Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pardon the interruption

Blogging at this site will be suspended, at least temporarily, for non-econospheric reasons. Lo siento.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ridin' the rails to Malmo

First, Mark Steyn risks his life speaking in Copenhagen;

where he details his own, very real, ordeals with the anti-free speech policemen of Canada. Speaking truth to power, if he weren't a conservative.

Then he takes a trip on a train, and thinks some more about Abdul;
...unlike the bad old days of Nazi-occupied Denmark and neutral Sweden that "some" are comparing it to, there are no border controls whatsoever between Copenhagen and Malmö. You just hop on a train at the aforementioned Central Station in Copenhagen and hop off a half-hour or so later on the other end of the impressive Øresund Bridge at the Central Station in Malmö. I did it myself the other day, and was looking forward to sitting back and enjoying the peace and quiet of Scandinavian First Class. But, just as I took my seat and settled in, a gaggle of Abdul's fellow "refugees" swarmed in, young bearded men and a smaller number of covered women, the lads shooing away those first-class ticket-holders not as nimble in securing their seats as I. The conductor gave a shrug, the great universal shorthand for there's-nothing-I-can-do.

What Abdul made of being shanghaied by some high-class Nordic totty to serve as her cabin mate on a stomach-churching voyage of moral exhibitionism, I cannot say. But, from personal observation, the "refugees" around me seemed to take it for granted that asylum in Europe should come with complimentary first-class travel (see picture at top right, from a German train).

There were more shrugs at Malmö, when I asked a station official about it. He told me that, on the train from Stockholm the other day, a group of "refugees" had looted the café car. The staff were too frightened to resist. "Everyone wants a quiet life," he offered by way of explanation.
That's looking unlikely.

Separat aber gleich?

Deutschland nicht über alles;
Separating refugees according to religion is now being mentioned as an interim solution to help alleviate the problems.
.... Tempers flare easily at close quarters. In Leipzig last week, about 200 refugees wielding table legs and bed frames started a fight after they couldn't agree who got to use one of the few toilets first. It took a large police contingent to calm the situation.
Other recent incidents include a riot at a refugee shelter in central Germany over a torn Koran and Muslim Chechens beating up Syrian Christians in a Berlin shelter.
Islam is a part of Germany, but Islamism clearly isn't, said opposition Greens party leader Cem Özdemir, adding that tolerance must not be misinterpreted and exploited as weakness.
Maybe it must not, but it is.
But insults, threats, discrimination and blackmail against Christian asylum-seekers in particular are a regular occurrence, according to the Munich-based Central Council for Oriental Christians (ZOCD).
"I've heard so many reports from Christian refugees who were attacked by conservative Muslims," said Simon Jacob, of the Central Council for Oriental Christians (ZOCD).
But that's only the tip of the iceberg, the ZOCD board member told DW: "The number of unreported cases is much higher."
 Our bold. Herr Jacob also summed it up thus;
"People bring with them the conflicts that exist in their native countries, Christians and Muslims, Kurds and extremists, Shiites and Sunnis - they don't leave them behind at the border."
And there will be more refugees to come.

Wanna be a coal-miner's hostage?

That would be the result of a Jeremy Corbyn Labour government for the UK, and the comrades at Morning Star The People's Daily think, a consummation devoutly to be wished;
AT THE Labour Party conference in Blackpool exactly 40 years ago this week, then prime minister Harold Wilson made one of the most prophetic speeches any politician has ever made. He warned of the extremist direction that the Conservative Party under its new leader Margaret Thatcher was heading in, and how, if her party was elected, Conservative policies would adversly affect Britain.

.... To some, Wilson’s warnings in 1975 might have sounded far-fetched. But Thatcherism, as he so correctly pointed out, did mark a real and radical break with the egalitarian politics of the post-war era. Too many on the left did not appreciate just how much of a threat Thatcher posed, until it was too late.
Having actually lived in England while Harold Wilson was Prime Minister (1974), we can only laugh, or cry, over any dire warnings he made. London was like a third world city back then, with its electricity supply determined by the real rulers of the UK; the coal miners and their union. Wilson had to resign the PM-ship in 1976 due to the hardships in the country. Leaving the mess to James Callaghan. Which the comrades at Morning Star seem to be forgetting;
Forty years on from Wilson’s speech, there are at last signs that this incredibly regressive chapter in our history may be coming to an end. In Jeremy Corbyn, Labour now has a leader who wants to break with the neoliberal policies first introduced by the Conservatives in 1979 (and continued by Labour when in office from 1997-2010), and which have done so much harm to our economic and social fabric.
The election that brought Thatcher to power followed The Winter of Discontent in which the UK's unions flexed their political muscles to extort above market wages. As Wikipedia puts it;
The Winter of Discontent refers to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by public sector trade unions demanding larger pay rises, following the ongoing pay caps of the Labour Party government led by James Callaghan against Trades Union Congress opposition to control inflation, during the coldest winter for 16 years.
And, the social fabric of that day? Let's let a Labour Party insider, Bernard Donoughue, from back in the day, tell it;
The 1970s were, after all, a generation ago and it was a very different age, dismal in many ways.
The economic climate facing Jim Callaghan was far worse than anything that confronts [Gordon] Brown or the Chancellor, Alistair Darling (when the latter finds time to read the economic history of the 1970s and early 1980s he will want to revise his curious claim that today's [2008's] is the worst economic situation for 60 years). Inflation peaked around 30 per cent just before Callaghan took over, and was usually in double figures. Most other economic indicators were worse than today's, with growth and productivity very poor over a long period and strikes continually disrupting industry. Not for nothing was Britain then known as "the sick man of Europe".
[our bolds]

Politically, the challenges facing Callaghan were daunting. Labour was in a Commons minority throughout his premiership (he skilfully cobbled together small majorities through pacts with the Liberals and the Ulstermen). Labour itself was riven by deep ideological differences of a kind and on a scale unknown today, with the strong left wing consistently on the edge of rebellion and limiting the policy options available to the government. The unions and activists facing Brown at this [2008] month's conferences are mere pussies compared to the wild men fighting Callaghan.
The wild men would quickly return if Corbyn ever got into power.

The wages of Obama

Is there a Kaiser in your future? The family foundation says, there are two Americas;

... 81 percent of covered workers are in plans with a general annual deductible, which average $1,318 for single coverage this year. Covered workers in smaller firms (three to 199 workers) face an average deductible of $1,836 this year. That’s 66 percent more than the $1,105 average deductible facing covered workers at large firms (at least 200 workers).
We note the date;
Since 2010, both the share of workers with deductibles and the size of those deductibles have increased sharply. These two trends together result in a 67 percent increase in deductibles since 2010, much faster than the rise in single premiums (24%) and about seven times the rise in workers’ wages (10%) and general inflation (9%).
“With deductibles rising so much faster than premiums and wages, it’s no surprise that consumers have not felt the slowdown in health spending,” Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said.
 It was in 2010 that a Democrat congress passed Obamacare. So that we could, in Nancy Pelosi's words, find out what was in it. Wonder how many Americans expected this?

Unfortunately, Kaiser makes an elementary error in this statement of supposed fact;
The average annual premium for single coverage is $6,251, of which workers on average pay $1,071.  The average family premium is $17,545, with workers on average contributing $4,955.
Workers pay the entire amount. What Kaiser is promoting is false incidence; the employer pays for its share by reducing the amount the workers get in their paychecks as wages and salaries. Substituted for with a health insurance benefit--which, at least, is not taxed by the government as income.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Go fish

The Mercatus Center scholars Foldvary and Hammer aren't limiting themselves to blowing up rationales for public utility monopoly. Nope. They also play TAG;
The Tag-A-Giant (TAG) project has been advancing the knowledge of bluefin and yellowfin tuna, tracking their movements, habits, and spawning and feeding regions.... Using improved tracking tags that gather data over months and years before releasing and relaying information by satellite, TAG has been able to track migration patterns of bluefin throughout the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. ...

The success of the TAG project, along with the possibilities offered by tuna farming and other fishery advances, suggests a way forward—transponder branding and fishery ownership. Transponder branding involves implanting a small transponder under the skin of the fish, in the same way that household pets are microchipped so they can be identified if lost. The transponder contains information on the owner of the fish as well as basic data on age and release location; more elaborate transponders can record movements over time and other data. For large, expensive fish such as bluefin tuna, these brands can allow fisheries to raise tuna to an age suitable for release into the wild and protect them for subsequent harvesting a few years later when they have grown. By using this technology, the aquaculturists can track their own tuna's movements for harvesting at optimal times, or they can allow third-party fishermen to capture the fish for a bounty. Although many different market structures are possible, one can imagine tuna fishermen being paid at market only for fish with transponders, with the wholesaler paying the farmer directly for the fish brought in, and the farmer paying a bounty on the return of the transponder. 
Such a system would induce greater incentives to catch only tuna that have been farmed or are otherwise clearly owned,as well as limit the incentives to underreport catches [to international regulators of fisheries].
No more destructive overfishing. Who could be against that...other than people who earn their living as regulators, that is?

The public's utility be damned

San Diego Gas and Electric started a the public should pay the bills;
San Diego Gas and Electric is seeking authority to bill its customers $379 million for legal settlement costs left over from 2007 wildfires that destroyed 1,300 homes and killed two people.
In filings with state regulators Friday, SDG&E said customers would pay 90 percent of the costs while stockholders in the investor-owned utility would pay the remaining 10 percent, roughly $42 million.
Of course, where would the utility get the money to pay for anything, but from its customers. After their shareholders were cleaned out, that is. Which brings to this working paper--to which we were alerted by retired NC State economist Craig Newmark--by two Mercatus Center scholars Fred Foldvary and  Eric Hammer
How Advances in Technology Keep Reducing Interventionist Policy Rationales
Which, in part, deals with the justification for having public utilities, such as electricity providers. They exist only as a government policy, not as a natural outgrowth of marketplace conditions. At least as the marketplace exists today.

On site electricity generation is now feasible. I.e. cost competitive with large centralized facilities. The decentralized, local generators also save significant transmission costs. The political barriers to making the switch are political, not economic. The entrenched operators have their ways to prevent competitiors gaining market share (or, in many cases, any share at all);
Small-scale on-site plants require local and state permits, which are costly and can take months or years to procure, or may be denied. Federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency can also block energy enterprise. Taxes on small-scale generation are alos imposed. As Lowi and Crews report (2003...), in California, if a user seeks to exit the grid, "it must pay tribute of up to $6.40 per kW of its own generating capacity per month." 
Hey, San Diego is in California! Maybe, if there were no political barriers to entry in the generating business, SDG&E might have gone bankrupt (with its shareholders bearing the losses from the fire they started) and the public's utility would be provided by some other (perhaps more socially responsible) electricity providers.