We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Ann and the Giant Credit Card

“The beauty of a Green New Deal is that it would pay for itself”, writes Ann Pettifor.

To raise the money for a green deal, governments would have to draw on their equivalent of a giant credit card, but would also be able to take advantage of investment by savers. Thankfully, the creation of millions of jobs will generate the income and tax revenues needed to repay any borrowing.

I loved the line about the giant credit card. It reads like a weird mutant “Guardian X CBeebies Story Timecrossover fic.

The trouble is that these days, so do both the Guardian and CBeebies Story Time.

Right to buy

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, thinks that housing is too expensive to buy, and that renting accommodation is too unpleasant: often poor quality, overcrowded and lacking long term security. His idea is to force landlords to sell their houses to their tenants at a government approved “reasonable” price.

This will all work out fine and there will be no unintended consequences.

Writing in CapX, Tim Worstall says everything about it than can reasonably be said. Meanwhile:

How we are saved from limiting ourselves

“First ads banned for contravening UK gender stereotyping rules”, reported the Guardian some days ago.

Two television ads, one featuring new dads bungling comically while looking after their babies and the other a woman sitting next to a pram, have become the first to be banned under new rules designed to reduce gender stereotyping.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned the ads for Philadelphia cream cheese and Volkswagen, following complaints from the public that they perpetuated harmful stereotypes.

The new rules, introduced at the beginning of the year, ban the depiction of men and women engaged in gender-stereotypical activities to help stop “limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they take”.

… by limiting what they are permitted to see and making their life decisions for them.

What is Modern Monetary Theory?

I commend this to samizdata readers, one in a series by Tim Worstall apparently:

Modern Monetary Theory is, in one sense, just reality. In the other and more important discussion MMT is a simple ignorance of the original question being asked.

Hit the link, read the whole thing.

Water shortages solved

Today’s quote of the day was from a longer conversation about water, starting with the conventional wisdom that climate change will inevitably lead to global water shortages. It is not immediately obvious why this should be so, given that melting ice, for example, presumably leads to there being more non-frozen water about.

The impression from the mainstream media is that any water-related problem can be caused by climate change. Floods? Climate change. Drought? Climate change. A summary from NASA suggests that some places, the places that get plenty of rain, will get more rain: so much that it floods. And other more typically dry places will see more droughts. So there is not necessarily a contradiction. On the other hand it is not clear how reliable such predictions are.

Different climate models provide different answers about what will happen to rainfall where. You can almost pick the result you want for a particular place by picking which climate model you want to listen to. You can take the mean of all the model outputs but that only seems useful if they all broadly agree, and even then they could all be wrong. The question of the usefulness of climate models is a big topic. The way they are tuned seems to allow for a lot opportunity for bias to creep in. Also the resolution of GCMs is not high, and the resolution affects the results, especially for precipitation.

In any case, there is a practically unlimited supply of water in the oceans, it is simply a matter of energy to turn it into drinking water and transportation to get it where we need it. With photo-voltaic panels becoming cheaper and more efficient as solar generation capacity has been growing exponentially for the last 25 years, energy is cheap. For desalination there is not even an energy storage problem, since we can make water during the day and water is easy to store. The technology is effective, simple and cheap.

As for transportation, I have heard there is some new technology called an aqueduct.

So there are no technical difficulties, it is not particularly expensive, and with poverty on its way out there seems little to stop any water supply problems from being solved.

As Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, put it, we will reach the “jaws of death – the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs”. It was ever thus. Luckily the action is not difficult.

Samizdata quote of the day

If private companies sold people water, they would regard high levels of demand as a market opportunity. When the government runs water systems, high levels of demand mean shortages. It’s insane. Instead of finding good ways to meet demand with technology, we get price distortion, rationing, and glum pronouncements about the sins of mankind.

– Perry Metzger, reacting to this drivel.

Space regulations

United Launch Alliance is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing that can put payloads into orbit on expendable rockets. They launched 7 payloads for commercial customers in the last decade, none since 2016. Their only customer is the US government.

In 2018, Spacex launched 14 payloads for commercial customers on their re-usable rocket. They are doing it for a fraction of the cost. Even the US government is using Spacex. ULA must be worried. What are they going to do?

ULA, and its parent companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin, have stood virtually alone in their support of the FAA’s rules revision.

What is this?

“I don’t blame ULA,” Eric Stallmer, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, told SpaceNews. The revised rules the FAA proposed favor large companies that have bureaucracies in place to comply with onerous requirements, he said. “But for new entrants, small launch companies, reusable launch companies, the rules are backbreaking. It’s a tremendous barrier to entry. It’s almost as if the Russians and the Chinese wrote these rules.”

And now we know how ULA hopes to beat the competition.

Ooh, can I be poor too?

The gullible Metro freesheet claims that 14,300,000 people in Britain are living in poverty, quoting something called the Social Metrics Commission.

The current population of the UK is 66.87 million. According to the Office for National Statistics Labour market overview for July 2019, 32.75 million people aged 16 years and over are in employment, 354,000 more than for a year earlier. The unemployment rate is lower than at any time since 1974. I have no doubt that poverty still exists but this claim is not credible.

Samizdata quote of the day

In many cases rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city – except for bombing.

– Economist Assar Lindbeck, which seems a timely reminder in view of this absurdity. Some actually take the view it is worse than bombing.

The restructuring of capitalism as we know it

A new kind of capitalism. A new way to measure progress. An end to the obsession with growth. We know what they really mean. Once in a while they spell it out nice and clearly.

nothing short of dramatic structural change in the way capitalism works can deliver the 2030 target of a 45 per cent cut in carbon emissions. To deliver the net-zero carbon emissions demanded by 2050 will require an economy so different from ours that we are unlikely to recognise it as capitalism.

Very unlikely, I would say.

a Sustainable Investment Board, comprising the chancellor, the business secretary and the governor of the Bank of England. First proposed by City analyst Graham Turner, the board’s original aim was to achieve a 3 per cent productivity target by funnelling private sector investment into high tech.

The state telling the private sector where to invest its money. Fascinating; and I am sure far more productive than the private sector deciding where to invest its money. Why have billions of investment decisions made by millions of people when three posh blokes obviously know better? A different kind of productivity! Greener productivity!

a £250bn National Investment Bank, its money raised over ten years, to fund some of that investment, combined with regional development banks

This is just more of the state deciding where to spend money.

I am no fan of the Stalinist planned economy

I sense a but coming…

Yet the unpleasant fact may be that centralised state intervention, planning and ownership might be the only thing that’s going to achieve the rapid reduction in carbon emissions we need.

Oh, it will achieve the rapid reduction of something all right.

If millions of human brains simultaneously accepted the need for a survival level restructure of society, akin to a wartime mobilisation, the population itself would become the change agent.

Why can’t well all just get along? Also, bring back rationing!

we are going to need a transition beyond the market and beyond an economy where incomes are largely based on work.

To each according to his need.

The central bank becomes an arm of the state, its preoccupation becomes to direct capital away from carbon

Just when you thought central banks were a bad idea, someone finds a way to make them worse.

capital flight is the financial elite’s all-purpose answer to the shutdown of its gravy train. In which case, having created the carrot, a government serious about climate change has to create the stick.

Ok, no more Mr Nice Guy, I guess.

the left has to put it to people straight. The “rights” of global finance capital have to be subordinated to the needs of the human race, via the democratic states we live in.

I am sure it will all turn out lovely.

Who is saying all this? Some crazy fringe lunatic everyone will ignore? I hope so but I am not sure. It is in the New Statesman, circulation 35,000. Paul Mason used to be economics editor of two state-funded TV news programmes, Newsnight and Channel 4 News. He is not nobody. People will be listening to him. He might be saying things that even more influential people want him to say. It is a bit of a worry.

The thing is, even if the end of the world is now imaginable, even if climate change threatens an end to universal human rights, an end to development, and “the fracture of globalisation and multilateral systems” (whatever that means); even if it really is as bad as they say: making ourselves less free and therefore poorer is only going to exacerbate it. Economic growth is more important, not less, because richer people can build infrastructure to overcome the environment. Richer people can move around. Economic growth means more people (even poor people!) get richer. When there is a natural disaster in a poor country, far more poor people are harmed than are when there is a natural disaster in a rich country. That is the difference that old fashioned, bog-standard, neo-liberal economic growth makes. That is why I am against Paul Mason’s brand of communism: because by reversing ordinary economic growth it will be more harmful than the IPCC’s most dire predictions about climate change.

There is not even any reason to suppose that freedom and growth is incompatible with reducing carbon emissions: solar energy is undergoing something of a Moore’s law cost reduction; new technology means using energy more efficiently. And there are undoubtedly ways to turn things around that Paul Mason has not though of. He thinks a few hundred human brains can direct “millions of human brains” to solve problems; but that is not how it works. Millions of human brains are very good at solving problems if they are free to figure things out for themselves.

Samizdata quote of the day

“They’ll often talk about anything they do apart from making a profit, which is the central purpose of a business and which is what drives businesses forward.”

Liz Truss, UK Treasury minister, reflecting on how many business leaders today seem embarrassed and incapable of talking about building wealth, and would rather talk about how they want to give it away, or pander to environmental pressures, etc. It is refreshing to see a UK minister giving this mindset hard treatment. It would be good if this happened more often.

(I am writing these words from Singapore, which I am visiting for a business trip. The city-state that does not appear to have quite such a cringe about capitalist success.)

A very British attitude to tax

Here is very British YouTuber Dr Jake explaining the tax implications of monetising a YouTube channel:

On having to pay an accountant, file paperwork for self-employment, spend hours finding and filing receipts, throw himself on the mercy of a Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs amnesty, pay hundreds of pounds in back-dated tax and spend hours every year filing paperwork so he can pay a large proportion of the small income he gets from his hobby business to the state, he says:

isn’t a huge amount of money […] not brilliant […] now I’m a law-abiding citizen […] at least I can sleep at night

I would go on an extended rant about the unseen consequences of all this, but as usual, even thinking about tax and its complications has sucked out all my enthusiasm for anything. I think I will go and have a cup of tea instead.