Banks: the chickens are coming home to roost

Bankers’ bonuses are going to be capped. The poor dears who rely on their bonuses to maintain their life styles will, in the European Union, have their bonuses capped to the equivalent of their annual salaries. It will be a small step on the right path and in the right direction, but it fails to deal with the underlying problem that the banks have caused and still cause for our economies. The second small step will be to separate the traditional banking business for taking deposits and lending from the highly speculative activities which involve what is in effect gambling with other banks. Continue reading

The Bloodhound Super Sonic Car Project – How to mix horsemeat with beef

People love breaking records but sometimes they try to break the wrong kind of records. Certainly breaking a world record usually means learning something but with learning you have to prioritise. It is better to learn to read than it is to learn how to disguise horsemeat as beef. Both are, of course, useful occupations but reading is more important. So it is with record breaking. For some reason a group of British engineers have their hearts set on breaking a world speed record for a car. Continue reading

Transaction Taxes

The European Commission has proposed a transaction tax. It is a modest proposal which sets a tax on transfers of shares and bonds of 0.1% payable by the buyer and a tax on derivatives of 0.01%. It is intended to encourage what the commission calls more responsible trading and it should make speculation less attractive. Continue reading

It is Alleged

I am going to use the word “alleged” quite a lot in this essay. There have been a number of cases, ranging from politicians to priests to ordinary people in which a person has been accused of alleged sexual impropriety. In all of these cases the alleged perpetrators have been named, and must try to defend themselves as best they can. It can be hard to defend yourself when allegations of misconduct are made but no charges have been brought. No matter; allegations against a person have the effect of naming and shaming them even though charges may never be brought. Continue reading

Exporting Our Industry: exporting our pollution

When the great western democracies exported their smokestack industries and their manufacturing and processing industries to the developing world they did so to make money, or to make more money. There are two reasons why you can make more money by manufacturing abroad; the first is that the cost of labour is significantly less in China than it is in say the United Kingdom. The second reason is that regulations and the enforcement of them are significantly lighter in places like China. Continue reading

Spring will come, but not just yet

It is a cold day in London. It is almost snowing as winter tries to hold on to its season. The welcome long days will warm the earth, but the cold wind from the north will freeze the bones that lie buried there. Spring will come, but not just yet, not just yet. It will be a cold night on London. Spring will come, but not just yet, not just yet.

People Like Us

The concept that big is beautiful is not one honoured in words but it certainly is honoured in observance. Every day in almost every part of our lives we must deal with a big organisation that has many millions of customers. These big organisations, like wealthy people and the aristocracy, seek comfort in organisations like them so we find that their auditors are massive corporations, their lawyers are massive businesses and their friends are people like them. Continue reading

LIBOR – The Stables are still Filthy

If you borrow money at an interest rate that is linked to something, then you have to understand the thing to which it is linked. If you were to borrow money linked to the base rate of a major bank (or one of the base rates of a major bank) you will know that the rate you pay will rise and fall. You rather put yourself into the hands of the bank and the market. If the bank’s base rate to which your interest rate is linked, is also a base rate that is used to attract deposits to the bank, then your interest will fluctuate more or less in line with the market.
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Poverty is not a Statistic

It is very hard to measure poverty. Poverty is not a statistic. It is a state of being. Figures are misleading but it is clear that some people are poorer than others and some places have many more poor people than others. Continue reading

Energy Prices Will Rise but the Problem is More than Rising Prices

The British consumers of energy, both domestic and industrial, face the inevitability of even higher energy prices over the next few years. At the moment electricity prices are about the same in the United Kingdom as they are in continental Europe, but natural gas prices are just over half the price of natural gas. All that is going to change and if you feel that you are paying far more than you envisaged for energy now, then you will have to budget more carefully in several years’ time. Continue reading