?" quotes Philip Hensher, writing in 'The Independent': "Do I care if their salaries are 60 times greater than mine? I do not". Thanks for that Philip. I do care that you don't care, though. You should read 'The spirit level' (see, and maybe you would start caring!

Hensher continues "paying them less wouldn't make anyone else better off." This is a rhetorical and obviously true point. We know that paying people more makes them better off (to be equally obvious) and if The Equality Trust is right, more equal income leads to fewer social problems.

Hensher works out that reducing former Tesco top man Terry Leahy's salary from £1m a month to more like £10K a week (how would he have coped?) would only save enough to pay all the other 260,000 Tesco employees a further £3.68 a month. I agree it's not much, but as Tesco's say, "every litle helps".

I don't know what a typical Tesco salary is, but let's say it's £20K pa. This means that even with Hensher's putative reduction, Leahy would have been paid for 2 weeks what the typical employee gets in a year - the order of 25 times as much. At £1m a month, Leahy was getting the equivalent of 50 years' typical salary in just one month. Was he really as effective as 600 typical employees?

We don't know from 'The Week' (nor I asume from 'The Independent' about the other high earners at Tesco, who would logically have to take a pay cut to ensure that they weren't out earning their boss.

Lies, damned lies and ...

In a letter to 'The Times' (reprinted in 'The Week' 5/11/11), professor of economics J R Shackleton (University of Buckingham) wrote: "the top 1% of all earners pay a quarter of all income tax. Cutting executive pay would mean the rest of us paying more tax."

I can only say it's a good job that Shackleton is not a professor of logic or arithmetic. Cutting the pay of the top 1% of earners would indeed mean that they would pay less income tax at current rates - a key caveat he (or at least the letter) omits, but there is nothing to stop the top 1% of earners continuing to pay this proportion of the total income tax rake even on reduced pay. Also, if the executive pay excised from those heap topping executives were distributed amongst the earners of less money, they would pay more income tax (at current rates) simply because they earned more.

To get a little more sophisticated: I don't know if Prof Shackleton has read 'The spirit level' and/or the associated materials from If he has, he would know that the research finds that there are far fewer social problems in more income-equal societies . The fewer social problems there are, the less tax would need to be taken to pay for ways of containing those problems.

Shackleton trots out the standard argument that "the smartest of them [ie executives] will leave to earn unregulated income elsewhere". Part of me wants to say 'OK then, bye', but if the thesis of  'The spirit level' is correct and these executives transplan themselves to another unequal society (or make it more unequal by their transfer into it), they will live have to live among social problems there, too.

Shackleton also comes up with the astounding "once we politicise top company pay it will never be opportune to raise it." What?- Oh no, we can't have that, can we!

Food and population

The announcement recently that the human population of the planet has reached 7 billion has prompted much discussion on how many mouths the planet can feed. Most lay people who say there are too many people are basing this on our current system, but may need pressing a little to check this.

I was prompted to blog in this subject by  a letter to The Daily Telegraph that I have just read, re-printed in 'The Week' (29/10/11). The writer had collected 42lbs (19 kg) of reject potatoes from a 125 sq yd (105 sq m) area in Suffolk, England. These potatoes are too small or too large or too something to meet supermarket standards and are ploughed back into the fields. This is just one example of our appalling attitude to food; it is, apparently, better to discard it than lose money on it. All the while have the deliberate destruction of food, along with set-aside, and other aberrant behaviour, we cannot argue that we are over populated.

And even if we didn't waste the food that we grow, we are not growing all we can. A sane person would think that increasing the nutritional yield of our food production system was something well-worth looking into, and so hydroponic and aeroponic cultivation techniques would be the focus of scientific investigation and the nutrient content of our food would not be falling. But in the mad world we live in, if someone can't make money out of it, they won't do it.

Those who argue that our population level is already or soon will be unsustainable seem to ignore food waste and under use of food production capability, but to argue that people will be born into starvation. Yes, but people are starving in one part of the world whilst in another food is wasted at all stages of production, and over consumed causing obesity. The arguent that poor people shouldn't have children because they can't afford them makes my blood run cold. The success of any species must surely be indicated by its ability to reproduce and sustain itself, yet we have people dying for both too much and not enough food, whilst arguing that some humans should be denied existence because of this eminently solvable problem.

Who knows what brilliant potential these never-to-be-born victims of social engineering may have had?

In an RBE, the human need for nutrition would be the driving force in food production, not the need for monetary profit. Starting from how much and what nutrition  (proteins, carbs, vitamins, minerals and so on) a human needs to survive and thrive, by science we can work out how best to derive these nutrients sustainably from among the planet's resources, and distribute them to the people on the planet. We would develop and harness technology to help feed our fellow humans, not argue that they should never have been born because (in effect) our monetary system has only destined them to a life of poverty and disease and a premature death.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Natural Capitalism

I have been discussing, on Facebook, with fellow advocates of an RBE whether the ideas presented in the book Natural Capitalism are valid and helpful in the transition to an RBE which most people, if not everyone, agree cannot happen overnight. One of the principles that NatCap and an RBE share is that what we need are services, and not goods in themselves. One example used is the chauffagiste, who provides the service of keeping your home warm, for which you pay him. In our current economic system, it will clearly make sense for him to do this cost efficiently, as any £ he saves can be kept as profits and/or passed on as cost savings to the end user.

From an environmental poin of view, one would hope that this would lead to reduced waste / pollution and use of non-renewable resources, but it might be the case that your chauffagiste buys energy from a producer who is polluting like billy-ho but producing energy at low unit cost to the end user. In NatCap terms this is because the right to pollute is under-priced. If it wasn't, and all the externalities of producing energy were costed into the unit price, the rising price itself would itself provide the disincentive to use the energy inefficiently.

Once every natural resource has a price on it, maybe NatCap will arrive at an RBE through its own method and logic.

NatCap would see everything given a price so that Capitalism obeyed its own rule of not liquidating capital (natural capital here) and calling it income. So, if the price of physical resources included all externalities, the factory gate price of the good (energy in my example) would not vary in those terms. It would still vary by the efficiency of the corporation - ie how much it was paying out in wages. Capitalism seeks out the cheapest labour and cheap ways to replace human labour, but in doing so reduces the spending power of the consumers it needs to keep spending to keep cyclic consumption going. This is how capitalism destroys itself.

Debt unsustainable says Daily Telegraph

Jeff Randall writing in the Telegraph (what could be more mainstream?) points out that the people of Britain owe £1.5 trillion in mortgages, loans and credit card debts. He says if the Bank of England was not holding down the base rate at 0.5% "borrowers would be going to the wall in droves" but also that the BofE can't hold rates down for ever. "So why aren't politicians raising the alarm? Because the Chancellor wants people to keep spending to boost the stalling economy." "Consumers should be in no doubt though: a 'day of reckoning' is coming." [Derived from an article in The Week, 5 November 2011].

Clearly a lower interest rate is better than a high one when you're in debt, but the money to pay back interest has to be borrowed and can only be borrowed at interest. So debt can never be paid back by everyone - some have to go bust - it's just arithmetic.

And how are we going to keep spending without eventually consuming all the resources that the planet has available? To some extent consuming services will help, if those services are trying to be more materials efficient (more service for less stuff - especially waste and pollution).

But because £ has been put beween real resources and the meeting of human need, meaning that we have to meet human need indirectly by the acquiring of money, which bears interest, we have to work to get £, and then spend the £ so that others can be in work. Cyclic consumption it's called. We need to be meeting human need directly from real resources, sustainably. If £ facilitates this, so be it, but money must be the means, not the end.

Dr Giles Fraser, who resigned as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral because of his concerns over the way the Cathedral was treating Occupy the London Stock Exchange protesters, said on Thought for the day on BBC Radio 4 this morming that markets produce wealth and jobs. This depends on what you mean by markets and wealth. If you mean financial markets, ie gambling institutions, well yes people, though not everyone, can make £ by such gambling. Wealth - if it is to be truly relevant - has surely to be gauged as the means to meet human need, a means that money cannot be as it cannot be eaten, drunk, breathed, lived in, or used to move things.

Markets first evolved as a means of distributing goods. The true wealth creators would take their produce to a place where they could sell it and money fulfilled its classic role as a means exchange, a store of value and a unit of accounting. A farmer doesn't want to swap the sheep (say) that he has raised for physical goods, especially not persishables, so he takes tokens which he can use later to acquire the means to meet his human need.

So because £ can be used to acquire goods and services as and when required, it takes on the semblamce of actually being a commodity, rather than just tokens. Money markets logically follow,  but people quietly forget that just because there is more £ there is not more actual directly useful stuff. Only science and technology can take the credit for actually increasing yields of directly useful stuff.

Nowadays, the advocates of an RBE hold that science and technology can sustainably help the planet yield enough directly useful stuff to meet our human needs, and with moderm communications, there is no need (or less need) to take physical things to a physical space for the exchange/transfer to take place. (The farmer just puts his sheep on e-bay, so to speak, and whoever wants them buys them.)

So if we were organising our planet today from scratch, using what we know and can do today, the pull of money on our economy (lit. household management) wouldn't be the driving force. If there isn't scarcity there's no need to use money as a store of value, means of exchange or store of value. If we use human need as the driving force, we immediately see that we don't need to do any more work than is necessary to facilitate our human needs being met and that if we can reduce that work by technology and mechanisation, that would be good, not bad (as we already accept at household level).

So there, again, is the train of thought that leads to an RBE. The use of the scientific method via technology, to sustainably meet human need.