This runs against my normal narrative, which might be all the more reason to mention it.
I was chatting earlier today with a partner in a criminal forensics consultancy. This firm (of ex-Met personnel, mainly) is employed by solicitors in complicated cases to perform forensic analysis of things like telephone records, which form a large part of most serious trials. The work just isn’t there at the moment. That’s because large complicated investigations have been scaled back, leaving the simpler ones to keep crime stats respectable.
So it sounds like the cuts really are having an impact on the investigation of serious crime. Ironically, they’re all waiting for the News International hacking cases to come through. Lots of telephone analysis there!
Let me ease back into this, after a break of several months, with an easy one.
Norm asks: Why is one inequality different? The context is a piece contrasting the strides towards greater racial and gender equality in the USA with the widening economic stratification that has accompanied it.
Here’s the answer: one inequality is not different. Equality means ‘of opportunity’ – and this is precisely what is meant by greater racial and gender equality: equality of opportunity.
Differing economic outcomes are not a measure of equality. In fact, differing economic outcomes are an inevitable consequence of equality of opportunity.
The apparent paradox is no more than a conjuring trick with words. In the chalk corner we have equality. In the cheese corner we have redistribution of wealth. They aren’t the same thing at all and never will be, however much you try to redefine the meanings of words for the purpose of political rhetoric.
Tim Carney suggests that some entrepreneurs are motivated not just by money but also by the drive to be awesome.
From a WSJ blog:
According to the latest Internal Revenue Service report, the number of Americans renouncing their U.S. citizenship (or terminating their long-term permanent residency) has increased nearly ninefold since 2008.
The numbers are tiny, under 500 people per quarter. But the rate of increase of expatriations is precipitous. Why? Here’s one possible explanation from the same post:
“There is growing concern, particularly among the wealthy, about the future financial direction of the country,” said Paul L. Caron, Charles Hartsock Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. “This President constantly demonizes the wealthy, who undoubtedly are concerned about the tax policy that would emerge in 2012 if a re-elected Barack Obama, unconstrained by re-election concerns, finally confronts the budgetary train wreck that he has done so much to exacerbate.”
The USA has unusual tax laws, though, which exert claims over the incomes of Americans earning and living overseas. I’ve a feeling it is mainly US expats renouncing citizenship.
It’s just been announced that interest rates are being held at 0.5% by the Bank of England. There’s been a lot of talk about rates because inflation is running above target. But isn’t this all just a form of theatre? QE increased the money supply, which is inflationary. In other words, inflation was government policy: of course there’s higher inflation than before. That was the idea, in part – when there’s inflation real wages fall and borrowers do well (the government is a big borrower).
The agonising over interest rates is just for show.
My running-dog thesis is that both the major events of the past week – the arrest of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange on rape allegations, and the student ruck in Parliament Square – were specially arranged by some sort of Tory deity to confuse the Left and make it look stupid.
Andrew Gilligan, who goes on to say:
Last Thursday, the students didn’t just lose the vote in the Commons. They lost the sympathy of a lot of middle-of-the-road people – and most importantly, they lost control of the agenda. We should be talking about the injustice of some of the cuts, and the hopeless mess the Lib Dems found themselves in. Instead, we’re talking about the violence of the students.
Just so, and the more the subject of violence stays in discussion, the more true this is. That’s why some of the more self-satisfied left-wing bloggers who’ve been banging on about it repeatedly (Sunny Hundall and Paul Sagar come to mind) have simply revealed their own tactical stupidity. Assuming, that is, such stupidity wasn’t already obvious to the onlooker.
Tim gets very cross when people cite job creation as a benefit of a scheme. Here. for example, in response to a:
study by Friends of the Earth [that] said 51,400 jobs could be created if 70% of waste collected by local councils were recycled.
Tim’s argument is that jobs are a cost, not a benefit., and that’s true. But is it more than half true? All transactions have two sides. If I sell you some widgets, the widgets are a cost for you, but a source of revenue, a benefit, to me. Jobs are a cost to the employer but a benefit to the employee. They’re also a benefit to the businesses the employee can now buy stuff from. It depends which direction you view the transaction from.
Tim goes on:
Turning half a million Europeans into rag and bone men means half a million Europeans who are not tending babies, curing cancer of protesting against unsustainable consumption.
Which is only true if employment is zero-sum, if a job created here means a job lost there, and I don’t think this is the case. I’ve no idea how you would be able to measure this (opportunity cost) effectively even if you wanted to, though I am aware people have tried. To be clear, for all I know you lose two free-market jobs for every one created by a scheme like this. Or maybe you lose one for every two. I don’t think anyone really knows.
It’s a given that reports issued by Friends of the Earth are likely to be cretinous, but I think when they say jobs are a benefit they mean from the employee’s point of view and not that of the employer, and that’s fair enough. What they don’t seem to try to assess is the cost of taking money from economically viable activities and pouring it into unsustainable ones, with all the attendant losses of growth, competitiveness and development that entails.
And that’s an enjoyable irony: the prophets of sustainability trumpet unsustainable ideas without exception – their ideas can’t be sustained without subsidy.