fredag 29 februari 2008

What is the point of fining Network Rail?

Network Rail has been fined £14 million because works carried out over the Christmas and New Year period at Liverpool Street Station, Glasgow and Rugby were not completed on time.

What is the point of fining a public sector company? It is taxpayers' and passengers' who will have to pay. It may be possible for NR to pass the fine on to its consultants, but I doubt if that will happen.

The reason for the over-run, apparently, is the shortage of qualified people to put up the overhead electric wiring, like those in the picture. If there was even a small rolling programme of electrification, there would have been more trained staff available, but it turned out that workers were being poached between sites by team leaders desperate to get the work completed.

torsdag 28 februari 2008

Taxes should be based on "ability to pay"

Next year's Council Tax charges will be announced soon and there are already complaints that it should be replaced by a tax based on "ability to pay".

Which means Local Income Tax. The only trouble is that Income Tax is not based on "ability to pay". Far from it. If you can afford it you will pay for advice on how to exploit all the loopholes. Because taxes payable by individuals or companies, based on something called "income", inevitably contain loopholes.

Moreover, definitions of "income" are ultimately arbitrary. It cannot be otherwise, partly because the boundary between the formal cash economy and the informal family and community economy is blurred. I fix my plumber's computers and he fixes my central heating system and, roughly, it balances out, give or take the odd bottle of whisky at Christmas. Then again, I can ask friends to give me a bill now and again so that they can claim expenses to set against their other income.

All this is before beginning to think about tax havens and all the other ingenious dodges that lawyers and accountants can come up with by going through the small print covering expenses, allowances and all the incentive schemes that governments dream up to mitigate the harm to the economy caused by levying taxes on wages and on the return to capital.

At some point, legal avoidance shades off into criminal evasion. But, as is demonstrated by the recent news about wealthy Germans exploiting the secrecy of Lichtenstein's banking laws, enforcement is difficult and costly, and involves relying on informers to breach confidentiality, or on assuming totalitarian powers to force private companies to disclose information about their customers.

In the meantime, investment and expenditure by the taxpayer turns up in land values which those who own it, the wealthier and privileged sector of society, can keep to themselves and become ever richer and more wealthy on the backs of the poor.

The end result of "ability to pay" taxation is to soak the poor and further enrich the rich.

Tesco tax dodging

Tesco Britain 1, originally uploaded by replicam.

Tesco has come under criticism for tax avoidance. It seems they have hived off their property to a company in the Cayman Islands and avoiding UK taxes.

Good luck to them. People should stop tut-tutting about the tax dodgers and aim their anger at the real culprits - the government and its advisors.

It is the tax system that creates the dodging opportunities in the first place. People and companies are mobile. Property is fixed. If the tax liability went with the land ownership, then nobody could escape it by syphoning funds off into associate companies based in tax havens. It is up to the Chancellor to sort out the problem, which is inherent in the system and will not be resolved by endlessly attempting to plug loopholes.

tisdag 26 februari 2008

Giant casinos plan abandoned

Red 19, originally uploaded by greendrz.

I was pleased to hear that the plan for a chain of supercasinos has been dropped and now there will not be any.

People in Manchester are disappointed but I am mystified as to how a supercasino would have promoted economic regeneration. Gambling produces absolutely nothing and its effect is to syphon off money from the gamblers to the big companies that run these operations, mostly based in London or abroad. Far from leading to economic regeneration, it would have had the opposite effect and I am astonished that anyone in authority thought otherwise.

There are two ways to promote sustainable economic regeneration in depressed areas, which are normally that way because of poor access. The first is to construct transport infrastructure and the second is to change the tax system so that it reflects geographical advantantage and disadvantage, and captures the land value increases that occur when infrastructure improvements take place.

If the first measure alone is adopted, it ends up costing the treasury a lot of money which it does not get back, whilst the poor are driven out of the improved area and have to move to other deprived areas, so they gain nothing either.

måndag 25 februari 2008

Employment rights debate

The rights of part-time and women workers have come under scrutiny, with proposals for fresh legislation to give added protection.

Nobody seems to ask why it is that labour is nearly always negotiating from a position of weakness in the employment market, and consequently feels in need of protection. Nor are the wider implications of this protection understood - that it makes employers reluctant to employ.

Protective legislation does not address the underlying causes which leads to the exploitation of workers in the first place.

Biofuel aviation future

Shoreham Airport, originally uploaded by seadipper.

A Virgin aircraft has made a flight, powered partly by biofuel. Is this part of a sustainable future for aviation?

No. It takes a huge amount of energy to just get an aircraft off the ground. Even the light aircraft in the picture are greedy little fuel gobblers, though things are not quite so bad if you go on a long flight in a straight line.

As a means of mass transport, the days of aviation with heavier-than-air machines are numbered. In fact, I would go further and suggest that the era of cheap travel over distances of thousands of miles is just a short-lived historical aberration.

Intellectual property rights and the 25 letter security code

A friend of mine came round last night for help in setting up her new laptop computer. This came complete with Microsoft XP and Office and other things ready loaded, but to keep it going for more than the 30 day trial period she had to buy a licence. I pointed out that she could have done everything she wanted using Open Office, legally and free of charge, but she preferred to cough up and use the Microsoft product. So the 25 letter security code had to be entered.

I had never set up a computer with Microsoft on it before. There are lots of screens with boxes and fields that have to be filled in or ticked, then you wait while it goes on line and verifies things. It all takes nearly as long as a Linux installation which once you have got it started, you can go away and leave to get on with its business. And you do not have to bother with the anti-virus software nonsense.

It all goes to show the power of advertising and the confidence that people will have in a brand label.

I haven't bought Microsoft products for years, ever since they kept me waiting for twenty minutes on their so-called help line whilst I listened to the company's nasty music whilst running up my phone bill, only to be told that the problem was nothing to do with them. I do not find their products particularly satisfactory or easy to use. They do not run well on old hardware, for a start. And the on-screen messages are often confusingly phrased. They have the helpful feature of trying to predict what you are trying to do but often get their guesses badly wrong. Why do so many people fall for this expensive con?

Microsoft's zealous defence of its intellectual property rights, to the inconvenience even of legitimate users of its products, is part of a bigger issue. The record and film companies are also trying to enlist government help by persuading them that the ISPs should be policed to prevent illegal downloading and piracy.

Really, they are missing the point. Films and music, like computer software, are no longer items that can be packaged in attractive boxes and given away as presents. They have been reduced to streams of data that can be transmitted down cables to the end users and loaded onto storage media and carried about. This is how people want to use them. The problems that the traditional entertainment companies are now experiencing is largely due to their committment to an outdated business model which technology has made obsolete. It is up to them to develop new business models which will allow talented artists and their agents to reap the rewards of their efforts, assuming, of course, that the distribution companies still have any role to play - which quite possibly they may not.

That livelihoods can still be made from free software has been demonstrated by the Linux operating system, which companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems are promoting as the means of implementing tailored solutions which businesses are perfectly willing to pay for.

Great Tax Scams

Tax scams, legal and otherwise, have been in the news over the past few days. First there was the business over the wealthy Germans who have salted away their savings in Lichtenstein to avoid paying taxes. Accused of aiding and abetting tax fraud - it is not a crime in Lichtenstein - Crown Prince Alois has stood his ground, pointing out, quite rightly, that if Germany was a more direct democracy with a better tax system, perhaps its citizens would not cheat.

It now transpires that the German authorities had bought their information from a whistleblower who has also been paid for information by British investigators.

High tax Sweden has also lost out from wealthy individuals, such as Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, who feels that he cannot afford to live in his home country and have taken up residence abroad.

The Non-Dom tax debate
In the meantime, in Britain, a debate is raging over whether the so-called non-domiciled - wealthy foreigners - should continue to enjoy their tax privileges. The argument is that the country will be deprived of their talents if they have to pay the same taxes as the Brits themselves.

This is a good point, but doesn't it apply to the Brits themselves? And not just to the wealthy ones but those at the bottom of the pay scale, and, indeed, those who are not working at all? Even those earning no more than the national minimum wage get hit by the tax authorities, to the extent that for many, the reward for work is not worth the effort, and so the effort is not made, since it is more lucrative to stay away from work, draw a meagre benefit and top it up with work in the black economy, or a little petty crime.

VAT fraud too
It is not just taxes on wages that are causing problems for the authorities. VAT swindles are costing EU members tens of billions of Euros a year. The trick is to buy goods VAT-free from one member state, and to sell it on with VAT added in another, whilst failing to pass the tax on to the authorities. European finance ministers are to be asked next month to choose between rival proposals for reforms designed to clamp down on the fraud, but it seems there is little enthusiasm for the alternatives and it has been pointed out that these open up fresh opportunities for different frauds.

People are mobile, property is fixed
Politicians and their expert advisors obviously need to be reminded of a simple fact. People and goods are mobile, whereas land is fixed, which cannot be hidden or removed to a tax haven. The value of land can be readily determined and a tax on the value of land cannot be avoided or evaded. If politicians refuse to accept this obvious point, the only conclusions that can be drawn are that they do not want to hear it, or that they are too cowardly to tackle the small but powerful vested interests that gain from the present state of affairs, or that they are not serious about dealing with the problem.

In the meantime, economist and investigative journalist Fred Harrison (below) has written about how the present tax systems in democratic countries, whilst appearing to be based on "ability to pay", end up by soaking the poor and enriching the countries' landowners.

Ricardo's Law ~ House Prices and
the Great Tax Clawback Scam

söndag 24 februari 2008

Booze-fuelled crime wave

The government assured everyone that 24-hour drinking would lead to more relaxed attitudes and cut down on the problems caused by the old restricted drinking hours. Seemingly it has not, which shows yet again that practices which work well in some countries might not necessarily be adopted in others without trouble.

lördag 23 februari 2008

Wheat shortage

Winter wheat on the South Downs, originally uploaded by seadipper.

The farming programme today talked about the rising cost of wheat and its increasing scarcity. What is happening?

First, there is increased demand, apparently due to increased meat eating in India and China, which means that more land must be devoted to growing food to feed to animals; second, there is the amount of land being used to grow biofuels; and third, changes in the weather have led to crop failures.

This makes me want to tear my hair out. If animals are kept according to proper principles, they make farming more efficient, by eating left-overs and grazing land which cannot be used for crops. Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks and other farm animals go out and find their own food. That is the whole point of farming them. If farmers are buying food for their animals on any more than an occasional basis, they are keeping too many of them. Pig farmers, apparently, are in trouble due to rising costs of food, but traditionally, pigs used to be fed on skimmed milk and waste food. Sometimes they were put into fields to dig up left-over root crops after harvesting. In earlier times, pigs were just turned loose in woodland and rounded up periodically. Many people used to keep chickens for eggs, again feeding them with left-overs. The system was efficient and avoided the problems of biodegradable waste going to landfill.

The amount of meat, butter, cheese, eggs, etc that can be produced in this way is obviously limited, so we should all eat less of it. As these things are unhealthy except when eaten in modest quantities, everyone would be better off if they cut back. Which might go some way towards helping the fat epidemic.

The use of land for biofuels when it could be used for food is obscene. The simple fact is we all need to use less energy, especially for transport. Cars, aircraft and high speed trains gobble up energy which is in limited supply. This rate of consumption simply cannot continue and development in India and China will lead to conflict in the scrabble for resources. We will all have to travel less, and more slowly, and walk or use public transport.

Changes in the weather have always happened. Part of the solution is for farmers to hedge their bets by growing a range of crops with different requirements, so that some will flourish whatever the weather. The other part of the solution is that we need to be more willing to try new foods that grow under different climatic conditions. Humanity is too dependent on a limited range of food crops.

None of this is particularly difficult but it does mean that we all need to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

torsdag 21 februari 2008

How silly is this? #2

The government has come up with proposals to make immigrants pay for British citizenship. This, it is said, will raise tens of millions of pounds. "which will pay for the public services they use".

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the proposals, this amount is so trivial as to hardly be worth the trouble of collecting, and it makes one question the numerical literacy of politicians.

How silly is this? #1

A committee of MPs has criticised councils for their lack of enthusiasm about a pilot scheme to charge people for the amount of rubbish they put out for the dustmen.

Rubbish is left all over the place all the time even when it is taken away free, so what will things be like if people have to pay according to the amount of rubbish they produce?

Most rubbish is packaging. The cost of disposal should be incorporated in the price so that you pay for rubbish when you buy it. This would create a fund for it to be collected with no questions asked. Since the cost of disposal would thereby be reflected in the price, it would create incentives all-round, to be economical with packaging and to recycle and re-use containers.

Other rubbish such as metals and electronic scrap is potentially a source of valuable commodity elements, which the big mining companies are happy to dig away half a mountain to obtain.

Re-use is better than recycling. Glass containers could make many trips instead of just one. Items such as electronic goods and components could be kept in service much longer than they actually are - I recently bought a laptop computer for £150, only four years old and £1200 when new. It will do for several more years, which makes one wonder why the original corporate owner did not have the same idea.

Organic waste such as food is another matter. Composting is the best solution but difficult for people who live in flats.

Part of the solution is to get people to sort their rubbish into metals, paper, electronic scrap and batteries, and compostable food/garden waste.

If there are incentives not to produce waste, then there will be less of it. But charging to take rubbish away. No - it will just get dumped. One can only wonder if MPs live on the same planet as ordinary people if they can come up with such an idea.

How stupid is that? #1

Well done Brighton and Hove Council #1
Originally uploaded by seadipper.

A committee of MPs has criticised councils for their lack of enthusiasm about a pilot scheme to charge people for the amount of rubbish they put out for the dustmen.

Rubbish is left all over the place all the time even when it is taken away free, so what will things be like if people have to pay according to the amount of rubbish they produce?

Most rubbish is packaging. The cost of disposal should be incorporated in the price so that you pay for rubbish when you buy it. This would create a fund for it to be collected with no questions asked. Since the cost of disposal would thereby be reflected in the price, it would create incentives all round to be economical with packaging and to recycle and re-use containers.

Other rubbish such as metals and electronic scrap is potentially a source of valuable commodity elements, though many items could actually be kept in service much longer than they actually are - I recently bought a laptop computer for £150, only four years old and £1200 when new. It will do for several more years, which makes one wonder why the original corporate owner did not have the same idea.

Organic waste such as food is another matter. Composting is the best solution but difficult for people who live in flats.

Part of the solution is to get people to sort their rubbish into metals, paper, electronic scrap and batteries, and compostable food/garden waste.

But charging to take away rubbish. No.

tisdag 19 februari 2008

Deutsche Post chief accused of tax fraud

The head of Deutsche Post has been accused of tax fraud, using Lichtenstein as a haven. Now the thing has come to light, it is turning out that a lot of wealthy Germans are doing the same.

Good luck to them say I. The German Chancellor just needs to remember the people and companies are mobile whereas property is fixed. With globalisation of corporations and the super-rich, if governments do not want to let them get off scot-free, this principle is more important than ever.

Land cannot be hidden or demolished or removed to a tax haven and it is straightforward to levy and collect a tax on land. If the owner does not pay up, then, as a last resort, it can be confiscated and sold to pay the tax due. People, especially politicians, should not complain when people and corporations try to avoid paying tax. There is a simple solution and it is up to governments to apply it.

More swimming problems

After January swim, originally uploaded by seadipper.

The swimming club lock was glued up again this morning - this has been happening about twice a week since Christmas. Who could it be? Obviously someone with a grudge, and some time and money to waste.

So we walked along towards Kemp Town and gathered up some of the wood that is still lying about. The workmen complained even though we were saving them a job. They said it was the council's wood.

We lit our fire and had our swim. There is a strong offshore wind and it was close to the water's edge, so nobody was disturbed. Then the council's seafront officer came along on his quad bike to say we shouldn't be doing that. I pointed out that if there was proper law enforcement on the sea front we would be using the swimming club premises for which we had paid instead of having to change on the beach in the cold. I also reminded him of the lack of action last week when the jet skiers were about.

It would be nice to think that the council official told the workman off for wasting his time but that would be expecting that there was a prevalence of common sense.

måndag 18 februari 2008

Supermarket competition enquiry

Sainsbury's Empire, originally uploaded by sonicdante.

The Office of Fair Trading is concerned about supermarkets' pricing behaviour. The dominance of the four supermarket giants Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons is to be investigated again, the third time in seven years. The stores control almost 75% of the £120bn grocery market and the OFT is asking the Competition Commission to investigate.

The watchdog said there was evidence that the buying power of big supermarkets could distorts competition and producers complain that they are squeezed down to selling at rock bottom prices. There are also concerns about planning rules and supermarket land holdings.

There is an underlying problem here which is being ignored. Where land is freely available, it is easy for individuals to start up in business, whether as producers or retailers. But where all the land is occupied, then ownership is effectively monopolised - unless there is a holding cost on land, such as a land value tax. In the absence of such a tax, there is every reason for supermarkets, house builders and all sort of other large corporate players to buy up land and sit on it whilst they wait to get what they want.

As long as Britain's present no-charge land tenure system continues, more and more of the economy will be concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer agglomerates.

Kosovo independence

The newly-declared independence of Kosovo is likely to have far-reaching and possibly dangerous repercussions.

The country was for several hundred years Serbian and Christian. It fell into the orbit of the Ottoman empire in 1389, following the defeat at the Battle of Kosovo. After this came centuries of oppression and islamicisation. In fact, the spread of the Ottoman empire did not end until 1683, when the Turkish armies who were besieging Vienna were defeated by armies led by the Polish King King John III Sobieski, who successfully attacked from the high ground above Vienna. The defeat of the Ottomans led to the rise of the Austro-Hungarian empire as a Balkan power, ending with the events of 1914 and after.

The politics of the Balkans remains in essence what it was in 1914. The Catholic Croatians look to the west, whilst the Orthodox Serbs see Russia as their protector. The apparently successful attempt to split off a Islamicised part of Serbia was inevitably going to arouse anger in Serbia, and hence in Russia.

It is a mistake for EU countries to recognise this new state and the consequences of doing could unfold unpleasantly.

The whole way in which the dismemberment of Yugoslavia was handled was wrong. There is no reason in principal why people with linguistic and religious differences have to divide themeselves into independent nation states. Some kind of federal solution based on the Swiss model might have had a chance of working. Instead of just recognising states as they managed to break loose, the EU should have used its influence to get the disputing parties round a table so that as many people was possible got what they wanted.

Northern Rock nationalisation

The eventual nationalisation of Northern Rock was likely as soon as the decision to bail them out was made by the government shortly after the crisis blew up. That was the logic of situation.

It will, of course, be problematic for various reasons. What are the politics of repossession of people's homes by a nationalised bank? There is a substantial financial risk here, because Northern Rock was offering 125% mortages; what will the value of the collateral be if house prices take a really big tumble?

The lesson of this seems to be that the private sector is happy to take risk unless there is a prospect of loss, in which case the government is expected to bail out reckless behaviour.

Running Windows under Linux

Most people use computers with some version of Windows running on them. This is environmentally unfriendly, because up-to-date versions of Windows such as XP, and even more so, Vista, need an up-to-date computer. But most of the things people do with their computers are undemanding and can be done on five-year old computer using Linux, the main thing being to make sure it has plenty of memory - about 512 megabytes.

Sometimes Windows can't be avoided and an effective way of running it is as a virtual machine inside Linux, using VMware. Both Linux and VMware are available free of charge from the internet but I have found installing VMware is tricky.

The key to a trouble-free installation of VMware is to use a Linux distribution with all the development packages, including the kernel source, and to install all of them and update them on-line before installing VMware.
That way the installation will go smoothly.

I have used a variety of Linux distributions but Open Suse seems to be the best for what I do. Ubuntu and Kubuntu are also good and popular ones. It is best to install these from the "alternate" CDs rather than the "Live" CD.

torsdag 14 februari 2008

Threat to Danish bacon exports

Gris, originally uploaded by Ma1974.

There are problems again with Danish cartoonists. They ought to be more careful. The Saudis might boycott Danish bacon.

onsdag 13 februari 2008

A nice relaxing swim in the sea

Jetskier, originally uploaded by seadipper.

The last couple of days have been warm and sunny here in Brighton and some of us thought it would be nice to swim at high tide in the middle of the day instead of early morning, especially as the early morning low tides have been very low indeed, leaving not been enough water to swim in unless you walk out a long way.

There were a couple of jet skiers the other side of the pier, just a few feet from the shore and we were anxious they would come though on to our beach. So much for having a relaxing swim.

When there is the whole of the English Channel to ride their jet skis, why do they have to go on the bit where people go swimming? Of course, it is to show off to the people on the pier.

We mentioned it to the Brighton Seafront Officer but he really wasn't interested, claiming he did not have the staff. How about having someone go on the pier with a megaphone? There was no answer to that. But the Council is obviously not going to do anything to enforce its own regulations.

Culture in schools

There was a report today that the government is planning to include five hours of culture a week in the school curriculum. What is happening in schools for the other twenty-five hours a week?

The Prize of Presidency

Why is being elected President of the USA regarded as a prize? That is what it was referred to on the news this morning. It is a Cross surely? Why would any sane person want such a burden and what do they really believe they can achieve?

Animal transport cruelty

Horses paddling, originally uploaded by seadipper.

There was a horrifying piece on the news this morning about how animals are sent on long journeys packed into trucks and the holds of ships, only to be slaughtered on arrival.

This disgusting practice should never be happening. It is unnecessary.

Muhajeddin - Taleban

When Russia invaded Afghanistan in support of its puppet government in the late 1970s, the west, especially the US, supported the Muhajeddin Islamic freedom fighters.

Eventually the Russians gave up and withdrew. Then came the attack on the twin towers and the War on Terror, with an invasion of Afghanistan, with the aim of wiping out Al Quaida.

Then came the rise of the Taleban fundamentalists who took over most of Afghanistan and have never been driven out entirely. It is expected that the fight against them will have go continue into the indefinite future.

What I would like to know is what is the difference between the Muhajeddin and the Taleban?

The Plummeting £

I wrote about this a month ago in my blog

What's the matter with the experts who have only just noticed?

måndag 11 februari 2008

Back To The Land

"Back To The Land" was the title of a letter written in 1881 by Dr Thomas Nulty, Bishop of Meath, to the clergy and laity of his diocese. It is something that contemporary Catholic campaigners for justice and peace would do well to study.

Our Land System Not Justified by Its General Acceptance.

Anyone who ventures to question the justice or the policy of maintaining the present system of Irish Land Tenure will be met at once by a pretty general feeling which will warn him emphatically that its venerable antiquity entitles it, if not to reverence and respect, at least to tenderness and forbearance.

I freely admit that feeling to be most natural, and perhaps very general also; but I altogether deny its reasonableness. It proves too much, Any existing social institution is undoubtedly entitled to justice and fair play; but no institution, no matter what may have been its standing or its popularity, is entitled to exceptional tenderness and forbearance if it can be shown that it is intrinsically unjust and cruel. Worse institutions by far than any system of Land Tenure can and have had a long and prosperous career, till their true character became generally known and then they were suffered to exist no longer.

Human Slavery Once Generally Accepted.
Slavery is found to have existed, as a social institution, in almost all nations, civilised as well as barbarous, and in every age of the world, up almost to our own times. We hardly ever find it in the state of a merely passing phenomenon, or as a purely temporary result of conquest or of war, but always as a settled, established and recognised state of social existence, in which generation followed generation in unbroken succession, and in which thousands upon thousands of human beings lived and died. Hardly anyone had the public spirit to question its character or to denounce its excesses; it had no struggle to make for its existence, and the degradation in which it held its unhappy victims was universally regarded as nothing worse than a mere sentimental grievance.

On the other hand, the justice of the right of property which a master claimed in his slaves was universally accepted in the light of a first principle of morality. His slaves were either born on his estate, and he had to submit to the labour and the cost of rearing and maintaining them to manhood, or he acquired them by inheritance or by free gift, or, failing these, he acquired them by the right of purchase -- having paid in exchange for them what, according to the usages of society and the common estimation of his countrymen, was regarded as their full pecuniary value. Property, therefore, in slaves was regarded as sacred, and as inviolable as any other species of property.

Even Christians Recognised Slavery.
So deeply rooted and so universally received was this conviction that the Christian religion itself, though it recognised no distinction between Jew and Gentile, between slave or freeman, cautiously abstained from denouncing slavery itself as an injustice or a wrong. It prudently tolerated this crying evil, because in the state of public feeling then existing, and at the low standard of enlightenment and intelligence then prevailing, it was simply impossible to remedy it.

Thus then had slavery come down almost to our own time as an established social institution, carrying with it the practical sanction and approval of ages and nations, and surrounded with a prestige of standing and general acceptance well calculated to recommend it to men's feelings and sympathies. And yet it was the embodiment of the most odious and cruel injustice that ever afflicted humanity. To claim a right of property in man was to lower a rational creature to the level of the beast of the field; it was a revolting and an unnatural degradation of the nobility of human nature itself.

That thousands upon thousands of human beings who had committed no crime, who had violated no law, and who had done no wrong to anyone, should be wantonly robbed of their liberty and freedom; should be deprived of the sacred and inalienable moral rights, which they could not voluntarily abdicate themselves; should be bought and sold, like cattle in the markets; and should be worked to death, or allowed to live on at the whim or caprice of their owner, was the last and most galling injustice which human nature could be called on to endure.

The World's Approval Cannot Justify Injustice.
To arrest public attention, and fix its gaze effectively on the intrinsic character and constitution of slavery, was to seal its doom; and its death knell was sounded in the indignant cry of the great statesman who "denied that man could hold property in man." Twenty millions of British money were paid over to the slave owners as compensation for the loss of property to which they had no just title, and slavery was abolished forever.

The practical approval, therefore, which the world has bestowed on a social institution that has lasted for centuries is no proof that it ought to be allowed to live on longer, if, on close examination, it be found to be intrinsically unjust and cruel, and mischievous and injurious besides to the general good of mankind. No amount of sanction or approval that the world can give to a social institution can alter its intrinsic constitution and nature; and the fact of the world's having thus approved of an institution which was essentially unjust, cruel and degrading to human nature, only proves that the world was wrong: it furnishes no arguments or justification for allowing it to live on a moment longer.

Irish Land Tenure the Twin Sister of Slavery.
The system of Land Tenure in Ireland enjoyed a long and similarly prosperous career, and it, too, has created a state of human existence, which, in strict truth and justice, can be briefly characterised as the twin sister of slavery. The vast majority of tenant fanners of Ireland are at the present moment slaves. They are dependent for their peace of mind, for their material comforts, for the privilege of living under the roof beneath which they were born, and for the right of earning their bread on the farms which their forefathers enriched with their toil, on the arbitrary and irresponsible will of their landlord.

Abject, absolute and degrading dependence of this kind involves the very essence, and is, in fact, the definition of slavery. They toil like galley slaves in the cultivation of their farms from the opening to the close of the year, only to see substantially the whole produce of their labour and capital appropriated by others who have not toiled at all, and who even leave them not what would be allowed for the maintenance of slaves who would be expected to work, but what hardly suffices to keep them from dying of want.

When grazing on land had been found more remunerative than tillage, and the people consequently became too numerous, the superfluous multitudes, who were now no longer wanted under the new state of things, were mercilessly cleared off the lands by wholesale evictions to make room for the brute beast, which paid better. Such of the evicted as had the means left to take themselves away were forced to fly for refuge as exiles into almost every land; and the thousands who could not leave were coolly passed on through hunger and starvation to premature graves.

Let anyone who wishes visit this Diocese and see with his own eyes the vast and boundless extent of the fairest land in Europe that has been ruthlessly depopulated since the commencement of the present century, and which is now abandoned to a loneliness and solitude more depressing than that of the prairie or the wilderness. Thus has this land system actually exercised the power of life and death on a vast scale, for which there is no parallel even in the dark records of slavery.

But the attention of the civilised world is now steadily fixed on the cruel and degrading bondage in which it still holds a nation enslaved, and therefore its doom is inevitably sealed.

Justice, Not Vested Right, Should Prevail.
Some wise and thoughtful men can see no stronger objections to the abolition of Landlordism now than were alleged not so long ago against the abolition of slavery. If the public good demanded the summary dismissal of landlords from an important position of trust, which, as a class, they have so grievously abused, and, on the other hand, that they had been compensated for the real or fictitious property which it is assumed they possess in their lands, the justice of such a course could not for a moment be questioned. Yet I am afraid that few prudent, practical and experienced men could be found who would advocate the policy of a measure of so sweeping and radical a character. Undoubtedly a universal or a general peasant proprietary; not, however, the result of a sudden, hasty and unnatural change, but the gradual and natural growth of years -- may probably be found to be the final settlement of the question of the land. Hence the great majority of those who have thought the question out thoroughly regard the measure known as the "three F's," accompanied with largely increased facilities, and largely increased pecuniary encouragement, for the gradual establishment of a peasant proprietary, as the fullest measure of justice which the nation can just now expect from an Act of Parliament. But on whatever line the "new departure" may start, it is essential that the eternal and immutable principles of justice which determine the character of property in land shall in no instance be departed from by the people. Ours is a struggle for justice and for right, and we must not furnish our enemies even with a pretext to reproach us with dishonest or unfair dealing.

Justice of Private Property in the Results of Labour.
The following are the acknowledged principles of justice that have a practical bearing on the question:-

Every man (and woman, too) has a natural right to the free exercise of his mental and corporal faculties; and whatever useful thing anyone has produced by his toil and his labour, of that he is the rightful owner-in that he has in strict justice a right of property. Any useful thing that satisfies any of our necessities, relieves any of our wants, ministers to our comforts or enjoyments, or increases our material happiness or contentment, may be an object of property, and the person whose toil and labour has produced that thing possesses in it a strict right of property.

The two essential characteristics of property therefore are: First, the thing itself must be useful for some purpose; and, secondly, it must be the product or the result of our labour.

Now, the effort or exertion demanded by labour is irksome, distasteful and repulsive to the indolence and self-indulgence that is natural to us, and, therefore, no one will voluntarily subject himself to the painful inconvenience of labour who is not stimulated by the prospect of the remuneration and enjoyment which the fruit of his labour will return him.

Whoever, then, has voluntarily subjected himself to the painful operations of labour has, in strict justice, a right of property in the product or result of that labour; that is to say, he, and he alone, has a right to all the advantages, enjoyments, pleasures and comforts that are derivable from the results of his labour. Others cannot complain of having been excluded from the enjoyment of a thing whose production cost them nothing; which he was not bound to produce for their use, and which, were it not for his efforts, would not have existed at all.

Producer's Right of Disposal.
Use and exclusion are, therefore, the two essential peculiarities of the enjoyment of a right of property. The power to dispose of legitimate property is almost absolute. Property may be devoted by its owner to any purpose he pleases that is not inconsistent with the public good …

… if human industry or labour had imparted to these lands a real and substantial amount of artificial productiveness, by the cultivation and permanent improvement of the soil, then the person who had created that productiveness had a perfect right to demand a rent for the use of it.

Exaction by Individuals of Rent for Land is Wanton Injustice.
But who, it may be further asked, has a right to demand a rent for the natural fertility of these lands "which no man made," and which, in fact, is not the result of human industry and labour at all? The answer here, also, should be, he who had produced it.

But who produced it? God. If God, then, demanded a rent for the use of these lands, He would undoubtedly be entitled to it. But God does not sell His gifts or charge a rent for the use of anything He has produced. He does not sell; but He gives or bestows, and in bestowing His gifts He shows no respect of persons.

If, then, all God's creatures are in a condition of perfect equality relatively to this gift of the land, no one can have an exceptional right to claim more than a fair share of what was intended equally for ail, and what is, indeed, directly or indirectly, a necessary of life for each of them.

When all, therefore, relatively to this gift, are perfectly equal, and nobody has any real claim to it; when all equally need the liberality and generosity of God in it, and no one can afford, or is willing, to part with his share in it -- to alienate it from any or all of them would be to do them a wanton injustice and grievous wrong, and would be a direct disappointment to the intentions of the Donor besides.

The Whole People the True Owners of the Land.
When, therefore, a privileged class arrogantly claims a right of private property in the land of a country, that claim is simply unintelligible, except on the broad principle that the land of a country is not a free gift at all, but solely a family inheritance; that it is not a free gift which God has bestowed on His creatures, but an inheritance which he has left to His children; that they, therefore, being God's eldest sons, inherit this property by right of succession; that the rest of the world have no share or claim to it, on the ground that their origin is tainted with the stain of illegitimacy. The world, however, will hardly submit to this shameful imputation of its own degradation, especially when it is not sustained by even, a shadow of reason.

I infer, therefore, that no individual or class of individuals can hold a right of private property in the land of a country; that the people of that country, in their public corporate capacity, are, and always must be, the real owners of the land of their country -- holding an indisputable title to it, in the fact that they received it as a free gift from its Creator, and as a necessary means for preserving and enjoying the life He has bestowed upon them.

Distinction Between Individual Rights and Community Rights.
Usufruct, therefore, is the highest form of property that individuals can hold in land. On the other hand, I have shown that the cultivator's right of property in the produce of the land, in the improvements he has made in the productiveness of the land, and in its undisturbed occupation, as long as he continues to improve it …

Make UK Poverty History

Rough Sleeping, originally uploaded by seadipper.

I have just received the Columban Mission's quarterly news sheet Vocation for Justice. It is, as usual, an infuriating read. The latest issue deals with poverty in the UK, which, as anyone can see if they bother to look, is getting worse for some, with a widening gap between rich and poor.

But something that has been around since the late middle ages is not going to respond to an "initiative", nor to the indignation felt at this state of affairs. Sadly, organisations like Church Action on Poverty (CAP) have nothing more to offer, other than prayer and alleviative charity. These are essential, but if concerned people are not willing to get their heads around the problem at a more radical and intellectual level and start asking fundamental questions, nothing can change fundamentally, as it needs to.

Unjust Structures
The editorial talks about "unjust structures", which is a good start, but what precisely is their nature? Nowhere are they described, and the best explanation that can be given is that some people are poor because others are rich, which is far from the whole truth because it assumes, with no justification at all, that the size of the "cake" is fixed and the divisions are natural and inevitable.

Elsewhere in this issue, Niall Cooper of CAP refers to the Rowntree Foundation's report on the growing gap between rich and poor in the UK, and talks about solutions such as the Living Wage campaign. But this is no solution at all. It is nice if firms pay their cleaners and caretakers over the odds, but this begs the question of why it is that they can get away with paying the bare minimum in the first place. It also ignores the absurdity that people who earn the official minimum wage are already well over the Income Tax and National Insurance thresholds. A further difficulty is that if large numbers of people in menial jobs were paid substantially more, it would drive up housing costs and they would still be no better off. If everyone got a living wage it would not be a living wage any more! And attempting to deal with this by, for example, rent control, would lead to the large waiting lists and secondary market problems that plague the residential rental sector in Sweden.

It is impossible to get a grasp of what is happening without careful study, and "solutions" thought up in haste, in the absence of a proper understanding of the underlying economic processes have a tendency to aggravate the problems they are trying to solve.

Concerned people should move beyond the emotion of indignation and do some solid thinking on the subject. An obvious place for concerned Catholics to begin is the body of Catholic Social Teaching initiated with the publishing of Rerum Novarum in 1891. It leaves too much unsaid, but is a good starting point. If those who write for these Catholic publications are not promoting the social teachings of the church, who will?

söndag 10 februari 2008

Sharia Law for Britain?

Halal butcher in London

I know very little about Sharia Law apart from the fact that some of its provisions sound pretty bloodcurdling. Nor have I studied the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement. I suspect both statements apply to most of those who have rushed to comment on the subject.

A comparison was made with the Jewish religious courts which decide certain matters of family law such as divorce, and can also act as arbitrators in civil disputes.

A civil divorce is not recognised in Jewish law and nor is a Jewish religious divorce recognised in English law. So an orthodox Jewish couple wishing to divorce will first have to obtain a civil divorce and then apply to the Court of the Beth Din for what is known as a Get. The latter is fairly easy to obtain, and the main restriction is that a divorcee must not marry a member of the Cohen (priestly) dynasty. Any children of such an illicit (in Jewish law) marriage are regarded as outcasts from Judaism (Mamzerim).

Civil disputes may be heard before the Jewish rabbinical court but such a proceeding is in the nature of an arbitration held before someone whom both parties agree to abide by their decision.

In no case can the religious court impose a punishment, nor can the religious law over ride English law or do anything contary to it.

fredag 8 februari 2008

These fast-moving times

The past two months have seen faster change in the economy than I can remember, ever. The warning shot was the Northern Rock collapse and it has proved to be the tip of an iceberg of banking malpractice underpinned by economic mismanagement.

Some commentators, such as Fred Harrison, suggest that the trough will occur in 2010. If he is right, and he has an excellent record of accurate prediction, what has been happening is just the beginning of an unravelling of long-established economic structures.

There seems to be an cycle of about 18 years, and if one goes with that, the trough will come in two years' time. But this trough will be accompanied by problems with energy, probably with the approach of "Peak Oil" and growing consumption in India and China, and difficulties with economic development inside China, which will compound the effects.

Pity the rich foreigners

Digby Jones has criticised the government's proposal to tax wealthy foreigners who live in Britain and have up till now enjoyed freedom from UK taxes. He says that the country will lose talent.

He has a point, but what he says does not just apply to wealthy foreigners. Nobody should be taxed on their earnings. It isn't necessary. There is another and simpler way for the government to obtain the revenue it needs to run the country, and it would not drive anyone away.

The Chancellor should claim the revenue from land rent instead. Land value is created by the actions and presence of the community and should not end up in private pockets anyway. It is strange how envy and greed can blind politicians and commentators to the obvious.

Brockley Boom

16 October 2007 (1), originally uploaded by Cle0patra.

A recent article in the FT's property section (Bringing the suburbs closer - 3 February) had a feature on how the East London Line Extension will boost property prices in its wake. Places like Brockley, traditionally an area where land values were low because of its poor public transport access, were tipped as the next likely places to boom.

Elsewhere in the paper, (Life and Arts - Seaside Saga), was an article on the regeneration of Folkestone, which referred to the expected impact of the new high speed line, and there was a comparison with Margate, which will lose out because the new fast trains will not be stopping there.

The East London Line is part of Transport for London's £10 billion investment programme. But further planned extensions have been put on ice as the Treasury has not given the go-ahead.

Isn't there something wrong here? This is public money which is ending up in a lottery which leaves some property owners with big windfall gains and others with nothing, whilst those who do not own property then have to face higher rents and purchase prices. A little bit of these gains trickles back to the Exchequer but slowly and haphazardly.

It is consequently unsurprising that there is a reluctance to release public funds for further, much needed, transport infrastructure.

It has been suggested that a levy be imposed to capture some of this windfall gain, but one-off hits on market selling prices would be arbitrary and difficult to assess. It is impossible to establish a firm and reliable boundary to the areas that benefit, as these "shade-off" gradually. It would also create hardship for people to be suddenly faced with tax bills which might run to tens of thousands of pounds.

A fundamental principle is being ignored. All land value arises from the presence and actions of the community. If existing property and other taxes were to be replaced by a tax on the annual rental values of the underlying sites, based on existing land uses or agreed consents, then increases in value resulting from infrastructure developments would automatically be picked up.

torsdag 7 februari 2008

Whither the £ ?

The Bank of England has cut interest rates, as expected, by 0.25%. This is actually a cut of just under 5% in actual interest paid, and it will further reduce the attractiveness of sterling, thereby adding to downward pressure on the exchange rate and adding to the cost of imports, especially food.

The Monetary Policy Committee is charged with the task of maintaining inflation below a certain level, not with attempting to prevent a recession - which will in any case prove futile. Seemingly, now that the UK economy is coming under pressure, the resolve is cracking.

What is most worrying is the abyss of economic ignorance in the country. A few days ago the Daily Express headline was complaining about the recent increases in food prices. Today, it was calling for cuts in interest rates to relieve the pressure on people with mortgages. It cannot have it both ways.

onsdag 6 februari 2008

Scottish budget and economic ignorance

Amongst the measures in the Scottish budget is one to cut the business rate.

This demonstrates economic ignorance of a high order. All that will happen is that business will find their rents going up at the next rent review. It is just a way of giving taxpayers' money away to business landlords. One assumes that is not intentional but you never know.

Incapacity befit reform - again

The government is to make yet another attempt to cut down the number of people out of work and being paid Incapacity Benefit.

Governments have tried about four times to get people on Incapacity Benefit back to work, but the numbers of people on benefit have remained resolutely high. The people on Incapacity Benefit have changed, apparently. Typically they used to be manual workers in their fifties, with back trouble or heart conditions which made them unable to do the jobs they had done when they were younger. The kind of jobs that they might have done, such as surface jobs in coal mines, had disappeared, so that, whilst they were theoretically capable of doing some kind of work, nothing suitable was available.

In the early 1990s people who were unemployed were encouraged to go on what was then called Invalidity Benefit as it kept the unemployment statistics looking good. But the cost kept rising and the government decided to try to do something about it. The reform that was brought in under the Conservatives in the mid-1990s introduced the "All Work" test. This was based on a questionnaire listing a variety of activities which the claimant was asked to state whether or not they were capable of. If they scored more than a certain number of points, they were deemed capable of work. The questions were set out on a form with boxes which had to be ticked. Of course in reality matters are never so clear cut and claimants were reluctant to get themselves deprived of their benefit, especially when there was no real prospect of obtaining employment.

More recently, typical claimants are much younger and suffering from some kind of psychological condition such as stress. This is to be expected, given the way that so many employers subject their workers to high levels of stress, for example in call centres and in IT- and sales-related occupations.

Until the nature of employment is changed, the situation will continue.

Futile war

afghanistan, originally uploaded by soldiersmediacenter.

It would be nice if, as a result of the war against terror, Afghanistan were to transform itself into a nice democratic country - like Denmark, perhaps. And to stop living off the proceeds of opium production. And so Condoleeza Rice is visiting Britain as part of her campaign to get other NATO countries to pull their weight.

It seems to me that a sense of realism would not go amiss. Britain fought in Afghanistan for many years in the nineteenth century. It was futile. The Soviets failed in the 1980s. The terrain puts all conventional armies at a disadvantage. And what exactly is the fight against? The Taleban are about an idea, and ideas of this kind can never be defeated by force of arms. As for the poppy products, first, there is a shortage of the stuff for legitimate medical use, and second, the epidemic of drug taking in western countries is symptomatic of a deeper malaise in our culture.

This is not to say that the west should not have a policy about Afghanistan, simply that it should acknowledge that not all things are possible, however desirable. The country is not going to become another Denmark

Brighton's incompetent planners

Last year I applied for planning permission to change some windows in a flat in a 1960s block. Most of them have already been changed, without permission. I was refused even though the flat is at the back and cannot be seen from the street. In the reasons for refusal the planners said it was in the Avenues conservation area, whereas in fact it is in another one, the Willett. This is not just a quibble as these 1960s blocks are specifically referred to as spoiling the character of the conservation area. There is a policy in Brighton that windows in buildings which contribute to the conservation area should be put back as they were originally, but it expressly states that it applies to those buildings which contribute to the character of the conservation area. This it clearly does not apply to 1960s buildings in a Victorian area. Perhaps there ought to be a policy for such buildings but there is not, and since the planners have had 20 years to introduce one, it is obviously not a priority.

I have appealed, and in my statement, I mentioned that the planners had made a mistake about which conservation area it is in, but in their response, they still say it is in Avenues area. The incompetence of these people is amazing.

Admittedly the planner dealing with the case is a trainee and from abroad, but who is supervising him? And in any case a street map is a street map in any language, and map reading is a basic skill for the job. If a trainee planner cannot read a map he should give up trying to become a planner and try doing something else.

Fine 10 000 (Estonian Kroon) - about £500

Fine 10 000,-, originally uploaded by kalevkevad.

We could do with this in Brighton. And more public toilets kept open longer.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, originally uploaded by oddsock.

I was sorry to hear that he died yesterday, in his nineties. His great achievement, forty years ago, was to bring a certain style of interior spirituality to the west. It was a style that had to a great extent been lost from the mainstream Judeo-Christian practice and through his work, people in the west were helped to recover an important strand in their own older tradition.

But the task has to be repeated in each generation, and today, two trends can be discerned. One is a crude and strident exteriorised religion, typified by evangelical protestantism of the US variety and by militant Islam, which have much in common with each other.

The other, which also has its danger, that being an over emphasis on liturgical style, is traditional orthodox Christianity, of which Russian Orthodoxy and the liturgical movement now in train under pope Benedict, are exemplars of a religion with more potential interiority.

But nowadays, the Maharishi's concentration on the interior dimension also seems to lack an essential balance. However, the hollow present-day preoccupations with money and celebrity need to be countered, and the work he did needs to be done all over again.

tisdag 5 februari 2008

We have to stop the scroungers and spongers

The latest New Labour wheeze comes from housing minister Caroline Flint: social housing residents should seek work as a condition of their tenancy.

There is certainly a problem in some housing estates that are home to families who have been unemployed for a generation or two. But many of these people have few skills to offer or live in areas where there is little work of any kind. And matters have been aggravated by the one-size-fits-all school system which has levelled pupils down to the standard of the lowest. Nor does it help when the benefits system with its subistence payouts, still leaves many people better off than if they were working and paying tax out of their minimum wages. What is Ms Flint proposing should be done about that? If nothing, why should she expect people to go jobseeking for jobs that are not there, or they could not do, and nobody that would employ them or when they would be worse off than living off their meagre benefits

Why don't politicians think before they open their mouths?

måndag 4 februari 2008

Brighton swimming problems

Rough Sleeping

For the fifth time this year, Brighton Swimming Club members have been prevented from using their changing room because someone keeps putting superglue in the lock. The most likely suspect is one of the homeless alcoholics who hang about under the pier. Unless it is an inside job.

The police were called but are not interested, even though the damage has cost the club hundreds of pounds. But what if he was caught and convicted? Nobody can get the cost of the damage off him, and either he would be sent to prison or given community service, which he would skip anyway. And he might prefer to be in prison, which could well be the best home he has ever had. It is the prevalence of people like that in Brighton that demonstrates how British society is collapsing.

There are others responsible too. Brighton and Hove Council has done next to nothing to support sea bathing. There is a ten year wait for beach huts. And by neglecting an important area of the sea front it has provided ample opportunities for anti-social behaviour of all sorts.

Then there are the police, who don't bother to patrol the lower promenade, which, amongst other things, provides the opportunity for all sorts of criminals to operate undisturbed. You could land a whole boatload of suicide bombers or drug dealers on the beach without being discovered, but then the police are concerned about meeting their targets and it is easier to do that by picking up middle class people who will not cause them any trouble.

Not least, there is Brighton Swimming Club itself, which really is not interested in sea swimming except as a an extension of its pool activity. Thus the club committee has failed to progress any development, such as extending the arch forwards and removing the opportunity for misdemeanour. Such is the incompetence of the club management that when a wealthy member of the club died a little while ago, nothing had been left to it, contrary to what he had long contemplated.

söndag 3 februari 2008

The attack on Britain's Middle Classes

There is a huge variation in the quality of education in Britain's state schools. In stable middle class areas, they are quite good. In areas where people are poor and have a variety of problems, for example in inner city areas, the standard of education is not good. In such areas, teachers may have difficulties in maintaining discipline and the children have little support from their parents.

Neighbourhoods within the catchment areas of the better schools are more popular, and this has driven up house prices; if you can afford to live in the catchment area of a good school, your children will get a better education. If you live in the catchment area of a rough school, unless you can afford to go private, your children a likely to have a bad education.

This has been the case in many places. Brighton and Hove Council, amongst others, has introduced a lottery system in place of the previous catchment area scheme for its secondary schools, which ensures that every school, indeed every class, will have its share of bright pupils and its share of disruptive ones. Which, more or less, will ensure that everyone's education is likely to be disrupted, and that those who might have made the best teachers will not even contemplate teaching as a career. Unless their parents can afford to send them to a good private institution, all of England's children will soon be doomed to a poor education. (they may order things differently in Scotland)

The long-term effect of this policy will be to squeeze out the middle classes, leaving a wealthy class and an underclass, with little in-between. Factor-in the forthcoming inflation which will wipe out people's savings, and the picture does not look good, since a sound functioning democracy depends on there being a well-educated and well-informed middle class.

Will a change of government help? Not really, because the Conservatives ultimately represent the wealthy and powerful, who also have no interest in there being an articulate middle class. The outlook for England looks grim.

However, there is one possibility which may confound those who are working to create this disaster. As parents get to realise what is happening in schools, and with the new lottery allocation system which is meant to ensure that every class has its quota of disruptive pupils, we can expect to see a growth in home schooling. Perhaps then people will gradually come to realise that schools are a procrustean bed that gets their children into bad habits and bad company. They may even come to wonder why such a cruel and abusive system was tolerated for so long.

Should Brighton be on the Monopoly board?

An article by Simon Fanshawe in the Brighton local newspaper, The Argus, yesterday, suggests that Brighton deserves a place on a new World Monopoly board. Of course. It follows naturally from the real history of the game.

The Argus says that it was designed in 1934 but it actually goes back to 1904, when Elizabeth Magie, a Quaker from Delaware, USA, was granted a patent for a game called The Landlord's Game. She was was a supporter of the Single Tax proposal of the political economist Henry George and the aim of the game was to show how property owners became rich at the expense of impoverished tenants. The present Monopoly game was based on the Landlord's Game, with more up-to-date graphics and the addition of the Chance and Community Chest cards.

Henry George, who died in 1891, had devoted his life to trying to explain the paradox whereby some people lived a life of poverty in the midst of great wealth, and his theory had drawn on the work of the famous English economist David Ricardo, whose family had strong connections with Brighton.

And so a city where some people dine in five star hotels whilst only yards away are others who rely on the soup run can have no better claim for a place on a world Monopoly board.

Virus questions - and the Swedish exception

Is there a link to particular pre-existing conditions, including diabetes, pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome? Is there a link to particu...