Sunday, 20 August 2017

"One in 10 adults owns second home, says think tank"

From the BBC:

At the other end of the scale, four in 10 own no property at all...

Those most likely to own a second home are baby-boomers, currently aged between 52 and 71. They also typically live in the south of England...

"Policy makers should consider what more can be done to ensure that home ownership doesn't become the preserve of the wealthy for generations to come," said Ms Gardiner.

The only thing which will sort this out is land value tax. Or at least a reintroduction of Georgism Lite, but that will take longer to have any effect.

If you're not prepared to support either of those, you might as well stop moaning. Ms Gardiner also makes the mistake of assuming that people own land because they are wealthy, when it is the other way round in most cases.

"It is a counter-intuitive idea"...

... says the BBC:

... but actually the economics textbooks do provide some support for the idea of unilateral trade liberalisation.

Patrick Minford on top form, Bremoaners on top form, BBC at its quietly biased best.

Ms Ebell's own research showed that if the UK left the single market but made unilateral trade deals with major developing economies...

A trade deal is of necessity bi- or multilateral. No such thing as a unilateral one.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Reader's Letter Of The Day

From The Metro:

Regarding the axing of the £200 million London Garden Bridge [MetroTalk, Wed]. We have lots of bridges. Stick some of those giant plant pots on them and, hey presto, you have a Garden Bridge* at a fraction of the cost.

Elle, London.

Should read "several Garden Bridges", but the point stands.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Big Ben row - there's an easy solution or two.

From The Daily Mail:

The Prime Minister urged an 'urgent' review of the plans for renovating the Elizabeth Tower amid mounting anger... The Commons unveiled details of the renovation project on Monday, saying that health and safety concerns meant the bongs would not sound regularly again until 2021...

Speaking on a visit to the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier in Portsmouth after returning from holiday, Mrs May said: 'Of course we want to ensure people's safety at work but it can't be right for Big Ben to be silent for four years. And I hope that the Speaker, as the chairman of the House of Commons commission, will look into this urgently so that we can ensure that we can continue to hear Big Ben through those four years.'

I can imagine that construction workers don't want to be subjected to the sound of Big Ben every fifteen minutes for an entire shift for months or years, which is why they intend to disable the bell first, fair enough.

But to keep the traditionalists happy, why not just discreetly mount loud speakers somewhere on the tower away from people are working (shifting the loud speakers around as necessary) and play a recording? I assume the tower will be covered in scaffolding, so easy to mount and hide large loud speakers. Point them outwards, stick some decent sound proofing behind them, everybody's happy. Most people have only ever heard recordings of the bell so won't notice the difference.

My colleague at work had a slightly more radical suggestion - just employ construction workers who are deaf.

Top euphemising by the French

Emailed in by MBK from The Times:

A teenage girl was killed and four people were seriously injured when a man drove a car on to the terrace of a pizza restaurant near Paris last night.

Police said that it was a deliberate act but they did not suspect terrorism, adding that they believed the man was under the influence of drugs…

The driver of the grey BMW, a 32-year-old French national, was arrested at the scene in Sept-Sorts, 40 miles east of Paris… He told police he had weapons in the car, according to the radio station RTL.

Eric de Valroger, deputy regional prosecutor, said it was “highly probable” the driver was on drugs and deliberately rammed the car into those at the restaurant.

UPDATE Surprise, surprise, it appears that the driver was just a complete arsehole, rather than one with religious motives.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Poor interpretation of statistics of the day.

From City AM:

New research seen by City A.M. has shown that most British househunters are snubbing new-build homes in favour of older properties…

But in a survey of 2,000 UK adults, 81 per cent said they were not keen on the prospect of living in a new-build, while 79 per cent thought the government should focus more on supporting the refurbishment of traditional properties.

Efforts to solve the housing crisis have resulted in a record 162,880 new homes being built over the past year. But 1.4m properties are currently empty across the UK, a 20-year high.

1. Define "new build". If it means completed in the last few months and for sale to the first occupant, it's about half a percent of the housing stock. So if 19% are happy to live there, that is quite enough demand and irrelevant.

2. People might not like "new builds" because they

a) are smaller than older ones, or built to lower standards (the old housing which was low standard has largely been demolished or refurbed since) and

b) older homes tend to be in the more desirable spots (either because that was the most obvious place to build them or the town has grown up around them) and new greenfield housing estates are a bit bleak for the first few years until shops, kids nurseries etc open up and buses are re-routed.

So it's not comparing like with like. The pricing mechanism will sort that out.
Also from City AM:

Taxpayers already dish out almost £5bn annually to the [railway] industry, despite the fact a relatively small number of people use the railways. Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show households on average spend just £3.60 per week on rail travel, compared with over £30 on the operation of personal transport.

Actually, support for rail users is incredibly regressive too. The bottom fifth of households by income spend on average just £1 per week on rail. This compares with £11.20 for the top decile. Little surprise then that ONS stats show that the bottom fifth of households obtain £26 in rail subsidies per year, on average, compared with £173 for the richest. 

It stands to reason that increasing taxpayer support would exacerbate this regressive effect, with measures such as freezing rail fares or limiting increases effectively taking from working taxpayers to give to the rich.

His argument is, subsidies for rail transport are wrong, with which I would largely agree (I'm not quoting the bits I agree with). But the factoids he quotes do not particularly support his argument.

1. A small number of people commute by train because it is largely a south-east/London thing. Much higher population densities make railway more viable. In turn, while going by train is more expensive than by car (on a per mile basis), with higher population densities/land values, you need to focus more on efficient use of available land. So overall the extra cost of running a train network is less than the cost of the land that roads and car parks would use, so it is still a saving to the economy as a whole.

2. The statistic on lower earners spending less on trains is also facile. Firstly you can strip out the south-east/London effect. And nobody is going to pay thousands for an annual travel card to go and do a minimum wage job miles away. But it's worth it if you are commuting to a higher paid job.

3. Lower earning non-rail users are *not* subsidising higher earning rail users. Subsidies come out of tax, and higher earners pay a lot more tax. So it's higher earning non-rail users who are subsidising higher earning rail users.

4. For example, my wife and I spend about £4,000 a year on our London Transport travel cards and earn a fair whack between us. Half TFL's budget is from ticket sales and the other half is from subsidies out of taxes we pay. AFAICS, if they abolish the subsidy, double ticket prices and give us a tax cut, we would end up better off, with the upside that the trains would be less crowded. Sounds good to me (out of narrow self-interest) but that's not much consolation to all the people doing low paid jobs in London, who would clearly end up worse off. If the extra taxes I pay go on reducing travel costs for all the burger flippers and office cleaners in London, then that seems like a fair trade-off to me - but that is the very thing he opposes.

5. From a Georgist point of view, his statement that subsidies are "effectively taking from working taxpayers to give to the rich" is quite true if you mean that taxes on output and employment are spent on subsidising rail fares, which in turn boost land values in areas with a good rail network, which end up in the pockets of landowners. But I'm sure that's not how he meant it.

Pessimistic warning on the back of a learner driver's car

Monday, 14 August 2017

Fun Online Polls: The Big Ship; Charlottesville

The results to last fortnight's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

When did The Big Ship sail on the Ally-ally-oh?

The Nineteenth of September - 12%
The Last Day of September - 83%
Other, please specify - 5% (3 votes)

Derek had the best answer - it sailed on the 19th of September and sank on the last day of September, source. OK, the dates are out but at least that way the words make sense.
This week's Fun Online Poll concerns last weekend's unpleasantness:

On Saturday the president condemned hatred and violence “on many sides” in his remarks, but did not directly single out the white supremacists, whose attempt to hold a major rally in Charlottesville, Virginia resulted in the governor, Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, calling a state of emergency. Disorder including clashes with counter-protesters left more than 30 injured.

That's the key word here - counter-protestors. We observe that the president didn't single out the group who were trying to stifle other people's freedom to organise a rally/march either. Quite correctly, he remained above the fray. One wonders what sort of a frenzy The Guardian would be in if left-wingers had legitimately organised a rally/march and some right wing nutters had turned up to physically intimidate and attack them.

And so that's this week's Fun Online Poll:

"What's the correct response if people with whom you disagree organise a rally/march?"

Vote here or use the widget in the sidebar.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Daily Mail on top form

Police search £365,000 home of man in his 20s arrested over murder of dog walker

UPDATE The original Daily Mail report of the murder of a week ago helpfully includes a picture of the victim's house but does not mention what it is worth.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The clue is in the name

Spotted in a Moneyweek article about leaseholds, entitled "Money-for-nothing clauses will have to go":

In 2016 the average ground rent for new-build properties was £371 and £327 for older properties..... Keep in mind that that this is a fee for which nothing is received in return.

Er, isn't that why it's called rent?

The article also produced a lot of wailing on behalf of poor homeowners who were too stupid or lazy to check just why their new house was quite so affordably priced. They must have thought the developers were doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.

"What is more concerning is that as many as 100,000 leaseholders will have signed agreements that will see their ground rent double every ten years,.."

Well more fool them, either they didn't read what they were signing or they didn't "do the math".

Of course, once again, the government is expected to step in and protect people from their own cupidity.