Recent posts.

November 15, 2020

Climates are influenced by changes in the earth’s orbit and axis. There is a 100,000 year cycle in the shape of the elliptical orbit around the sun, a 41,000 year cycle in the tilt of the axis away from the vertical to the plane of the orbit, and a 20,000 year cycle in the shift of the equinox and solstice around the orbit. , May 2022.

Incomes may be affected more by whether a carbon dividend or Basic Income is means-tested, than by whether it is carbon or income that is taxed, and whether the income tax is flat or progressive. , October 2021.

As a result of Covid-19, government debt is rising rapidly. The probable cost will be higher taxes, higher inflation, more austerity or eventual default. If interest rates are lower than inflation rates, wealth is redistributed from private creditors to public debtors. A wealth tax would have a similar effect. Modern Monetary Theory, , October 2020.

Other posts:
Coronavirus diary, 2020-2022.
Welfare policy, 1996-2019.
Democracy for minorities, 2018.
Land tax, 2004-2017.
Monetary policy, 2012-2020.
Environment, 2006-2021.
Boom and bust, 2009-2015.
Referendum diary, 2011-2014.
European election, 2014.
Going round in circles again, 2011.
Banking system and economic growth, 2011.
Economics, environment, welfare, 2009.

Coronavirus diary.

April 14, 2020

March 2020 and later.

20 March.

Schools closed today for weeks or months, and the Prime Minister announced that bars, restaurants, gyms, and cafes are also to be closed.

I’m struggling to understand:
first, the difference between the Chinese and Italian experience,
second, the difference between covid-19 and flu,
and third, what my strategy should be.

26 March and later.

I’ve now found the numbers of UK covid-19 deaths, at

Looking at the not-quite-exponential 900 percent increases,
from 1 to 10 total deaths took 7 days,
from 10 to 100 took 6 days,
and from 100 to 1,000 took 10 days.

The worldometers site has data for many other countries.
Here are some counts of the days in the 4 stages from 1 to 10, 100, 1000 and 10,000 total deaths.

In China, -, -, 14,  –
South Korea, 5, 25, -, –
France, 11, 8, 9, 14
Iran, 5, 10, 13, –
Italy, 4, 8, 8, 16
the USA, 3, 13, 8, 12

Spain, 4, 6, 7, 13
the UK, 7, 6, 10, 15
the Netherlands, 6, 7, 11, –
Germany, 6, 8, 10, –
Austria, 10, 8, -, –
Norway, 11, 16, -, –
and Sweden, 5, 9, 18, –

In the first group the first death occurred in February or earlier. The second group reported their first death in March.

4 April.

Since lockdown, the increase in covid-19 deaths in the UK has been almost perfectly exponential.
Perhaps the effect of lockdown will become evident after the recommended two weeks of self-isolation, on 7 April.

11 April and later.

The numbers of covid-19 deaths per week in the UK were:
2, 9, 166, and 582 in the weeks ending 6, 13, 20, and 27 March 2020,
2846, 5353, 5618 and 4930 in the weeks ending 3, 10, 17 and 24 April,
3979, 3110, 2518, and 2103 in the weeks ending 6, 13, 20, and 27 May,
1921, 1400, 1025, and 805 in the weeks ending 3, 10, 17, and 30 June,
661, 577, 454 and 456 in the weeks ending 7, 14, 21, and 28 July,
421, 89, 68 and 68 in the weeks ending 4, 12, 19, and 26 August,
49, 80, 90, 176 and 281 in the weeks ending 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 Sept,
372, 640, 1003 and 1517 in the weeks ending 7, 14, 21 and 28 October,
2067, 2623, 2909 and 3259 in the weeks ending 4, 11, 18 and 25 November,
3169, 2867, 2954, 3531 and 3497 in the weeks ending 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 December 2020,
4798, 7421, 8523 and 8597 in the weeks ending 6, 13, 20 and 27 January 2021,
7448, 5516, 4082 and 2814 in the weeks ending 3, 10, 17 and 24 February,
1864, 1204, 844, 551 and 332 in the weeks ending 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31 March,
214, 234, 166, and 153 in the weeks ending 7, 14, 21 and 28 April,
90, 70, 54 and 54 in the weeks ending 5, 12, 19 and 26 May,
46, 66, 66, 101 and 113 in the weeks ending 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 June,
161, 229, 366, and 498 in the weeks ending 7, 14, 21, and 28 July,
570, 607, 653 and 743 in the weeks ending 4, 11, 18 and 25 August,
739, 932, 973, 974 and 904 in the weeks ending 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 September,
770, 785, 954 and 1010 in the weeks ending 6, 13, 20, and 27 October,
1140, 1157, 1022 and 926 in the weeks ending 3, 10, 17 and 24 November,
854 and 847 in the weeks ending 1 and 8 December 2021.

These 7-day statistics may be best for trying to understand what’s happening, because the delayed weekend counts are distributed evenly.

In March and April 2020 they were based on NHS data. At the Downing St press conference on 9 April it was stated that these data, based on hospital admissions, are comparable with international data, and are available more quickly than the more comprehensive ONS data.

After April 2020 the counts of UK covid-19 deaths included deaths “in all settings”, not just NHS records of hospital deaths. On June 23 a further 109 deaths which had occurred between April and June were added to the data. The numbers here have not been updated, they are the data as originally reported.

In August 2020 there was another review of the method of calculation of daily deaths, between 24 December 2020 and 4 January 2021 there was a delay in some reports, and in March 2021 the method in Scotland was changed. Since December 2021 the data have been more erratic. The definition of covid-19 deaths varies in different parts of the UK, and the counts aren’t reported daily.

Welfare policy.

July 30, 2019

For people with incomes below average, means-testing may leave little incentive for work or saving. Instead, there could be a Universal Basic Income, with a choice whether to receive it as a reliable unconditional benefit, a personal tax allowance, or a mixture of means-tested benefit and tax credit, like the current system. , July 2019.

The Universal Credit, which is paid to one account per household per month, is out of step with modern life, turns back the clock on decades of hard-won equality for women, and allows abusers to seize control of the family finances. Welfare reform for the 21st century, August 2018.

By replacing graduated income tax with a flat tax, the affordable citizens income (Unconditional Basic Income) is almost doubled. Is a Basic or Citizens Income affordable?  November 2017.

High priority was given to the need for tax and income support for women working in the home, and for more childcare facilities. The most logical way of doing this, with the least fuss, is by the basic income method. History of Basic Income politics in New Zealand, 1996.

Democracy for minorities.

December 22, 2018

December 2018

“There was a recent internal election for 9 places on the . . . committee. There were two or three ‘slates’ seeking those 9 places. The first-placed slate won all 9 available seats, despite getting 56% of the vote. Many of the other 44% of voters were not represented.”

“Did the voters have 9 votes each or one? And was the voting for slates or individual candidates?”

“Each voter had 9 votes, so many would be likely to vote for slates.

Minority voters would probably not have 9 representatives of their minority to vote for, and non-minority voters would be likely to give some of their votes to minority candidates.

So each voter would be likely to be giving most of her votes to candidates who weren’t representing her main interest. So the choice of minority representation would be dominated by non-minority voting.”

“A more appropriate way of choosing representatives for special interest groups would be a first-past-the-post ballot with one vote per voter. If, for example, there were 10 representatives chosen by this ballot, this would actually be a first-TEN-past-the-post ballot, and minorities would have a good chance of being well represented. So it would not be necessary to have representatives for specific identity groups. This would actually be more like proportional representation than first-past-the-post.”

“I don’t quite understand why your ballot idea would be proportional when it’s FPTP and how it would include minorities”

“For success in a first-past-the-post (FPTP) election about 40 percent of the vote is usually necessary.
In mixed-member-proportional systems only 5 percent is needed.
With a Single Transferable Vote, its more than 5 percent but less than 40 percent.

With my first-ten-past-the post idea, less than 10 percent of the vote would be needed. It would elect representatives of major minorities who manage to focus their support on one respected candidate.”

Land tax.

October 12, 2018

Land tax (LVT) may be the best way of taxing capital and reducing house prices and economic instability. But the introduction of LVT will be disruptive and unfair, so it should be done slowly. In the short term, rent controls or expensive housing benefits are probably inevitable. “The housing crisis”, in Land tax, November 2017.

An increase in land tax would cause a decrease in the capital value of the land, so that the annual cost to the landowner stayed the same. The annual cost is property tax plus mortgage interest and /or the absence of interest on the owner’s investment in the property. September 2017, “Land Tax”,

The tax rate on the capital value of land should be kept within the same range as interest rates, so that no more than half of the cost is paid as tax. Pressure for maximum exploitation of land would be avoided, and there would still be reliable market information about capital values. Effectively half of the land would have been nationalised. Land Tax, Summer 2010.

The house price bubble of the last 7 years has been like a negative Jubilee. There has been a massive redistribution of wealth to landowners from everyone else. “UK bubble”, Land Tax, 2004.

Monetary policy.

November 7, 2017

If interest rates are lower than inflation rates, wealth is redistributed from private creditors to public debtors. A wealth tax would have a similar effect. As a result of Covid-19, government debt is rising rapidly. The probable cost will be higher taxes, higher inflation, more austerity or eventual default.
Modern Monetary Theory, , October 2020

Modern Monetary Theorists say that a government of a state with its own currency can create money by spending, and if the result is extra economic growth, it can get the money back as taxes. But instead there may be problems with inflation or financial capital flows.
Modern Monetary Theory, , 2014 and 2019.

The Bank of England’s decision to raise interest rates is the first since 2007. The cost of borrowing remains extraordinarily low, and has probably encouraged a misallocation of scarce resources. Normalisation is an unprecedented challenge.
The crash of 2008 , June and November 2017.

Before 2006, to meet their inflation targets, central banks created excessive liquidity to balance the deflationary effects of Chinese trade.
The Crash of 2008, December 2012.

The stagflation of the 1970s called into question the effectiveness of government intervention in the economy.

The Positive Money campaign isn’t targeting the kind of banking which was a factor in the 2008 financial crisis, and won’t stop the creation of money by private banks.
Monetary sects, March 2014.


September 25, 2016

Incomes may be affected more by whether a carbon dividend or Basic Income is means-tested, than by whether it is carbon or income that is taxed, and whether the income tax is flat or progressive. , November 2020.

In a new book, fuel taxes to reflect environmental costs are estimated for 156 countries. The revenue could be used to reduce other taxes, or to pay down public debt. This would be better than relying on a patchwork of uncoordinated policies, or waiting for global agreement on climate policies. “IMF fuel tax toolkit”, in Green taxing and spending, July 2014.

With taxes on imports from non-carbon-pricing countries, a coalition of two or three powerful nations could create a strong incentive for a global carbon pricing scheme. Green taxing and spending, July 2015.

Environmentalists disagree about what combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency, fourth generation nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage should be used. They should unite in a campaign for green taxes on resources and pollution. “Energy price reform” in Green taxing and spending, November 2013.

A Green tax switch from income taxes to green taxes is being prevented by the widespread belief that progressive income taxes are essential for wealth redistribution. Citizens incomes could make green taxes progressive. “Progressive tax and inequality”, in Citizens Incomes and progressive tax, 2006-2008.

Probably we will get both warming and cooling, first one and then the other. What is least likely is that the man-made effect will be exactly the right amount to balance the ice age cycle, and keep the climate stable. Climate change, September 2015.

Boom and bust.

May 8, 2015

Ideally a country’s economy should have the household sector as net savers and the corporate sector as net borrowers, with the government budget nearly balanced and net exports near zero. “Foreign exchange”, Inflation, interest, and the supply of money, May 2015.

A k-wave downturn, driven by demographic change, may have been a factor in the global financial crisis. Other factors were Chinese exports, American mortgage law, and financial deregulation. “Back in the downwave”, The crash of 2008, January 2012.

After the 2007-8 crisis, banks took big losses on securities based on US mortgages. The widespread existence of ‘non-recourse’ loans in the US may have been an important factor. Lenders may recover debt from defaulting borrowers’ homes, but not from their other income or assets. The crash of 2008, July 2009.

To reduce economic instability, land tax, better management of protectionism, and better understanding of demography are my suggestions. The search for a stable economy, 2011 and 2015.

Referendum diary.

September 20, 2014

May 2011. The Scottish National Party won the Holyrood Scottish Parliament election.

May-June 2012. Yes Scotland and Better Together were launched.

October 2012. The Edinburgh agreement was signed. In the agreed referendum there was to be no third “devo-max” option on the ballot paper.

September 2013. I wrote in an email: If Scotland doesn’t choose independence, it doesn’t seem right that Scotland’s central bank should continue to be called the Bank of England.

January 2014. The Bank of England governor commented that a durable, successful currency union requires some ceding of national sovereignty.

March 2014. The Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury stated that there would not be a formal currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.

April 2014. I wrote in an email: I haven’t got any strong opinions about Scottish independence and I don’t think its my business. (I’ve only lived here for a few years).

25 August. Alistair Darling’s attempt to explain the currency problem in the second leaders TV debate was swamped by interruptions from Alex Salmond and the audience. The Yes campaign appeared to think that they had won the currency argument.

6 September. In a new YouGov opinion poll, support for Yes had increased, and was now greater than support for No.

8 September. American economist Paul Krugman commented that sharing a currency without sharing a government is dangerous, and if Scottish voters really believe that it’s safe to become a country without a currency, they have been badly misled.

10 September. I emailed the Krugman link to some political friends in England.
( ).

11 September. In a graphic of a new Survation referendum poll, in Metro, the figures were shown the wrong way round. Perhaps someone at Metro had assumed that the popularity of Yes had continued to increase. Actually the trend had reversed.

12 September. Standing up in a bus to get a Metro, I fell over. The driver and other passengers were a bit upset, and I got a big bruise. Metro had reprinted the graphic with the correct figures and an apology for yesterdays mistake. No had got 53 percent and Yes got 47 percent.

16 September. Three new opinion polls were announced, with 52 percent No and 48 percent Yes. The leaders of the three main pro-union parties promised, in “The Vow”, that if independence was rejected further powers would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, with a fair share of resources.

18 September. Referendum day. In the middle of the afternoon I went for a walk along a cycle path and past the polling place. I knew which way I wanted to vote but still wasn’t sure that it was my business to do so.

Later. The final opinion poll, taken on voting day, was 53 percent No, 47 percent Yes.

Bedtime. There was a rumour on the radio that North Lanarkshire, which was expected to have a No majority, had voted Yes. I went to bed and left the radio turned on.

19 September, early morning. Soon after midnight the first regional result was announced. Clackmannanshire had voted No, with a larger majority than had been expected.

About 3 hours after that, 7 regional results had been declared. The City of Dundee and West Dunbartonshire both had Yes majorities. No had 50.2 percent of the total votes announced.

About an hour later, 21 of the 32 regional results had been declared, and No had 55 percent of the total vote. Orkney had the highest No vote, 67.2 percent, and North Lanarkshire had voted 51 percent Yes.

Next came the Glasgow result, 53 percent Yes. This was only enough to reduce the No share of the total vote to 54 percent. This was the moment when it became almost certain that No had won.

Next time I woke up it was daylight and No had won with a 55 percent majority.

Later I went shopping. The sky was grey, there was light rain, winter is coming on, and I’m still in the UK. I felt quite cheerful.

European election.

June 10, 2014

For me, in all the thousands of words I saw about the European election campaign, one sentence stood out. It was in the Manchester Friends of the Earth’s list of 10 policies:

” a new EU economic strategy . . . which shifts the tax burden from labour to resource consumption . . . ”
( ).

Environmental taxes on resources and pollution could be better than income taxes, not only for the environment, but also for reducing inequality.

( ” Progressive tax and inequality”, in “Citizens incomes and progressive tax”, ).

I think this policy should be a major feature in the 2015 Westminster election campaign.