onsdag 18 december 2019

The horror of it #3

“Yeah, sure. Let’s open all our borders and compete with Indian sweatshops instead.” Another comment in the Guardian.

Has this commentator looked at the labels in his clothes lately to see where they are made? Does he apply his noble principles and choose a £100 shirt rather than a £30 one of equivalent fit and quality?

Boycotting Indian clothes is the most effective way of perpetuating sweatshop conditions in India. If there is a buoyant demand for Indian clothes, Indian workers acquire the industrial muscle needed to enable them to demand better pay and conditions. Can’t he see this?

The other side of the picture is that a supply of low cost clothes means that consumers have money over to spend into the rest of the economy of their own country. Why is this so difficult to understand?

The horror of it #2

“There is no such thing as ‛wisdom of economists’”.
Comment in the Guardian. But why is this prolific commentator bothering to comment at all?

The horror of it #1

“The UK may end up having to accept a large tonnage of tariff-free lamb and beef etc.”

Comment in the Guardian

lördag 14 december 2019

Liberal inversion of political principles

I was not sorry to see that the LibDems received so little support at the election. It is sad that the party has taken up a set of policies that were diametrically opposed to those the Liberal Party had stood for from the 1830s until the late 1970s, when they seem to have forgotten what Liberalism was all about.

The same can be said of the Labour Party, which was founded as a popular movement on much the same set of policies as the contemporary Liberals. Labour held firmly to them until it was taken over by intellectuals in the Fabian mould, and by Keynesians, in the late 1930s. These gave the country Fabian and Keynesian policies when Labour came to power in 1945.

Then came the disastrous influx of Marxists in the late 1970s, followed by New Labour opportunism, which was based on next to no coherent principles at all. It is a tragic story, because it leaves Britain with no effective alternative to Conservative politics, although it is not a problem confined to Britain. Radical politics needs to be reconstructed from the ground up. Can it happen?

Marxist despondency at election result

My Marxist friend was despondent at the election result. She put it down to the dominance of what Marx himself called the ‘lumpen proletariat’. In other words, democracy is a good thing for Marxists as long as the people vote the way they agree with.

Weird new British trains

After a period where train design in Britain has been to a reasonably high quality, poor design seems to have returned and is a widespread feature of recent trains in Britain; board-hard and badly profiled seats lacking in lumbar support are the norm. Traditional moquette is no longer standard for seat covers, with flat weave fabrics becoming widespread. In the case of the new inter city trains these are plain and unpatterned, and show the mark and stain of every drop of spilled coffee and crumb of greasy food, looking dirty and shabby after just a few months in service.

Ugly and over-styled front ends crop up in many of the new types; perhaps the worst are the Scotrail’s porcine Hitachi class 385, and grotesque Siemens class 380, and the Siemens 700 class for Thameslink. The Hitachi trains for Scotrail are the result of trying to fit a gangway into the standard Hitachi nose, resulting in a piggy appearance and what must be a very tight space for the drivers, who refused to operate the trains, allegedly due to the curved windscreens, which distorted the view. The curved class windscreens were replaced, clumsily, by windscreens with flat glass but the real reason for the drivers’ objection was probably the cramped space. A particularly  ugly feature of the Hitachi inter city trains is the clutter of equipment boxes on the roofs, which look like a row of humps when viewed from the side. It must wreck the aerodynamics and add significantly to their energy consumption and running costs.

Weird designs sometimes cropped up in the 1950s at the start of the time when steam was being phased out. That led to the establishment in 1956 of the British Transport Commission Design Panel and the appointment as consultants of such renowned firms of industrial designers as Design Research Unit (and link here) headed by Misha Black, Professor of Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art. They were responsible for such 1960s design classics as the British Rail double arrow symbol, the remarkably elegant class 52 diesel-hydraulic locomotive and the Victoria Line and related designs of tube train for London Underground.

The current crop of design howlers listed above would never have got past the scrutiny of the Design Panel. These monstrosities will be around for three decades or more. The situation reflects badly on the industry and reveals its current fragmentation; there is no overall body in a position to pull things together.

onsdag 11 december 2019

WTO on verge of collapse?

We are being warned that the World Trade Organisation is on the verge of collapse, which would result in the loss of a mechanism for settling trade disputes. What has not been noticed is that these trade disputes would not arise if governments were not hell-bent on pursuing mercantilist policies to the detriment of their own people. Mercantilism  had been utterly discredited several times over before 1800 but it refuses to die. It is as if present day doctors still insisted in treating serious infections with leeches.

In this situation the best policy for any government is to look after its own people and not get in the way of inward trade so that its citizens are able to purchase the goods they want, from whoever they want, wherever they are, on the best terms they can obtain. Any interference is a denial of the basic human right of people freely to exchange goods and services on mutually agreed terms.
If the governments of other countries do not reciprocate, the main losers are their own people. The remedy is then in their hands: to get rid of the politicians who are harming them.

Greenhouse affectation

Greenhouses work as follows: radiation from the sun heats up the objects inside, which in turn warm the air in contact with them. This warm air cannot escape because it is contained by the glass, and is trapped inside. On a clear night the temperature in the greenhouse falls quickly due to radiation through the glass. That is why it is necessary to have blinds inside the roof to prevent this night-time radiation.

The so-called “greenhouse effect” is ascribed to absorption, at night, of radiation from the surface of the earth by greenhouse gases and its subsequent re-radiation in all directions ie 50% of the captured radiation is returned back towards the surface of the earth. However, given that all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would form a layer less than 4 metres deep, and that carbon dioxide absorbs infra red radiation in just a few narrow frequency bands, I would like to see calculations which show that this process can have any significant effect.

If the planet is warming, there is a more plausible explanation. We all know that during the day, it is cooler if it is cloudy, and that at night, it is cooler if the sky is clear. Clouds reflect radiation. When, horror of horrors, you travel in an aircraft, it is dazzlingly bright when you are above the clouds. Water droplets in clouds act like cats eyes in the road. So the finger of suspicion should point to an increase in night-time cloud cover and/or a decrease in daytime cloud cover. What might have caused this? The most likely reasons are deforestation and a change in agricultural practices such as irrigation. The Aral Sea almost disappeared because of irrigation. That would have had some effect on the climate.

lördag 7 december 2019

London Bridge murders criminology fail

I have been in Britain for a couple of weeks, including the Friday when the London Bridge murders took place. There were two things that struck me.

The first was that the event at which the murders occurred had been organised by academic criminologists, and that the one of the victims was himself qualified in the discipline. I would have thought that these academics were aware by now that there is a difference between ordinary criminals and criminals whose actions were motivated by Islamic teaching. This difference is so obvious that their failure can only be ascribed to willful blindness, verging, in view of the consequences, on criminal negligence. What are the driving forces behind this?

The second point is that the police appeared to have arrived on the scene just in time to prevent a third murder from taking place, with the inevitability of a court case which would have been embarrassing for both the authorities and the Cambridge academics who had organised the fatal event.

Virus questions - and the Swedish exception

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