Friday, 21 July 2017

Down Under And Over

The research goes on to find clues to how mankind developed, when and where. We thought we knew, but now we know it was more complicated.

There was limited evidence in the past and science was much less able to tell the detail. So there was a lot of hopeful conjecture or guess work.

Now there is a case for believing that our species arrived in Australia before they arrived in Europe.

There is only one comment that can be made.


Thursday, 20 July 2017

New Money Old Problems

In Richard Murphy had a post on 18 July titled "Dear Gareth A Letter To A Wealthy Man In Denial" as a response to an item by a chartered accountant who seems to have done quite well in his life; very much better than the great majority of people, but does not like the implications of Inheritance Taxes.

RM discusses the issues of these taxes making the present case for them. This is not a new problem, it is over a hundred years now since it became "live" in UK politics with Lloyd George, and the debate had been rumbling for many years before that.

Among the comments is one by Leigh Caldwell who expands on the issues involved.


Apart from all your very well-made points Richard, the guy has received plenty of state services in return for his £1m. The only one he acknowledges is child benefit: currently about £1750/year for 2 kids x 16 years = £28,000. But the state also paid for their schooling: circa £5,500/year/child x 2 x 13 years = £143,000. And most of the first child’s university costs: £20,000 say.

Average NHS spending for a 4-person family is circa £8,000/year – let’s count the children only until they turn 21 years and start earning, and the two adults throughout their adult life, assuming they live to 80. He may not have spent as much in younger years, but the costs will probably be accelerating soon as most of health spending is in the later years of life. Total = £320,000.

The state has provided him with domestic and foreign security services in whose absence I suspect an accountant would not keep his £5m of wealth for long. Approximate share of Home Office, Defence and “public order and safety” budgets: £1300/year throughout an 80-year life for 2 people: £208,000.

Depending on whether he was contracted out and/or receives SERPS, state pension is hard to calculate, but at minimum it should be £6,000/year for each partner. Depending on his wife’s age this could start between 60 and 66, but let’s say they both receive it for 15 years. £6,000 x 2 x 15 = £180,000.

No doubt he has used the public roads and the odd train (£500/person/year), local authority bin collections, libraries, etc (let’s estimate £100 for the parts not covered by council tax – I’ll exclude social care and public housing as no doubt he would tell us that has nothing to do with him), the fruits of subsidised scientific research (£100), the great British countryside protected by the government’s environmental agencies (£250); and as an accountant he will recognise the value of accounting and administrative services to collect and distribute the tax, pensions etc so I’m sure he won’t mind paying his £100 share of all those overheads. That’s £1050 x 2 x 80 = £168,000.

I won’t count the services he’s received from private sector employees whose income was subsidised by tax credits, the implicit insurance policy he’s been given by the social safety net, the benefits of visa-free travel to, and duty-free imports from, Europe – and the many other more intangible gains from being a member of a stable, prosperous society.

I could have counted his own free university education instead of his first child’s, which would nudge the figures up a bit. I could have allocated a bit more of the security costs to him since as a business owner, he receives extra benefit from a secure stable society beyond just those accruing as a citizen. But let’s give him a break at this point.

All the above are calculated based on current budgets, so they may differ if spending levels were different in earlier years. In some categories this reduces the figures, in others it increases them. Gareth’s total bill for state services over his lifetime: £1,067,000.

So according to his own calculations, he hasn’t even covered his OWN COSTS from the state, let alone contributed anything in return for the good fortune of being one of the richest people in the country.

£1m of tax might sound like a lot, but over a lifetime an average couple on national average income (one working for 40 years, the other 30) is likely to pay circa £600,000 (in income tax and NI only – not counting any VAT, council tax, corporation tax).

This guy has barely paid more than an ordinary working couple, despite the astronomical assets he’s accumulated over his life. Not to mention the slightly sneaky “tax, NI, etc” in his email – does this mean he HAS included VAT, corporation tax, employer’s NI, council tax, business rates and everything else?

In which case, he has most likely managed to pay LESS tax than the average worker and it would hardly be surprising if angry voters were sympathetic to the idea of simply confiscating his ill-gotten gains.


If a man of this wealth and income in the course of a working life, can incur such costs in excess of what he pays then the implications are that few people cover their costs.

Which explains the debtor state we are in, literally, and why the levels of debt and liability are growing. Yet our politicians propose to spend more and more to get the votes.

See you in the Marshalsea.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

How Much For The Beeb?

The press are hotfoot after the BBC people to discuss the matter of their salaries, now revealed. They are saying little or nothing about their own. The example they chose is that of the Prime Minister. It is a little like comparing a train driver to a truck driver. They seem to be doing much the same thing but that is not the case.

When we were tripping up and down to London and visiting places we would often see a face and ask, who is he or she, were they in this or that programme, do you remember this once famous person? One such place was Stratford Upon Avon where family visits meant doing shopping and such like.

Some of these people had enjoyed longer careers, but for some their period of fame and therefore fortune had not lasted for long and they had to go into other trades. There was a time when once famous film faces were often to be found running boarding houses in the days before seaside resorts declined.

In short many of the people who are now among them will soon be forgotten and their agents will no longer be able to dictate the terms of their contracts. The crucial figures are those for audiences. If a face fails to pull the viewers the curtains will be drawn. For them this fame can become a liability, in that very many do not want a former star on their payrolls.

In the world of film, commercial theatre and general TV this is the norm and it is a business where you get what you can and if wise this will give an income and pension if you can hold onto it, or better chose the right financial adviser. Even then there is bad luck, divorce and financial crashes to contend with.

The root problem is that it is the BBC, a state entity, that is the employer and this is funded substantially by the license fee although there are other income streams. This means that the performers are seen as being paid out of a tax, chargeable whether or not you ever watch them.

The real question may be is it time for this ninety year old state radio, later TV and now internet service to be sold off to the highest bidder; probably foreign, or do we want to keep it as one of the few things left to us?

Monday, 17 July 2017

Scare Stories

There have been two stories in the media that have excited the various pundits who try to control our thinking. The more important is the person to play the role of "Dr. Who" in the coming series.

Apparently, it is no longer the sort of chap you would never invite to a party but an active female who reminds you of the Head Cook in the school kitchens only wearing trousers. When it first started in November 1963 after a few minutes we decided it wasn't for us.

The lesser story is that we are all going to starve if we do not stay in the EU. Committees and commentators are queuing up to say that food supplies would become insecure, unsafe and increasingly expensive if British exit succeeded. Around thirty years ago I recall seminars and lectures saying the same about food supplies.

Only they were not discussing it in terms of Europe, in or out, but trying to tell us that something was happening which if it went on would be as bad, if not worse, than a nuclear world war or a collapse of major states for economic reasons usually related to monetary and debt problems.

At that time they were careful to stick to the numbers and implications to avoid issues of race, culture and others which would mean that the real threat was relegated in other conflicts of ideas. Simply, there were few places in the world where the population was becoming relatively static or reducing.

Most were others where populations were either still growing steadily at relatively predictable rates and others where growth was rapid and there were uncertainties as to what would happen when food supplies became inadequate or failed. This last group was largely composed of the poorest states with least economic growth or potential.

Their concern was that there had to be a point when humanity had demanded so much of the Earth's resources that no more increase was possible. The lessons of history were that there had been many times when one area or another could no longer feed the people dependent on it.

This had been largely countered in the mid 20th Century when progress in transport, storage, technology of food and management of the land enabled increases of supply. So when I was born into a UK population of around 40 million emigration was regarded as essential to the future and this was reinforced by war and its aftermath. Now I am in a population of 65 million where immigration is said to be essential for economic reasons.

But the Greens tell us that time is running out for Earth and its ability to feed us . There are scientists who claim that the larger crops arising from the way the land is worked mean that there is a limit to how many more the land can produce and before that decreases will begin and in parts of the world are already evident.

In short food supplies are destined to become insecure, unsafe and increasingly expensive whatever happens and on a world basis. The Brexit issue is only at the margin and requires us to trust Brussels to manage it properly.

Those areas that suffer worst will become the ones from which large scale population transfers occur to other places, any places which have basic food. This has happened in the past in many places and in the Atlantic Isles in recent centuries. It happened in Germany in the late 1940's. We forget this too easily.

Back in the 1940's we knew a man with a van who now and again on his work travels would go out to farms to buy potatoes for cash, no questions asked. They did cost more, but we were never short of spuds.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Captains And Kings Depart

In the press there is the story about Kings College London and a debate about changing the pictures on the wall of one of its departments. It is said that this is another example of political correctness to please a small group of students from minorities.

They do not want to be looking at some of the founders of modern Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, in which Kings was a leader in research. They were around a long time ago and all male, elderly, etc. etc.

The Dean of the School says that it was an ordinary decision to rehang the pictures elsewhere and replace them with diagrams etc. to help learning, which are bigger than those online, can be more clearly understood and are nicer than old men with the then fashionable fuzz on the chins.

It is difficult to argue with this logic. The students now will spend little if any time on time the early ideas of those sciences and will be concentrating on the rapidly developing present. Much as their History department will have little to say about The Battle of Omdurman once deemed essential.

The wooliness of the reports could give the impression that the men in question were among the founders of Kings, which is not the case. It was founded in 1828-9 after a meeting of Church of England leading lights, chaired by the Duke of Wellington, set up Kings to rival the 1826 University College founded by the Progressives of that time and secular.

They were joined in 1836 to be Colleges of the University of London, which grew and grew in the next century and more. UC, which featured in the 1950's film "Doctor In The House" became famous for drunken nurse chasing rugger playing medic's training to be stalwarts of the NHS.

In the meantime on the other side of The Strand, the Webbs, GB Shaw and others founded the London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE. One famous member of staff was Clement Attlee, so by the 1950's it had become heavy hitters in politics, social sciences and history.

It's Director between 1937 and 1957 was Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders, a leading man in the Eugenics movement, whose research and ideas about race etc. became embedded in much policy thinking and government in many countries in the first half of the 20th Century.

Hence centralised planning and government with the authority of learned men who know to tell the lower classes etc. what to do. You do not hear much, if anything, about Eugenics any more. It has become one of the more embarrassing episodes in academic history and LSE in particular likes to avoid any mention of it.

But one of the twists of history was that when LSE was proclaiming Eugenics, over the road at Kings something else was going on. It was Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin and others researching into the base properties of humanity and living things, DNA.

They and their fellow researchers had something of a rough ride. But we know what happened next. DNA has become a science central to medicine, archaeology, paleontology and other sciences.

DNA tells us that while we are all different in some respects we are all the same. I wonder what Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders would have made of it, especially if on one of the times I was on the carpet, I might have claimed it was the Neanderthal in me what done it.

The Tour de France this year heading out of Dusseldorf on day one went up the valley of Neanderthal. So what is it in the DNA which makes a top cyclist?

Lastly, when King George IV, above, the portrait is a little flattering, issued the Royal Charter for the foundation of Kings College, not wishing to argue with the Duke of Wellington, he could not have imagined all this.

The Kings College today does not like to mention either of them.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Fancy A Drink?

There has been a good deal of comment on the continuing fall in the number of pubs as well as other changes which are leading to a time when the British Pub as we have known it is no more. The main complaints are from smokers who assert that this is the key reason.

It may well be one reason for a number of people, but it is more complicated than that. Pubs were once an integral part of my “lifestyle”, often I have told a licensee that I have been thrown out of better pubs than this. In the near sixty years of going to pubs there were many changes.

But going to the pub became rare and has now virtually ended We have more or less abandoned “going out” to one for an evening or even a lunch.  The reasons are complicated and have little to do with the health issue, i.e. tobacco.

This may well be a factor but there are many others.  One reason is the prices.  Our income has not kept pace with inflation and the cost has risen quite rapidly.  Given a wet cold night, the choice between going out and opening a bottle at home with something to watch of choice on a wide screen with high quality sound system is a real one.

The other issue is the going out.  All the old style corner locals have now gone so there is no chance of slipping out down the road for a quick one or two.  It means going into town to the pricey drinking halls full of yelling teenagers or using the car.

If the car then enter the breath testing and the consequences of being over the limit even slightly. Whoops goes the car insurance with a black mark on other things.  A danger here is the many gung ho and none insured or licensed drivers in our vicinity.  The prang rate is high and so is the chance of being tested.

Nearly all pubs now have become dependent on their catering for revenue.  They do not want some old geezer and spouse taking up a whole table sipping away at a pint or two.  Not when there could be customers looking to eat and to spend a lot more.

Too many times have I looked up to see a sniffy young waitress asking when I was going to eat.  The reply “When I’m hungry” often ended up with an early exit.

The catering aspect connects to another problem.  In the last 20 to 30 years there has been a huge expansion of eating places of all sorts in both town and country.  These are in direct competition with the pubs.  As both essentially depend on the same food manufacturing preparation and distribution systems it is simply a choice on the style of place you want to be in.

Then alas, there are the kids.  On the continent there does not seem to be much bother with families out together.  In the UK the babies always seem to have that enraged howl that indicates that they do not like where they are.  All too often there are the feral kids running wild, yelling and screaming and knocking drinks over and the rest while the parents argue.

For us the provision of loud TV’s and sound systems in many places is a distinct issue.  Whatever is on it is the level and often badly amplified sound that it very hard to take.  At anything over 70 dcb for us it is impossible.  Fine, we may be marginal customers but it is at the margins that profits matter.

Behind all this is the looming presence of the Pubcorps with their private equity masters that are looking for a high rate of return on investment and want to churn their portfolios to maximise share values.  This is bad news for the publicans who have been under the cosh and there have been ugly stories about the way they have been treated and exploited.

Then there is the raft of regulation in recent years applying not only to standards of operation but to employment and related matters. Running a pub now entails almost running a bureaucracy in terms of the administration to be done and this is an added cost.

So the number of pubs has declined rapidly and the whole system becomes almost a given pattern of food outlets geared to selling the latest factory products based on the latest TV series.  I ate better in the British Restaurants of the 1940’s. But over the generations what a pub is and did changed. The innkeepers in the family would have known this.

If you look at the pub pictured you can just about make out the original part of the building and where the attached forge would have been.  Back in the 18th Century it was run by a blacksmith publican whose name and DNA were the same as mine.

Lost, lost, lost.

Monday, 10 July 2017


Today, 10th July, the post brought the first Christmas Booking opportunity to the effect that if I did not reply instantly, well almost, I would lose the chance of having the fun experience of a lifetime, with food provided from the best possible freezer cabinets and microwaves.

I was shocked, why I ask is it so late?  Midsummer's Day was three weeks ago, which is around when I have come to assume that Santa Claus is checking his sleigh and the nosebags on the reindeer. I think that is possible but if Rudolf claims animal rights perhaps no longer.

Assuming that there will be a Christmas this year, or will Mr. Corbyn promise to ban it if he becomes Prime Minister, along with the other dates determined by a capitalist and religious past? If so, then Ms. May will leap in to ban all Bank Holidays as untidy relics to be replaced by Occasional Nice Days determined by your employers business plan.

Mr. Corbyn will no doubt have other dates, "Peoples Days"  in mind to replace the old ones. They might well be 21 January, 14 March, 22 April, 5 May and 18 December to celebrate Marx, Lenin and Stalin although the date of his death is omitted because he is still in all our hearts, or ought to be.

Many workers of today do not get much, if any break. Also, given the expense and the rest of it, I suspect many no longer want to bother.