There will be those who regard this following as a disaster – the World Trade Organisation talks on a certain list of environmental goods which should be tariff free, or at least tariff reduced, have collapsed. Myself, as one of the few real free traders out here, think that it’s just an absolutely marvellous idea. Because it exposes the nonsensical thinking which surrounds trade itself.
The argument being made by these various Greens and environmentalists is that trade in these specific green products benefits the people who buy them. Therefore they should not be taxed as they cross borders so that people benefit from being able to buy them. I agree with this absolutely and entirely. If, say, China is able to produce solar cells, or panels, more cheaply than people in the US or Germany (just to think of two places where there is substantial agitation to stop such cheap imports) then yes, sure, people in Germany and the US will benefit from being able to purchase those cheap Chinese cells or panels. And given that both countries subsidise the purchase of such things the ability to buy cheaper ones presumably lifts some of the burden on the general taxpayer at the same time.
So, lower tariffs, a great idea. But what I object to is two things. That there is something special about environmental goods in this, which there isn’t, and the general idiocy of the environmental movement concerning trade itself.
But the news:
Talks on scrapping import tariffs on environment-related exports worth more than $1 trillion collapsed at the World Trade Organization on Sunday, with disagreement among the 18 trade ministers on which goods to include, ranging from bicycles to gas turbines.
I object to it being specific goods that should not face tariffs. Why not all goods?
Forty-six countries including the U.S., China and European Union nations failed Sunday to agree on a list of “environmental goods” like solar-powered air conditioners or LED light bulbs that could be targeted for lower tariffs.
The two-day meeting at World Trade Organization involved a bid to agree on reducing tariffs on over 200 environment-friendly goods worth around $1 trillion in trade annually, part of a process that EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom called important “to show that trade and the environment can go hand in hand.”
How about we just go with the idea that more trade makes us all richer and so we’ll not have tariffs at all?
Zeybekci cited other concerns about sustainable-development lumber between Canada and New Zealand on one side and Japan and Taiwan on another.
Err, all lumber is sustainable, trees do grow after all.
My first complaint is simply that they are trying to carve out a special exemption. They are stating, correctly, that being able to buy cheap “environmental” goods from foreigners makes the buyers better off. But this is not something restricted to the buyers of environmental goods. This is true of any one at all who buys an import by preference over a domestically produced good or service. They have decided to buy this thing here–by definition this is the thing which most increases their utility, which benefits them the most.
There is nothing special about environmental goods in this, the same applies to hamburgers, jet engines and wrench sets. We’re all adults, we get to decide what we’re going to spend our money upon.
This then makes me angry that they specifically concentrate upon environmental goods:
Since July 2014 the EU and 16 other members (see below) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been negotiating an Environmental Goods Agreement (EGA) to remove barriers to trade in environmental or “green” goods that are crucial for environmental protection and climate change mitigation.
My second objection is that of course it serves them all right. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, these sorts of environmental organisations, have been against all of the free (perhaps freer) trade agreements that have been going around. And as far as I can work out it’s actually that they object to international trade itself, they want to return to some never extant past nirvana of local production of everything. That very thing that made us all so poor, sunk in peasant destitution.
It’s been a pretty sensational week for the Liberal Democrats. You know, the party that was devastated in last year’s general election and written off for good. Sarah Olney’s win in the Richmond Park by-election showed that there is plenty life in us yet.
Now, there seems to be some weird, perverse rule at the BBC which means that the more newsworthy and relevant the Liberal Democrats are at any moment in time, the less likely they are to be invited on the main political programmes.
On the day we won the Richmond Park by-election, you would have expected us to be represented on Any Questions, wouldn’t you?
Similarly, the sensational result should have merited an interview on Andrew Marr at least. But, no, the by-election was a footnote of the newspaper review.
There is another party, which has just one MP, which is ukipquitous on the BBC. I swear that one day Farage is going to appear in the Queen Vic. Paul Nuttall has had no shortage of media bookings.
I wonder if we need to become a bit more awkward in demanding our fair share of coverage. How many of us actually complain when Liberal Democrats are not represented when they should be? Not very many, I suspect. The likes of UKIP and the SNP seem to have ensured that the BBC is extremely reluctant to miss them off a panel.
I have complained about both Any Questions and Marr. The presence of Nick Clegg giving one of the best interviews of his life on the Sunday Politics does not excuse the earlier omissions.
While you’re at it, you might like to complain about the Peston programme on ITV, which, similarly, was devoid of Liberal Democrats. Go here to find out how.
All the information you need about how to complain is here. I have to admit, I’ve never actually tried the phoning them up and speaking to a human option, but others have. The number is 03700 100 222 or 03700 100 212 for textphone.
The under-representation of our party and predecessor parties has always been a thing. We are an insurgent, reforming voice in politics and we have to behave like one. That doesn’t mean that we have to turn into cybernats and UKIP trolls. You can do these things politely and with grace and humour. But we really must make sure our voices are heard.
* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings
Saved by der Bellen? Hofer concedes in the Austrian Presidential election. But what does it mean for the EU?https://t.co/RHFJO7cIcW
— TSE (@TSEofPB) December 4, 2016
Another polling failure? A bit harsh when polls are banned for the final fortnight
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) December 4, 2016
Latest Italian referendum betting
Skepchick Sundaylies! Making America Great, Architecture Metaphor, and the Women of Neutrino ResearcDec. 4th, 2016 06:15 pm
Sunday Funny: How to unsettle settled science. (via SMBC)
Art Inquisition: Are We Making America Great?
We want your opinion on a billboard sponsored by an artists-run super-PAC that popped up outside Jackson, MS.
Celia has been dealing with the stress of the election season with an architecture metaphor.
Generations: The Story of Women in Neutrino Research
Women have been instrumental in neutrino physics for years.
Featured image credit: Argonne National Laboratory/Wikipedia
We are now several years into the Greek debt disaster–so many years in fact that if they had actually let the country go bust and fall out of the euro it would be recovering by now and we really would have dealt with the problem. But as we know, that’s not what did happen, Greece was not allowed to leave the euro however beneficial that would have been. Further, a large amount of debt which should have been defaulted on was shifted over to official creditors where it is very much more difficult to get rid of. And thus where we are now–Greece still has an economy that resembles smouldering rubble, the unemployment rate is up at 25%, the youth one at 50% and there is still no possibility whatsoever of Greece actually paying back the full debt owed.
This is something that the IMF noted last year and insisted that something must be done about it. There must be a cut in the headline amount of debt that Greece must repay. And still Germany and other eurozone nations are insisting that this cannot be done. And thus the continuance of the Greek tragedy:
Germany’s finance minister is underlining his opposition to a debt cut for Greece and urging Athens to push ahead with reforms before a meeting with his eurozone counterparts.
Still Germany that insists upon no cut in the debt owed:
Eurozone finance ministers meet Monday as far apart as ever on the debt relief measures demanded by the International Monetary Fund for it to back their bailout programme for Greece.
The IMF played a key role in two massive rescues for Greece but baulked at a third in 2015, worth 86 billion euros ($92 billion), warning that Athens would never get back on its feet unless its debt mountain was cut outright.
Still the IMF insisting that that debt level just has to be cut.
What we’ve got here is really a political argument, not an economic one. The terms on the Greek debt have been radically changed. The interest rate now is something marginally above spit and the repayment dates stretch out at least half a century. The current repayment burden is something not too difficult, at this stage, for Greece to afford. Thus, of course, the creditors have already lost their money–something that pays near no interest and won’t be paid for 50 years has a net present value of again, marginally above spit. The reason they don’t want to cut the headline number though is because doing so would mean that their own taxpayers would see that the money has been lost. If you start talking about net present values then everyone just turns off, tunes out. If you cut the headline amount they realise that it’s their money going down the drain. And of course no politician wants to actually have to admit that.
And sadly it gets worse:
Schaeuble, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, said the Greek budget was hardly burdened by debt repayment after its European partners had already shaved interest rates and prolonged maturities for granted aid loans.
His comments reflect growing unease in the German government that budgetary discipline and willingness to reform are decreasing in other euro zone countries.
Germany is heading into an election year in 2017 and Merkel’s conservatives face a tough challenge from far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is likely to enter the national parliament for the first time.
Isn’t that just lovely. What will happen to the Greek debt burden, to the Greek economy, depends not upon what that Greek economy needs, nor even on what the Greek population desires or is willing to pay for, but upon German domestic politics. I’ve long said the euro is a bad idea and this is just yet more evidence of that. How the Greek economy gets dealt with is going to depend upon the entirely unrelated subject of immigration and refugees into German–that’s what the AfD is all about. It’s just not the right way to run economic policy which is, of course, why the euro should never have existed and now that it does is should be expunged.
Welcome to the latest in my series of tips and advice for Liberal Democrat members, which appear first in the email bulletin run by London Region for party members.
The party is planning to produce an updated policy document summarising the Liberal Democrat approach next year. But in the meantime there are many occasions when having a good summary answer to that question is needed – and explaining what we stand for it not only about the current crop of policies.
It is also about our history, our philosophy and the way we see the world. So Mark Pack has updated his poster from the last Parliament about what the party stands for to cover the new political circumstances.
You can get a copy here: http://www.markpack.org.uk/libdem-belief
An excellent move by the government of South Australia:
The Tour Down Under has made the decision to replace its podium girls with junior cyclists, according to the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC). The call comes after the South Australian government withdrew its support of the use of models on the podium in a drive to improve body image.
The government also removed funding the grid girls at the Adelaide Clipsal 500 motor car race.
“The Government’s paying for grid girls at the same time we’re putting money into mental health areas to help young women who have body image problems,” said South Australia Sports Minister Leon Bignell, who, according to the ABC, has been the driving force behind the move.
“What we actually want to do is inspire girls and young women who come to the motor racing to be car drivers or to be mechanics or to be engineers.”
Podium girls have long been a feature of the post-race podium presentations. However, there have been increasingly more calls to change the protocols, with some believing it is archaic, and there have been some controversial moments.
In 2013, Peter Sagan got himself into hot water when he pinched the bottom of one of the podium girls after the Tour of Flanders – he later apologised. Two years later, there was furore caused by podium girls being forced to wear bikinis for the women’s Flanders Diamond Tour. [Cycling News]
As with the technology events where ‘booth girls’ still feature, podium girls in cycling are an embarrassing hold-over from what should be a long-forgotten age. There are more than enough people of all ages and genders for whom the job of handing over prizes on the podium can be a great way to acknowledge their achievements and encourage future achievements.
My Yuletide story is... well, I have most of a first draft. If I have any brainspace left maybe I can finish it next weekend. I'm not terribly excited about it at the moment, but I think it does what it sets out to do and therefore it's probably better than I'm giving it credit for. I would like to have a first draft posted by the time I fly home on the 16th.
Someone I don't know (a sock??) has requested Return to Night for Yuletide. I kinda hope they get some fic and not just for selfish reasons. New or previously disguised Renault fans need to be encouraged.
So nineveh_uk has persuaded me to start watching Yuri on Ice!!! and I may be kind of... enjoying it? Definitely it was the right time for me to get hooked by a sports anime, and the romance is rather sweet. (I am perplexed by the apparently large numbers of people who think that it's all going to end in 'no homo.') There are now over 2500 fics on AO3 – WTF, last time I looked it was 1800. Sadly at least 99% of them are utter crap. Maybe the good writers take longer to get going? Or maybe it's just that sort of fandom. I feel that if I actually had the time to write, I could achieve fannish fame and fortune even beyond my previous heights with Welcome to Night Vale. But in all honesty my version would probably have too much sport in it, or maybe too much Moscow scenery, despite the fact that I've only spent three days in Moscow and I can't even do backwards crossovers.
This weekend has allowed me to nearly finish a short fic in another fandom. I'm currently debating whether to post it as soon as it's finished – people will probably want things to read in the run-up to Yuletide – or whether to save it and try to find someone to foist it on for Yuletide. Does anyone want fic foisted on them?
Circumstances have conspired such that the OUSFG library has taken up residence in my front room. Which may not be helping me make time for writing, but has certainly cheered up a chilly December. I read Sheri S. Tepper's The Gate to Women’s Country, which was quite good barring one paragraph of rather stunning homophobia. Then rather than diving into The Martian (I just can't), I've decided to re-read The Dispossessed. I'd forgotten what a good writer Le Guin is. A pleasure.
And, lacking road cycling at this time of year, I've taken up cyclocross instead. It's like cycling's own version of mud wrestling. Certainly there's more incident per minute of TV coverage than road cycling could ever manage (not difficult), but it also seems to have about three people who win all the races – plus one person who used to win all the races. There isn't much suspense. I was however amused when someone called Wout van Aert "the young Sagan" and someone else pointed out that "Sagan is the young Sagan." It will be interesting to see how van Aert does when he transfers across to the road, as he is apparently planning to do.
Well, well, well. Wonders never cease. President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia has conceded defeat after the country’s Presidential Election. Those are words I never thought anyone would write. Jammeh has been President of The Gambia for 22 years. He once said he would rule for ‘a billion years’. He has recently become increasingly erratic and autocratic.
First, a little about The Gambia. It is in West Africa. It is a little slither of land, smaller than Yorkshire, that runs along The Gambia river. Apart from the Atlantic Ocean, it is surrounded by its bigger neighbour, Senegal. It is has been called “a banana in the mouth of Senegal” (and worse). It was a British colony until 1965 and has only had two Presidents since then, the second being Jammeh. Alex Haley’s family slavery book, Roots, featured The Gambia and its capital Banjul, was established as a centre of anti-slavery operations.
I have great affection for Gambians and The Gambia due to a family association and a couple of visits. The people are wonderful. But, when I visited this year, I noticed that the army barracks near Jammeh’s residence bore a picture of him with the words “Our King”. It seemed inconceivable that he would ever stand down from power.
So Yahya Jammeh deserves credit for conceding to Adama Barrow in a prompt and extremely gracious way. (It is worth watching the charming video of his concession speech and mobile phone call below).
Gambians vote with glass beads, leading a BBC online writer to quip: “it seems that the marbles have spoken.”
I wish President-elect Adama Barrow and all Gambians the very best in moving their country forward. I hope that the transition of power is indeed peaceful and acts as a little inspiration for a few other African countries with long-standing rulers.
* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and councillor. As part of the Liberal Democrat Voice team he helps with photos and moderation on the site, as well as occsionally contributing articles. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.
In the week the Article 50 case is heard before the Supreme Court, the public has more than three tiDec. 4th, 2016 01:16 pm
— TSE (@TSEofPB) December 4, 2016
Ipsos Mori have published their annual veracity index, with the Article 50 case being heard in the UK’s highest appellate court, it was amusing to contrast the trust in
the enemies of the people judges compared to journalists.
Only Government ministers, and politicians in general are less trusted than journalists, whilst Estate Agents and Bankers have better trust ratings than journalists. This might explain why Nigel Farage’s planned 100,000 march on the Supreme Court turned out to be, as we say in Yorkshire, all fart and no follow through.
The fieldwork ended just before the High Court ruled against the Government in the Article 50 case, but a substantial part of the fieldwork was carried out whilst the High Court was hearing the case, but before headlines that described the judiciary as the enemies of the people.
It has to be said that Boris Johnson is towards the right end of the spectrum here on whether Britain should continue to pay into the European Union’s coffers for access to the Single Market after Brexit. Some Cabinet Ministers (Guy Hands, David Davis) are suggesting that substantial sums might be paid annually to keep such access. Boris is at least stating that any payments, if payments there are going to be, should be modest. Myself, I’d go rather further but we’ll come to that in a moment:
There is no reason why the UK should have to pay “large” sums to the EU to continue trading with it after Brexit, Boris Johnson has said.
The idea of the UK paying for tariff-free access to the EU’s internal market has been mooted in recent days.
The foreign secretary told the BBC this was “speculation” and while he could see the UK funding some EU initiatives, any payments had to be “sensible”.
The first reason to be against such payments is that they’re a subsidy of businesses which export to the EU by the general taxpayer. In the absence of Single Market membership many products would face import tariffs on entering the EU. The people who first suffer from this are the people in the EU who must pay more to gain those British goods they desire. But obviously this also moves on to second order effects, those exporters make less money as a result of lower sales. Payments for Single Market access will come from general tax revenues. Thus it will be the population at large who would pay for what benefits that 10% of the British economy which exports to the EU. This is state aid, flat out and simply. Even though it’s a legal form of state aid we still don’t want to do it.
Boris Johnson’s comments to the BBC on Sunday came after Britain’s minister for leaving the European Union, David Davis, said that the country might be willing to pay in return for access to the single market.
Not that offers to pay are going to make much difference. It has been made very clear that we must offer freedom of movement and if we don’t there will be no Single Market access or membership. To my mind an excellent idea as membership would mean retaining the EU regulation and the aim and point of Brexit, to me, is to leave that system of regulation. I think we’ll be richer for doing so to.
Asked if ‘very large’ payments back to the EU were negotiated for access to the single market as suggested by Mr Davis, Mr Johnson said: ‘My own view is I see no reason why those payments should be large.’
Mr Davis was asked in the Commons on Thursday whether Britain would make a contribution in return for continued access to the single market.
He replied: ‘The simple answer we have given to this before is, and it’s very important because there is a distinction between picking off an individual policy and setting out a major criteria, and the major criteria here is that we get the best possible access for goods and services to the European market.
‘If that is included in what you are talking about then of course we would consider it.’
Which brings us to the amount of payment that I think would be reasonable. Currently payments from places like Switzerland and Norway for Single Market access seem to be based upon the sizes of their economies. And upon the total running costs of the European Union on the other side. We obviously don’t want to be paying into general funds. However, I would be willing to countenance a small payment. The Single Market does cost something to run after all. But, to change terminology, the payments seem to be based upon the average cost of running it. And what we want is to pay the marginal cost of our being in it.
The Single Market will exist whether we’re in it or not, standards will be drawn up, regulations made and all of them will continue to be translated into English. All of these costs are the same whether we are in or not. If we are to be in then we should, righteously, be happy to pay the marginal costs of our membership. That is, the extra costs because we are in. You know, the postal costs of sending EU regulations to England, the fraction of a penny it costs to serve up a web page to a Brit. So I could see a reasonable argument that we should send them, what, £10,000 a year? More? £15,000?
There just doesn’t seem to be any justification to be sending more than that. And as there isn’t then we shouldn’t.
We can say one thing about Donald Trump and his economic policy–he gets things done. He’s still only President-elect and yet he has managed to get Carrier, the air-conditioning people, to keep some half of that plant in Indianapolis rather than production being shifted off to Mexico. And while we can indeed say that he’s already got something done we should also note that this is exactly the problem. For this sort of political interference in the economy are the baby steps to the killing of a free market economy in its entirety. As Tyler Cowen points out it still is only baby steps but this is those first few steps on the path to a slightly malfunctioning economy like France or an entirely disastrous one like Venezuela.
Note that it’s not that jobs stay in Indiana which is the problem. It’s the method by which the company has been browbeaten into doing so which is. This is the start of crony capitalism, an horrendous and pernicious mutation of the capitalist/free market ideal, one that ends up rotting an economy from the inside out. And it’s not just me saying this either, this is a much more generalised view than that.
Obviously, we were never going to find Paul Krugman liking anything that Trump did or does:
Meanwhile, as Larry Summers says, the precedent — although tiny — is not good: it’s not just crony capitalism, it’s government as protection racket, where companies shape their strategies to appease politicians who will reward or punish based on how it affects their PR efforts and/or personal fortunes. That is, we’re looking at what may well be the beginning of a descent into banana republic governance.
This is, as Larry says, bad both for the economic and for freedom. And there’s every reason to expect many stories like this in the days ahead.
Larry Summers is deeply unlikely to praise President Trump of course as well. And it’s also entirely true that both, both Krugman and Summers, seemed just fine with similar bending of the system when President Obama wanted to cram bond holders down in the GM bankruptcy and privilege the unions. And of course this is one of the reasons why this sort of action is so pernicious. It starts out that we bend the rules in order to safeguard some hundreds of thousands of jobs in the auto industry–and then the same tactics get used to “save” 1,000 in air-conditioning to the detriment of the wider economy:
Yes, presidential politics is not ivory tower economics, and occasionally Presidents have to do something abjectly wrong to garner support for a greater purpose. It’s a delicate and dangerous act though — if this is where we’re going, early in an administration is the best time to do some hard things, set in motion policies that actually work, set a high bar against demands for cronyist payouts, and trust that four years of good policy will pay off.
The best hope in this direction is for the President to score some points, and for a loud chorus of serious policy people, from left and right, to denounce any more moves in this direction. This is exactly what has happened. Really, it gives one great hope that just about every commentator left and right says this is not the way to go.
Perhaps we can put up with a bit of Realpolitik but as a general principle this sort of action is just a bad, bad, idea:
But Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University who identifies as a libertarian, worries that under a Trump administration, a kind of “crony capitalism” — where companies that are good to a presidency are rewarded — will prevail.
“This to me is scary,” Cowen tells Inskeep. “It indicates an environment where business decisions are now about how much you please the president.”
When you’ve got John Cochrane and Tyler Cowen agreeing with Krugman and Summers that this is a bad economic idea then really, there’s at least a very serious possibility that it is a bad economic idea:
INSKEEP: David Wessel of the Brookings Institution said on our air the other day that this act reminded him of something that is done from time to time in France – under the socialist government in France. And I’m also thinking of Venezuela, where the late President Hugo Chavez would go on TV and denounce companies and demand that companies do specific things. And of course, the economy there has ended up being a complete mess. Is that – is that a fair comparison at all?
COWEN: Well, we’re not close to that point yet, but we’re taking baby steps in that direction. And the way you avoid getting to that point is by having people speak out when they see the baby steps.
The real underlying point here is that we don’t in fact want an economic manager. Not in the bureaucracy, not as a politician and most certainly not as the President. We do want, and need, an economic rule setter, some system at least which outlines the general rules for the economy. We can also go on and have the most lovely fights about what exactly those rules should be. But they must be general rules, not ones subject to revision because the President says so, or because one specific issue grabs the public limelight.
I may or may not agree with the rules that you decide upon but it’s just fine to argue that we must change the rules because manufacturing jobs are leaving America. But as Cowen says the US is a Republic, existing under the rule of law. And that’s how it has to remain if it’s going to remain a rich nation. Deals cut here and there under political pressure are not that and as such they rot an economy from the inside out. We end up, if we continue with these baby steps, with an economy ruled by what a politician thinks is a good idea at the moment. That is not a free and liberal society and if it goes on too long it will also stop being a rich one too.
Just say no to ad hoc deals–if you want to change the system then fine, let’s talk about the new rules. But they have to be universal rules, not deals done under political pressure.
Man with 400,000 followers responds to news that woman was raped during making of film by tweeting that it was a rubbish film anyway.
Woman with fewer than 1% his number of followers quotes his tweet and asks whether that was really the most important point to be made here.
Man with 400,000 followers quotes her tweet, angrily denying that this was in any way what he meant and then blocks her while engaging in conversation with people who agree with him and also men who disagree with him.
You see that Twitter pile up? That's your best argument, that is.