Noise in the City

As I worked in my office on a quiet Saturday morning, my concentration was shattered by the noise of builders’ jack hammer drilling in the road some thirty yards outside the building in which i am trying to work. My room is four floors above street level and in the middle of London Saturday is usually a day of relative quiet, but not this Saturday. Continue reading

Ghost towns are not centres of business prosperity

By what appears to be good management and expert effort the government calculates that the London Olympics 2012, which cost the country more than £9 billion in taxes, produced indirect financial benefits for the country of £9.9 billion. Continue reading

Shale Gas: is it worth it?

George Osborne is the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom. This grand title (the British love grand titles) translates into the Finance Minister in most nations. Mr Osborne is not renowned as an environmentalist, but does. Like all politicians, love grand schemes and big projects. It is as though big projects – like holding the Olympic Games or building the Millennium Dome – are the only worthwhile projects that should catch the attention of the holder of a grand title. Continue reading

Revenue Share: a Government Scam

If you had servants (almost no one has servants these days, of course,) and you wanted to call your servant to undertake some task for you, you would not expect to pay for calling your servant, because you already pay his or her wages. If your servants instituted a charge which you had to pay for calling them, you would consider this wrong and unacceptable. But this is what our servants, the government in all its agencies and branches and guises is doing right now. Continue reading

A Bear of Very Little Brain

I wonder why in the United Kingdom the intellectual capacity of ministers and civil servants who deal with energy issues is so low. I know that I am being unusually rude, but energy and the environment are too important issues to have bears of very little brain in charge of policy.

Avid readers of these essays will know that I have always been opposed to wood burning power stations and will know the reason is that they cause terrible environmental damage. Continue reading

Taxing Princes

One of the perquisites of being a monarch or an heir to a monarch or of being a dictator or an heir to a dictator is that you are never taxed. Ordinary folk do not have this privilege. Ordinary folk have the honour and privilege of paying taxes, unlike the leaders, monarchs and incredibly wealthy people. Prince Charles is the heir to the monarch and a very wealthy person. He owns most of Cornwall, and one of his titles is “Duke of Cornwall”. The Duchy of Cornwall, his estate in that county, is worth more than £790 million. Last year Prince Charles drew an income of £19 million from the Duchy (how much the Duchy actually made in profit or income is not clear to me but I would imagine that it would be considerably higher than £19 million). The prince is not bound by the Income & Corporation Taxes Acts, unlike you and me, but pays income tax on a voluntary basis. Last year he decided to pay £4 million in tax, which is an astonishing low figure out of an estate the size of the Duchy of Cornwall. Continue reading

An Incident in Camden Town

I saw a young lady, a pretty young lady, walk in Camden Town on a sunny day. She had a cardboard cup with her coffee in it, and held it in her left hand as she turned a corner walking close to the building that straddled the corner. Just after she turned the corner her hand brushed against an object, disturbing the coffee. She glanced up to see what unexpected object had touched her coffee cup. It was a dirty stained king sized mattress, draped over someone’s back wall. These things happen and they happen in Camden Town more than in other places.

Money has no conscience and owes no loyalty

I think that the economic recession is ending now but people fear the changes that a return to relative prosperity will bring. For some, a modest increase in interest rates will mean bankruptcy while for others it will mean that they can afford a bit more and lose a bit less of their savings each year. Continue reading

Rotting From the Head

When you find an organisation that is undertaking some critical task for society, and undertaking that task badly, or incompetently or in ways which are scandalous, and you dig deep into the organisation you usually find at its head someone you has been knighted. The National Health Service is headed by Sir David Nicholson; that organisation has not been free from scandals and incompetencies of many kinds. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority chairman is Sir Ian Kennedy, who managed to decide that Members of Parliament should get a rise of 11% per annum while most of the rest of the workforce of the country for whom MPs make laws experience in real terms a fall in income year by year.

Unfortunately, these bosses are not very perfect gentle knights. Would be unkind to remind ourselves that a fish rots from the head and it seems that knighthoods hasten the process?

Earth is not room enough

There are more than seven billion people alive on the earth today. In my lifetime, which is not even a feather of recorded history, the population of humans on this planet has increased by threefold. The population has increased six fold since my grandfather was born and nearly fourfold since my father was born.

There are many parts of the world filled by humanity, and even more filled by the activities of humanity. For the time being, but only for the time being, earth is room enough, but a threefold increase in population on this planet over the next sixty or seventy years will leave us all with less room to live and fewer resources to share. There will be little living space. Then earth will not be room enough. Continue reading