lördag 30 maj 2020

Brexit row over brand protection

As part of the acrimonious Brexit negotiations, there is a row over protected product names such as Melton Mowbray pies and whiskies generally. This reminds me of something that happened about 30 years ago when some Italians living in Sussex produced a perfectly good Parmesan cheese of their own and sold it as such until they were forced to stop, after which it seems to have disappeared from the shops. Personally I think it was a mistake not to market it in the first place as something new with a local name. There are several villages in Sussex with names beginning with “Par” which would have made the connection.

Pirating brand names is a stupid marketing tactic. Products sold on the backs of others’ names are in the long run doomed to failure; Danish Blue cheese is quite similar to Roquefort but stands on its own merits. The genuine producers can protect themselves by packaging with something difficult to forge, like a hologram, on the label. It is a nuisance from one point of view but can also add value. Cheddar cheese is unprotected but the genuine article cut off the block is still in demand here in Sweden and commands a premium price. It is also the case that most EU countries have their own local products and would not really want to copy UK specialities. Is it really worth getting worried about?

onsdag 27 maj 2020

Familje brottsindustri

En artikel i GP diskuterar “släkten som anses styra i Angered” (en av Göteborgs förorter).

Familjen verkar vara en riktig Rockefeller för brott istället för finans. Kanske inte en så stor skillnad; finans också har växt till att globalt brott, mer dödligt i verkligheten än det vanliga slags våldsamt brottet.

Familjedrivna affärer kan vara bra för familje själv, för samhället och näringslivet. Men omständingheter styr. Tänk på det: att Sveriges skattesystem, vilket vi betrakatar som “rättvis” är ingenting annat än ett system för bestraffning av framgångsrik, legal ekonomiska aktiviteter. Varför då är vi förvånade över att sådant brott har växt och utvecklat till en fullständig industri? Systemet har uppmuntrade den i den högsta grad.

Staten har också uppmuntrat drogrelaterade brott, vilka kunde lätt förbyggas genom att sälja legalt villkorligt t ex på Apotek eller Systembolaget. Då blir det inga tillfälle för fösäljning illegalt.

Dessa problem är för det mest konstgjorda.

måndag 25 maj 2020

Willy waving press photographers

For the first half of the twentieth century, press photographers used Speed-Graphic cameras, with a flash fixed to the side. They used 5x4 sheet film, which is slow to use, and the photographer had just one chance to release the shutter at the critical moment. These were well suited to the technology of the time, when photographs were printed in low resolution half-tone using hot metal processes. For about twenty years from the 1950s, the Koni Omega roll film camera was a popular choice among press photographers. Press photographers were slow to adopt 35 mm cameras because the film was too coarse grained. Solidly build 35 mm cameras such as the Leica and Canon came into use during the time of the Korean war, and SLR types such as the Nikon F series during the Vietnam war.

Of course digital photography has changed everything, or should have. I was looking at the photographs of the press of press photographers encircling Dominic Cummings. All of them are encumbered with heavy duty SLR cameras with whopping great lenses. This looks like willy-waving, as the job could just as well be done with a little waterproof camera, or even a mobile phone. It is not as if the pictures are going to end up in an art gallery. The large sensors of the big SLRs are a disadvantage in fast moving situations where depth of field is needed. They are just giving themselves backache, but then news reporting these days is just a part of the whole circus performance.

Västlänkens värdelöshet bekräftas

En artikel i idags GP avslöjar det som vi alltid visste - att Västlänken är ett nästan värdelöst projekt.

Det var uppenbart från början att bara en av tre linjer (Udevalla/Trollhättan/Alingsås) kunde få en direkt förbindelse mot Kungsbacka. Också uppenbart var att restider söderifrån skulle ökas. Och vad är egentligen efterfrågan på direktresor mellan t ex Udevalla och Varberg? Och vad är Haga för ett resemål? Vem vill åka dit? 

Det enda sträcka som är till nytta är detta bredvid älven tills Stenpiren. Bästa alternativ är att skrota den resta. Om det är nu för sent, så är det värde att bygga ut till en riktig destination: en tunneln från Haga till en ny station på Linneplatsen, och därefter fortsätter tills Frölunda/Opaltorget på den nuvarande spårväglinje ombyggd för tåg. Tåg kunde också rulla på en del av den gamla Säröbana t ex Askim/Hovås. Det finns också ett behöv för bättre förbindelser mellan Mölndäl, Sisjön och Frölunda - möjligtvis spårväg.

onsdag 20 maj 2020

The science was wrong

Trust in science is a weakness of those who have not studied the natural sciences. Scientific knowledge is always provisional and open to revision in the light of new observations and reinterpretation of old ones.

The scientific community has been insufficiently clear on this point of late. The result has been that, based on the science available at the time, advice has led to harmful public policies and recommendations in many fields eg dietary advice, energy, medicine, agriculture; some of those policies have subsequently been reversed.

lördag 16 maj 2020

Economics is a science

Every so often, the statement pops up that economics is not a science, but a product of people’s emotional reactions.

Economics, properly termed Political Economy, is a genuine science. If it were not, then there would be no point in any policy intervention as its effects would be completely unpredictable. The “Science of Political Economy” (there is a book with that title by Henry George) progressed from the time of the French Physiocrats, via Smith, Ricardo, J S Mill and Henry George, until the 1880s. After that, the basic principles were buried and covered with a smokescreen of impressive-looking mathematics.

Basic principles still apply: if prices are higher, less is sold and supply tends to increase. Then there is the Law of Rent, which every street beggar and musician knows: a busker will collect more at the bottom of the escalators at Victoria than outside the station at West Finchley. The difference is due to the advantages of location ie it is what Ricardo identified as “economic rent”. You will not find any of this in most economics textbooks and might go through an entire degree course without coming across it, but there are consistent and identifiable cause-and-effect relationships which mean that economics can legitimately be regarded as a science.

fredag 15 maj 2020

The cycle of money and tax

Sometimes a picture emerges with extreme clarity. One of the reasons why I take part in internet discussions is that it forces one to refine one’s thinking. This was a response to a comment in the Daily Telegraph.

Governments create money to pay for their expenses. It should then be removed through the tax system. To ensure that taxes were paid with sound money, the government paid its expenses by putting into circulation an official coinage impressed with the seal of the sovereign; hence ‘Render unto Caesar’.

A primary function of government is to defend the territory and the land rights of the inhabitants. Rights of land occupation are normally achieved through land titles, which the government defends through the legal system. Government also provides the infrastructure without which land would be worthless. Thus, owners of land titles are able to collect the economic rent of land which has been created by the money spent by government. The cycle would be completed if governments then collected this rent as a result of their activities; rent of land is not created by private individuals and companies but is a stream of wealth over and above that.

Unfortunately, most of those responsible for the design of our tax systems have failed to notice that the process is a cycle: governments create money and spend it to protect land rights and sustain land values. The cycle should be completed by the collection of the land value thereby generated. Because this connection is not recognised, people throughout the world are saddled unnecessarily with taxes which appropriate by force the products of labour and enterprise.

Brexit row over brand protection

As part of the acrimonious Brexit negotiations, there is a row over protected product names such as Melton Mowbray pies and whiskies general...