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Saturday, July 05, 2008

“This House would prefer to be led by the invisible Hand”

Every individual...generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.
The Wealth of Nations, Book IV Chapter II
This was the title of a lecture on Thursday organised by the Adam Smith Institute in Edinburgh for the day before the unveiling of the Adam Smith statue in the Royal Mile. The statue is shown above & though I haven't seen it in life yet it looks a bit overpowering for my taste.

Anyway the debate was proposed by Michael Forsyth, Madsen Pirie (Adam Smith Inst) and Andy Hume and opposed by Brian Wilson, Alex Neil and Kenny Fleming & chaired by BBC Scottish Political Editor Brian Taylor. Since it was being run by the ASI there was no doubt which way the vote was going to go but everybody enjoyed themselves (free beer & wine too).

Most fun speech was by Alex Neil, though it didn't really advance the socialist case much. Best serious speech was from Andy Hume who went into detail on how India's decision to end its 5 year plans & import substitution & let the "hidden hand" work had, as we can all see, worked so very well. Strangest misunderstanding was from Brian Wilson who used this quote
In every great monarchy of Europe the sale of the crown lands would produce a very large sum of money, which, if applied to the payment of the public debts, would deliver from mortgage a much greater revenue than any which those lands have ever afforded to the crown...When the crown lands had become private property, they would, in the course of a few years, become well-improved and well-cultivated...the revenue which the crown derives from the duties of customs and excise, would necessarily increase with the revenue and consumption of the people.
and ended it by saying "See Adam Smith supported nationalisation". He completely misread it when it is quite clearly giving exactly the justification for privatisation that Thatcher (& Forsyth) made - not primarily for the sale money but that they would be more profitable & thus ultimately pay more taxes in the private sector. How Brian Wilson, who is by no means an unthinking Labourist could so misunderstand the remark is difficult to understand. It suggests how completely the blinkers are on most politicians that they cannot see beyond the idea that dispossessing the monarch could be anything but a leftist policy. The fact that Brian gave the quote in full proves that this was an honest misunderstanding of plain English & not a politician trying to be slippery. Best point from the floor came from Neil Craig (in his opinion) when I expanded on Andy's point to say
I don't see how there is really much room to debate on this. The statistical evidence is overwhelming. For example 60 years ago Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore were poor countries as were Burma, most of Africa & Cuba. Indeed of them all Hong Kong was not only probably poorest but had just been landed with 2 million refugees while Cuba was the richest of them. Now Hong Kong is one of the richest places in the world while North Korea, Burma, Africa & Cuba are still desperately poor.
This was lifted from the pdf described here & I acknowledged to David Farrer, standing beside me, that he had uncovered this gem first.

Temperamentally my sympathy in the cold war between the US & Cuba is fully with Cuba but the fact is that free enterprise works better & it is no service to the world's poor, or indeed ourselves, to say otherwise.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Holyrood was left stunned last night when it emerged that Nicol Stephen, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and a former Deputy First Minister, has decided to stand down for family reasons.

Well Maybe but I put this on Iain Dale's Diary

When he took over the party had placed 2nd at the Westminster elections, their polls had been going up & they were generally considered the only party destined to be in any possible Scottish government.

Since then (& since they expelled me for traditional liberalism) they have become 4th party in Holyrood, are out of government & polls in free fall.

Nicol was chosen for being photogenic not for brains. Thus he was able to say on TV that "nuclear is the easy answer" before going on to explain that it must thus be strangled because if it wasn't the proles (OK he didn't use the word) would never be willing to subsidise windmills. On Question Time he accused the Jews of a war crime, by destroying an electricity substation in Gaza, clearly being unaware that NATO had destroyed many power generators in Yugoslavia in the LibDim supported campaign to help the Nazi inspired KLA in their campaign of genocide. I may be biased - he pushed the £270 million Glasgow airport rail link
without even being willing to look at the option of a £20 million monorail link I brought to his attention.
Tavish is pretty much his ugly sister.

Ross Finnie has a good record of taking tough economic decisions & is 1 of only 2 politicians I am aware of who said in advance that the Thatcher government's policy of shadowing the EMU was unsustainable (the other being Thatcher). He did say anybody doubting we are currently experiencing catastrophic warming was "from Mars" but a little idiocy can be forgiven.

Mike Rumbles talks well of supporting freedom (though he didn't seem so supportive when the smoking ban was being introduced) & has somewhat hedged his position on the party's anti-nuclear lunacy.

On Radio Scotland today Rumbles did indeed say that he would be in favour of less big statism & of freedom generally. He also said he would like to see decisions made more broadly by the membership through Conference (which legally is how it is done but not in practice) & have "more interesting Conference motions" (which would not be difficult).

We will see if he really is going to call for a repeal of the smoking ban, which cause ructions among the politically correct but I am sure would be popular with up to 87% of voters . If not the "in favour of freedom" stuff is just flannel. We shall see over the next few weeks.


Ewan Watt sent me this

Naser Oric, has had his war crimes conviction quashed by the UN tribunal in The Hague.

He was convicted of failing to prevent men under his command killing and mistreating six Bosnian Serb prisoners.

His alleged crimes took place well before the 1995 Bosnian Serb massacre of nearly 8,000 Srebrenica Muslims.

Between 1992 and 1993 he commanded troops who allegedly destroyed 50 Serb villages, causing thousands to flee.

.....was convicted two years ago but given a two-year sentence - much less than that demanded by the prosecution.

He was ordered to be immediately release because of time he had already spent in custody.

It doesn't get him out of prison since he was in fact let off 2 years ago with time served. What it may do, since anybody charged with war crimes is automatically disbarred from politics is to allow him to give up his day job of running a "nightclub" (probably a the sort of sex slave brothel Paddy Ashdown was so supportive of) & get officially into politics.

What it proves is the NATO controlled & funded "court" has decided to dispense with even its token appearance of being uncorrupt or in any way interested in justice.

Note that Oric was not charged with the genocide in these villages which the BBC, with characteristic dishonesty, describes as "causing thousands to flee" when what actually happened is that at least 3,800 identified Serbs were murdered. Oric subsequently showed journalists videos from his extensive home video collection of him beheading men, women & children, though mainly women & children since most of the men were in the army. The Nazis of NATO have used the Srebrenica Massacre lie as racist propaganda. The only real "evidence" it ever took place is the bodies of about half of the 3,800 Serbs murdered by Oric - reclassified as Moslems though it would almost certainly be possible to prove which community they were actually from using modern DNA tests. Thus they cannot allow any "trial" which would produce evidence the that these bodies are indeed Serbs

According to Google News coverage of this obscenity is limited in Britain to this BBC online news & something from Earth Times.

Meanwhile numerous people who are clearly innocent have been given what amounts to life sentences. In particular I have previously mentioned Fikret Abdic the most popular Bosnian Moslem leader serving a 20 year term for opposing the al Quaeda press gangs in his native Bihac province. Abdic has become, in the western media, as much an unperson as anybody in Orwell's' book. It has been proven that no major newspaper in Britain or the US will publish a letter pointing out this injustice.. By all normal standards Abdic is the sort of moderate, pro-market, anti-Al Quaeda Moslem we are calling for to stand up & be counted. He is the one leader who is trusted by members of all communities in Bosnia, indeed the one Moslem not tainted by support of genocide. If the NATO Nazis had ever had any intention of creating a Bosnian "nation" rather than a colony he is the figurehead they would have needed. Instead they have chosen Oric & genocide.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


I have been finding it difficult to find much stuff on the net about house prices over the years & if anybody else knows a good source I would appreciate it.

However I have got this about house prices & rents in Warwickshire between 1907 & 1921 (more of the listing is given over to renting which seems to be around £25) & I have put some examples placing beside them what this is equivalent to in 2006 prices by the usual RPI calculation from the Measuring Worth site

1907 northumberland rd houses £1200 each-----£87,251.18
1908 eastbourne terrace 12 house £525 -----£37,686.12
1908 st marks rd 11 milverton house £1,350----£96,907.16
1910 greens norton hall near towaster house £11,000-----£771,593.69
1911 compton st 1a & 1b coach house £700------£48,999.76
1912 regent st 38 & 40 house £1,275--------£86,735.49
1917 higham grange higham on the hill house £10,000------£385,077.82
1920 the lodge newbold terrace house £3,000------£82,833.40
[1921 gordon st 10, 11, 12, 13, houses £280-------£8,536.30]
[1921 new st 42, 44, houses £350------------------£10,670.37]
10/aug/1906 elmdon lodge radford rd 100 house price £560----£41,384.71
1/feb/1920 daulcourt kenilworth rd house £4,500------£124,250.10
10/aug/1906 elmdon lodge radford rd 100 house price £560------£41,384.71

It may be I am misreading the Gordon St & New St entries & they are just for rent. What I am assuming is the same Greens Norton Hall is currently for sale at Offers in excess of £895,000 [The Hall, Towcester Road, Falcon Manor, Greens Norton) although since it is described as merely "forming a major part of the original Falcon Manor" the price given in 1910 may be fro thewhole original building.

It does overall look like most prices would fit in the band of £40,000 to £80,000 which is a pretty good band to be sitting in today if you are buying a house. From the use of titles such as lodge & the very fact these are considered worth recording it may well be that these are largely the more expensive houses.

Our current planning system system has not altered much from the Town & Country Planning Act 1947 though before that was the first Housing and Town Planning Act 1909, to which there followed: Housing and Town Planning Act 1919, Town Planning Act 1925 and Town and Country Planning Act 1932.

I can think of no technological reason, other than this planning system which would account for house prices rising about 4 times in real terms. Indeed with JCBs, off site manufacturing & new materials it would be reasonable to expect them to have risen slightly less than the overall RPI. If so this means that something like 75% of the cost of housing is government bureaucracy & restriction of supply.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


20 years ago James Hansen a supporter of the catastrophic warming theory (& before that a proponent of the new ice age scare) testified before the US Congress that we were all doomed. His "proof" was the graph above showing that by now temperature will have risen a full degree. In fact, as the red line which denotes reality, shows we are now almost exactly back where we statred & the graph is falling uncomfortably.

This evidence he gave is considered by alarmists as one of the key points where the warming claim became official. Strangely enough the BBC, who have some new piece of warming (or as it is now called "climate change") alarmism on the box every night have omitted to have any mention of this great anniversary of the predictions they have pushed so enthusiastically (though they have got stuff about lesser known Hansens).

Dearieme has mentioned an improved & colourised version of the graph above available at What I also saw on that link that the lower of the 3 lines shown is the warming he predicted if we had immediately followed his advice & gone into a drastic recession. This is not far above what reality achieved & strikes me that had we followed that nostrum the BBC would be wildly announcing that the eco-fascists had been proven right - in exactly the same way the banning of CFCs & subsequent failure of us all to die of skin cancer is portrayed.

Monday, June 30, 2008


Virgin's Spaceship 2

This is more from the evidence given to Parliament's science & Technology Committee 21st Feb 2007. This time concentrating on Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic:

"The X Prize was fundamentally important to the future of space flight. It proved that a man called Burt Rutan, funded by Paul Allen, for US$30 million could put two people into space in the space of two weeks with a reusable vehicle which came back with minimal environmental exposure of the planet to the effects of that space flight. It was a very, very dramatic event.

......we are three quarters of the way through the construction project to build SpaceShip Two. This is a unique system. It is using some of the most advanced materials technology in the world, an all carbon composite aircraft which is incredibly efficient and going to be a showcase for both Airbus and Boeing, since neither are capable of building an all carbon composite glider at the moment the size of what we are building. The spacecraft itself is again all carbon composite, has a new design and a very safe hybrid rocket motor which is again unique technology that has been developed for this project. It has something called a feathering device which allows a care-free re-entry back into the earth's atmosphere which has never been done before. You do not have to try and fly a flight profile back in, you can bring your passengers in safely floating down a shuttlecock and then you turn it back into a glider to land.

The unique thing about this space launch system is it can not only get six people into space for an environmental effect less than a single business class ticket to New York compared with the Shuttle which takes that number of people into space for the same environmental output of the entire city of New York and its industry for nearly a week. This is really a dramatic breakthrough. The exciting thing about it is not just space tourism, not the fact it is inspiring people, not the fact that over 15,000 kids in the last five days have been through the Science Museum and sat in our mock-up of the interior and been inspired by it, not the fact that 100,000 kids in Britain alone sent emails to Virgin Galactic wanting information about what we are doing, not the fact we believe we can make a profitable business out of space tourists to start with, not the fact that we are not being funded by any government to make this $200 million investment, but the really exciting thing is this system is capable of doing science and payload in space. It is capable cheaply of doing microgravity experiments. It is capable of having a launcher attached to it, apart from the SpaceShip Two launcher we are designing at the moment, which could launch space satellites into orbit.

Q498 Mr Newmark: Great sales pitch.

Mr Whitehorn: It is not a sales pitch; it happens to be the reality of what we are doing.

...First of all, the cost for the early flights is $200,000, around £100,000, and we have 200 people who have paid that deposit and signed up, which is about so far 10% of the investment we are making in building the system. It has been very gratifying they have done that.

....we are so far into the programme we are very confident on the numbers, we believe that within five years we can get the costs down to between $75,000 and eventually, maybe after nine years, $50,000, which is £25,000.

.....At very low cost we could develop a space tourism business here for summer operation. I think that would be a great thing for the UK to participate in. Already you have countries like Sweden which moved very quickly on this. Dubai is trying to get into this act very quickly. I think the UK needs to and we need to look at some enabling legislation through Parliament to make sure that we can do what we do, otherwise we will have to do it under a military licence through the MoD in some way and that would be a shame for a project like this. Enabling legislation is the main thing needed because the space port facilities for the type of system we have exist at a number of RAF bases in places where they already have cleared airspace at the extremes of the UK, in the far west of Cornwall and up in the far north of Scotland.

...... We have the SpaceShip Three concept already in our minds, and a SpaceShip Four beyond it, but we have to walk before we run."

Note the stuff about microgravity experiments & the craft being able to carry its own launcher. Though there are many clear profit opportunities in space (tourism, solar power sat elites, asteroid mining) I suspect the greatest opportunity will turn out to be the ability to manufacture materials in zero gravity. In a gravity field many materials do not mix well & crystals are distorted by it. A simple example is metallic foams. Girders created full of air bubbles will be a small fraction of the weight of normal ones & a large fraction of the strength but in gravity bubbles in metal float to the top.

The range of possible materials that can be made in zero G are theoretically greater than all the materials we can currently make & it is a statistical certainty that very many of them are going to be immensely valuable. Unfortunately we cannot know which ones & how valuable till we have made them. That is why Mr Whitehorn correctly says that the greatest thing about their craft is that it will enable them to carry a payload & do microgravity experiments in zero G.

The 2 unfortunate things are; (1) that about 1/3rd of the session (inc most of the 3rd page) was taken up with concern about "environmental" effects, which Virgin were keen to placate, though I do not believe such people, really being Luddites pretending to be environmentalist, can ultimately be placated & ; (2) that this was over a year ago & little government action or media interest since then has been apparent.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Running the word X-Prize into Hansard's search facility I was disappointed to see that no MP appears to have ever used the phrase in Parliament. However I did get some magnificent stuff from these 3 pages of evidence to the Science & Technology Committee.. It comes from Will Whitehorn, President of Virgin Galactic, Dr Patrick Collins, Director of Space Future & for balance, an environmentalist.

My favourite bit is from Dr Collins who is just wonderful
To give an example about how easy it can be to make getting into space cheaper, this is a picture of the SR53, a British supersonic rocket plane which flew in Britain 50 years ago this May. There is a British company, Bristol Spaceplanes, which has a design of a passenger space plane, drawing very much on that technology, which could make suborbital flights at a cost of £3,000 a head. There is simply no difficulty at all. The technology was already there 50 years ago, and materials and so on have advanced a great deal since then.

Q506 Chairman: Do you have any evidence to support that claim? That is the most astounding claim you have just made, that you could do it for that sort of cost.

Dr Collins: This vehicle is in the RAF Museum and it flew on 15 May 1957 and flew supersonic in 1958. It was a military plane.....

This was intended as an interceptor for Russian planes. In fact missiles were much better so they did not develop a higher altitude version, but suborbital space flight is that straight forward so it could have been started as a passenger business in the 1960s. There is no doubt about that. Going from suborbital to orbital is a big step; it is from 3 or 4 March up to 26 Mach so it is a big step and requires a much bigger investment. Based on a successful business like this, it would be quite a logical and low risk investment. I am a great fan of Virgin, they are doing terrific work, but if no governments were to make any effort and it was just left to Virgin it is still going to take a long time to get to orbit, but for a tiny investment and a modern version of this for £50 million, a one-off investment, in three years you would have a prototype which would be flying, within five years it could be certified for carrying passengers, and within 10 years it would be down to £3,000 a head. Suborbital flight is a very straight forward low cost investment.

One of my frustrations, as someone who has been aware of this for a long time, is the absolute refusal of the BNSC [British National Space centre] to even comment on the subject....What it means is low cost space travel which is the secret to allowing everything to happen in space but the BNSC and the then Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury, have simply refused to say anything in eight years.

I have repeatedly said that we should be funding a British X-Prize Foundation from the money we currently give to ESA. If this is too forward looking for British politicians we should right now put up the £50 million to allow these regular sub-orbital flights. While it could not itself achieve orbit the original did carry 2 rockets & a modern version would be much lighter because of modern materials. That means it is likely that it would be able to launch rockets able to carry small satellites. Beyond that it would certainly be able to carry experiments to test manufacturing in zero-G. The potential number of materials that can be mixed, produced as chemical compounds or manufactured in zero-G considerably exceed the total which can be done in a gravity field & some of them are bound to be valuable, for example crystals created without being distorted by gravity can be larger & stronger than any we can now produce.. Having the ability to launch small satellites & carry out microgravity experiments would be worth many times the £50 million investment even if it wasn't worth doing simply for Britain to have something to be proud of.

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