by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 21
November 2019

What the fork, Marie Kondo?

When luxuries become abundant, the rejection of abundance becomes the new luxury.

Marie Kondo is the Japanese ‘organising consultant’ who became famous by teaching us how to tidy-up.

Unfortunately, things have got messy with the launch of her online shop, whose pricey housewares have sparked guffaws in the media.

For instance, you can have a small cheese knife for a mere $156; or, if you feel like splashing out, a large one for $180. Other highlights include a tuning fork, but not just any tuning fork. This one has a frequency of 4,096 hertz which “is said to amplify the healing properties of crystals.” It’s a steal at $50 (crystal not included).

For $22 you can get an Erode Mini Soap. Admittedly, this would be quite a lot to ask even for a maxi soap, so what makes it so special? Helpfully, the website provides some technical details: “When grasped by a wet hand, the soap’s scents and botanical ingredients are revealed in layers as its unique form evolves.” Where’s the soap? Yes it does, doesn’t it… ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 20
November 2019

Who are the Boris-backing C2DEs?

The NRS social grade system is useful for economists, but confusing for everyone else

According to a YouGov/Sky/Times poll last week, the Conservatives had twice as much support as Labour among C2DEs. Shocking stuff — or at least it would be if more people knew what a C2DE actually is.

The terminology is derived from the National Readership Survey (NRS), which was established in 1956 to provide market research for the advertising industry. The NRS social grade system is a way of grouping the population by socio-economic class. There are six grades:

The A category refers to senior professionals and managers and B to not-so-senior professionals and managers. Then there are two C categories — the white collar C1s (i.e. junior managers, supervisory and admin stuff) and the blue collar C2s (skilled workers). D refers to semi-skilled and unskilled workers and finally there’s E, which is mostly non-workers and people dependent on state benefits. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 19
November 2019

Sajid Javid’s land tax doesn’t go far enough

The Chancellor must embrace a Churchillian principle

A significant revelation from Liam Halligan in The Telegraph (and his new book, Home Truths).

When the current Chancellor, Sajid Javid, was responsible for housing policy he proposed a “tax” on the huge uplift in value that occurs when land gets planning permission:

When I was communities secretary, we worked on a 50–50 split of the valuation between local government and landowners. The state is expected to create the infrastructure around new housing and that needs to be paid for, so 50–50 makes sense – this would be an efficient and morally justifiable tax.
- Sajid Javid

In some places, especially the South East, go-ahead from the planners can mean that the land suddenly becomes hundreds of times more valuable. This a massive windfall for some lucky farmer or wily speculator. Javid’s plan was to split the uplift 50:50 between the landowner and the state.

It never happened, apparently because Theresa May blocked it. But is it a good idea? ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 14
November 2019

Deadlocked Democracy

The rise of populist, separatist and environmentalist parties is making it harder to form coalition governments

The main thing about the rise of populism in Europe is not that populist governments are being elected. For the most part (I’m excluding the former communist countries) they’re not… yet.

However, conventional politics is being disrupted. In country-after-country we see electoral outcomes that impede the formation of stable governments. Examples include Spain which has just had its fourth election in four years. Then there’s Sweden which took four months to form a government after the 2018 general election. The Austrians went to the polls in September, but still don’t have a government. Belgium, too, is in limbo (as per usual). ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 13
November 2019

David Cameron’s fake news about fake news

The ex-Prime Minister doesn't know what he's talking about

I’m surprised this hasn’t got more attention, but there’s an interview with David Cameron this week on sifted — which bills itself as the “new media site for Europe’s innovators and entrepreneurs.”

They asked the former Prime minister about the regulation of social media: ” …you describe how the Leveson inquiry in 2012 led to the establishment of a new, robust regulatory body for the UK’s press and media, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). You comment how surprised you were at the lack of attention given to online and social media. Do you think that it’s time for a full review of these new forms of media?” ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Tuesday, 12
November 2019

Britain should lead the way on farm subsidies

Across the EU, 80% of subsidies go to the biggest 20% of claimants

Last week’s long read from the New York Times about “oligarchs and populists” in Central and Eastern Europe milking EU farm subsidies for millions is still making waves.

It’s a convoluted story, but here’s how the authors sum it up:

Farm subsidies helped form the basis for the modern European Union. Today, they help underwrite a sort of modern feudalism in which small farmers are beholden to politically connected land barons…

…in former Soviet bloc countries, where the government owned lots of farmland, leaders like Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, have auctioned off land to political allies and family members. And the subsidies follow the land.

- New York Times

If I read the report correctly, it’s not alleging that any particular subsidy claim has been made fraudulently, but rather that access to farmland, and therefore, payments under the Common Agricultural Policy, enables a system of “patronage”. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 31
October 2019

The real horror of Halloween

Watch out for cars more than ghosts this halloween eve

When I was a kid, trick-or-treating was something that mostly happened in America. And it was from the US that we heard chilling tales of poisoned candy and ‘treats’ containing razor blades. For the most part, these have proved to be urban myths.

But there is one deadly threat that does stand up to scrutiny — the elevated risk of death on the roads. (which is part of Vox media) reports on research that indicates a substantially increased danger on Halloween:

That simultaneous burst of increased pedestrian activity and increased car traffic creates a deadly combination. A study by University of British Columbia researchers looked at 42 years of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data. Halloween night was, on average, 43 percent more deadly for pedestrians than other autumn nights.

Recorded fatalities are much lower in years when the festivity falls on a Saturday or Sunday, suggesting that evening commuter traffic is the biggest source of danger. ...  Continue reading

by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 30
October 2019
Seen Elsewhere

The real reason why people hate vegans

The hostility that vegans get from their ‘own side’ is especially intriguing...

Writing in The Guardian, George Reynolds asks: why do people hate vegans?

It’s a good question and I don’t think any of his answers are wrong. However, some forms of veganophobia require more explanation than others.

There are always exceptions, but veganism falls pretty much one side of the ‘snowflake’ versus ‘gammon’ culture war — and thus gets the kind of abuse directed at the snowflakes generally. Thus when a story like the Greggs vegan sausage roll comes up, it’s going to disgust people like Piers Morgan as a matter of course.

Much more interesting is the hostility that vegans get from their ‘own side’ — i.e. other youngish, hipsterish, Left-leaning individuals. What explains this?

Despite their supposed tendency towards proselytisation and self-advertisement, what makes vegans different is precisely that they are not just virtue-signallers. Their particular cause involves personal sacrifice. ...  Continue reading