torsdag 31 januari 2019

The chemistry of chlorinated chicken

As a graduate in the subject, I am intrigued by the chemistry of chlorinated chicken. Consider phenol, a simple compound consisting of a benzene ring with a single hydroxy group attached. There are three compounds of phenol with a single chlorine atom attached: 2-chlorophenol, 3-chlorophenol and 4-chlorophenol. In the olden days, they were called ortho-, meta- and para-chlorophenol. There are no less than six isomers of dichlorophenol; in all, there are 19 compounds of chlorinated phenol.

When we come to chlorinated chicken, the prospect of an entire discipline open up, with university departments of chlorinated chicken, professors and  research graduates; it could even become a degree subject in its own right.

Who, I wonder will be the first Professor of Chicken Chlorination?

söndag 20 januari 2019

Threatened clergy

The BBC Sunday programme this morning (start of broadcast) had a report about a growing problem of threats and violence against churches and clergy.

‘In the week that up to fifteen Catholic churches received bomb and stabbing threats, we speak to Nick Tolson from National Churchwatch and the Reverend David MacGeoch, about whether enough is being done to protect clergy.’

This is not a new problem. Clergy have long been at risk from mentally ill individuals, drunks and people high on drugs. It is in the nature of the job that clergy should be available, and availability has its risks. However, the report also referred to harassment by groups of youths, and said that the problem was primarily in urban areas described as ‘challenging’, which is obviously something else altogether.

What is going on? Who are these groups? Are they members of other Christian denominations? Chasidic Jews? Hindu or Buddhist extremists? Satanists? Or what?

The programme is silent on this aspect of the phenomenon. This suggests that there is something going on that for policy reasons cannot be discussed openly. Listeners will draw their own conclusion. Do the programme makers not understand that this conspiracy of silence is aggravating the problem the silence is attempting to prevent?

lördag 19 januari 2019

The case of unilateral free trade #1

Consider two countries, Britain, and Sweden, and two sorts of products which are popular in the other. Sweden is good at balls - meat balls, as sold at IKEA, and SKF balls. Britain is good at some fancy cheeses - Blue Stilton, and engineering components, such as those used in the marine sector.

We start off with mutual tariffs. British ball eaters are paying more for their meatballs, or eating inferior balls, and British manufacturers are paying more for their ball bearings, or using inferior balls in their products. Swedish cheese fanciers are paying more for their Stilton or making do with an inferior cheese, and Swedish yacht builders are paying more for their widgets, or using inferior widgets.

If Sweden unilaterally takes down its tariffs, then Swedish cheese fanciers get their cheese of first choice at a lower price, and Swedish yacht builders get the components they really want, at a lower price, which makes them more competitive. In the meantime, the British ball eaters continue to pay more for their meatballs, or eat inferior balls, and British manufacturers continue to pay more for their ball bearings, or use inferior balls in their products.

If, in this situation, the British do not reciprocate, they are the losers. The Swedes are still better off than if they waited for the British to do the deal.

torsdag 17 januari 2019

Independent Scotland in the EU? #1

Does that sound like a good idea? It poses the prospect of lorry tailbacks all the way down the A1 to Newcastle, as goods wait to clear EU customs at Berwick. If there is still an EU that people in Scotland want to join. And the distance from Scotland to an EU port (Rosyth to Esbjerg, 450 miles) is tight for a round trip within 48 hours.

Scotland’s independence will get it nowhere unless it deals with its grotesque concentration of land ownership, through the introduction of an effective land value tax. This has been possible at a local level ever since devolution, and while a lot of noise has been made, and despite a couple of committees of enquiry, nothing has happened. If an independent Scotland joined the EU, it would prevent the application of an effective rate of land value tax, on human rights grounds.

Advocates should also ponder the fact that the EU trade and economic policies work against the interests of all peripheral locations and peripheral countries. VAT, which is a requirement of being in the EU, is a perfectly honed job killer.

Varadkar, the Irish backstop

This is ‘Round the Horne’ territory - Kenneth Williams would have been quick to flaunt his backstop on air.

More Project Fear

Checks on both sides of Irish border ‘mandatory under no-deal Brexit’

So runs a Guardian headline today, which continues ‘Customs expert says extra costs and delays will harm small businesses and WTO rules would kill UK farming’.

The customs expert, described as a world leading expert, turns out to be a Michael Lux, a former head of customs legislation and procedures at the European commission, who said the UK would have to impose customs checks and tariffs on the northern side of the border, despite claims to the contrary by Brexiters.

He would say that, wouldn’t he? If you read on, you will see that this is not the case anyway, as the article explains that, ‘Under WTO rules, the UK could opt for zero tariffs, but it would be obliged to offer this free-trade deal to every other country. This would mean cheap food and dairy products, which currently attract high tariffs, from countries such as Brazil or New Zealand, and might also lead to chlorinated chicken from the US ending up on British supermarket shelves. “It would kill UK farming,” said Lux. He also said Brexiters who claim the UK won’t impose checks in Northern Ireland are naive.’

The bit about chlorinated chicken is obviously the Guardian adding its ha’p’orth to stir up readers’ indignation, which it has to do in its role as cheerleader for Remain.

The UK government might be sufficiently stupid to throw away the benefits of Brexit by imposing tariffs on imported food, and with Hammond as Chancellor, this is a likely outcome, but he will not get away with it without an almighty row.  The notion that cheaper food imports would kill British farming is fallacious. Farming is predicated on fluctuations in the prices of produce. If prices are too low, then some farmland become sub-marginal and the land goes into other uses. Rents on all other farmland fall, and there would be a change in the mix of arable/livestock.

This is the classic Ricardian analysis, but it is evident that Lux does not do Ricardian economics and so comes out with his baseless prediction. (Minford, who should have known better, did the same). There is always a cut-off point, and some farmland will go out of use. The land will not disappear. In the worst case it would be abandoned and revert to wilderness. There is nothing unusual about that. If you visit the Peak District of Derbyshire you will see lots of enclosed fields which were formerly in use but are now sub-marginal.

The article is not open for comment. What a pity.

måndag 14 januari 2019

The tone gets ever shriller

Polly Toynbee on Brexit.

The Guardian and FT have done the country a great disservice by their grotesque and one-sided opposition to Brexit. The Guardian’s journalists and editorial have attempted to find a Brexit angle on every subject under the sun. Most of its old warhorse journalists have no credibility, having been consistently wrong for decades on almost everything they have written about. Polly Toynbee and Will Hutton are the worst offenders. Nick Cohen was a fervent supporter of the war in Iraq. William Keegan remains an unreconstructed Keynesian decades after the theory was set aside. These hacks would have promoted their cause best by staying silent.

That the FT should have taken such a one-sided anti-Brexit stance is surprising, as the EU’s trade and economic policies would have been sharply criticised by the FT journalists of a generation ago. What does not exist is a balanced counter to the extreme Brexiters, and so the issue is presented in black and white.

The economic case for Brexit has hardly been stated, even by its advocates: that it is an opportunity get shot of the EU’s terrible trade and economic policies, though how long it will take a UK government to wake up to the possibilities is another question. Brexit will certainly lead to immediate problems, which will of necessity be quickly sorted out under pressure on politicians from industry. 

Less easily solved are the medium term structural problems, which will persist for five years at least. By that time, if the economic cycle runs to schedule, the recession of 2026 will be about to hit, for which Brexit will be blamed. It will be wrongly blamed, because ever since 2010, monetary and other policies have been committed to stoking up the housing (land price) bubble. It is Ponzi economics and, on the basis of previous experience, can be expected to bust spectacularly, leading to a recession which will continue into the early thirties. One can only speculate what the political fall-out will be.

fredag 11 januari 2019

China and Islam - where are the protests?

Whilst Israel’s alleged ill treatment of its Arab neighbours is condemned as apartheid and has given rise to protests, condemnation and boycotts from ‘progressives’, the rounding-up of Chinese Muslims and their removal to concentration camps raises barely a murmur from the same people. What is happening looks like the prelude to a genocide.

torsdag 10 januari 2019

The EU suits the UK just fine. Actually, no.

‘The EU suits the UK just fine’, argued a commentator in the Guardian. They were just asserting, but no, it does not.

British manufacturers can never compete on equal terms with German manufacturers in sales to continental Europe. They start off with a transport cost penalty of about £100 per cubic metre shipped. That figure rises, the further the producer is from a Channel port with frequent RoRo services. It is a simple fact of geography. Denying that does not change the situation.

Then there is VAT, a condition of being in the EU. It would be difficult to think of a more damaging tax. Like all taxes with the exception of taxes based on property values, it takes no account of the geographical factors which affect ability to pay tax, and consequently amplifies the effect of regional economic disadvantage. Why the EU persists with this terrible tax is a mystery, since the EU itself is aware of the extent of the fraud which it generates. It is not inherent to the EU project, but the fact that its governing bodies take it as an unchangeable given gives no confidence in the organisation.

The same applies to the Single Market's tariff regulations, applied against all outside countries, which UK exporters will now have to face. It is not understood that the main victims of tariffs are consumers in the countries INSIDE the tariff barrier, who have to pay through the nose for everything, and, worse still, manufacturers who have to pay more for components and raw materials, which makes them less competitive.

The overall effect of this is, as intended, to shift the balance of trade to within the EU, which of necessity reduces the proportion of trade with the rest of the world. If people in a country want to export, they have to import in order for the export destinations to have the foreign exchange to purchase that country's exports. The primacy of imports over exports is not understood these days due to the resurgence of the mercantilist thinking which dominated EEC trade and economic policy from its inception, and which is now the driving force behind Trump’s policies, where the losers are all US producers apart from those in the protected sectors. Because of the logistical factors I referred to above, the UK cannot afford the reduction in ROW trade, neither as importers nor as exporters.

It goes on and on. UK and Continental legal systems are based on different principles and are fundamentally incompatible. There are, for example, features of the legal system in Sweden, which anyone familiar with the UK system would find shocking, including the length of time spent remanded in custody, and the lack of a jury system. I know personally of one case of suspected attempted murder which was not even brought to court, but which in a British court would have been thoroughly tested by a prosecution witness before a jury.

If you think the EU structures suit the UK just fine, you need to take a closer look.

Ricardo’s Law in brief