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Samizdata quote of the day

My Twitter is full of people angry about the insane cost of living increases while my LinkedIn is full of nerdy middle class engineers in safe, white collar jobs excitedly praising net zero policies and their role in building a “sustainable” future.

Tim Newman

19 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Stonyground

    Nobody that thinks that Net Zero is remotely plausible, or even needed, can call themselves an engineer.

  • Alex

    This cost of living stuff, at least in the UK, appears to be largely trumped up to attack the current government.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t real risks on the horizon. The energy policies of western countries are largely bonkers at present. Unfortunately the majority of people seem to have drunk the kool aid on wind turbines (which are the least reliable form of low emissions energy, and capital intensive to boot) and therefore blame “the government” for energy price rises even when said government has been doing exactly what they† say they want.

    Of course, the old* men who still largely do most of the actual productive work in society tend to be pretty quiet these days. Being a bit contrarian by nature I have put my neck out a few times and have often had other blokes come up to me later and thank me for pushing back on some of the bullshit in projects I am involved in. Nevertheless I still had to endure a rant about Trump from some prat born with a silver-spoon betwixt gob pitching for a major contract in one project I am involved in. I’m not the decision maker in that project but I think they aren’t going to win the contract anyway, which I am secretly pleased about.

    * Older than 30
    † The hard of thinking who can’t connect unstable wind energy outputs with rising gas prices.

  • Sigivald

    “Want sustainable?

    Build a lot of nuclear reactors.

    More, cheaper energy is good for humanity AND “The Planet”, in this case.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Alex

    This cost of living stuff, at least in the UK, appears to be largely trumped up to attack the current government.

    Honest question: why do you say that? Are you saying that ONS is just plain wrong about CPI(H)? Or is it that you argue that the figures are not really relevant?

    Not trying to pick a fight, would just like more explanation.

  • Mark

    @Stonyground

    Damn, beat me to it!

  • Alex

    Thanks for the question Clovis.

    Yes, I guess I am saying that the figures aren’t that relevant. Apart from energy, my household (comprised of myself and my long-term girlfriend) is not spending more money than this time last year. Partly that’s because we buy slightly different things (a cheaper loaf of bread, for example, but still a good quality one) but we don’t stint ourselves yet we don’t spend much on groceries, not compared to what I’ve seen quoted as the grocery shops for single persons in agitprop pieces by The Guardian et al. I earn well, and my partner earns reasonably well, so I appreciate I’m not going to feel the pinch in the same way as some people but most of our main meals end up well below £2/head or around £60 per month for dinners (i.e. the main evening meal), and around another £15 for breakfasts and lunches. This isn’t done from any kind of need or obligation, it’s just (to me, anyway) a sensible level of expenditure allowing us to eat well, there’s not much conscious effort to keep it low (and I’m not even sure it counts as low, but it certainly isn’t expensive).

    An article from the BBC about a single guy in Ipswich living on Universal Credit stated he spends £100* on food, clothing and transport per month – but he doesn’t have a car because he’s epileptic, would get free bus travel because he’s epileptic, doesn’t have a job and ergo presumably doesn’t need to buy much in the way of new clothing per month, and therefore has the bulk of that £100 for food. He is stated as having to use food banks because he can’t afford to eat. I just don’t get it – food prices were higher in the recent past, if you wanted to eat meat and fresh vegetables anyway. There’s lots of cheap food in supermarkets today, you can buy enough chicken for a month of meals for under a tenner (not saying that you should, but it is certainly possible).

    * The article text says he spends £40 on his own food and dog food but it immediately contradicts it in a table of expenditure which says £100. It also says he has to pay for the bus but that’s not true if he’s a diagnosed epileptic, and there’s nothing stopping him learning a trade like plastering and setting up self-employed.

    Putting the agitprop aside, I can’t otherwise see what the fuss is about. Fuel is going up, yes, and that’s to be expected with the war in the Ukraine and also the general level of activity returning to pre-COVID levels (flights, tourism, lots of building work going on, etc). Fuel for transport is, however, largely optional expenditure. If people are struggling to afford it, they can use the bus or walk, or telecommute. Yes, I know, people live in the sticks and have to get to work – but they chose to live in the sticks. Minimum wage is now £1520 per month for an average hours minimum wage job, food costs can be less than 5% of that.

    Housing is more expensive, and that is pushing up CPI(H), but again there’s more options than there used to be. Many jobs are now telecommutable that never previously were even just 3 years ago. I appreciate not everyone can take advantage of that, if they have kids in schools for instance, but two parent families with kids in schools should be perfectly fine with the two wages, and single parent families are eligible for assistance (so-called tax credits).

    This is all very UK-specific, and I am not as familiar with the situation in other countries so I can’t really comment on how true or otherwise the “cost of living crisis” is in those countries, but unless I am missing something major I really can’t see why anyone should be starving to death, or freezing to death, in the UK.

  • Alex

    P.S. I notice from this BBC article on inflation, the categories of foods I buy the most have only risen by single digit inflation (fresh vegetables 4%, fresh fruit 5.4) followed by low double digit increases in the other categories I tend to buy (fresh fish 10.4%, dried and preserved vegetables 12.0%, poultry 13.5%). This perhaps explains a little bit why I am not quite seeing the rises in food prices that other people are. But if they are buying the overall cheaper frozen meat, frozen veg, etc then they can’t be spending as much as me 😉

    Apologies for the double-post, missed the window for editing.

  • Mr Ed

    Stonyground

    Nobody that thinks that Net Zero is remotely plausible, or even needed, can call themselves an engineer.

    I suppose it depends on what they are trying to engineer… Poverty, totalitarianism and misery? The realisation of their deluded fantasies?

  • I suggest that LinkedIn is people curating CV-style information for future job applications, etc. Hence

    – you don’t say that you are having difficulty making ends meet – that just lowers the salary an employer will think necessary to offer you, and suggest to them that your current salary is lower than the non-complainers’, i.e. you are less sought-after

    – you do engage in a bit of virtue signalling – HR will see your linked-in profile and you want your application to survive that

    Anyone who is familiar with LinkedIn (it would be easy to be more familiar than I) and thinks I’m misreading its style, by all means say so.

  • Alex

    On inflation statistics (and bloody lies), not wishing to be a bore though I fear that ship sailed a while ago, I note that certain categories were added to the “average basket of goods” this year:

    In 2022, items such as tinned beans and sports bras were added, reflecting a rising interest in plant-based diets and exercise.

    Both of these things are a bit anomalous. Tinned beans are notoriously unstable in price being highly affected by seasonal demand, crop failures and supermarket price wars (see Tesco in the 90’s). Sports bras are expensive (compared with normal bras) and presumably not something one needs to buy every day, which seems suspiciously likely to inflate the index.

  • Hugh

    Alex: “2£/head” etc.

    I think if you added in all the junk that you don’t eat, it would soon come to £100.

  • X Trapnel

    @Alex

    What’s powering the deep-freeze the unemployed are to store all that cheap chicken in? How big are their deep-freezers? How old are they, come to that, and how good’s their warranty? How about the oven that will cook the stuff? You do realise why they eat crap, and why you eat well, I suppose? 3 minutes in a microwave is all they’ve got. Marginal rises in the cost of stuff you can absorb: Marks and Spencer is not the only place to buy fresh vegetables, after all. But if your income’s low, and static, and what you normally spend what money you have on is going up in price by 5-7%, it is going to hurt. Hard work and good choices I’m sure you and your girlfriend score quite highly on, and them not quite so much, but the unemployed pay the same rates of electricity and gas as you do. Rising energy costs (which unless your steward takes care of for you guys you cannot fail to notice are going up a lot) hit the poorest the hardest. You should meet some poor people once in a while, or you’ll reach conclusions just as narrow as nerdy middle class engineers do.

    Seriously. Have a pop at nerdy middle class Marie Antoinettes. At climate scientists, and their shills in the mainstream media; at Klaus Schwab; at lockdown zealots, at quantitative easers, at nationalisers, and socialisers, and at enemies of progress of every stripe. Just leave the poor or unemployed out of it, please.

  • Alex

    I’m not having a pop at anyone except the agitprop merchants, X.

    As for meeting poor people, I live in statistically one of the poorest LSOAs in the country, I am from a poor background myself and I help my neighbours. I just don’t share the view that increasing dependency improves the lot of the poor.

    You’re wrong, not everyone pays the same rates for energy and this is something that is largely under individual control. The poor tend not to switch supplier much, and tend to be on prepayment meters but they don’t have to be. I also reject your assertion that eating well is more expensive than eating badly, quite the opposite actually. The whole point of my comments was that if you shop carefully (and in your rush to ad hominem you seem to have made a lot of inaccurate assumptions about me) anyone can afford to eat quite well according to the same figures given in the agitprop articles.

  • bobby b

    Perhaps the US situation vis-a-vis food price inflation is different. I know it doesn’t comport with what I perceive Alex to be saying.

    I tend to cook meals from scratch (i.e., no frozen/premade/synthetic ingredients), and use fresh and healthy choices. I have several specific meals that I make for family occasions which always call for the same list of ingredients.

    Over the past year, those meals have risen in cost approximately 24%.

    I know several families of limited means feeding multiple kids, and they are in dire straits right now.

    And, this:

    “Fuel for transport is, however, largely optional expenditure. If people are struggling to afford it, they can use the bus or walk, or telecommute. Yes, I know, people live in the sticks and have to get to work – but they chose to live in the sticks.”

    Well, I suppose they can just eat cake, right?

  • Two pointe re the discussion between Alex and others.

    1) In the UK, energy prices are currently rising much faster than food prices (which have also risen but not yet in the same marked way). From what I know of the US, bobby b is right to see food as already also a bigger issue, and in the much larger US there is much less optionality about fuel for transport.

    2) The discussion reminds me of Orwell’s interesting analysis of a 1930s debate on the poor, their food, state handouts and etc. An Alex of his day wrote to a paper with a most intelligently-worked-out budget for eating healthily on three shillings a week (literally, that’s fifteen pence in today’s terms; the government has stolen a lot of our money via inflation since then). IIRC, the state payment per indigent person at the time was 21 shillings a week (mostly for food but not solely for that). Whereupon the usual suspects made the usual accusations that this man (who stated he was living on his budget, and was poor enough to need to) was a “let them eat cake” Scrooge. Orwell granted that it was an exceptionally well-worked out budget and granted that the British working class (historically wealthier than their continental equivalents and so less efficient, food-wise) were not that skilled at managing their food budget. He also pointed out that it was a very-healthy-for-the-money but rather dull diet and discussed the importance of “little treats” in the somewhat drab life of an urban 1930s slum. Overall, he defended the higher-than-essential payments on the very unsocialist grounds that that was how British working class people were.

    I write this a few minutes after the Kilmartin family discussed economising on “going out for coffee” this Saturday morning – not because tea shops have (yet) become vastly more expensive but the fuel to drive there has, and so has enough else that it shows in the budget. There are those in the UK to whom the effects already raise questions more demanding than just “Shall we drive to a scenic tea shop this morning, or save a little by cycling there, or save a little more by making real coffee at home, then walking in our neighbourhood”. Observing that the cheapest option did not immediately receive universal enthusiastic approval, I reflected that it is not only in an urban slum that life can seem drab if it is not punctuated with occasional “little treats”.

  • Paul Marks

    Anyone who supported the “lockdowns” and the money-from-nothing used to pay people to stay-at-home who now complains about cost of living (inflation) is a hypocrite.

    As for “Net Zero” – the wind turbines carry on killing birds, the electric batteries continue to be an increasing environmental disaster, and the vast money-pit that is “HS2” carries on.

    Since the coup against President Trump (the “81 million votes” that supposedly went for someone, Mr Joseph Biden, who supported “Trans Rights” for EIGHT YEAR OLD CHILDREN) not a single leader of a developed Western country has questioned the agenda.

    Whether this is because Western leaders all believe in the agenda, or they fear being removed (via Election Fraud – or other means) as President Trump was, I do not know. Perhaps it is a bit of both “the officials and experts all say this is correct, it is POLICY, and I must rubber stamp it – and, besides, if I do not go along with it – bad things might happen to me”.

    “But Paul – Mr Biden did get 81 million votes, the question is whether they came from 81 million voters”.

    Yes I know.

  • Martin

    I’m curious to know where you can buy a month’s worth of chicken for less than £10. How much chicken are we talking about here? And will I not end in A and E if I eat it? I’ll admit that despite a lot of food getting increasingly expensive I have found some bargains recently. But chicken in particular has been one thing I’ve cut back on because of price recently.

  • Quentin

    If people really are having trouble, I hear a Mr Swift has a modest proposal…

  • Paul Marks

    Quentin I have a modest proposal as well – my proposal being that governments stop pushing up prices with their regulations, taxes and (above all) their Credit Money expansion.

    Johnathan Swift suggested eating babies (he was not serious – although he did later go mad), but I think my suggestion, see above, is a better one.

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