‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Three levels of freedom (revisited)

(This is a reworking of a post from 2012, https://theylaughedatnoah.blogspot.com/2012/08/three-levels-of-freedom.html )

There are three different levels or arenas of freedom. Much of the heat in a debate arises from shifting the ground of argument.

1. Collective freedom

 
A group of people having some common identity feels oppressed by or insufficiently involved in the power structures that govern it, e.g. national sovereignty vs the EU, the suffragette movement, the abolition of slavery. Sometimes, as in the last two examples, there is significant support from outsiders in their struggle.
 
This debate is generally about fairness. Factually, it will be argued that this group suffers more, or benefits less, than another, in terms of personal income and wealth, longevity, health etc. Morally, it will be said that the others enjoy unearned privilege because of luck, or by seizing and maintaining it with the exercise of power and influence
 
A counter-argument is that the privileged compensate for the differential by protecting and succouring their inferiors (e.g. treating servants kindly, providing for them in sickness or age, educating their children, giving to charity, leaving bequests in wills, administering justice in peacetime, leading in time of war). Another compensation is to accept additional restraints on their personal conduct, or voluntarily to risk misfortune, suffering and death in war, exploration etc. In some cases, there is an appeal to false identification: the privileged allow the less fortunate to live through them in imagination.
 
The riposte is that the difference is never quite paid for in full.
 
Should the oppressed group (or its leaders) win, it tends to consolidate its position by limiting the freedom of communication and action of its opponents.
 
2. Individual freedom
 
Some individuals may want more personal licence (e.g. completely free speech, easy divorce, casual sex, illicit drugs.)
 
The attempted justification here is that the desired additional liberties are relatively harmless.
 
Opponents will refer to the physical, emotional and financial effects on others: family, neighbours, the public at large, and various community expenses. There are also potential negative consequences for their children’s development and future lives.
 
Some will wonder whether society should bother trying to do more than prevent or mitigate immediate and significant harm to third parties. Is it worth the expense of police, courts, social workers, rehab etc? Let the libertine destroy himself.
 
Others may appeal to social or religious norms, saying that the individual must accept certain behavioural restrictions for the sake of societal cohesion. Stress will be laid on setting a good personal example, or not setting a bad one (this has implications for e.g. teachers, entertainers and sportspeople.) Certain behaviours are felt to have provocative potential or the power to lead others astray, and so measures are instituted to limit them (e.g. sumptuary laws, rules on what may be said and done in public - or even in private.)
 
The individualist may dispute the facts, and also maintain that others must take sole responsibility for their own responses. Norms will be represented as arbitrary and unnecessary for human happiness; it will be claimed that society will hold together without them.
 
To set oneself against others is to make oneself vulnerable, so the individualist will attempt to form (often uneasy) alliances, and so raise the debate or struggle to the level of a collective-freedom issue.
 
Alternatively, the individualist may simply scorn society's permission. Firstly, changing its rules is an uncertain and long-term project; secondly, to ask permission is to cede one's personal power to others.
 
At the extreme, a sociopath may turn his dislike of others' power over him, into a mission to get power over others; Mao, Stalin etc. On a lesser scale, we get what is said to be the statistical over-representation of psychopaths in senior positions in politics and business.
 
3. Psychological (or spiritual) freedom
 
This is about conflict within the individual. Our desires are often contradictory; and sometimes there are demons hiding in one's background. Many of us are a mass of scores trying to be settled; patterns/scripts trying to complete themselves whatever the cost to ourselves or others; the expectations of family, friends or society; or aspirations to a kind of secular redemption, ideal life-moments that end the story with credits and closing music.
 
On the other hand, the fractured individual is afraid to be healed. Change is a kind of death; identity trumps our happiness.
 
Who is this ‘I’ and why does it want this thing? If the ‘I’ is enigmatic, self-contradictory, untrustworthy and potentially destructive to self and others, by what shall we regulate our lives?
 
So we could get to another contradiction: voluntary submission of the will. Prisoners used to tell ‘Theodore Dalrymple’ that they preferred being ‘inside’, where they didn't have to make decisions. To whom, or what, must we surrender?
 
Round and round we go, like the worm Ouroboros; but surely, here is where we begin.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Inflation, the King’s thief

The Government sets an annual inflation target of 2%, meaning that £10,000-worth of goods and services today is planned to cost £200 more in a year’s time. https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/  Our Halifax savings account pays interest at 0.01%, so that a £10,000 deposit for the same period will earn one single pound. The intentional debasement of the currency should be seen for what it is: a royal assault on personal wealth.

Private property is the foundation of liberty and a defence against tyrants such as King John. Needing additional money to prosecute his wars, John levied taxes at will, fined and seized the estates of nobles who he alleged had transgressed, and forced women to marry his cronies to get hold of their dowries; Magna Carta aimed to correct these abuses and set up the Great Council that would become known as Parliament. https://www.history.com/topics/british-history/british-parliament To this day, all law, directly or indirectly, still flows from the monarch’s will and assent but now the ruler, instead of simply grabbing our cash, must ask nicely for it via our representatives.

Except there is a way round: rob the whole country by corrupting the means of exchange.

That is something that even King John did not do, but in 1544 Henry VIII started to issue coinage with a lower content of precious metals; by 1551 under Edward VI the silver in a penny, at a time when labourers were paid pennies, had fallen by 83% (this was reversed by Elizabeth I in 1560. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9780230118249_4 Inflation continued anyway, at least partly because of the ongoing influx of gold and silver from the New World treasure fleets. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_revolution )

Even so, inflation was accidental rather than deliberate; and in general, slow. For the three centuries from 1209 up to the accession of Henry VIII, the BoE estimates that the average rate of inflation was only 0.1% per year; for the next four centuries to 1909, 0.6% p.a. https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator

The high inflation we regard as normal is really a twentieth century phenomenon, and as in the earlier instances given they can be related to war, not only the two World Wars but the 1970s oil price shock in the context of the West’s involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Between 1914 and 2014 £100 would need to have grown to £10,306 to maintain its value.

It is less than thirty years since the UK actually began targeting a positive value for inflation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inflation_targeting#New_Zealand,_Canada,_United_Kingdom The Bank of England justifies it in this way: https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation

‘… if inflation is too low, or negative, then some people may put off spending because they expect prices to fall. Although lower prices sounds like a good thing, if everybody reduced their spending then companies could fail and people might lose their jobs.’

That is all very well, but if the current situation of 2% inflation and 0.01% savings interest continues indefinitely, then over the average Briton’s lifetime a bank deposit of £10,000 will shrivel to c. £2,000 in real terms. Somebody is getting the benefit, and it’s not us, though we can see some who are – ‘Private Eye’ reported this week (issue 1554, p.7) that hundreds of bankers at HSBC ‘will trouser seven-figure sums’ in bonuses, thanks to Chancellor Rishi’s pandemic lending boost.

It is not reasonable to force ordinary citizens to become speculators in order to preserve the value of their savings. Enron shares, rogues like Bernie Madoff and the halving of the FTSE – twice – since the year 2000 give us ample reasons to be cautious. Some American financial commentators I read think the stock markets are once again wildly overvalued.

Even the banks are not safe – it was the 2007 Northern Rock debacle that prompted the FSCS to raise the ceiling for bank deposit protection https://www.fscs.org.uk/globalassets/press-releases/20170908-fscs-northern-rock-release_final3.pdf to the equivalent of €100,000; in the Cyprus bank crisis of 2012-13 depositors lost nearly half the balance above that limit.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012%E2%80%932013_Cypriot_financial_crisis

There was a time when governments thought it their duty to protect the consumer. International economies are more interlinked these days but even so, in the midst of the OPEC oil shock Parliament noted the destruction of retirees’ nest-eggs by inflation, and in 1975 the Government introduced NS&I Index-Linked Savings Certificates for them, later extending their availability to others.

What a disappointment it was to see the incoming coalition government of 2010 stop the issue of these plans! Also, a couple of years ago, the Treasury hit those lucky enough to own some, switching the index used from RPI to CPI, with a view to cutting the return to savers by something like 0.6% per year. https://www.hl.co.uk/news/articles/archive/ns-and-i-index-linked-savings-certificates-should-you-renew-them

Paper money is backed by nothing, most money is in the form of electrons, and the State can invent as much of it as it likes, so in a sense it doesn’t need to listen to the people any more. What price our liberty?

Saturday, August 28, 2021

WEEKENDER: A new garden, by Wiggia

  

The bottom of the garden.

My house move has created a problem, not in the first rank of things in this mad world, but for my own satisfaction and pleasure.

For many being involved in something that is their work means they have no time for it at home - ‘coals to Newcastle’ is the phrase that comes to mind; yet despite spending most of my working life in horticulture I have always derived a lot of pleasure from my own patch. My very first garden was attached to a typical prewar end of terrace house with a runway of a garden, in the region of 170 ft long but very narrow; this was before I embarked into horticulture but I immediately wanted to make something of it.

Looking back the idea was right: dividing into separate ‘rooms’ as is the trend today; but my execution was poor. Nonetheless it was good training, not just in layout and design but in what plants grow and where. The failures taught me a lot and there were a lot of them.

The one thing that nearly always disappointed was moving so often. It meant that in many cases gardens started never reached fruition; only two actually reached what could be called any form of maturity. It is this factor that is the problem for me now: time is running out.

We have been fortunate. During our life together we have had gardens ranging in size from bugger-all upwards - this was a house we intended to stay in a couple of years but because of the ‘89 crash we were held captive for six years. That one I made into something one could use and enjoy but on a budget because of the intent to move on.

Others have ranged from a quarter of an acre up to two and a half acres. In fact I have had three over an acre in size, and my last house had an acre of garden, I have enjoyed most of them but as I said most were never completed or never matured.

Gardens are by their nature transient things. That living breathing patch into which you have poured so much time and effort in an attempt to create something in your mind, becomes nothing the day you leave it behind. I have only seen two after the moving on when visiting old neighbours. The first time this happened when living in Suffolk was returning to a garden I created from scratch containing many rare collected over time shrubs trees and perennials, and though I would have made changes if we had stayed I was quite pleased with what I left behind.

When I visited, my old neighbour said, ‘Don’t look over the fence’ and I had had no intention of doing so as once before what I saw made one cry with anguish at what had been done to all that I had poured so much time and effort into; but curiosity got the better of me and I did look, to be greeted with such a sorry sight as to make one weep.

Of course the day you sell a house you give up any rights to how the house and garden are looked after or not, it has nothing to do with you any more. Your taste, your use of interior and exterior, your vision that you create for yourself is not going to be that of someone else, whatever gushing phrases they may use when viewing. Hence the 'moment in time' aspect for gardens in particular, is they are created and tended by man, and when that stops revert back to nature. Gardens are our vision of how we want to see nature presented and much of what we put in them is also a version of our creative mind not a true reflection of nature; even the great ‘natural’ landscaped gardens of Capability Brown and others were a man-made version of nature.

We are simply playing with the land around us and the plants that are available, most of which are not native in the first place.

This move though is hopefully the end of the line; at our age and with our moving horrors (see previous post) I don’t think we could entertain another move at our age unless it was painless and it never has been.

So here we are with around a third of an acre, fields to the back (for how long, one wonders), and a wood to one side; so private, and it gives the impression of being bigger because of the empty field at the rear.

In the past it was well tended and the original owners had planted quite a lot of desirable shrubs and trees. Unfortunately all had grown into one another and the first task was to remove some of the overgrown planting and decide what was to remain. Over twenty dumper loads have been removed so far and there is more to come; some of the choicer plantings had been so encroached on by their neighbours they had been ruined and had to come out; others, a few, were salvageable.

None of this was easy for me, not because of my advancing years but because of my impending hip replacement - which I have now had - so almost everything came to a halt in the run up to the op and now during recovery, but at least I am presented with that blank, or almost blank, canvas to work on.

And now the real problems arise: what sort of garden do I want, what sort can I manage now and primarily, will I ever see the fruits of my efforts?

And there lies the rub: mortality. We have no idea when the plug will be pulled on our life on earth. The only way to handle that side of things is to carry on as normal, otherwise we might as well sit there and await the Grim Reaper's entrance.

So the old drawing tools have been dug out and a start made. I don't need to make a detailed graph paper layout for this, it is really about ideas being put on paper and then sifting through to find the best result.

Spring.

At heart I have always been a plants man. Plants have always been the most important element in any garden of my own. For my own gardens I have always looked at the plot, analysed the soils and site and then made a list of suitable plants I want to see there. Only after that have I drawn design plans to incorporate those plants; arse upwards to anything I have done commercially but it was for me and the planting comes first. 

The fruits of one's endeavours.

I have already drawn up a list of plants I need and immediately hit a problem: although I retired only ten years ago the sources I used for plants have changed dramatically. So many specialist nurseries have either sold up and gone or been bought out and incorporated into bigger enterprises or even turned into garden centres; in fifty years it has gone full circle.

When I started out there were very few nurseries supplying the rarer plants and shrubs. Hilliers in Winchester were the most famous and even they had a waiting list for the more desirable items; Waterers were the go-to for rhododendrons, as were Sunningdale nurseries; and there were a few scattered nurseries specialising in certain genus such as Kelways with peonies, a rare old company still going strong.

There were also numerous well-known rose growers. In the Eighties a change happened: the boom years saw a demand for the exotic and, new for this country, the mature plant. On the Continent mature shrub and tree planting for municipal and private use was well established, but here there was virtually nothing; now you saw nurseries starting up supplying mainly imported items in almost any size your bank balance could stand.

Alongside this the likes of Beth Chatto and her ‘unusual’ plant nursery made a huge impact at the Chelsea flower show and many other similar outfits started to appear. With a certain amount of diligence you could purchase almost anything in any size.

Unfortunately/fortunately depending on your viewpoint, the garden centre was also in its infancy and beginning to make inroads on traditional plant-only nurseries. They became and still are extremely popular and for those traditional nurseries that changed to the garden centre format it was a way to increase profits and spread sales over the year rather than condensing sales into a few months as previously; the addition of the cafe made further profits year round more likely and they started to take over as the go-to place, not just for plants but for so much else; now they even do functions, the change has been enormous.

The garden centres became bigger and started to buy up established nurseries and those famous names became just fronts for more garden centres, so the net result was as today: we are back, certainly with trees and shrubs, to those few specialists still surviving; with perennials the story is not so bleak but making a living out of perennials is not as easy as trees and shrubs or indeed a garden centre selling outdoor furniture and everything else connected to the garden.

So yes, my search for certain shrubs in particular was a bit blunted, but with a bit of patience, not something I am noted for, we are getting there.

In some ways the enforced delay to proceedings is a good thing: certain aspects of the plan didn’t really gel and changes have been made before a spade has gone in the ground. It’s also given me time to source planting material, so easy to get in the past but now disappearing as the anti-peat lobby gets its way and the companies such as nurseries that supply this material get gobbled up by conglomerates, leaving little choice.

 A place to relax.

A shady corner.

I would love to incorporate a greenhouse in the garden layout. I have grown a lot from seed in recent years besides the usual fruit and veg, but growing from seed takes time and I have to ask myself again have I got that time and of course I have no idea, so we will put the greenhouse, much missed, on the back burner for now.

All of this is interwoven with getting the new house the way we want it, and obviously that takes priority, but we have made good progress in that area and only a couple of items of consequence remain. As with the garden, getting workmen at this time is notoriously difficult with some trades because of the housing boom, carpenters and brickies are exceptionally difficult to find. The latter is needed for the water feature I have in mind; as it is central to my overall plan I am going to have to keep phoning, asking and trying and pull in a favour or two; I can never remember it being this bad, a couple of years back most of it I could have done myself but not any more.

One thing's for sure, I have never not had a garden to which I have not been the major contributor. As with so many who are fortunate to have a plot to play with in whatever size, I get great pleasure from it; it is a wonderful escape from the lunatic world we live in today, and whether I actually see this one through to conclusion is in reality immaterial, just doing it is part of the satisfaction.

Friday, August 27, 2021

FRIDAY MUSIC: The Hillbilly Gypsies, by JD

More unknown musical talent, The Hillbilly Gypsies! Ten songs this time just for a change. I have included the tenth song because it shows the band from backstage and illustrates the boundless energy of Jamie Lynn who is the 'star' of the show. The videos vary in quality but the energy and enthusiasm is ever present.

'The Hillbilly Gypsies are best known for their high-energy live performances. They have entertained the crowd at major festivals, fairs, and concert venues across the mid-Atlantic region and abroad. Their "Old Timey" approach adds an authentic barn party atmosphere to their shows. Watching the whole band work around the single mic is like taking a trip back in time. It'll sure make you want to get up and dance!'
The Hillbilly Gypsies are: Trae Buckner, Jamie Lynn Buckner, Ryan Cramer, Ty Jaquay and Dave Asti.
https://thehillbillygypsies.com/










Thursday, August 26, 2021

THURSDAY BACKTRACK: Music and news from 60 years ago - week ending 26 August 1961

 At #4 this week is Shirley Bassey's 'I Reach For the Stars' (the B side is 'Climb Every Mountain':


Some memorable events (via Wikipedia):

20 August: The Berlin crisis deepens. President Kennedy sends 1,500 troops to West Berlin to show support for the inhabitants. The soldiers are greeted there by Vice-President Lyndon Johnson.
Report in Montreal's 'The Gazette,' 21 August 1961

22 August: soldiers at the Antifaschistischer Schutzwall (the 'Anti-Fascist Protection Wall') are ordered to shoot people trying to flee East Berlin. The first such casualty comes two days later.

23 August: the USA launches its first 'space platform', Ranger 1, as the start of a Moonshot program. A rocket fails and the machine fails to reach high orbit; it falls back to Earth a week later, burning in the air. 

26 August: Burma (now Miyanmar), independent from Great Britain since 1948amends its constitution to declare Buddhism as the nation's official religion. This attempt to enforce Theravada Buddhism (the religion of c. 90% of the population) on everyone 'failed due to protests by religious minorities'. 
    The military later stages a socialist coup d'état in March 1962 and rules directly or indirectly from then on, with a new Constitution from 1974. 
    From 1988 the situation becomes more fluid, with pro-democracy movements combating State repression. 
    The military junta dissolves in 2011 but in January 2021 there is another military coup d'état, overturning the rule of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which won by a landslide (again) in the 2020 general election. 
    BBC news updates for Miyanmar are here: 


UK chart hits, week ending 26 August 1961 (tracks in italics have been played in earlier posts)

Htp: Clint's labour-of love compilation https://www.sixtiescity.net/charts/61chart.htm

1

Johnny Remember Me

John Leyton

Top Rank

2

You Don't Know

Helen Shapiro

Columbia

3

Well I Ask You

Eden Kane

Decca

4

Reach For The Stars / Climb Every Mountain

Shirley Bassey

Columbia

5

Halfway To Paradise

Billy Fury

Decca

6

Romeo

Petula Clark

Pye

7

A Girl Like You

Cliff Richard and The Shadows

Columbia

8

Time

Craig Douglas

Top Rank

9

Hello Mary Lou / Travellin' Man

Ricky Nelson

London

10

You Always Hurt The One You Love

Clarence 'Frogman' Henry

Pye

11

Temptation

The Everly Brothers

Warner Brothers

12

Don't You Know It

Adam Faith

Parlophone

13

Quarter To Three

The U.S. Bonds

Top Rank

14

Baby I Don't Care / Valley Of Tears

Buddy Holly

Coral

15

Pasadena

The Temperance Seven

Parlophone

16

Marcheta

Karl Denver

Decca

17

Runaway

Del Shannon

London

18

Cupid

Sam Cooke

RCA

19

Weekend

Eddie Cochran

London

20

Ain't Gonna Wash For A Week

The Brook Brothers

Pye

20

Too Many Beautiful Girls

Clinton Ford

Oriole


Monday, August 23, 2021

We are not free: rotten money, rotten democracy

We’re told to expect inflation to rise to around 4% later this year but it should then drop to the Bank of England’s target of 2% per year. https://www.standard.co.uk/business/uk-inflation-tumbles-giving-bank-of-england-room-on-rates-b951139.html My question - and I expect there will be clever people to answer me – is why is there any such target, other than zero?

My bank currently offers 0.01% interest on my balance with them. That is to say, if my bank borrows £10,000 off me then in return I get £1 interest at the end of the year. Does this even cover the default risk? (Yes, there is the FSCS, and thereby hangs a tale https://www.fscs.org.uk/globalassets/press-releases/20170908-fscs-northern-rock-release_final3.pdf .) In the meantime, the price of £10,000-worth of goods and services is expected – is targeted – to increase by £200 ! Where is my incentive to save?

Ah, says Mr Worldly Wiseman, you should be investing, instead. Oh, yes? In Enron shares https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron , perhaps? Or should I have placed my portfolio with Bernie Madoff https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernie_Madoff , who ‘made off’ with enormous sums of his clients’ money?

Today our financial house of cards seems to be sustained by Modern Monetary Theory https://www.investopedia.com/modern-monetary-theory-mmt-4588060 . Under this scheme, governments can forge as much cash as they like to pump into the economy, and will of course know exactly when and how to suck it back in interest rates and taxes. This power will never be abused, or misused by some incompetent Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Nothing can go wrong... go wrong... go wrong.

There was a time when forgery was high treason and forgers were hanged, and even also drawn and quartered; female coiners, slightly less dreadfully, burned at the stake (the last in 1789 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Murphy_(counterfeiter) .) Now, the State can do as it wishes with ‘the pound in your pocket’ (to quote the condescending Harold Wilson.)

If what I have said so far sounds slightly hysterical, consider the implications for the citizen’s freedom. We like to talk of being free (especially in these jab-and-mask days) but we are not free without personal property. The ‘fact-checkers’ at Reuters have determined that it is not the WEF’s goal that ‘you will own nothing and be happy’ https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-wef-idUSKBN2AP2T0 ; how very helpful of them. However, an article written for the 2016 World Economic Forum sub-titled ‘I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy And Life Has Never Been Better’, since taken down https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/11/how-life-could-change-2030/ , is still available on Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/worldeconomicforum/2016/11/10/shopping-i-cant-really-remember-what-that-is-or-how-differently-well-live-in-2030/ .

There was a time when Parliaments had power, because the monarch needed the people’s money for wars and other expensive diversions. The request had its risks: calling the assembly ultimately cost Louis XVI his head. Now, it magics up whatever it requires; who needs the people? And why should the people need money, independently of the State? ‘You will own nothing and be happy’ – though I think that when that happens, it will be only half right.

For if we live at the pleasure of the State we are like household pets; and like them, perhaps, may one day be euthanised when inconvenient to our masters (what else are DNR notices, like the ones given during the Covid epidemic to British patients with learning difficulties https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/13/new-do-not-resuscitate-orders-imposed-on-covid-19-patients-with-learning-difficulties ?). If we are not employed by some agency working on behalf of the government, many of us survive on allowances and income top-ups, unfunded final salary pensions, and the State Pension Scheme (at whatever receding qualifying age.) We are not free, because we are not independent.

No, surely the ‘saviour State’ https://www.businessinsider.com.au/the-great-reset-2011-7  will see us right, won’t it? If we depend on State income, that will be protected against inflation, won’t it? I for one am grateful for the Conservatives’ ‘triple lock’ manifesto commitment https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/taking-stock-conservative-manifesto.pdf - but ‘events, my dear boy, events’; they may have to renege https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/covid-19-bill-casts-doubt-on-triple-lock-pension-vow-ddl2lbm6t . Besides, it’s a squalid vote-purchase only undertaken because of disparities in voter participation; we oldies make sure our gapes are widest and get the mummy-bird’s attention first. The democratic system is rotten. Still, this egregious favouritism can’t last forever.

By the way, technically, even if your income was boosted every year exactly in line with a single measure of inflation, you would lose out. This is because the revisions come once a year and are then fixed, whereas prices continue to go up in the interim. The faster inflation goes, the greater the cumulative loss – for those who are interested I attach a spreadsheet to show how.

Also, the inflation index you use is so important in determining whether and how badly you are being bilked. You may remember that almost the first act of the incoming 2010 Government was to stop issuing NS&I Index-Linked Savings Certificates. For existing certificate-holders, NS&I have changed the index used from RPI to CPI, in the expectation that savers’ returns will drop by 0.6% per annum. https://www.hl.co.uk/news/articles/archive/ns-and-i-index-linked-savings-certificates-should-you-renew-them

There was a time when money was gold and silver – indeed, to some extent it is a requirement of the US Constitution https://constitution.congress.gov/browse/essay/artI_S10_C1_2_2_1/ . It kept governments in check and safeguarded the people’s freedom. What you saved was yours, taxation apart; and you resisted taxation, and they had to ask nicely for your money, via your representatives; but now the money system is rotten.

The disease of inflation is not the norm but largely a twentieth century phenomenon. Discounting the effects of wars and poor harvests, overall prices in England were stable until the sixteenth-century enthusiasm for empire and the importation of New World gold https://users.pop.umn.edu/~ruggles/hist5011/phelps-brown%20and%20hopkins.pdf . From 1266 and for centuries after, a loaf of bread cost an old penny. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penny_bun

The money system stabilised again by the late 17th century. The Bank of England's website used to have a page that let you calculate cumulative inflation for any period from 1750 onwards. According to them, a basket of goods and services costing £1 in 1750 would have cost (the equivalent of) £1.80 in 1900 - an average annual inflation rate of 0.3%. That period covers the tremendous increase in productivity introduced by the Industrial Revolution and further late-nineteenth-century scientific and technological developments, so inflation is not needed for business and prosperity.

An 80% increase in prices took 150 years to develop.

Yet the same database showed that a very similar increase (£1 to £1.81) occurred in the space of four years in the 20th century between 1974 and 1978. And since 1900, we have seen an overall increase of over 10,000%. That's not a typing mistake: £1 in 1900 was worth the same as £104.08 in 2012.

All caused by a seemingly gentle average inflation rate of 4.2% per year. The Bank of England's "target" for annual inflation is now 2%, which means that it is now official policy for us to suffer an 80% increase in prices over 30 years instead of 150 years - in one generation, instead of five or six.

Liberty depends on private property, and sound money. Rattle your chains, pocketless serfs.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

EDUCATION: The true cost of grade inflation, by Paddington

I started teaching Mathematics in the US higher education system in 1978, and retired in 2017. Throughout my career, I spent a lot of time reading about the latest trends in Mathematics Education, including participating in several grants.

The basic problem has not changed since Euclid. To understand Science, you must speak its language, which appears to be Mathematics. And it isn't just the hard Sciences. Every study on college success indicates that grades in Mathematics courses are the most robust predictor of graduation.

Despite multiple major revisions of technique and content of teaching, the success levels have not changed since I started teaching. My personal observation is that the overall mastery has declined, as the system now forces students through who would otherwise not succeed. In turn, this grade inflation means that the upper tier of students are often not challenged to work very hard, and so arrive at higher education with an inflated sense of their capacities, and an inability to rectify their deficiencies.

This slight gain through grade inflation, of course, does not satisfy administrators in education, and politicians. They know that the relatively high level of Mathematics failure is because the subject is “too abstract” (ignoring the evidence that this is precisely why it makes people think more precisely), and that Mathematics teachers are universally incompetent.

There have been several efforts of reform in this particular direction, including the English GCSE system, starting in about 1980. The entire curriculum was changed to make it project- and problem-based, using all available technology, starting with extensive calculator use (as opposed to the slide rules and log tables that we had), and moving into computer Algebra systems.

After 20 years, the results came in. Universities reported that students arrived unprepared for coursework that had previously been standard, and even had to emulate US institutions in including remediation. Companies that had hired people with A-levels in the subject reported that they did not have enough skills to learn what was needed for their jobs.

It was a disaster, but as always, no-one would admit that and simply move back to the 'old way' of doing things. Consequently, they had to introduce huge curriculum revisions and claim that they were 'new' ideas.

“The more things change, ...”

Saturday, August 21, 2021

WEEKENDER: The poor quality of our representatives, by Wiggia


Yvette Cooper - I always thought with that name she was a cross between a cheap Vauxhall and a Mini Cooper - was reliably typical as she implored the government to include everyone in Afghanistan who want to come here to be allowed to, as she has on every other occasion there has trouble in the Middle East and elsewhere. She did this with her best impression of a wronged-woman-face on. This comes after a day of word soup from our? representatives who would welcome anyone without checks into this country. This has been one of the worst displays of faux concern from a bunch of people that in the main are not fit to run a bath.

Why it is thought necessary to have a full day of these endless speeches, most of which as I said just repeat endlessly on the virtue theme, is a mystery. Is it a type of mutual- and self-flagellation - 'we were all so wrong but that lot were more wrong' or is it the case that if they all gather and repeat the same thing they somehow believe that the outside world will see them in a different light? The irony is that hardly anyone watches these parliamentary debates, so in reality they are virtue-signalling to themselves.

Up to our ears in debt, policies on almost everything that will impoverish the nation further, a health service no longer fit for purpose, laws being put in place at the bequest of minority woke lunatics, minorities of all colours being given preference on all things ahead of the indigenous tax paying population, law and order collapsing among the untouchable minorities etc etc, yet they spend a day scoring political points in an attempt to appear virtuous.

The only certainty from their day in the spotlight is the guarantee we will add untold thousands to the welfare bill and they will be fighting for hotel rooms with the dinghy people. When you add the dependants that will follow and the others who will follow the dinghy route, we will be filling small? towns up or the equivalent on a monthly basis. Yvette of course is well known for her generosity in taking in refugees (sarc) so we shouldn’t feel we are not all in this together the next time one of these children with beards goes on the rampage and kills or rapes someone; after all, 'lessons have been learned.'

The paucity of our representatives was today put on display for the nation. There was never a better example of why we should not vote for the vast majority of them and the bankrupt parties they all represent. The future for us? There isn't one any of us would want coming out of that place.

In the USA Joe Biden has surfaced to put on one of the most appalling displays of defence over a totally failed exit strategy in Afghanistan, blaming all and sundry for his obvious errors; and then twenty-four hours later, or five days according to Joe, he doubles down on the same strategy and again blames everything and everyone else.

Boris has put himself in a hard place as from the start he has brown-nosed Biden and followed the 'net zero', 'build back better', 'Great Reset' line, which now looks discredited, it always was, and as with the rest of European leaders he has been ignored. No good talking of being disappointed in the leadership of the USA in this one when you have failed to speak out about other obvious inadequacies that have emanated from the White House ever since Biden took charge. Bojo’s address to the house was as bad as all that which followed.

Today we have had two of our own talking total b*****. Firstly our defence minister Ben Wallace almost repeating word for word what Biden said: if nothing else you would have thought that seeing the hammering Biden was justly getting he might just have revised his interpretation for his own sake, but no he also seems to think that what happened had nothing to do with any strategy, if there was one, and everything to do with the Taliban moving to fast, so in fact it was the Taliban's fault all along.


One got the impression from this he was fishing for the feeling-sorry-for-him vote, such was the humble ‘we could do nothing’ stance throughout.

And then we had our Chief of Defence Staff Sir Nick Carter coming out with all sorts of woke platitudes in this interview including what I hope will be for him forever remembered as his words, “the Taliban are just country boys” - all that was going on outside the perimeter fence was just joshing, was it?

https://news.sky.com/story/afghanistan-taliban-cooperating-with-uk-forces-and-not-behaving-in-medieval-way-says-chief-of-defence-staff-12384312

Obviously the reports of the chopping off of hands in the provinces and the killings outside the airport perimeter fence had passed him by, such is the state of our intelligence, and he has never read or heard anything contrary to his woke bumbling, such as this from a woman in Afghanistan in 1999:

"Living under the rule of the Taliban regime is like being in an abusive relationship. At first it's good. They make lots of promises, they watch their steps, they even deliver on some of their promises. But while you are being lulled into a false sense of security, they are making their plans.”

Or the reports that the Taliban are now starting to look for collaborators.

https://thepostmillennial.com/taliban-reportedly-conducting-door-to-door-searches-in-kabul-for-us-collaborators

And this man is Chief of Defence, God help us.

Meanwhile the deputy leader of the Greens, one Amelia Womack, behind 'five homes' Caroline Lucas

https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2019/01/09/caroline-do-as-i-say-not-do-lucas/

- made an appearance on Talk Radio where she managed to maintain a smug 'I know better' face for the entire duration of the interview; nyone who has seen Lucas interviewed will have observed the same trait, it’s a Green thing:


See from 2.03 in; she manages to make everything a party political broad cast without ever answering the obvious questions and elephants in the room; they never do.

She is another who has never had a proper job and despite her prominence in the Green party only managed 2.1% of the vote when she stood in the general election last time, hardly a mandate to pontificate to the rest of us how we should live or the direction the planet should be heading in, yet again as with all minorities however small they get more of a say than the majority who really don’t want to be told they will have to pay much more for less, by someone who, I repeat, has never worked in the true sense.

These are just some of those in the spotlight at the moment in the UK and the USA. it has often been said that it takes a crisis to show what leaders are made of; there can be no doubt the current crisis shows we have no one of any value in the top jobs, a vacuum of talent and common sense prevails.

As a bit of light relief: the Daily Mail is on the story about the Australia v Afghanistan test match to be held in November that is ‘likely’ to be cancelled, as good a prophecy as any I suspect. At moments like this it is good to know the press have their finger on the pulse.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9900389/Historic-cricket-test-match-Australia-Afghanistan-likely-cancelled.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490