Posts

Tribalism in political appointments

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So Toby Young was eventually hounded into resigning from the board of the Office for Students. I confess, I was one of those who hounded him. I thought, and still think, that his appointment was wholly inappropriate.

I was not sorry to see Jo Johnson subsequently moved out of the Department for Education, either, though personally I would have sacked him. Johnson, who was instrumental in bringing about Young's appointment, defended it to the House of Commons on the extraordinary grounds that Young was on a "developmental journey". It's absolutely fine for Young to go on a developmental journey, of course, but not paid for by my taxes or affecting the lives of my children (my daughter is currently a university student).

But there is a much bigger issue here. Why was Young ever appointed in the first place? He admitted to me on Twitter that he did not have the academic experience the Department of Education said he did, but then said that it did not matter because o…

Probability for geeks

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The Lightning network is being touted as the solution to Bitcoin's scaling problems. If lots of transactions can be taken off the main chain, the thinking goes, then Bitcoin can still take over the world despite its considerable performance problems. Lightning enthusiasts say that when fully enacted, the network will be able to process millions of transactions at, er, lightning speed, without compromising decentralisation, security or transparency.

But there are dissenting voices. For example, in this piece, Jonald Fyookball disputes the claims of the Lightning enthusiasts on the grounds that the mathematics doesn't stack up. Predictably, the Lightning geeks have fought back: the pseudonymous "Murch", a software engineer at the Bitgo cryptocurrency exchange, describes Fyookball's analysis as "laughable".

Fyookball describes the Lightning network thus:
To send or receive bitcoins, you need either a payment channel with that specific user, or a linked s…

Toby Young's repugnant eugenics

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Eugenics has a bad reputation. Even the word "eugenics" is repugnant to many people, associated as it is with atrocities - forced sterilization programmes in America, for example, and of course the horrors of Nazi Germany. We like to see eugenics as discredited pseudo-science that has been consigned to the dust of history. Never again will we treat people as expendable simply because of their inherited characteristics.

But ideas that we discard because of their horrible consequences have a way of returning, dressed up in respectable clothing. Eugenic ideas have existed - and been acted upon - since ancient times. The idea of eliminating those who are, or will be, a burden on society because of disability raises hackles now, but in ancient Rome it was regarded as a public duty. The Biblical ban on marriage between close relatives effectively prevented birth defects due to consanguineity - but among the Pharaoahs of ancient Egypt, marriage between very close relatives was co…

The terrible price of austerity

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In August 2014, I wrote this post arguing that harsh austerity during the Depression caused Hitler's rise to power. At the time, my argument seemed controversial, at least in Germany. There, it is not the austerity of 1930-32 that is blamed, but the debt-driven hyperinflation of a decade earlier. Germans remain terrified of both inflation and debt to this day.

I am certainly not the only person to identify a causative link between austerity and Hitler. Here is Paul Krugman slapping down Eduardo Porter in 2015, for example:
Yes, there was a hyperinflation in 1923, which may have helped radicalize German politics. But the proximate factor in Hitler's rise to power was the great deflation of the 1930s, brought on by a disastrous attempt to stay on gold.  Disastrously staying on gold might of course have been due to the recent experience of hyperinflation. In 2014, when Bulgaria was unable to pay insured depositors for six months after a bank failure, the central bank refused to …

Thirty-three flawed Theses

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Five hundred years ago, so legend has it, a dissident priest called Martin Luther nailed a list of 95 "theses" to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. His action launched the Protestant Reformation. 
Last week, the dissident economist Steve Keen "nailed" a list of 33 Theses to the door of the London School of Economics. His aim was to launch a Reformation in economics as significant as the religious Reformation that Luther started. It was a bold gesture.

But for such a movement to take hold, there has to be substance in the criticisms. And as I read the 33 Theses, my heart sank. For these are in no way like the 95 Theses.

Luther's 95 Theses are a brilliantly argued academic case against the (then) Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgences, which was a clerical scheme for fleecing people of their money by promising them salvation. The money was supposed to go to the poor, but almost never did. Instead, it went to enrich both the sellers of indulgences and …

Demolishing a straw man

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This is David Hencke's response to my comment on his blog. You can find the Coppola Comment version of my comment here.

For the record while not replying to all your points.

1. I cover a wide range of topics on my blog – child sex abuse, domestic violence, bad treatment of the disabled, the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, dodgy privatisations, institutional racism etc.

2. Given the government has to write to everyone telling them when their pension is due, it is not beyond the wit of man or woman to tell everyone personally when the change came into effect.

3 your main point seems to be that pensions are not a right but a benefit that presumably could be means tested. I am afraid they are not marketed like that – with all the qualifying rules for NI to get one for a start. they are still a universal benefit and therefore I am drawing one at the moment and long may it continue.

4. You seem to fall into the trap that many other well off people do ( I am not saying you are well off yourself) that…