[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

The Brighton & Hove News site reports:

A row has broken out over student votes after a Green campaign group started handing out proxy voting forms on Falmer campus.

The Students for Caroline campaign for the party’s Brighton Pavilion candidate Caroline Lucas is offering University of Sussex students the chance to sign proxy voting forms already filled in with the details of Green Party supporters.

The supporters would then be able to vote on students’ behalf in the national and local elections on May 7, when most will be back at home…

But the move was slammed by the local Labour party, which says proxy votes are intended to given to people they know and trust, not a stranger on a stall.

And it is concerned the proxy votes will be used in the local elections, which students are traditionally not as interested in, as well as the national…

However, a spokeswoman for Students for Caroline said proxy voting was a good solution for those who can’t vote in person or by post…

“We follow a code of practice which adheres to official Electoral Commission guidance and we check our campaigners are familiar with it.”

Here’s what that official Electoral Commission guidance (the Code of Conduct for Campaigners) says:

Electors should be encouraged to explore other options for people to act as a proxy – including relatives or neighbours, for example – before a campaigner agrees to be appointed as a proxy.

To minimise the risk of suspicions that campaigners may be seeking to place undue pressure on electors, electors should not be encouraged to appoint a campaigner as their proxy.

If the report is accurate, and people were indeed given proxy forms pre-completed with the names of Green Party activists, then it is hard to see how that wouldn’t be a breach of the stricture that “electors should not be encouraged to appoint a campaigner as their proxy”.

I’ve asked the Electoral Commission for their comment on this case and will follow up the story when I have it.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by NewsHound

There’s an article Thursday’s Guardian which compares the level of campaigning activity in two seats, one with the lowest turnout in the country, Manchester Central, and one with a high turnout, Tim Farron’s Westmorland and Lonsdale.

The report argues that the poorest and most vulnerable feel that voting is pointless as nobody will do anything to serve their interests, while in more affluent areas, people are more inclined to vote, creating a major democratic deficit.

I feel I have been forcibly excluded from participating in politics and the issues that are of interest to me and my children,” said Ray Linton, 58, a former youth worker who has been unemployed for eight years. “They think speaking on TV is all they need to do. Everything is distant now.”

Powell’s Liberal Democrat opponent, John Reid, admitted that the level of campaigning in the constituency was “depressing”. “I grew up seeing every house with a poster or board outside,” he said. “Then you go through Manchester Central and you don’t know there’s an election.

In contrast, on Tim Farron’s patch:

Within minutes of starting canvassing on the Kirkbarrow estate, three drivers have honked and waved at the candidate. Skateboarding children yelp excitedly: “It’s Tim Farron”, a resident in pink slippers collars him to complain about Poles leapfrogging the council housing list, and Calum, eight, invites him for a kickabout, which he immediately accepts, going in goal and high-fiving Calum when they score.

As an aside, you do actually need to click on the article to see the wonderful photograph of Tim’s face as the football heads for him.

Tim’s concluding comment is something that I’ve certainly written about in the past and many commenters have agreed. We need more of that “vision thing.”

There’s a sense politics has become managerial and not idealistic,” he said. “There is no sense of vision and that’s soulless and depressing. Parties say what they have to say and you know what they are up to.

If you are reading this and you haven’t registered to vote, please do so. You might choose not to use it, but imagine if somebody said something or something happened over the next two and a half weeks that changed your mind? At least give yourself the chance to have a say. Here’s how.  And if you don’t have your National insurance number, read here You have three days left to register. By midnight on Monday it’ll be too late..

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary published in print or online.

andrewducker: (Default)

Interesting Links for 18-04-2015

Apr. 18th, 2015 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Branko Milanovic has an interesting discussion of a recent conversation he had with Joe Stiglitz over the potential outcome of the robot economy. And I should get this in early, that they’re both, both of them, more intelligent than I am and better economists (not that either is all that hard). However, the end state that Stiglitz is worrying about is simply an impossible end state. The world just couldn’t end up like that.

Essentially, what Stiglitz is saying is that under certain conditions the advance of the robots means that we all lose our jobs and the capitalists, the people who own the robots, get to have all of the economy. And one can see his mechanism to get there: if robots become ever more productive then yes, we can see the idea that there will be more robots and fewer people employed by the capitalists and so on. But it’s still impossible for that end state to arrive: simply because we non-capitalists aren’t going to let it.

Here’s the laying out of the idea:

It is always instructive to speak to Joe Stiglitz. In a conversation in Paris which we had after his talk at the INET conference, he pointed out that the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor greater than 1 (which is often assumed by Piketty in his “Capital in the 21st century”), combined with technological progress which does not fall like manna from heaven but develops in response to the existing factor prices, would lead to an explosive process that would end only with capital owning the entire net income of a country. How?

Suppose that we have a given r (you can imagine that it is 5% as is often mentioned by Piketty) and a given wage (w). Suppose also that at this ratio of factor prices, it is profitable to invest in more capital-intensive processes (that is, they reduce unit cost of output). So capitalists will replace labor by capital and K/L and K/output ratios will both increase. Since elasticity of substitution between K and L is greater than 1, r will only slightly decrease while wage will only slightly increase. Although factor prices, being sticky, will not have budged much they would have moved ever slightly further in making capital intensive processes even more attractive. So there would be another round of increased capital investment, and again K/L and K/output will go up with only minimal effects on prices.

This will continue round after round until the entire output is produced practically only by using capital and perhaps just an infinitesimal quantity of labor. Both r and w will remain almost as they were at the beginning, but instead of (say) 100 machines and 100 workers, we will, at the end, have 100 robots and 1 worker. Almost all output will belong to the owners of capital. Piketty’s alpha will be close to 1.

This is why, in my interpretation, Stiglitz argues that the elasticity of substitution greater than 1 combined with endogenous technical progress leads ultimately to an explosive equilibrium.

Agreed that that would be a dystopian outcome. But it’s also an impossible one. Simply, as above, because we non-capitalists wouldn’t let it happen. And no, I don’t mean that there will be a bloody revolution before it does and I’m not even referring to the most obvious outcome, which is that we each own a bit of the robots and thus we’re all a little bit at least capitalist. Rather, I mean that such an outcome really is a logical impossibility.

So, let’s recast that end state. There’s the 1% (the plutocrats, the capitalists, whatever) and then there’s us, the 99%. Robots become ever more productive and we the 99% all lose our jobs working for the capitalists. Hmm, tant pis in one telling of this story because as Karl Marx pointed out that’s a precondition for true communism, that we overcome the scarcity problem. But even leaving that aside what is going to happen next?

That 1% owns all the robots and gets all the production from them. We, the 99%, have no jobs and thus no incomes. We cannot purchase any of that robotic consumption from the capitalists. This is the very point that Stiglitz is making, that the capitalists will own and consume 100% of the robotic output. Well, yes, OK, but what are we the 99% going to do? This new peasantry: do we all just wander around the fields until we keel over from starvation? No, quite obviously we don’t. Sure, the robots are more efficient than we are, produce things for much lower prices. But we don’t have any of the currency with which we can buy that production. So, what are we going to do?

Well, we’ll end up doing pretty much what we do now actually. We’ll carry on producing things using human labour to produce them. For, after all, there’s 99% of the population that wants stuff like housing, clothes, food and so on, even maybe the occasional baseball game. That 99% can’t get any of the cool stuff being produced by the robots because the capitalists own it all and none of us are employed for the currency with which to buy it. So, we’ll carry on building houses with human labour, making clothes, growing food and so on.

It’s thus possible to think that we could end up with two economies, the one where the robots do all the work and the capitalists do all the consuming, and the one where the rest of us work and consume much as we do now. But it’s not possible for the capitalists to end up with 100% of it all. Simply because we, the 99%, want to be able to consume and if the capitalists won’t let us then we’ll go off and make stuff to consume ourselves. As, in fact, has been going on for a number of millennia now.

Even though the technical analysis there by Stiglitz is just fine, the thing that he’s worrying about simply cannot happen. This is actually, waaay underneath it all, an example of comparative advantage from David Ricardo. The way I try to shoehorn that into my brain is to point out that if we all do what we’re least bad at then collectively we’ll all be better off. This being true even if everyone else is better at doing everything that you or I are. It is still true that if we produce what we’re least bad at, however much better everyone else is than we are, that we’ve increased total production as much as we can. Here the robots are those people who can do everything better than we can. But, just as with the basic case for trade, even though we’re worse at doing everything we can still do something. And, of course, at the very barest minimum we’ll get to consume what we ourselves produce. Or, as above, we’ll carry on doing that Smithian thing of dividing and specialising labour and trading in the resultant production.

The point being that even if the robots have absolute advantage over all of us at producing and doing everything Ricardo was correct: there’s always a comparative advantage available. Thus we can’t end up with only the robots doing all the work and the owners of the robots doing all the consuming.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

There’s rumours coming out of Germany that Greece might have found it’s Deus Ex Machina to allow it to avoid looming default in a deal with Russia and Gazprom over transit rights for a natural gas pipeline. It’s long been known that such a pipeline to cross Greek territory has been under discussion and that construction looked very likely. But the important point of the current story is that Russia will advance a significant part of future transfer fees upfront. Thus very much easing the cash crunch that Greece is under. Whether it will really happen is still unknown but it looks like a smart move by both sides. Russia gets something it was going to have to pay for anyway, those transit rights, and Greece gets what it wants, money right now.

Here’s one version of the story:

Greece could reap up to €5bn from a planned Russian gas pipeline that runs through the country and on to the rest of Europe, easing fears it could run out of money within weeks.

The construction of the “Turkish Stream” pipe could “turn the tide” for the debt-stricken country, Der Spiegel quoted a senior official in Greece’s ruling Syriza party as saying.

A deal between Russia and Greece is expected to be signed on Tuesday, the magazine added, with the payment an advance on future profits from transit fees.

Well, it’s not quite “profits” on the transfer fees, it’s simply an advance upon those transit fees. For this is the general manner in which pipelines work, the people transporting valuable materials through a pipeline pay fees to the country whose territory the pipeline crosses. Not particularly because it’s just or right that they do so, rather because it makes countries more likely to allow you to build a pipeline through them.

Russia to loan Greece ‘up to $5bn’ to join Turkish pipeline

That’s actually slightly more accurate. This is indeed a loan and as such it should add to the stated borrowing of the Greek state (whether they actually give it that accounting treatment is another matter). And it’s that that makes the story so interesting. Assume that the deal is signed, that the payment is made (with whatever level of certainty you want to allocate to that), well, what happens next? That rather depends upon what Greece’s creditors think about what that cash is, doesn’t it?

We can imagine the Greek and Eurogroup sides taking rather different views here. Greece might well say, given that Syriza is indeed a left wing party, that this is extra cash that can be spent now. So, there’s enough to meet the IMF repayments, the ECB, and also cover maturing treasury bills. But there’s also enough there to relax the austerity being imposed upon the Greek economy. Perhaps it could pay for better pensions, for rehiring some of those fired civil servants, or substitute for some other part of the current deal that they don’t like.

And we can also imagine the Eurogroup saying that no, no, it’s not really like that at all. This is indeed borrowing from the future (which it is) and thus needs to be treated as such. Yes, sure, the cash flow can be used to pay off past debts: but none of that money can be used to relax the strictures on the Greek economy. Given that this is borrowing we’ll just reduce the amount that Greece can borrow elsewhere at the same time. For example, reduce the limit on the number of treasury bills that Greece can roll over (there is already such a limit). We could imagine that Eurogroup adopting the possible Greek view of it all as well but I tend to think that’s rather more unlikely. My opinion is that, assuming Greece does get € 5 billion pouring in from Russia then the limits on Greece’s other borrowings will be tightened leaving the actual Greek austerity position entirely untouched: while, obviously, helping enormously with the cash flow situation.

That will set off the most almighty row within Greece of course but that’s the way I see it playing out.

[syndicated profile] liberal_bureaucracy_feed

Posted by Mark Valladares

You can tell that I live in the country, as my Twitter feed is filled with candidates telling me about their campaigning in small villages across Suffolk (well, except here in Creeting St Peter, of course). Labour candidates have been particularly active - after all, they aren't going to win in places like South Suffolk or Suffolk Coastal. At least, were they to do so, we'd be looking at a landslide that would make 1906 look close.

More practically though, one might assume that if Labour were such credible contenders, there would be an upsurge in the number of Labour candidates in places like Mid Suffolk. Well, if Mid Suffolk is anything to go by, the Conservatives need not lose too much sleep.

There are forty seats up for grabs in Mid Suffolk, and nobody has a full slate, no, not even the Conservatives. Admittedly, they give a free ride to so-called Independents in some wards (yes, we know that they're Conservatives really in most cases), but even so, they are missing the odd candidate. By comparison, Labour are running just eight candidates. Yes, eight, which may corroborate suggestions that, outside London, the Labour Party is something of a hollow shell compared to earlier decades.

Surprisingly, UKIP haven't done much better, given their claimed membership surge, with just eleven candidates. Given their success in the 2013 County Council elections and the 2014 European elections, I had expected better. Perhaps their surge is over...

The Greens, on the other hand, have managed twenty-seven candidates, which is a very good effort indeed. I'm not expecting them to make much in the way of progress, given the higher turnout generated by the General Election, which should favour the larger parties, but it might be a stepping stone to a decent showing in 2017 if they do it well. Admittedly, I don't see much evidence of much work across the District, but they are at least trying.

The Liberal Democrats have managed eighteen candidates. It isn't easy persuading people to be even paper candidates when the Party is as unpopular (in relative terms) as it is, although the response on the doorsteps is not hostile if and when you get there, I'm told. That is, perhaps, one of the prices of being in government...

There are also three independents, two candidates from Suffolk Together (which appears to be melting away) and one candidate who appears not to have a description.

Finally, there are two lucky people who can sit out polling day, as Rachel Eburne has been re-elected unopposed in Haughley and Wetherden for the Greens and Matthew Hicks likewise for the Conservatives in Worlingworth.
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Yes, it’s OK, I’ve not gone entirely mad, I’m aware that 5.6% is a higher number than 5.5%. However, it is still true to say that, in one aspect at least, the UK’s unemployment rate is now lower than that of the US, despite the reported number actually being higher. This is because the two numbers are calculating slightly different things. To a reasonable approximation the American number is measuring short term unemployment and the British one both short and long term unemployment. When we add in what we think is a reasonable estimate of long term unemployment in the US then we get to a higher number for the economy as a whole.

Here’s the news about the British unemployment rate:

Britain’s unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since 2008 but earnings growth has slowed, according to the final official labour market figures before the election.

The Conservatives welcomed news of the drop in the jobless rate to 5.6% as well as the number of people in work hitting a record of more than 31m.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics also showed more of the jobs being created were full-time, raising hopes that job security was finally improving after years in which part-time work and self-employment have driven much of the UK’s labour market recovery.

It’s a reasonably large change too:

The pound climbed above $1.50 against the dollar for the first time in a month after official data showed UK unemployment fell to 5.6pc in the three months to February, from 5.8pc in the quarter to November. This is the lowest rate since June 2008, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and was in line with expectations.

For the economy as a whole this should presage interesting and welcome changes too. For the usual estimates are that this is around and about the Nairu for the British economy. That’s the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment for those who don’t like their acronyms. Essentially, how low can unemployment go without inflation taking off? And one aspect of inflation taking off is going to be real wage rises for the workers. And we like real wage rises but not inflation, to the tricky task is to get us to or around and about the Nairu without going below it. So that we get the real wage rises and don’t get the inflation.

Unfortunately Nairu is not something that is directly observable. We can only calculate it for the past. And then make informed guesses about what it is now. What it is will depend upon the structure of the labour market: the more flexible it is the lower it will be. And reasonable estimates are that it was 6 % or so (1990s, from the OECD) and perhaps 5 and a bit % (Bank of England, early 00s). Please do note that we really don’t know what it is although we’d like it to be as low as possible. So, what it is today rather depends on whatever structural changes have taken place in the labour market in the last 15 years or so. Most of us would think that that market has become more flexible and therefore that Nairu has fallen. How much by no one knows and we’ll only find out by living through it: but we would expect to start seeing decent growth in real wages moving into the near future.

OK, and now to explain how this is really a lower unemployment rate than the US, despite it being a higher number. My old professor, Richard Layard, makes part of the point here:

For example, Europe
has a notorious unemployment problem. But if you break down unemployment into shortterm
(under a year) and long-term, you find that short-term unemployment is almost the same
in Europe as in the U.S. – around 4% of the workforce. But in Europe there are another 4%
who have been out of work for over a year, compared with almost none in the United States.
The most obvious explanation for this is that in the U.S. unemployment benefits run out after
6 months, while in most of Europe they continue for many years or indefinitely.

But we’re going to rather turn this around and point out that the generally reported US unemployment rate, that 5.5%, is only the short term unemployed, while the British one is the short and the long term unemployed. The reason being that to be counted as unemployed you have to be in receipt of unemployment benefit (or insurance in the US case). And the US system does, after being extended during the recession, only last for 6 months. So, if you’re unemployed for 8 months you’re not, by the generally reported US number, counted as being unemployed.

In more technical terms the US unemployment rate is reported as U3. The British one is much more like the American U6 measure, counting those who would like to work but aren’t over whatever time period this is true. It’s not exactly the same as Britain has various retraining programmes etc for the long term unemployed and entry into one of these means leaving the unemployment numbers. But the tendency is most certainly there.

Further, as a result of the recent recession we’re pretty certain that there is some of that long term unemployment in the US. Looking at the working to total population ratio we think that anything from 1-3% of the population might be in that situation. Of working age, wanting to work, without a job, but not actually counted as unemployed because they have exhausted their unemployment insurance. The British number, again largely but not exactly, incorporates those long term unemployed. And in that manner we can thus say that the UK’s 5.6% unemployment rate is lower than America’s 5.5%.

What’s really surprising about this is that it might be the first time in the modern era (say, since WWII) that this has actually been true on anything more than the most temporary basis.

[syndicated profile] el_reg_bofh_feed

Episode 5 You opened Pandora's Box, you shut it again

The PFY has crossed the line. Even though he knows better, he's attempted to explain something technical to management.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

As Scottish voters start to receive their postal votes in the next few days, they will have much to contemplate. To what extent will those who oppose independence be prepared to vote tactically to keep the SNP from winning Westminster seats.

Their decision may well be informed by yesterday’s Ashcroft polls which show potential SNP gains in all but one of the constituencies in question. Unfortunately, four of them were seats currently held by the Liberal Democrats.

I found the SNP fifteen points ahead in Charles Kennedy’s seat of Ross, Skye & Lochaber, up from five points in February. I also found the SNP leading by eleven points in Jo Swinson’s constituency of East Dunbartonshire, and by thirteen points in North East Fife, where Sir Menzies Campbell is stepping down after 28 years.

The poll found that Mike Moore is in a tough 3 way fight with the Tories in the Borders. He’s on 28%, the SNP on 29% and the Tories on 30%. It could barely be tighter.

All the polls show decisively, though, apart from the Borders, that it’s a clear two horse race between Liberal Democrat MPs and the SNP. The message to Tory and Labour voters is clear. Do they want an SNP MP primarily motivated by independence and forbidden from standing up for their constituents if their party doesn’t allow it, or a Liberal Democrat who will fight tirelessly for their area.

The East Dunbartonshire result is significantly different to the party’s own poll which I wrote about on Thursday. The big difference between the two, of course, is that the Ashcroft polls don’t mention the candidate’s names. The ballot paper, of course, does.

And you have to wonder that if the SNP actually thought they were that far ahead, why their candidate felt the need to even bother taking a posse to shout at Charles Kennedy’s staff the other day. 

Our campaign teams across all our seats know that they are in tough fights. These polls make no difference to the work that they are doing on the ground. They may well be useful in persuading Conservatives and Labour supporters towards us.

Speaking in Gordon yesterday, before the Ashcroft polls were released, Nick Clegg appealed to Tory and Labour voters in our held seats to vote Liberal Democrat to stop the SNP:

So if you are someone who is considering voting for the Conservative or Labour candidate, my message to you is this: lend us your vote and we can stop the SNP winning in your constituency.

The SNP are not the party of Scotland, they are the party of debt. They want to borrow more and more money – an eye watering £180bn – and their plans for full fiscal autonomy will cost the people of Scotland £7.6bn.

They will risk our economy and leave our children and grandchildren to pay for it for years to come.

The Liberal Democrats are working for Scotland in a way that is responsible, fair and keeps the country on track.

The SNP are shouting from the sidelines and are determined to keep a minority Labour Government on life support, limping from vote to vote towards the break-up of the UK.

Senior Labour figures are also found to be in trouble. New Scottish leader Jim Murphy is apparently trailing the SNP by 9 points in his East Renfrewshire constituency. I would be surprised if he lost, especially given the massive Tory vote still to be squeezed. Douglas Alexander finds himself 11 points behind a candidate who calls No voters gullible and selfish and about wanting to head-butt Labour councillors.

This story is far from over. Scotland will be one of the most fascinating electoral battlegrounds not just at this election but for some time to come. Sure, we would like to be reading in polls that we were ahead, but the message from these is that we have everything to play for.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

There’s a little bit of confusion over India’s GDP growth statistics at present. The country recently changed the way that it calculates this number and while there are, obviously, the usual teething problems with changing the method by which such a complex number is arrived at the basic change seems most sensible. For the real difference in what they’re doing is that they’re now calculating the value that consumers get to enjoy and not the value that producers are consuming. Given that we want to know is how well off are the people this seems like a move in the right direction.

This is causing confusion though:

Ashish Kumar, the head of country’s statistics office, has faced two months of questioning about how a new way of measuring GDP created the world’s fastest-growing major economy overnight.

It’s unlikely to end any time soon.

Until early February, when Kumar’s office changed the way it measures economic activity, the Indian economy was enduring its weakest run of growth since the mid-1980s. Now it is outpacing China, having grown an annual 7.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year.

Well, obviously, there’s going to be a few eyebrows raised when a change is rolled out that just proves that all is hunky dory. A little like the revelation by both Ghana and Nigeria recently that their economies were in fact very much larger than everyone thought as a result of similar types of changes in the calculation methods. However, in those African cases the changes were entirely justified: they’d been working on very old estimates of what the structure of the economy was and they really did need to update them.

We can go back a couple of months and have a look at what the Indian statistical office has done:

The Indian statistics ministry said that after updating the base year used for marking trends in the economy and switching to a market-price calculation of gross domestic product, the economy grew by 6.9% in the year that ended last March. Using the previous methodology, GDP expansion that year was 4.7%. China’s economy grew by 7.4% in the 2014 calendar year.

Since January 2010, the base year for India’s statisticians had been the 12 months that ended in March 2005. From now on, it will be the year that ended March 2012. The revised calculation also incorporates more-comprehensive data on corporate activity and newer surveys of spending by households and informal businesses.

There’s that good news again. And changing the reference year has a few people confused: it shouldn’t make any difference but it does, and how much it does isn’t entirely clear as there’s no historical series been created as yet that uses this new method. So, we can compare either the old numbers under the old method, or the new under the new, but not the old under the new method which is something we’d really like to be able to do. That historical series is expected around year end. So there’s a blip or two in he implementation here. However, this part of the change seems eminently sensible:

India now measures GDP by market prices instead of factor costs, to take into account gross value addition in goods and services as well as indirect taxes. The base year has been shifted to 2011/12 from 2004/05 earlier.

The government’s statistics department says the new method is more in line with global practices and gives a better picture of economic activity.

Yes, this is more in line with global practices and there’s a very good reason for that being the way that everyone else does it. This is a bit of speculation, but the older method might well come from the way in which Nehru and others, the builders of independent India, were so fascinated by Fabian socialism and even aspects of the Russian version. In the sense that it was production of stuff and things that was what they thought should be measured (of course, the Soviets went entirely overboard with this idea but then that’s the Soviets for you. They measured the value of output by the tonnage of it. Rather than by the obvious method of measuring the value of it although they did have at least one excuse, which is that in a non-market economy there’s no simple way of calculating value).

However it came about measuring at factor prices means measuring the resources used to produce things. And yes, this ought to have some relationship to the value that consumers place upon their ability to consume but it’s not a direct one to one relationship. And given that our aim with having an economy in the first place is to enable the citizenry, the people, to live the best life possible we really do want to be measuring their consumption opportunities, not the resources consumed in providing them.

Thus this basic change looks entirely sensible. India is now measuring GDP as what Indians can consume. Yes, despite it providing a lovely boost to the numbers at just the right time, it’s still a sensible change.

[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Section 66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 often gets an outing around this time of year as someone gets in trouble for publicising figures from a postal vote opening. By now, that’s a fairly familiar story – although the ability of new people to make the same mistakes as others have already made in the glare of publicity is such an inherent part of human nature I wouldn’t bet on it not happening again.

But there’s also a new mistake people may make, especially those armed with social media monitoring tools, for Section 66a includes a ban on exit polls:

66A Prohibition on publication of exit polls

(1) No person shall, in the case of an election to which this section applies, publish before the poll is closed–

(a) any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted, or
(b) any forecast as to the result of the election which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given.

(2) This section applies to–

(a) any parliamentary election; and
(b) any local government election in England or Wales.

(3) If a person acts in contravention of subsection (1) above, he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

(4) In this section–

“forecast” includes estimate;

“publish” means make available to the public at large, or any section of the public, in whatever form and by whatever means;

and any reference to the result of an election is a reference to the result of the election either as a whole or so far as any particular candidate or candidates at the election is or are concerned.

Note carefully the wording of 1(a). It doesn’t stop an individual* saying on polling day (or indeed after receipt of a postal vote), “I’ve just voted Lib Dem”.

But search social media to gather up all those mentions and publish a tally of which party is getting the most such declared votes? That’d be a “statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted”. And so that’d also be a breach of the law.**

Of course, if you’re a Lib Dem you can play safe by expressing your intention to vote Lib Dem here in advance of getting any ballot paper.


* An individual is safe. But a tweet about “my partner and I have just…”? Not so safe even if it is hard to see how the CPS would view it as something to proceed to a prosecution over unless there are unusual circumstances. Likewise (re)sharing other people’s statements about how they have voted, though in this case if a party or candidate does it on a large scale the likelihood of the CPS deciding to let matters drop is much less clear.

** However, as Matrix Chambers has pointed out, you might have some fun with an appeal under the European Convention on Human Rights and its free speech provisions.

strangecharm: (Default)


Apr. 18th, 2015 07:56 am
[personal profile] strangecharm
I had an extremely odd dream.

Andrew and I were on vacation, somewhere in Britain but there was a Target there. We went in and, seeing that they had a counter where you could change your name by deed poll, I spontaneously decided to.

I didn't have anything particular I wanted to change my name to, but I was suddenly very keen on having a name people could spell and understand when I said it ("Holly" sounds different in my accent than in the ones people around me use, and I have had to spell it a lot recently...And of course my last name continues to be a nightmare). To illustrate the difficulty of my name, in the dream I had to write out my current/old name a couple of times, and I kept making odd spelling mistakes and writing it illegibly.

Since I wanted to change my name but I didn't know what to, dream-Andrew suggested "Morag," which I wasn't sure about but couldn't think of any reason why not. The guy at the departmet-store deed-poll counter (this should so be a thing) was Scottish, so he thought that was a good idea. I thought I might keep my own middle name -- which is Michelle -- but then I saw he'd written "Lynsey" down on the forms (this is also how I learned I was apparently going to "Jones" as a surname) which I did not like, so the three of us had an argument about what my new middle name should be...It was nearly "Ginny" but then the Scottish man said something about "Kean" (and, in the way with dreams, I immediately knew it was that spelling) and I excitedly latched onto that.

So I happily walked away with a big envelope full of paperwork and a list of all the things I had to notify of the name change...all emblazoned with the name Morag Kean Jones.

I'd love to know what dream-world I was living in where a Scottish first name, an Irish middle name usually expected to belong to a gender different from mine were going to be easier to navigate the world with than the name I've already got!

It amused me when I woke up (which is good because I woke up way too early to the noise of the damn smoke alarm whose batteries need changing but which I hav never been able to take apart to get at the batteries, so I'd have otherwise been very grumpy).

Waking-me hasn't ever really thought about changing my name, beyond using that as a rhetorical device to whine about how sick I am of having a name people get wrong, and the whole milliseconds it took to make the decision not to change my surname when I got married.

But in the dream, I didn't feel much attachment at all to my name. As I signed the paperwork, I distinctly remember being a little sad I would no longer have the same name as [personal profile] miss_s_b's daughter, and thus the still-running joke of her being my mum (a real thing! which, months after the misunderstanding that spawned it, is still an idea that makes me laugh) might have to die. But on the other hand, dream-me mused, it'd take Andrew absolutely ages to get used to calling me anything other than "Holly," and I'd enjoy laughing at him when he did.

I was vaguely aware there'd be a lot of bureaucracy to deal with in changing my name, but I didn't dwell on that nearly as much as losing my affiliation with another awesome Holly and watching Andrew get something wrong.

Brains are such funny things, aren't they?


Apr. 18th, 2015 07:24 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

From the questions in The Guardian we can answer series:

Millions of women fail to vote. Did the suffragists suffer in vain?


(This is really an inversion of this of course).

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Stephen Tall

Congratulations to George Murray, whose Marauding Fullbacks again top the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 32, with 1,925 points. Meanwhile, Jon Featonby (1,856), Mark Widdop (1,829), Sam Bowman (1,827) and Edward Douglas (1,826) vie for the number two slot.

But let’s also hear it for the two who achieved the best week’s performances: Kye Dorricott’s Chip Bang Utd (84 points) and Jamie Saddler’s Scotland In Disguise (81).

Here’s the top 10:

ldv fantasy week 31

There are 163 players in total and you can still join the league by clicking here.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from May 2007 to Jan 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.


Apr. 18th, 2015 06:49 am
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Motorists meeting up to commit sex acts at a popular dogging site are being detered after a fed up service station began filming them and showing their activities on large-screen televisions.

The Moto Hospitality service station in Penllergaer on the M4 near Swansea took action after woodland next to it was advertised on a specialist swingers website and became popular with people committing sex acts.

In a bid to discourage lewd behaviour it placed signs in its toilets warning it would send their images and registration numbers to the police and it placed cameras at its entrance which beam live footage to large screen televisions inside the complex.

Time for some social science research. Where do we apply for a grant?

Does this increases or decrease the incidence? Are those who prefer to shag without being filmed deterred in greater numbers than the true exhibitionists turn up to be filmed?

Our research grant would need to be large enough to include a number of comely maids in the research team. So as to, you know, be able to blend in with the crowd’s activities while….studying…..yes, studying.

What Did Pippin Tell Denethor?

Apr. 18th, 2015 06:04 am
[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by John Holbo

I’m reading The Lord of the Rings to our daughters. (Famous trilogy of fantasy novels, in case you’ve been in a coma since 1953 and are just checking Crooked Timber to see what’s new.) Last night we began The Return of the King. One thing that happens at a couple points is our heroes narrate the tale of their travels to someone they meet, without fully revealing the true nature/purpose of the Fellowship (Merry and Pippin when they first meet Treebeard; Frodo to Faramir; Pippin to Denethor). Obviously Tolkien summarizes his way past these points, since the reader doesn’t need to hear it all again. But it’s impossible to imagine what Pippin actually said. He couldn’t tell Denethor 1) they’ve got the ring; 2) the goal of the fellowship; 3) the existence/identity of Aragorn; 4) the meaning of ‘Isildur’s Bane’.

‘Now tell me your tale, my liege,’ said Denethor, half kindly, half mockingly. ‘For the words of one whom my son so befriended will be welcome indeed.’

Pippin never forgot that hour in the great hall under the piercing eye of the Lord of Gondor, stabbed ever and anon by his shrewd questions, and all the while conscious of Gandalf at his side, watching and listening, and (so Pippin felt) holding in check a rising wrath and impatience. When the hour was over and Denethor again rang the gong, Pippin felt worn out. ‘It cannot be more than nine o’clock,’ he thought. ‘I could now eat three breakfasts on end.’

So here’s your challenge. What did Pippin tell to the shrewd Denethor for an hour? Narrate the tale of how and why Pippin and three other hobbits left the Shire in haste, traveled to Rivendell, Lothlorien, etc., without mentioning any of the things he has promised Galdalf he won’t. Here’s my best shot. Pippin tells Denethor ‘Isuldur’s Bane’ is some sort of exotic brand-name pipeweed Elrond is looking to score. He knows hobbits are into pipeweed, so he sent for them from the Shire. But they didn’t have any. So he sent them out to score it for him, and someone heard maybe there was a dealer in the Mines of Moria. But that didn’t work out. Meanwhile, Saruman and Sauron have this wrong idea that the hobbits are themselves pipeweed dealers, since orcs overheard them asking around after ‘Isuldur’s Bane’, and so …

If you’ve got a more plausible, false explanation for the Fellowship, I’d like to hear it. Pippin must be one hell of a liar.

[syndicated profile] crooked_timber_feed

Posted by John Quiggin

For quite a few years now, I’ve been working on a response to Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, a defence of free-market economics first published in 1946, but still in print and popular among libertarians. Hazlitt, as he says, is essentially just reworking Bastiat’s analysis of opportunity cost, represented by the broken window parable. What I’m trying to do is take the idea of opportunity cost seriously, and apply it across the board, including to issues of income distribution and property rights. It’s obvious (to me, at any rate) that any allocation of property rights to one or more people has an opportunity cost, namely the benefits that could be realised if the property rights were allocated to someone else. This is a live issue when property rights are being created explicitly right now, as they are with various kinds of intellectual property. But it is just as relevant when we come to consider the historical origins of property. I’ve spent a fair bit of time debating the question of whether property rights have a basis (say, in natural law) for existence independent of the states or governments that typically define and enforce them. I don’t want to talk about that issue right now, but it explains why I’m taking an interest in (I think) the most prominent proponent of natural law in relation to property, John Locke.

It’s a long time since I read Locke and, at the time, I was mostly concerned with Hume’s objection that

there is no property in durable objects, such as lands or houses, when carefully examined in passing from hand to hand, but must, in some period, have been founded on fraud and injustice.

That’s true of course. But rereading Locke1 I now conclude that he is not offering a theory of original acquisition, but rather one of expropriation, designed specifically to justify the “fraud and injustice” to which Hume refers.

Locke’s central idea is that agriculturalists, by mixing their labor with the soil, thereby acquire a title to it. He immediately faces the objection that before the arrival of agriculture, hunters and gatherers worked on the land and gained sustenance from it. So, it would seem, the would-be farmer has arrived too late. The obvious example, to which he refers several times, is that of European colonists arriving in America2. Locke’s answer is twofold.

First, (Sec 31) he invokes his usual claim that there is plenty of land for everybody, so that appropriating some land for agriculture can’t be of any harm to the hunter gatherers. This is obviously silly. It might conceivably be true for the first agriculturalist (though on standard Malthusian grounds there is no reason to suppose this), or the second or the fiftieth, but at some point the land must cease to be sufficient to support the pre-existing hunter-gatherer population. At this point, well before all land has been acquired by agriculturalists, his theory fails.

Locke must surely have known his claim to be false, not as a matter of abstract reasoning distant history, but in terms of contemporary fact. His Treatises on Government were published in 1689, a year after the outbreak of King William’s War (the North American theatre of the Nine Years War). The core issue in this war, as in a string of earlier conflicts, was control of the fur trade, the most economically significant form of hunter-gatherer activity. But underlying that was the general pressure arising from the steady expansion of European agriculture into lands previously owned by Indian tribes. As a capitalist, and shareholder in American businesses such as the (slaveholding) Bahama Adventurers, Locke could scarcely have been unaware of these facts.

His real defence is that regardless of whether there is a lot or a little, uncultivated land is essentially valueless (Sec 37). All, or nearly all, the value, he says, comes from the efforts of the farmers who improve the land. Since God gave us the land to improve, it rightfully belongs to those who improve it (Sec 34).

This is exactly the reasoning of the Supreme Court majority in Kelo v. City of New London. Ms Kelo and her neighbors were indeed occupying the land in question, but, so the Court concluded, they weren’t able or willing to make the best use of it. So, the only way the City could ensure the best economic use of the land in question was to use its eminent domain power of compulsory acquisition.3

All of this relates back to the point I’ve raised before 4, that the credibility of any Lockean theory defending established property rights from the state that established them depends on the existence of a frontier, beyond which lies boundless usable land. This in turn requires the erasure (mentally and usually in brutal reality) of the people already living beyond the frontier and drawing their sustenance from the land in question.

  1. In the course of looking for the right material, I found this piece by Samuel Goldman of The American Conservative very helpful. Goldman in turn links to a debate between Matt Yglesias and Bryan Caplan

  2. The Lockean theory of expropriation was applied with even more force in Australia, with the central term in debate being the idea of terra nullius. It was only in the Mabo case, decided in 1992, that any land ownership rights predating European occupation were recognised. 

  3. Granting the assumed facts, and addressing the issue in terms of the general status of property rights rather than the specifics of the US legal system, I think the principle on which the case was decided is correct. Governments create property rights and can change them or reallocate them if it is socially beneficial to do so. However, from long experience of cases in which monetary benefits are supposed to trump the real, if hard to measure, economic value of people’s attachment to their homes (whether or not they are the owners), I doubt that the asserted facts were correct, any more than it is generically true that the replacement of hunter-gatherers by agriculturalists is universally beneficial. 

  4. And, rereading the comments thread for that post, I see that Chris already made the main point here, that Locke’s theory specifically favored agriculture. In that discussion, I assumed that Locke’s position was one of abstract theory, which formed part of the background to C19 expropriation, rather than a justification of an expropriation that was actually taking place. 

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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