Monthly Archives: October 2013

Money can’t buy you love but it can buy you a Beatle’s family home:

John Lennon’s first home was sold to a US buyer for nearly half a million pounds. 

The table is featured in a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think tank, on Scotland and taxation. (The original is here.) In this world, among other things, taxes on labour and transactions would be reduced, and distinctions of business size and investment type removed. Bad side-effects of economic activity, such as carbon emissions and congestion, would be taxed directly, rather than indirectly or not at all. 

There is no obvious middle ground between building all of HS2 and not building all of HS2. The estimated benefits are higher over time and the further it goes towards Manchester and Leeds. And if the money is not spent on HS2 a large share of it will still have to go on increasing capacity. So far at least the opposition has accepted the argument that HS2 is the best way to do that.  

The chart shows the resident populations of London’s inner boroughs and the City, as well as the daytime flows in to or out of these areas (2011 data). Westminster, for example, has a net influx of about 800,000 people; Lewisham has a net outflow in the several thousands. The daytime population of inner London is 68 per cent higher than the resident population, according to the think tank. Little wonder that any suspensions of train services can have a significant effect. 

Among other things, the paper offers a broader context for stagnant real median incomes in the UK and the US. If current trends continue, or accelerate as many believe, “we should not be surprised to find that the median individual in the ‘rich world’ becom[es] globally somewhat poorer”, Prof Milanovic writes. I also wonder whether London is acting as a something of a microcosm for the trends described in the paper. 

When he was mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus hired 420 mime artists to control the Colombian capital’s horrendous traffic. When the city faced water shortages, he appeared on television taking a shower and turning off the head while he soaped himself. To highlight the extent of violence against women, Mr Mockus launched “Night for Women”, encouraging men to stay at home and mind the kids. Hundreds of thousands of Bogotá’s female population turned out in a mass display of public safety. Oh, and the former mayor was also fond of dressing up in a costume he called “Supercitizen”. 

Grangemouth is stuck in the middle. About half way between Edinburgh and Glasgow, the town is nestled in the centre of Scotland. But it is caught in time as well as place. Over the past century, Scotland’s economy has pivoted from manufacturing in the west to finance and oil in the east. Grangemouth, a manufacturer of oil products, has helped the Falkrik area to bridge this historical divide. A vast labyrinth of pipes 4,000km long atop an area the size of 640 football pitches, it makes for some bulwark. 

At what should have been called Prime Minister John Major’s Questions, David Cameron announced that the UK government will review the “green charges” found in energy bills.

Although it is vital to separate the political signal from the noise, Ed Miliband’s energy bills pledge has created a cacophony. Mr Cameron’s review is his clearest response to date but it is important to understand the role played by green charges in this matter. 

Prime Minister’s questions are often more fruitful when they are asked of an incumbent’s predecessors. This afternoon, Sir John Major called for a windfall tax on Britain’s energy companies. A Downing Street spokesperson says it is an “interesting contribution” from the former Conservative PM, who is not one to speak rashly, but that there are “no plans” to introduce such a levy. Hmmmm …. 

Barack Obama’s two presidential campaign teams used voter databases, digital marketing, social media and targeted advertising to help him win election in 2008 and 2012. It was probably the most technology-savvy campaign in the history of politics. HealthCare.gov, in contrast, is fast becoming one of the biggest technological debacles in the history of public policy. Mr Obama has called for a “tech surge” to fix the problems with the online health system.