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Saturday, April 25, 2009


Last night BBC Newsnight informed us that suddenly politicians are falling over themselves to make specific suggestions of necessary cuts. Can't say I have noticed & think it is just that the Newsnight party line has changed, probably because 2 days after the budget growth figures have been produced showing things are worse than admitted even that recently. Anyway in my normal helpful way I have posted up these suggestions. I hope they actually publish this comment - my name on the site is neilninepercent. Whadduknow they did - post 60

1) Stop hirings of new public employees (turnover 5% a year), freeze on pay & benefits, allow firings of public employees for incompetence - Saves 5% of total budget £35 billion.

2) End Health & Safety Executive & related agencies - perhaps a small part of their function can be subsumed in other depts. Suspend then repeal 90% of all such regulations. 200,000 inspectors gone saves £20 bn.

3) Cut building regulators & planners by 90%+ ending almost all building restrictions outside national parks - similar to #2 saves £20 bn.

4) Replace part of Atomic Energy Inspectorate that spends years determining whether French nuclear designs that have worked for decades there will work on this side of the Channel - this will allow building to start immediately. Cut all parts of nuclear regulations that aren't even 1/4 as worthwhile, by cost benefit analysis, as regulations in other industries. Require all public enquiries on public projects to take no longer than a fortnight. Estimated saving £10 bn.

5) Cut unnecessary quangos (eg Race Relations Commission costs £71 million). Also all the diversity inspectors. Est total £10 bn.

6) Cut advertising by quangos (eg all those adverts and leaflets from the Carbon trust). Est total £10 billion

7) End donations to fakecharities which then use the money to advertise & lobby for more government spending, regulation & bureaucracy (eg the millions given to ASH to lobby for the smoking ban). Est £10 bn

8) Stop subsidising windmills & other "renewable" energy sources that real investors know isn't worth it. Estimated total £10 bn

9) Don't pass this budget - the increased revenue from the 50p tax rate will not surpass the costs of subsidising cars & "green" jobs. Net change zero.

10) End the VAT cut. Saves £15 bn.

11) Leave the EU. Direct saving approx £15 bn

Total savings here = £155 billion without significantly impinging on anybody in productive work & barely so on welfare.

The Taxpayer's alliance has also identified £100 bn of savings that could be made simply by getting rid of quangos. While there is a crossover with my proposals the combined saving would clearly be above £200 bn taking the country from moving towards bankruptcy to strongly solvent. Where investment would improve our economy we should do so. Since we would still cut borrowing it would clearly be possible to do so & we could achieve Chinese levels of growth & theoretically a level equivalent to the faster growing Chinese provinces:

A) Cut corporation tax to Ireland's 12.5% level. Cost £25 bn.

B) Cut business rates by the same amount.

C) Regulations cost, according to economists, 20 times as much from the economy as they cost government to enforce. Points 2,3 & 4 would thus improve the economy, over time by 20 x £50bn = £1 trillion.

D) EU regulation costs, according to the "Enterprise" Commissioner, £70 bn - quitting improves the economy that much.

E) Road, airport, tunnel & port building programme - est £15 billion pa

F) Fully automated experimental rail & monorail programme - est £5 billion pa

G) X-prize Foundation for space & high technology prizes - £5 bn pa.

H) Building a mass production system for turnkey operation nuclear power stations to be used in Britain & sold across the world - Est £30 bn pa - probably take about 4 years before it is in production but then immensely profitable.

I) Assorted training & experimental investments, some port & electricity facilities on Ascension Island Space Port & some minor guarantes to kickstart mass produced modular housing - £10 bn

Total cost £115 bn

I think if the BBC put this to any economist they will agree that this would work, even if some of them might doubt if it would be completely as effective as I suggest. I think if you put it to most politicians they will explain that it cannot be done - and that the reason is because it is unthinkable that is why.

Friday, April 24, 2009


According to the WSJ China will overtake the U.S. in terms of economic output within a decade, according to estimates released Thursday by Deutsche Bank, which said it had to accelerate its forecast of the mainland's leadership in the global economy in view of favorable growth dynamics in emerging markets.

China's growth will be underpinned by a rapid expansion in emerging market economies, which will account for about 70% of global GDP growth in the coming decade, Deutsche Bank's Chief Economist for Greater China, Jun Ma, told an investment conference in Hong Kong.

China will "massively invest" in these emerging economies using its nearly $2 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, extend its leverage by extending loans to the International Monetary Fund, and allow the yuan to appreciate in preparation for the currency's potential reserve status.

By the early 2020s, China will over the U.S. in terms of GDP, Ma said, noting the forecast is dramatically stepped-up from his views two years earlier.
"China's nominal GDP growth could surpass that of the United States within ten years, a period which will likely be accompanied by a gradual appreciation of the yuan," Ma said.

Basically at 10% annual growth GNP doubles every 7 years. China's growth has actually slowed a bit from that in reaction to the west being able to buy less but with us in negative growth they are catching up even faster. This is all so unnecessary since if our government ran the place competently & cut not only the +50% of the economy that is government spending but the 50% of the economy that is government regulation then we would have a growth rate matching China's. Because technology is inherently growing faster than ever before, Moore's Law or something of a somewhat lesser order applying generally, the Chinese growth rate is not so spectacular & we could all be doing the same. What is spectacular is the degree to which Ludditism & overgovernment are giving the future to those not so afflicted.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


He has not even attempted to do anything all he has done is to spin it politically by taxing the rich & spending a bit on placating the green & motoring lobbies & people with old bangers who think they are winning £2 grand.

Raising the rich taxes so they are the world's 4th highest will raise, maybe a billion but have higher administration cost & will do real harm to our economy since some of them will go elsewhere & all of the will spend more time with their accountants. Blowing rather more than that on scrapping cars will produce absolutely no long term gain for the economy.

All Darling has done regarding the economy is to promise that it will be over in a year (in the autumn it he promised 9 months from then) & that we will immediately have higher growth than we had before the crash. These are ridiculous promises which he has done nothing to bring about.

This is a shortened version of a post on a BBC site.


This is a picture of the launch of a commercial satellite SICRAL 1B by the Sea Launch company. Sea Launch do their launches from the sea, ;-) specifically from the equator, because the nearer the equator the more help you get from the spinning of the Earth. The Scottish connection is that the specially designed ship Sea Launch Commander was built in the Kavaerner shipbuilders in Glasgow. It converts on site from a normal ship to a stable, oil rig like, platform.

20 APRIL 2009 On today’s mission, a Zenit-3SL vehicle lifted off at 1:16 am PDT (08:16 GMT) from the Odyssey Launch Platform, positioned at 154 degrees West Longitude. Less than two hours later, the Block DM-SL upper stage inserted the 3,038 kg (6,697 lb) SICRAL 1B satellite into a high perigee geosynchronous transfer orbit. Telespazio’s operators at the Fucino Space Center in Italy acquired the spacecraft’s first signals from orbit during flight operations and confirmed the health of the spacecraft shortly after its separation from the Block DM upper stage. Based on preliminary data, all Sea Launch system flight parameters were nominal and injection accuracy was excellent...

“This is our 30th mission from sea -- a milestone that reflects the sustained efforts of the world's most internationally integrated launch team and demonstrates the tremendous feats that can be accomplished through global cooperation, while serving a global market. Congratulations to the Sea Launch partners, contractors and the entire team on this significant milestone and for another launch flawlessly executed.”

This is it It previously successfully delivered Intelsat's Galaxy 19 satellite to orbit on September 24, 2008, in a flawless mission. The first signal from the satellite was acquired at the Hartebeesthoek ground station immediately after spacecraft separation. Weighing 4,690 kg (10,340 lbs), this high-power C-band and Ku-band satellite will provide communications services to customers throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean islands.

Extensive details & pictures are available on the Sea Launch website.

The company is a partnership of Boeing Commercial Space Company(US), RSC Energia (Russia), SDO Yuzhnoye / PO Yuzhmash (Ukraine) & Aker ASA Group (Norwegian & successor to the Kavaerner group). Perhaps such free market internationalism is the way forward.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


A few days ago I blogged on how the SNP, by opposing nuclear electricity & deliberately lying about the cost are failing the Scottish people. I have also given my programme for ending recession in Britain as a whole & some years ago tried to get the LibDems to endorse reforms, including cutting corporation tax which the SNP subsequently, at least officially, adopted. Here is my updated programme, it is predicated on the limitations & advantages of being part of Britain :

1: Endorse nuclear electricity. We could still persuade the French to invest heavily here if we were sufficiently enthusiastic about letting them build.

2: Cut government spending by £3 billion (10%). Since we spend about 20% more than the UK average per head this is clearly practical.

3: End business rates. This is a pretty extreme step, in principle business should pay something, but we are in a drastic situation. This is a fairly close analogy to cutting business rates to 12.5%, like Ireland's for which we need Westminster support & though the SNP are committed to doing so they don't seem to have been putting on enough pressure. In theory cutting CT is marginally more effective because it rewards the most profitable best whereas rates rewards the most property intensive but it is a relatively marginal difference. This would cost about £2 billion.

4: Cut the laws on Health & safety & other regulations & the enormous bureaucracies that enforce them which do so much to push up the cost of projects here.

5: Tell Donald Trump he can start investing his £1 billion tomorrow morning. Apart from his own investment how many billions have we lost by convincing other potential investors they would not be welcome?

6: Cut the regulations that prevent people building houses.

7: Provide an interest free bridging loan of 20,000 pounds to any off site manufactured home for the period from completion of manufacture until installation & a grant of 5,000 pounds to direct purchasers of such homes, so long as they are for their personal use as first homes. This system to last only until we are building 30,000 a year. This would encourage the establishment here of a modular housing industry which, in due course, the English would be clamoring to buy.

8: Scottish Tunnel project - start cutting tunnels to the Cowal peninsula & the Scottish islands. Cost £7 m per km

9: Forth Tunnel instead of bridge & start digging tomorrow. Since the official cost of the bridge has been reduced to two & a half billion massive savings could be made this way & it would be ready far earlier.

10: Privatise Scottish Water thus saving the over £200 m it gets annually.

11: Schools vouchers. It should be a matter of shame & is instead a matter of complete disinterest in our media that our schools, for the first time ever, are underperforming southern ones. The long term future of the nation depends heavily on education.

12: Fully automate the Glasgow-Edinburgh train system.

13: Stop subsidising bloody windmills. Apart from the total waste of money we have as beautiful a countryside as anywhere in the world & should stop desecrating it. This would save between £500 m & £1 billion depending on whether we are allowed to end the subsidy to the production of electricity as well as to building the windmills.

14: Scottish X-Prize Foundation. £50 million a year would give us an even chance of gaving a Scottish built orbital plane in 5 years & would certainly attract a significant part of the world's satellite industry (£1 billion a year & growing)

15: Spend the extra money we have saved on improving roads with the exception of

16: £1 billion to cut Scottish income tax by 3p, the full amount allowed. If that doesn't get people wanting to move here nothing will.

There that is what is what the SNP (or Labour or LudDim or most of all the Tories) would do if they honestly intended to do "whatever it takes" to get the economy moving. I don't think anybody can seriously deny that that would, at least, make Scotland easily the most prosperous part of the UK. After all nobody denied it previously & even more previously.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


More proposed amendments from Milton Friedman's book Free to Choose.
The Congress shall have the power to lay & collect taxes & incomes of persons, from whatever sources derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration, provided that the same tax rate is applied to all income in excess of occupational and business expenses and a personal allowance of a fixed amount. The word "person" shall exclude corporations and other artificial persons.
This would involve the repeal of the US 16th Amendment which first authorised an income tax. This is a Flat Tax amendment. The advantage of flat tax is that it is much easier to administer. Most calculations of flat tax have suggested that the same amount of money could be raised with a 20% rate & an untaxed allowance of about £15,000. This does depend not just on smaller administrative costs but on some economic growth because of the increased incentives, which is a reasonable but not certain assumption. Part of the problem in Britain is that we have both income tax & national insurance which, despite being run but different departments, are both income taxes. On the other hand this suggests the possibility of even more savings in income tax.

The fact is that income taxes don't particularly hit the wealthy because they have more incentive to search for loopholes. It is one of the big secrets of government that the poor tend to pay a higher proportion of their incomes in tax than the rich. As Friedman says
Although there is agreement between left & right that lower taxes, fewer loopholes & a reduction in the double taxation of corporate income would be desirable, such a reform cannot be enacted through the legislative process. The left feel that if they accepted lower rates & less graduation in return for eliminating loopholes new loopholes would soon emerge - and they are right. The right fear that if they accepted the elimination of loopholes in return for lower taxes & less graduation, steeper graduation would soon emerge - and they are right.

This is a specially clear case where a constitutional amendment is the only hope of striking a bargain that all sides can expect to be honoured.

Incidentally I think this is a particularly clear example of how Friedman & libertarianism generally is not "right wing" in any traditional, being respectful to the toffs, meaning.

I should say that on one point I disagree with this intent. I think there should be tax allowances for children. Particularly in advanced economies where most women are having fewer children than the replacement rate. Families are socially required if society is to continue & society should be willing to give such supports & ideally considerably more generous ones than now obtain. Without that a disproportionate share of the burden of producing the next generation is borne by parents (ok this is obvious & cannot be fully equalised but it is right for society to take more of the burden). Perhaps, as written this amendment, under the term "personal allowance of a fixed amount" would allow parents to add the fixed allowance of their children to their own but if so I think that should be formally stated.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Hydroponics is the science of growing plants either in water or in a non-reactive growing medium to which water gets access.

Floating gardens haven't exactly been common both because making land more fertile has usually been less hard work & because natural materials to make such rafts tend to become waterlogged & come apart so that, at best they are relatively labour intensive.

Nonetheless family sized rafts like the one shown are quite common in Bangladesh. Here is a video of the process & it is impressive with large plants grown in 1 month rather than 3 & without fertilisers. The most interesting historic use was by the Aztecs whose city of Tnechtotlan was built in a lake & was fed by Chinampas which are rectangular fields 2 to 4 m wide and 20 to 40 m long, surrounded on three or four sides by canals. Chinampa farmers pile up layers of vegetation and mud or dirt to raise the field surface to about 1 m above the water level. Not true floating islands but the effect is the same. It was a remarkable form of intensive agriculture that Jeffrey Parsons of the University of Michigan suggests provided one-half to two-thirds of the food consumed in Tenochtitlan, a city with a population of 150,000 to 200,000 at a time when London's population was 50,000. No wonder the Aztecs were able to support armies large enough to conquer all their enemies.

Today, hydroponics is an established branch of agronomical science. Progress has been rapid, and results obtained in various countries have proved it to be thoroughly practical and to have very definite advantages over conventional methods of horticulture. The two chief merits of the soilless cultivation of plants are, first, much higher crop yields, and secondly, the fact that hydroponics can be used in places where ordinary agriculture or gardening is impossible. Advantages include faster growth combined with relative freedom from soil diseases, and very consistent crops, the quality of produce being excellent. There is also a considerable reduction in growing area, weeds are practically non-existent, while standard methods and automatic operations mean less labor, less cost, and no hard manual work. Some plants can be raised, out of season, better control of crops naturally results in addition to no dirt and no smells.

It should be possible to mass produce large size artificial "islands" of plastic or some other non-reactive light material to grow crops at a rate far greater than currently possible. Sites that come to mind are lakes & behind dams, where water flow is not disruptive, in equatorial areas. 2 particular sites appeal. Behind the Aswan Dam in Egypt & Bangladesh where there is a large water surface both on the Brahmaputra river & on river mouths which could be dammed off from the sea, at least at high tide.

If that were done Bangladesh would be able to become a food exporting country & if that doesn't give hope for all mankind I don't know what would.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


In Thursday night on Newsnight Scotland Bill Kidd the SNP MSP stated that nuclear was the most expensive way of manufacturing electricity. In fact it is the cheapest, though it may share the title with large scale use of the cheaper sorts of imported coal. Nuclear electricity is currently being produced in France at 1.7p a unit. This is a simple statement of fact. By comparison the Scottish wind industry hopes to get their supply costs down from 9p to 8p a unit though the subsidy of 5.5p for the Renewable Obligation Certificate is on top of that.

We are used to politicians havverings, misleading statements, evasions, snowjobs & shadings of the truth but Mr Kidd could not have been more dishonest if he had said that black is white. I hope, on reconsideration he will apologise for this lie or at the very worst his party will dissociate themselves from it. There may be a legitimate argument against inexpensive nuclear power but it should be put honestly & let the people decide. It may be that we need political honesty as much as we need to prevent the lights going out.

Reference - French nuclear cost, given in cents

Video here - interview is about 2/3rds of the way through - his lie near the end.

I did email Messrs Kidd, Salmond & the party HQ first but none of them responded. I then sent this as a letter to various newspapers but it appears none of the published it.

It is an important matter that not merely Bill Kidd as an MEP but the SNP as a party have decided that they do not possess any respect whatsoever for the facts & will tell any lie without compunction. Doesn't make them as bad as the mass murderers of the Labour, Lib Dem & Conservative parties but it is still very unfortunate.

UPDATE I am very pleased to see that this letter has been published in full in the Herald today. I will report if Mr Kidd or any SNP representative replies & what line they take.

UPDATE Saturday 25th. On Wednesday there were a couple of letters referring to mine. One of them said my 1.7p a unit figure was wrong. Today my simple reply was published.
Bill Robertson (Letters, April 22) quotes figures some 50% greater than the 1.7p a unit for nuclear electricity I gave in my letter (April 20), though he was using the same World Nuclear Association site as I used.

The figures given there are in cents and I converted them to pence. Mr Robertson has taken the figure in cents and written it as being in pence.
An unfortunate lapse by Mr Robertson & I take little pleasure in thus proving I have the facts. It would have been enjoyable if Bill Kidd or indeed any SNP spokesman had been willing to come out & play but clearly they were frit.

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