27 January 2010

Quote of the Day

From Lord Hope:
Even in the face of the threat of international terrorism, the safety of the people is not the supreme law. We must be just as careful to guard against unrestrained encroachments on personal liberty
It's reassuring to know that there are still pockets of sanity out there.

20 January 2010

The Need for Context

From a speech by Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England (emphasis is mine):
But the cost of the banking crisis has been high. After an unprecedented period of sustained growth, total output in the United Kingdom has now fallen for six consecutive quarters. It contracted last year by around 5%, the largest fall in output since 1931. National income is around 10% below the level it would have reached in the absence of the financial crisis.
That last sentence might be reasonable in that context if the financial crisis and the previous levels of growth weren't related, but as they were both driven, at least in part, by unsustainable growth in debt and the money supply, it’s a bit disingenuous. Without the unsustainable build-up of risk which led to the financial crisis, the previous levels of growth would not have existed either.

Hypothesising a scenario in which we would have enjoyed the benefits of the course of action that was followed, but not the costs, is unrealistic.

07 January 2010

Back to Front:

From the BBC:
The UK government wants advice on how to spend the cash being raised for next generation broadband in rural areas.

The cash will be generated by imposing a 50p duty on all fixed line phones.

It has begun a consultation exercise that will hear about who should benefit from the £1bn it is expecting to raise in the Next Generation Fund.
Maybe it's just me, but surely the correct sequence of events for what is being portrayed as a hypothecated tax should be:

Identify the issue
Document a preferred solutionCalculate the cost of the solutionSet the tax accordingly

Not:

Identify the issueSet the taxLook for a solution

otherwise, you're collecting a tax when it might be completely inadequate to fund a solution, or when there might not be a viable solution at all.

05 January 2010

Early Candidate for Quote of the Decade

From Cory Doctorow, in response to Bono's latest whinge about file sharing:
If only greed and ignorance could sequester carbon, Bono could FINALLY save the planet
I could point out that China doesn't so much track content, as Bono claims, it blocks it, which is fine if you want to stop something being available at all, but not so good if you want to stop it being obtained from one source, but sell it extensively from another.

I could point out the incredible hypocrisy of a rent-seeking fat cat like Bono condemning "rich service providers."

I could point out that, in the UK at least, far from ISPs having massively swollen profits, it is actually a fairly low margin business.

I could point out that the idea that file-sharing hurts creators isn't backed by any real evidence.

But, in the end, I think Cory Doctorow's comment says all that needs to be said.

03 January 2010

Cause and Effect?

From the BBC:
Property is now affordable for first-time buyers in nearly four out of 10 areas of the UK, research indicates.

Someone on average earnings could now afford the average first-time buyer property in 39% of local authority districts, the Halifax bank said.

In 2007, the year in which house prices peaked, homes in only 6% of areas were affordable for average earners.

The improved affordability has come about through a combination of lower interest rates and house price falls.

However many first-time buyers have been unable to take advantage of the situation because of tighter lending criteria imposed by banks and building societies.
Did nobody consider the possibility that the tighter lending criteria and resulting reduction in money available to buy houses might be part of the reason why house prices have fallen?